Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore is one of my most anticipated titles in 2012. I’ve been waiting for YEARS for Bitterblue to be published, ever since I found out that Graceling will have a sequel. I loved both Graceling and Fire so I had high hopes that I’d feel the same way about their companion novel. On the week that it was released, I kept dropping by local bookstores to ask if they already have a copy of Bitterblue. Luckily, I found a copy soon enough and got even more excited when I discovered that there are beautiful illustrations inside the book. Spoiler warning for those who haven’t read Graceling! Read Kristin Cashore’s first novel before picking up this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle — disguised and alone — to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Going in, I knew that Bitterblue would be different from Kristin Cashore’s other heroines, Katsa and Fire. She’s not Graced with fighting and she doesn’t have mind reading abilities. What Bitterblue has is a horrific past care of her psychotic father, truly a creepy villain. There’s a lot of confusion in the kingdom of Monsea because of the mind-altering ways of its previous monarch. I found the first few chapters (maybe even the first half) of the book a bit slow, which I guess is a given because Bitterblue is still trying to work through the mess left by her father. I understood that and I really felt that the writing in this book is even better than the author’s previous work, which is why it pains me to say that I didn’t love Bitterblue as much as I expected. It’s hard to explain, really, because I admired Bitterblue’s character. I think she’s developed well throughout the course of the novel – she learns how to stand up to her advisors and her friends. She eventually comes out of her shell (or should I say her palace) and learns so many truths that have been kept from her for her protection. I guess the pacing was a factor but I think it was mostly because I wasn’t able to connect with Bitterblue and that prevented me from wholeheartedly enjoying her story.

I think I have to mention the romance and my problems with it. I was disappointed because I LOVED the romance in both Graceling and Fire. However, I didn’t feel the same way about the romance in this book. I felt like it would have been better if there had been no love interest for Bitterblue. It’s still a slow burn romance, with a lot of tension between the two characters, but I felt like it was half-baked. Does that make sense? The relationship didn’t have the depth that I was looking for and to be honest, I kind of felt like Bitterblue would have been better off with a different leading man (am I the only one who noticed that there was something between her and a certain someone she can’t lie to?) Kristin Cashore is still an auto-buy author for me – I really liked seeing how characters from her other novels are doing and I think she did a great job of tying everything together in this installment. As always, it’s just a matter of personal taste and I can never predict how I’ll feel about a novel until I read it – which is why I’m still recommending Bitterblue to fans of YA epic fantasy and those who like their novels with a healthy dose of political intrigue. It’s a well-written novel, it just wasn’t as brilliantly amazing as I wanted it to be.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
The Readventurer

Shoot That Book: Bitterblue

Shoot That Book combines my passion for books and my tendency to become trigger happy with a camera. My lack of photography skills is compensated by my enthusiasm. Basically, I like taking pictures of books.

When I grabbed my camera to take pictures for today’s post, I realized that it was filled with red ants! Argh, what is it with red ants and electronic devices? They lived inside our landline phone as well. I ended up shaking my camera to get them all out and yay, good thing the camera is still working. Anyway, I was expecting a map of the Graceling Realm to be included in Kristin Cashore’s latest epic fantasy novel, Bitterblue, but I had no idea that it would include so many beautiful illustrations. Behold how gorgeous it is:

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Yep, I’m glad that one of my most anticipated titles for this year looks so pretty. Do you agree? Anyone else reading Bitterblue right now? I’m actually finished but still trying to think about what I’ll write in my review. Also, what are some of the titles that you can’t wait to read in 2012? I’m still trying to decide what I’ll order from the Book Depository using their 10% discount, so hard to choose because there are so many titles I’m interested in.

Book Haul: Bitterblue, Borrowed Books and Snail Mail

This week’s book haul post includes one of my most anticipated titles in 2012: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I loved both Graceling and Fire so I feel like I’ve been waiting for YEARS for this beauty to be released. And it is beautiful, I’m planning to take pictures of the illustrations included inside so I can post them here. I was also able to borrow two books from my good friend Celina: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand and Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. This reminds me that I need to post a review of Unearthly soon.

I also picked up a little package from the post office today, check it out:

Yes, my lovelies, that IS mail from the Queen of Aussie YA: Melina Marchetta. Remember when I organized Marchetta Madness back in March? This post briefly mentions a soundtrack for The Piper’s Son. Well, the soundtrack that I received is a playlist for my two favorite Marchetta novels: Jellicoe Road and The Piper’s Son. I think the picture shows the list of songs clearly but here’s a list:

Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors by Editors
Samson by Regina Spektor
How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
Here If You Want by The Waifs
London Still by The Waifs
The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice
Flame Trees by Cold Chisel
Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars
One Crowded Hour by Augie March
Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel
Flame Trees by Sarah Blasko
Better Days by Pete Murray
Am I Not Pretty Enough by Casey Chamber
Crazy Train by The Waifs
Opportunity by Pete Murray

The Piper's Son Australian edition with a guitar

I love it! Currently listening to it right now and I suspect I’ll discover some favorites in this soundtrack. Thank you so much, MM. 🙂 You can also check out my friend Jo’s post about Mackee’s Music over at Wear the Old Coat. She talks about the same soundtrack and includes more details about the songs.

Last but not the least, I got some lovely postcards the past few days. The pretty Penguin postcard in the middle is from my pen pal Capillya of That Cover Girl. One is from my officemate when he traveled to Milan and the rest are from Postcrossing.

What about the rest of you, did you get any books recently? What about postcards? 🙂

Wonderstruck Friday

Several blogging buddies already posted about the cover for Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore but I just wanted to share the news here on the blog. I loved both Graceling and Fire so Kristin Cashore is definitely an auto-buy author for me. I have the US hardcovers for both so I’ll be getting the edition with the cover pictured above to match those two. I love the colors used for the design and I’m really curious what the keys are for. Bitterblue will be released on May 1, 2012. Learn more about it here and here.

Next, I want to talk about a book that I recently got. Sigh, I know I keep saying that I’m trying to limit my book purchases but remember how lovely The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick was? Well, on my way home from work today, I dropped by Fully Booked and saw a copy of the author’s latest book, Wonderstruck. I stood there for several minutes, trying to decide if I should buy the book or not (take note that it was the only copy in that branch). Finally decided to go ahead and get it because it’s a steal for just P699 (Hugo is still P999, I think). So let me share pictures of this beautiful book… here’s the cover:

Pretty, right? And here are sample illustrations inside:

Look, Hugo’s happy to have a companion:

I think it’s a pretty good buy because of all the illustrations included in the book. Like Hugo, I believe the illustrations go hand in hand with the text in terms of telling the story – to quote one of the blurbs at the back of the book “like a silent film on paper”. What’s your most recent impulse buy? Share so I won’t feel so bad about not having much control when it comes to buying books!