Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

The Valiant
by Lesley Livingston 
Read: February 15 -17, 2017
Published: February 14, 2017 by Razorbill (Penguin)
Source: ALA MW 2017
Category: YA, Historical Fiction, Roman Empire, Gladiators, 
Series:  Yes. 1/2? 

Book Description: Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival. 
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant" recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."
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I love historical fiction and think the Roman world is fascinating. Throw in the little explored tradition of female gladiators (just look at that cover!!), and I was excited to start this. 


Here's what I thought: 

I loved the Roman setting (with a touch of fantasy). This story pulled me right into the ancient Roman world. I was fascinated by Fallon's journey from Britain all the way to the heart of the Republic. Although I cannot fathom life in the arena or even living in this society, I was completely enamored by the idea of lady gladiators. We also get cameos from a few well known characters from history, including Julius Caesar and his love Cleopatra. While the idea of slavery is deeply uncomfortable and all around horrifying, the Roman world thrived on it, and I appreciated that this book doesn't sugar coat that. I felt like I was learning just as much, and seeing the world expand through Fallon's eyes. 

I found it easy to connect to Fallon, especially the difficult physical and emotional journey she goes through from a warrior princess, on the eve of coming of age and joining her father's war band, to the devastation of that night not going as planned, to being captured and taken in chains to Rome and sold to become a gladiator. I cannot imagine surviving it all as well as she does, but was right with her all along the way. 


I wish -  It's thrilling to think of there actually being female gladiators, and I loved that aspect of this story. However, I expected there to be a little bit more camaraderie among them than there was. While I enjoyed the few friends Fallon makes, I expected a book featuring these badass lady fighters to have more intense female friendships. But though these women worked together, Fallon was on her own and more individualized than I thought she would be. There's also some mean girl action and rivalries, which makes sense in such a competitive group, though it wasn't my favorite part (I'm so over the mean girl trope).


I also wish some of the plot wasn't so predictable. In general, I don't mind when stories have predictable elements, so this wasn't a huge negative, but I wasn't surprised by many of the revelations in this story.


Finally, I wish I'd loved the romance more than I did. I was actually really nervous about it, since it's a Linear Love Progression - in that Fallon likes one boy in the beginning, though it's not long before (he gets killed and she's captured and taken to Rome where she meets guy number two - aka the real love interest. I was less bothered by her earlier relationship with Mael than I thought I would be, but he's not in the book very long. It's also several months before Fallon meets Caius, so there's a passage of time between the two. 


I was really excited about the idea of Fallon falling for a Roman Decurion soldier, because Cauis is basically everything she hates at first, and I'm a sucker for the hate to love romances. But there just wasn't enough of the hate/banter part of their relationship. They fell for each other more quickly than I wanted to see. I don't dislike this part of the story or the ship, I just wasn't as invested in it as I hoped I'd be. I'll still be very upset if any sort of love triangle interferes between them, however. 

Although I liked so much of this story, this book covers a lot of ground, both in distance and time, as well as in emotional journeys, and yet it's less than 400 pages. I think the root of my issues are that with all the different elements going on in this story, something had to be left behind. Unfortunately, as a result, I don't think the romance was as strong as it could have been. Fallon and Cai don't spend nearly enough time together, and skip past the "hate" part of their feelings so fast that it's almost insta-love. While I like them as a pair, I wish the story had taken time to slow this part down so we could connect into it better. I don't think it's just their relationship that could have benefitted with more time. I would love to have seen more of Fallon's friendships and just get to explore Rome more in general. 


Conclusion - Even though I talked more about the negative aspects of this story, I liked The Valiant a lot, and was hooked into the story all the way through. Thankfully, this story is part of a series. It ends in a solid way, although several elements are unresolved. I'm excited to see what happens next - baring any future love triangles. 

Love Triangle Factor: None. But Linear Love Progression. Fallon likes Mael in the beginning of the book, but he is killed almost immediately, and she eventually falls for Cauis. But there is zero overlap between them. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low. This ends on a solid note, although several things are unresolved still and there's definitely going to be a sequel. 

Out and about with The Valiant. 
Snap is from my bookish Instagram feed @loveisnotatriangle

Don't miss my Massive Midwinter Giveaway
Enter to win one of four boxes of books!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Massive Midwinter Mystery Book Giveaway

Happy Friday All! 

(I hate making banners, so here are some recent Instagram photos)

What better way to survive the winter than being surrounded by books?! 

(Spending time outside exploring is also a must.)
Below are four giveaways of boxes of 6+ books. I wish I could give all the books away separately, so you'd only get what you wanted, but I just can't afford that. Instead, I've broken them down into four different themes, and you can enter all the giveaways or just one or two. Also, though this is supposed to be a mystery giveaway, I like spoilers, so I've posted a peak of what is within each box. You'll get the two titles on top, plus even more below! Some of these books I loved and ended up with duplicates, some just weren't for me, so I'm passing them along. I can't keep everything, sadly. 

All the rafflecopter forms are the same, so once you've done one, it's easy to enter all four giveaways (you don't have to tweet or comment on the same thing four times!). But I made different forms, instead of one, so you could enter whichever giveaway you wanted - and avoid those you don't want. 


1) Contemporary YA Finished Copy Giveaway: At least 6 books, most hardbacks, including these two titles. Bonus! Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is signed!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


2) Non-Contemporary YA Finished Copy Giveaway (aka fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism etc. etc.): At least 6 books, most hardbacks, including these titles. One book in the box is signed! (PS. I LOVED The Weight of Feathers)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


3) Contemporary YA Galley Giveaway: Upcoming or recently released titles, including these two beauties (I ended up with extras and wanted to share!). At least 8 books in the box.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


4) Non-Contemporary YA Galley Giveaway (aka fantasy, sci-fi etc. etc.): Upcoming or recently released titles, including the two pictured. At least 8 books in the box.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


*PLEASE NOTE: Boxes will be mailed media mail to US residents only. If you live internationally and would like to enter, you'd have to pay the extra for shipping prior to mailing. (Sorry! I just can't afford it.) 
See my contest policies HERE*

(I just finished The Traitor's Kiss, and it was great! I did not put it in the snow.)

(We don't have to look like each other to be friends)

My other Instagram account, where most of these photos are posted, is @laurayjames 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Wintersong
by S. Jae-Jones
Read: January 31 - February 6, 2017
Published: February 7, 2017 by Thomas Dunne
Source: Netgalley (Thank you, St. Martin's!)
Category: Mature YA/NA for themes/content, historical Fantasy, Romance, Goblins, 
Series:  Duet, book 1 of 2

Book Description: All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
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NOTE: I do not reveal any specific plot details in this review, but I do talk candidly about my feelings on certain parts, especially the ending, which could be considered a spoiler by inference. Please read on at your own discretion.

I feel very conflicted about this book, and I think partially that may be because this book seems conflicted in what it is.

Wintersong is gorgeous in its rendering, lush in its detail and aching in its emotions. Basically, this story is pretty all the way around: beautifully written and wondrously atmospheric. Elisabeth's home in historical, provencial Bavaria is enchanting. The theme of music is woven through the entire tale in a breathtaking way. Our narrator Elisabeth (sometimes Leisl), is written with care and complexity, as is The Goblin King, though it takes visible effort to get below the surface of him. I especially loved Leisl's brother Josef, and her relationship with him, and though she could be selfish and self-centered, even their sister Käthe grew on me. I can understand the hype for this book, for so many reasons. That said, I also have a lot of questions about this story, and it feels unsettlingly incomplete to me at this point.


At some point in the story, Elisabeth says, "I would appreciate if the Lord were a little less mysterious and a little more straightforward." And I felt that a lot while reading this. I get that these are the very things that make work, a story about a mortal girl and a Goblin King, lord of mischief and lover of all games and tricks. And the mystery was part of the magic, but it also served to obscure the point of this story a little bit for me. Eventually, I just wanted everyone to start speaking plainly and give some answers. I know this is a labyrinth retelling, and perhaps I've missed something in not knowing that tale well. But frankly, I was confused while reading this and I still feel that way.

Part of the trouble for me is that this book seems to be several things at once, and not all of them fit for me. The story is basically split in two halves (you could call them rescue missions). 1) Leisl finds and rescues her sister Käthe from the clutches of the Goblin King, and forfeits herself to the King in her sister's place. 2) Loosely, "Elisabeth finds and rescues herself." This half about Elisabeth awakening to herself. Finding her strength and voice, when she's always been seen - and sees herself - as small, ugly, less than). It's also where the romance comes in, and that's where I became muddled.

As I said, the personal awakening part of this narrative is heavily romance focused, and that's where I start getting confused about the point of this story. If this story is a romance, it doesn't much make sense to me as it stands with this ending (which came abruptly, and which I didn't like). Although this is part of a duet, so its hard to make a judgement about that at this point.

The romance also doesn't make sense to me in a YA book, and I think that confused me a bit too. I know this book was originally sold as an Adult fantasy and then later changed to YA (the author talked about this in her newsletter), and the story has a maturity to it - not just in content, though that is mature - that doesn't match the way it was ultimately sold. I can see why it was changed to YA - the first half especially fits, as does Elisbeth's general road to 'finding herself'. But some things in here seem better suited to staying Adult Fiction, especially the fact that Elisabeth and the King wed and there's a huge theme of surrendering fully to each other - emotionally, mentally and physically. Also the metaphorical ways in which sex was used in the story: to awaken Elisabeth's abilities and also the consequences she faced from it, were very mature. I don't know what was cut from the story to make it YA, besides certain detailed scenes, but if these mature themes were going to be in here, I wanted them to be explored a little more. I think it would have helped with my understanding of the story.

This has more to do with characterization, but I struggled to figure out the Goblin King through most of this and that heavily affected how I saw the romance. The power imbalance between him and Elisabeth appeared so great at first that I was uncomfortable and struggled to read the story as romantic until the last quarter. I just couldn't figure out his perspective at all and it made it hard to trust him. However, I'm glad that we started to get answers about the Goblin King by the end, and I ended up liking him even more than I did Elisabeth.
Still, I have many questions about him and what was happening to Elisabeth in this book, and pretty much everything else going on. I'm very curious about what the sequel will entail.

I feel like I can't come to a full conclusion about this installment until I have a full picture of where it's going. Especially because if this were The End, I would have been deeply disappointed, because what's the point? As a story of self discovery, it makes sense. But the romance is decidedly unfinished and unsatisfying (at least in the way I prefer), the ending is rushed and Elisabeth just seemed selfish to me at the end. Also, no overall, large scale problems have been solved in this book, although many are teased - if obtusely. (For instance, can the Goblin King ever escape his role? Is there another way to reorder the Human and Goblin worlds so that things change from how they are now?) These questions were teased but completely left undone, and I'm hoping the sequel will take up the role in answering them.

Tl;tr: Wintersong is beautifully written, but I felt conflicted about many elements of it, especially the way the romance was presented. I'm very curious about what the sequel will entail, and sort of wished I'd waited  to read this book until I knew more about it.

Love Triangle Factor: None - ultimately it is all Goblin King/Elisbeth, although you have to cut through a lot of clutter to see that (as in his feelings are hard to decipher). I thought the part at the beginning where the Goblin King takes Käthe he would bother me the most, but that did not at all. Elisabeth does fancy a local boy at the beginning, but that is not dragged out, and not an issue at all when she goes to the Underground.
Cliffhanger Scale: The ending tries to make you think the story is over, but this is the first in a duet, and I was unsatisfied by this ending in a way that felt like a cliffy to me. So Low/Medium depending on your perspective.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blog Tour: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Book Excerpt

Tour organized by St. Martin's Press 

I'm thrilled to be part of the Wintersong Blog Tour today! Below, I'm sharing my highlights of the book, as well as an excpert of Liesl meeting a mysterious stranger. Whom could that be? :)


Wintersong 
by S. Jae-Jones
Published: February 7, 2017 by Thomas Dunne
Category: Mature YA/NA for themes/content, Historical Fantasy, Romance, Goblins, 

Book Description: All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

 Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound
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My Book Highlights


Wintersong is gorgeous in its rendering, lush in its detail and aching in its emotions. Basically, this story is pretty all around: beautifully written and wondrously atmospheric. Elisabeth's home in historical, provencial Bavaria is enchanting. The theme of music is woven through the entire tale in a breathtaking way. Our narrator Elisabeth (sometimes Leisl), is written with care and complexity, as is The Goblin King, though it takes visible effort to get below the surface of him. I especially loved Leisl's brother Josef, and her relationship with him, and though she could be selfish and self-centered, even their sister Käthe grew on me. I can understand the hype for this book, for so many reasons. That said, I also have a lot of questions about this story, and it feels unsettlingly incomplete to me at this point. Thankfully, there is a sequel to come!

See my full thoughts, HERE (I'll also post my entire review on the blog tomorrow).

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Excerpt


Startled from my reverie, I looked up to see the tall, elegant stranger once more.

“No, thank you, sir.” I shook my head. “I have no money to spare.”


The stranger stepped closer. In his gloved hands he held a flute, beautifully carved and polished to a high shine. Up close, I could see the gleam of his eyes from beneath the hood.


“No? Well, then, if you won’t buy my wares, would you accept a gift?”


“A—a gift?” I was hot and uncomfortable beneath his scrutiny. He looked at me as no one had before, as though I were more than the sum of my eyes, my nose, my lips, my hair, and my wretched plainness. He looked as though he saw me entire, as though he knew me. But did I know him? His presence scratched at my mind, like a half-remembered song. “What for?”


“Do I need a reason?” His voice was neither deep nor high, but there was a quality to it that spoke of dark woods and dry winter nights. “Perhaps I just wanted to make a young woman’s day a little bit brighter. The nights grow long and cold, after all.”

“Oh no, sir,” I said again. “My grandmother warned me against the wolves that prowl in the woods.”


The stranger laughed, and I caught a glimpse of sharp, white teeth. I shivered.


“Your grandmother is wise,” he said. “I’m sure she also told you to avoid the goblin men. Or perhaps she told you we were one and the same.”


I did not answer.


“You are clever. I do not offer this gift to you out of the goodness of my heart, but out of a selfish need to see what you might do with it.”


“What do you mean?”


“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.”


He had heard me sing with the fruit-sellers. A wild, un- tamed sort of music. I’d heard those words before, from Papa. Then, it had seemed like an insult. My musical education had been rudimentary at best; of us all, Papa had taken the most time and care with Josef, making sure my brother un- derstood the theory and history of music, its building blocks and foundations. I had always listened in on the edges of those lessons, taking whatever notes I could, applying them slipshod to my own compositions.


But this elegant stranger cast no judgment on my lack of formal structure, my lack of learning. I took his words and planted them deep inside.

“For you, Elisabeth.” He offered me the flute again. This time I took it. Despite the cold air, the instrument was warm, and felt almost like skin beneath my hands.


It was only after the stranger disappeared that I realized he had called me by my given name.


Elisabeth.


How could he have possibly known?



Want more? 
Read the first 40 pages of Wintersong, HERE
Or buy the book: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

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About the Author


S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.

Find JJ: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Long Way Home by Katie McGarry

Long Way Home
by Katie McGarry
Read: February 3 - 6, 2017
Published: January 31, 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Ebook purchase
Category: YA, Contemporary, Motor Cycle Clubs, Romance
Series:  Companion 3/3

Book Description: Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.
 
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NOTE: Long Way Home is the third novel in Katie McGarry's Thunder Road series. These are companion books, each with a different hero and heroine, although we see the characters through the series, and the larger problem they are fighting (the Riot Motorcycle Club) is a theme through all three books. Check out my reviews of Nowhere But Here and Walk the Edge.

I'm very happy Chevy and Violet finally got their own story! And it's a good one. Violet was so angry and hurt in Oz/Emily and Razor/Breanna's books that I wasn't sure how I'd feel about her narrative. But I ended up connecting to her right away. Possibly even the most of these three heroines. Even though I'm probably the least like Violet, I appreciate that she echoed a lot of the concerns and questions I had about how women are treated in this Terror Motorcycle Club. Ever since Violet's dad died while working for the Terror MC, she's done everything she could to separate herself from the club, and that's meant breaking up with her first love and ex-boyfriend Chevy. Despite how harsh Violet could come across, I love that she always knows who she is and what she wants, and demands respect and to be treated equally.

Chevy is still in love with Violet, but as he's still connected to the Terror - his grandfather is the president and he's has always planned to join when he turns 18 - while Violet is determined to get out of their small town as soon as she finishes high school. There doesn't seem to be a way forward for them that doesn't lead to heartbreak. But then Violet and Chevy are thrown together again in a frightening event, involving the rival motorcycle club the Riot, and their feelings are brought to the surface once again.

This book is all about whether these two can find common ground and a way forward together, despite what looks like completely different paths. It's also about taking down the Riot club once and for all, and I love the strong role Violet takes in working to make that happen. This is a girl who gets things done. Although we don't get to see Emily or Breanna in this book, I loved seeing the bond between Violet, Chevy, Oz and Razor that they've had from childhood. Long Way Home also connects to McGarry's Pushing the Limits series, and one of my favorite moments was when Chevy meets Isaiah for the first time, and both boys realize their connection to each other. I love Isaiah, and I wanted that part to go on forever!

This story also seems to tease some potential future stories in this world. I don't think McGarry is finished with it yet. Or at least I hope not. Breanna's friend Addison makes another appearance in this book, and she definitely needs an HEA. Some other plot elements are left unresolved as well (the names of the traitor(s) in the Terror MC). And though I loved watching Violet demand respect and forge her own path, I wished that there would have been more of a change within the entire Terror MC, namely in including women in their ranks.

I love Katie McGarry's books. After reading so many, I feel like I'm coming home to old friends in a world that I've gotten to know well. She writes characters and relationships so well, and I'm excited to see what she does next!

Love Triangle Factor:
none
Cliffhanger Scale: series end



PS: Two more things 1) I stupidly didn't preorder this book, so I missed the bonus novella promotion. I'm especially upset not to get Isaiah's tale. If anyone did get those and wants to give me a play-by-play, I'll love you forever :). 2) Is Chevy's first name just that or is it a club name like Razor is? I can't remember if that was ever answered in a previous book, although no other name was given in LWH.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King
by Tricia Levenseller
Read: January 28 - 30, 2017
Published: February 28, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Galley from publisher (Thank you, Macmillan!)
Category: YA, fantasy, pirates
Series:  Yes. 1/2 (I think this is a duet)

Book Description: A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

___________________________________________________________________________

It's always exciting when a book lives up to its hype - and this one does for sure! I didn't want to stop reading, and now I'm desperate for the next installment. Daughter of the Pirate King is fast paced and thrilling from start to finish. It is also a lot more intense than I imaged. This is a brutal world and Alosa and the other pirates she encounters are not playing around. The pirate life is gritty and in many cases it is kill or be killed. Thankfully, Alosa is up for the challenge. She's not afraid to make difficult choices to complete her mission and survive. 


The strength of this book is the characters, especially, Alosa: Pirate Princess and all around badass. This girl does not need any help, thank you very much. She is capable and strong and gets things done. I loved her from start to finish. I also love that despite her tough exterior, and willingness to do anything to survive and succeed, she is fair, cares for her crew and isn't needlessly ruthless. Although she doesn't need anyone to rescue her, she also realizes that she's not an island to herself, and I loved seeing moments where she works with others. Of course those moments are few and far between when she's stuck on an enemy pirate ship. 


My second favorite character is Riden: first mate on the pirate ship Alosa infiltrates on a secret mission for her father. I enjoyed getting to know him better as the story continues. I found his relationship with his brother Draxen, captain of the ship, to be interesting and well written in its complexity. But the best relationship in this book is the one Riden develops with Alosa. Their snappy banter and incredible tension is off the charts. They begin as enemies and are constantly trying to get an angle on each other, but almost immediately, it's very clear how great a match they are for each other - in wits and everything else. And slowly, the working against each other changes flavor to one of support and even more than that. AKA swoons abound. Riden is an observer and he doesn't miss Alosa's attempts at deception, but he also sees her strengths, and respects her for them. He is not threatened by how capable she is. I wish there were more heroes like him. 


I'm not sure exactly the scope of this fantasy world, and I would love a map to appear in the finished copy. Alosa's home features a lot of ocean and some islands as well as a pirate king and a land ruler (not seen but briefly mentioned). There's also magic, which was a lot of fun to discover. But this story is mostly spent on a ship so I didn't get a clear picture of what this world looks like. 


Daughter of the Pirate King is definitely part of a series (I think it's a duet). The book doesn't end on a cliffy, but it does stop in the middle of the story. This part of the tale is finished, and I can't wait to find out what happens next. Highly recommended. 


Love Triangle Factor: None

Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Medium. Ends in the middle of the story but not at a stressful point. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1
by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate
Read: January 26 - 29, 2017
Published: January 31, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Finished copy from publisher (Thank you, Macmillan!)
Category: YA, Sci-fi/fantasy, retellings, fairytales 
Series:  Continuation of Lunar Chronicles. Volume 1/2 Graphic Novel

Book Description: In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure -- with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers' leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

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I love the Lunar Chronicles, especially the characters we've followed through four books, Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, & Winterplus several novellas. (If you've not yet invested, it's time to do that! My most favorite is Scarlet.) This series is one of my favorite fairytale retellings, and YA sci-fi/fantasy series in general. Although the hype sort of ate at me on the last book, I still loved it. But I wasn't so sure about the news of Iko getting her own graphic novel series. For one, sometimes it's time to let a series go, and endless books set there just messes everything up. So I was worried about that. And second, I must admit to having a bit of android prejudice, not unlike Kinney's. I love Iko. She's definitely a bright spot in the series - fierce, loyal as well as amusing. Not a combo that everyone can manage. But she is a machine and I don't really understand how she can emote like a human, and possibly have a romance. 

HOWEVER this book shattered all my fears to pieces. I've fallen hard for Iko. She is a great heroine. I'm loving seeing her in the spotlight a little more, and it's clear there's more to her background than we realize. I'm still not 100% sold on her having a romance, but the idea is growing on me. And I like Kinney a lot. No matter where their relationship goes, I love their banter with each other. They have great tension. I also love how much Iko cares about Cinder and the rest of their group - and how much they care for her. I was surprised and excited at how much we get to catch up with everyone ( and wonder of wonders, after reading this, I don't unship Thorne and Cress so much anymore - he's growing on me!). 

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but after reading Wires and Nerve, I think a graphic novel series is the perfect way to continue stories in this world. This different - more visual - format feels more fresh and exciting. It adds to the story, without feeling like it's watering down the original series. Plus I like getting visuals of all the Lunar Chronicles characters, and seeing the places they live and visit. Also, I'm actually really enjoying finding out more about what is happening as this word tries to reform and rebuild after Levana's downfall. The thing with these epic series is that usually they end on the high of victory, but there's always a lot of messy rebuilding to do after a huge world-changing battle. Especially one that takes place over two planets - Earth and Luna. 

This Volume 1 does a lot of set-up, summarizing the last four books and major characters in a visual and brief way. Don't worry about tons of info dump! It was all happy and nostalgic revisiting and not long. Because of the recap, you could probably start with this and skip the last four books, but you'd miss so much goodness, so why would you?! In Wires and Nerve, we also get a look at how the characters are doing after the end of Winter - and before the Stars Above epilogue. As for the the major action: Iko is traveling around the world finding and capturing the rogue hybrid-wolf packs that have been left on earth, and of course things become much more complicated than she anticipates. This story definitely teases a lot more to come on that front, and has me eager for the next installment. As it's a graphic novel, this is a quick read. I think Wires and Nerve is only supposed to be a two volume series, but I would welcome a lot more stories following Iko in this world. 

Highly recommended. If you're a fan of The Lunar Chronicles, this is a must read! 

Love Triangle Factor: None (for the whole series!)
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - stops sort of abruptly in the middle of the story. Lots of things left unresolved. But characters have specific plans going forward. Nothing immediately stressful, but I can't wait for more!

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