I cracked open these books, the first two of a trilogy, with much excitement, and they did not disappoint. "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" and the second, "Crown of Embers," by Rae Carson, are both richly imagined fantasies set in a world filled with deceit, romance and fast-paced adventure. Best of all, they sport a complex story arc.The landscape is grand and sweeping, with terrifying forests, forbidding mountains and barren deserts. The heroine, Elisa, is refreshing and unexpected, an imperfect, overeating princess, who sets off to fulfill her destiny, to marry a neighboring land's king to keep peace across the borders.Expecting her future husband to be old, fat and unpleasant, she is surprised upon meeting her betrothed, who is equally impressed by the unexpected nature of his mate. But married life between the two secretive kingdoms is not all comfort and romance, for there is a twist, several twists, in fact. Elise has something special about her, a faceted magical stone that has been part of her person since birth, but she knows nothing of managing the power pulsing from the Godstone that has the potential to topple kingdoms and turn greedy men to ill deeds. She is challenged at every turn and must dig deeply to find the strength to lead a revolution. Bravo, Ms. Carson - can't wait for the final adventure!-Karina Wetherbee
The author of this book needs no introduction, as she is one of the most famous writers in the world. But for those who are fans of Harry Potter, be warned, JK Rowling's new book is no fantasy - quite the opposite. The subject matter is mature - extremely - and there is not a wizard in sight. But once one gets beyond the realization that Hogwarts plays no part in this drama, it becomes apparent that JK Rowling has some serious writing chops, and she can weave a complex character study better than most. While this book might not be for everyone - especially for those expecting a continuation of her magical world - it is a fascinating foray into the mentality of small-town life.With a simple plotline, Rowling manages to build extremely complex and integrated characters who all connect in some way to the English village they inhabit, highlighting its idiosyncrasies, its prejudices and its small-mindedness. No reader can walk away from this book without seeing a dozen neighbors in every face and every personification. While not fast-paced, tension builds and is maintained and relationships develop and flounder, much like real life, which must have been a refreshing experience for Rowling, after having been governed by Harry Potter's orbit for her entire career. Kudos to her for trying something so far from safe. Imagine, an author taking a risk by writing about the mundane ... and with such success.-Karina Wetherbee
"The Last Unicorn," by Peter S. Beagle, is a fantasy classic, and I am glad I got around to reading the little gem. It tells the simple yet lovely story of a unicorn venturing forth from her woods in search of her missing comrades. Along the way, she meets an assortment of unique characters, from a wizard named Schmendrick to a fiery woman named Molly Grue. Throw in lots of magic, Robin Hood references and an insane king, and you have one interesting ride. The writing is lush and poetic, suffused with the exact kind of magic that makes fantasy worthwhile. It is also filled with witty, irreverent jabs of humor that will have you chuckling as you read. The story feels very much like a fairytale, and Beagle is skilled enough to draw you effortlessly in. Indeed, it felt very much like an old fable, and I enjoyed every minute of it. All is not fun and games, however, as "The Last Unicorn" exudes a beautiful melancholy atmosphere which is truly hard to describe. It plays effortlessly with fairytale cliches, managing to spin them into something both amusing and believable. While the pace is slow and almost delicate, it fits perfectly with the overall tone of the novel - though if you are looking for cheap thrills, I suggest you look elsewhere. For the fantasy lover or simply the avid reader, "The Last Unicorn" is a book that is sure to delight. -Tessa Wetherbee
"Paper Towns" is my second John Green book, and if I didn't already love the author for his being one of the awesome Vlogbrothers, his books have sealed the deal. While I still liked "The Fault in Our Stars" a bit more than "Paper Towns," it is an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It follows the story of Quentin Jacobsen, a senior in high school who is madly in love with the absolutely fascinating Margo Roth Spiegelman. He has been content with watching her exploits from afar, until one day she shows up at his window in full ninja garb and takes him on the one-night adventure of a lifetime. And then, as soon as she comes, she is gone, leaving a trail of clues that only Quentin can decipher. "Paper Towns" is definitely a page-turner, as the mystery rushes to an unsure climax, leaving you unable to do anything but hold on for the ride. The characters feel like real people with real feelings, not merely cardboard cutouts, which is a good thing in any book and refreshing to find in the young adult scene lately. Also, like "The Fault in Our Stars," "Paper Towns" manages to be really funny, adding to the enjoyment tenfold. I can easily see why Green's books are so popular, as they are great - funny, poignant and honest. I am looking forward to reading more. -Tessa WetherbeeFor more reviews by the Wetherbee duo, visit www.reviews2share.blogspot.com.