Yeah, I definitely needed that break. But I missed y’all. Maybe not so much the writing of reviews but the chatting about books, the comments and the general camaraderie that I’ve found here in the book blogosphere. I’m determined to do the glass-half-full approach and try and tune out the negativity. It seeps in, insidious and cold but I’m determined to stay positive and keep on keepin’ on. Plus, I’ve got a boatload of books to review!
Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
YA Fantasy, 422 pages, hardcover
Published Oct. 14, 2014 by Balzer+Bray
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
Oh, hellz to the yeah with this book. Fantastic fantasy? Check. Feuds and murky politics? Check. A kick-ass, fabulous heroine? Check. Death and destruction and revenge? Check, check and check. The main character, Meria (who I kept wanting to call Merida…crazy brain), is filled with fierce determination to save her kingdom and restore it to the power that it once was. Easier said than done, when the magic is quite literally gone and there are a very few Winterians not enslaved or dead.
This author knows how to create a fantasy world that, while it seems loaded with places and people, reads so fluidly and easily, you’re not overwhelmed in the least. In fact, you’re drawn deeper into the story, even as you’re intrigued by the possibilities presented. Now, there is a love triangle but…but it didn’t really matter (to me) in the grand scope of things. And, truly, Meria’s more concerned with making a difference for her kingdom, changing things and being acknowledged for her contribution. This determination actually gets her in more trouble and stickier situations than if she’d just followed instructions but she’s a 16-year-old determined to matter and to be seen as someone who matters so those challenges are going to come either way.
This story is part of a series (a trilogy, I think) and reads brilliantly by itself, leaving the reader satisfied while still craving more (the best feeling, IMO).
Wildlife (Six Impossible Things #2) by Fiona Wood
YA Contemporary, 400 pages, hardcover
Published Sept. 16, 2014 by Poppy
Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…
In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.
Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.
Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.
And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.
When I was in middle school, I spent an October week at camp. I can still remember the crunch of the leaves as we hiked to the different activities, the smell of the campfire, the ridiculous song we had to sing at the week’s end talent show (why is this a camp thing?) — it was fabulous. But I can’t imagine spending an entire term in camp conditions like our main characters, Sibylla and Lou, both of whom are dealing with some pretty challenging stuff while there.
I haven’t read the first book in this series but it’s definitely on my TBR list after reading WILDLIFE. Because this story was awesome. I loved the dual POVs, how one was present tense and one was past. I loved both of the girls in their own ways, how they dealt with what life had thrown at them, how they both grew into stronger, more capable and determined young ladies. While there are moments of darkness, they’re tempered by moments of levity and grace. A lovely read.
Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios
YA Paranormal Romance, 480 pages, hardcover
Published Oct. 7, 2014 by Balzer+Bray
Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
Given the fabulous premise and the promise of jinni, I really wanted to love this book. Unfortunately, I did not. I liked bits of it — the revolution, the glimpses of the Dark Caravan, the magic, the promise of it all — but there wasn’t enough focus on these bits. Instead, we spent too much time with Nalia thinking about the past while shopping or thinking about the past while exercising on the beach. Both the “love interests” were douches, resulting in a totally messed up Love Triangle of Doom. Malek, Nalia’s master, “loves” Nalia, though he’s cruel and abusive and she “loves” him via a form 0f Stockholm Syndrome. Raif hates (then loves) Nalia and all she was so he’s verbally abusive to her because of what she was, conveniently ignoring all the time she’s spent as a slave, her powers bound. He doesn’t give her enough credit because he’s so focused on his end goal.
I’m a black sheep when it comes to my response to this story. So many people absolutely love it but it’s the verbally/physically abusive asshats that ruin what could be a fantastic story.
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