Monday, June 30, 2014

Early Review: Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley

Rites of Passage 
by Joy Hensley
Read: April 27 - 28, 2014
Published: September 9, 2014 by Harper Teen
Source: Edelweiss (THANK YOU, HarperCollins)
Category: YA, contemporary, military academy

Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

I stayed up until 1:30 am finishing Rites of Passage because I couldn't go to bed until I got to the end. Actually, I did got to bed but after 20 minutes of not sleeping, had to go grab my kindle, because I needed to know what happened next. It's been a while since I've read a book that has hooked me this completely from start to finish. Not only was this story addicting, but I was fascinated by the entire military academy setting. I know the author went to one herself - also on a dare - which added another layer of authenticity to the story. This book doesn't skimp on the raw details of what Sam faces, which I appreciated. Overall the story was just incredibly fun and cool and extremely intense. 

Samantha McKenna is part of the first girl's class at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. Coming from a military family, Sam is prepared. She's sure she can handle the training no problem. There are two things she doesn't expect though. 1) The extreme hostility from (most of) the boys at the school, and how far they will go to drive her and the other girls out of the program. 2) She definitely doesn't expect to fall in love with her Drill Sargent either. A guy who is completely off limits to her. In order to make it through the year, Sam must figure out who she can trust and where if anywhere to trust her heart. 

I would never survive a military school, especially everything Sam faces at DMA. She could definitely give any dystopian heroine a run for her money. Sam is fierce and determined to survive at all cost and never gives up, even when faced with constant pressure from people who will do anything to see her gone. I read this book just after another where the heroine was insecure, constantly thinking about how she looked, and it was refreshing to be inside of Sam's head, who has way bigger problems than her hair. I also enjoyed watching Sam learn to trust and rely on others, despite how incredibly hostile some of the boys are. She eventually discovers that she is surrounded by an incredible network of support, and I loved the camaraderie of her fellow team. 

Drill was pretty amazing and swoony as well. I love, love how he supported Sam. They are the type of couple who is beautiful to watch because of how well matched and in sync they are. They share a fierceness and determination to be the best they can, but also protect each other so well. But they are also a little too similar, and their identical future paths will make a future relationship tough for them. 

I cannot wait to see what Joy Hensely writes next! 

Love Triangle Factor: None - a slight progression. But the first is mild. No wavering. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone - but I want MORE!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Early Review: Magnolia by Kristi Cook

by Kristi Cook
Read: May 2, 2014
August 5, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, S&S)
Category: Contemporary YA, south

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.


Magnolia is a light, sweet romance with a southern flair. 

What I liked best about this story:

1) Characters. Jemma is a cheerleader who is a great shot with a gun and (secretly) wants to go to film school. She has two best friends, one of whom is a beauty pageant winner who is excited when she gets nominated to homecoming court. I like that Jemma and her friends celebrate each other's accomplishments. There is no talk of mean girls in this story. Ryder, Jemma's nemesis/love interest is the star quarterback, and though that's an important part of him, it's not everything, and it's not at all why Jemma is interested (or not) in him. The focus of this book is not popularity, which I very much appreciated. 

2) This book is Romeo and Juliet in reverse. Jemma and Ryder's families want them to be together. They are so over the top about it that it's made Jemma decide that is exactly what she does NOT want. I can completely relate to this. Like Jemma, I wasn't an overly rebellious teen, but I would have wanted to do the opposite of my parents wishes too, both in whom to date and where to go to college. On the other hand, I've totally had that dream of my children marrying my best friend's kids. I love that Jemma and Ryder know so much about each other from their families co-mingling, which has added to the tension between them in recent years. This is a great hate to love story, or is it love to love?  
"Can you imagine how different things would be of our families hated each other? If they were feuding like the First Methodists and the Calvary Baptists?" 
"I bet it'd be a whole lot less complicated, to tell you the truth. Heck, we probably would've already run off together or something by now."
3) I love the southern Mississippi small town setting, especially the weather.  The old rambling homes, the close community, and traditions, even if that means lots of gossip. I'm desperate for one of those sleeping porches like Jemma has. But this part of the country also means crazy storms, which completely freak me out. Jemma and Ryder get stuck together during a hurricane with tornadoes thrown into the mix. That section of the book was intense, but also filled with fantastic tension between them. That was definitely my favorite part of the story. They are forced to work together, confront their fears and support each other. It's an intensive bonding time that forces their feelings for each other out into the open, and changes the course of their relationship (thankfully). 

4) Build up. I very much enjoyed watching Jemma and Ryder fall for each other. Or rather, recognize that they had already fallen for each other. They have great banter, and lots of fights and awkward moments, but all of that is born of a high comfort level from knowing each other their entire lives. I liked the honesty in their relationship, especially when they are forced to comfort their feelings. These two have misunderstandings and fight, but they also don't let each other get off easily. As light as this book was, I could see depth in their relationship that made me believe in them a couple. 

And what I didn't love so much:

5) Patrick. At the beginning of this book, Jemma goes out a few times with a boy in her school named Patrick. He's obviously a Decoy Boy. As usual, it's almost immediately clear that Patrick is not a great match for Jemma, and that she is not that into him. I thought his portion of the story dragged on too long. Especially, because it was so obvious that he was a bad match. Thankfully, she does figure this out before the storm hits, and  it's definitely worth it to get to the good parts, so don't worry if that is your fear. Although he does also end up playing a bit of a larger role in the plot, I'm just over the inclusion of this character. 

But overall, I truly adorned Magnolia and, especially, Jemma and Ryder. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild in the beginning. None as a whole
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Things I Dislike About Love Triangles (1)

I'm always thinking about this topic, so I decided to start a feature about it. My goal is to post one thing a week (for the foreseeable future). I'm not really good at sticking to memes, but I'm going to see how it goes. Plus I don't think it's possible to run out of things I don't like about love triangles.  

So here goes…

Things I Dislike About Love Triangles (1)

When a break-up with the Main Guy gives the heroine a 'valid' excuse to kiss the Other Guy. 

In the book in question, a well-timed break up between the main couple - usually an "I love you but I can't have you" moment in book 2, complete with *sobs* - is used as an opportunity for the protagonist to make-out with the Other guy. It's okay because she's not "cheating."

I can think of many a series where this has happened, and it has long since started to feel like a convenient excuse to give the poor Other Guy and his team some action. Of course Bella kissed Jacob right after she'd gotten engaged to Edward - in front of Edward - and it didn't make me feel any better about it. 

Does this bug you too? 
What's something you dislike about love triangles?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Early Review: Rain by Amanda Sun

by Amanda Sun
Read: June 11 - 16,, 2014
Published: June 24, 2014 by Harlequin Teen **TOMORROW**
Source: NetGalley
Category: Japan, paranormal romance, paper arts, ink mythology, YA

Series: Paper Gods #2
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

American Katie Green has decided to stay in Japan. She's started to build a life in the city of Shizuoka, and she can't imagine leaving behind her friends, her aunt and especially Tomohiro, the guy she's fallen in love with. But her return is not as simple as she thought. She's flunking out of Japanese school and committing cultural faux pas wherever she goes. Tomohiro is also struggling—as a Kami, his connection to the ancient gods of Japan and his power to bring drawings to life have begun to spiral out of control.

When Tomo decides to stop drawing, the ink finds other ways to seep into his life—blackouts, threatening messages and the appearance of unexplained sketches. Unsure how to help Tomo, Katie turns to an unexpected source for help—Jun, her former friend and a Kami with an agenda of his own. But is Jun really the ally he claims to be? In order to save themselves, Katie and Tomohiro must unravel the truth about Tomo's dark ancestry, as well as Katie's, and confront one of the darkest gods in Japanese legend.


Rain is book two in Amanda Sun's Ink trilogy. See my review of the first book, HERE. This series is about a girl named Katie who moves to Japan to live with her aunt, after the death of her mom. At school, she meets a boy named Tomohiro whose drawings come to life, and they soon learn that his gift (or is it curse?) is tied to a much larger and frightening tradition of ink manipulators called Kami. Even though she is not Japanese, Katie is also linked to this paper arts heritage. In Rain, Katie and Tomo find out more about how they personally connect to the Kami and the history of Japan. 

So much of this series I love: The Japanese culture. The ink mythology. The accompanying drawings scattered throughout the text. Watching Katie struggle to navigate a society that is foreign to hers. A diverse relationship with a Japanese boy. Even the way these two tried to work together despite the odds against them. Although Tomo started the series as a typical mysterious bad boy, I've loved watching his growth, all while he is fighting something much bigger than himself that he doesn't understand. In Rain, Tomo truly shined as a character. Even the language felt authentic, as author Amanda Sun used Japanese words in the text and linked them to a glossary in the back.

However the elements I didn't like brought the story down big time. I had trouble connecting with Katie's decisions in this book, and I haven't forgiven her for some of the things she does. Rain tries to reintroduce a love triangle with Jun, and it was about the most irritating thing ever. Although the story never progresses to a real triangle, it is teased throughout the entire novel. It's also nowhere near as innocent as Katie kept claiming. Take some responsibly, girl! In addition, there are a few side characters attempting to enact some sort of love pentagon, and a lot of drama near the end regarding it all, which made the whole situation worse. I don't like love triangles in general, but none of this seemed necessary to me. Thankfully, Tomo stands strong through it all, but he was way too forgiving of Katie in my opinion. 

The good news is that by the end of the book the relationship drama has been settled (for now). Although it appears to be over, I don't trust that it won't resurge again, since it did before when I didn't expect it. I also won't be finishing the series if it comes back. However I do want to reiterate that this isn't ever a real love triangle. It's always Katie and Tomo as the main pair, but will annoying obstacles thrown in. Almost always Katie's fault.

As for the mythology, which, unfortunately, got incredibly tangled up to the love situation, we get both exciting and devastating revelations. I'm eager to see how this all resolves at the end of the final book. (So PLEASE don't bring back any love triangles.)

I always feel very sad when a book I want to love - and do love many elements of - throws in a love triangle or something else that negatively impacts my experience with the whole story. I really want to recommend this series wholeheartedly, as I think it has many amazing qualities. I LOVE that this book is set in modern Japan and steeps the reader into that culture. But I just cannot recommend this without reservations. If you are less militant about triangles than I am, you may weigh Katie's behavior as far less on the emotional annoyance scale than I did. But that aspect of it is just too typical YA paranormal romance for me, and it spoiled some of the unique qualities. In fact, basically, all the elements about this series that have bugged me between the first two books, have been the standard PNR elements. Crossing my fingers that book 3 will contain all the good qualities of this series, without the disappointing ones.

Love Triangle Factor: In reality, Mild. In emotional aggravation, at least a Medium
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Medium. Stops in a settled moment, good breaking point. But includes some revelations that tease their next steps. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Early Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

by Maggie Stiefvater
Read: May 31 - June 1, 2014
Published: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic Press
Source: BEA read #1
Category: L.A., Rockstars, Paranormal, Wolves, Contemporary feel, YA/NA

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3.5
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

A standalone companion book to the internationally bestselling Shiver Trilogy. 

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved? (From Goodreads)

It's been 6 months since the end of Forever when Isabel was banished to L.A. and Cole disappeared from her life into the woods of Minnesota. Now he's back in L.A. to record music, participate in a reality show and/or to get Isabel back. Isabel is still a mess after the loss of her brother, and with her parents impending breakup. Cole never does anything the simple way, and she's not sure she can trust this volatile boy who broke her heart. But Cole is good at getting what he wants. Is there a future for these two? 

I could sense the bright glare of L.A. on the pages of this book, in all its Technicolor glory. Although I've never been to the city, Sinner has a palpably different texture to it than rest of  the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and fit the bold, vibrant - and sometimes destructive - characters of Cole and Isabel as if it were another character in their messy, loud story. Even the way Cole's wolf nature works into the plot, fit the setting and made the story feel more contemporary than paranormal. 

I fell in love with Cole again in Sinner. He's not perfect, and he often does things the hard way, but he also feels so much and is incredibly alive. In this book, Cole especially, has to face his past, and Isabel has to figure out if she can trust him despite it. I really like that this story doesn't gloss over what he's done and who he is - or the sins he could fall into again. But he made me want to root for him, despite his questionable choices at times. There is something incredibly magnetic about Cole. His friendships with Leon and Jeremy, and even his phone calls with Sam and Grace, were highlights of this story for me. 

Isabel is prickly and all hard edges in this story. I think her characterization was also done well. I could understand exactly why she was so abrasive, as much as it made me not want to like her in moments. But near the end of the book, I needed to see a little more from her than we got. There were even a few moments where I began to disconnect from her, as the drama and angst kicked up. After that I was desperate for a more communication between Isabel and Cole before the book ended, but that didn't happen to the degree I wanted. 

Although I was happy with the end of Sinner, it wasn't as emotionally satisfying as I'd hoped. It was too abrupt for me. I wanted to see more of Isabel and Cole working towards the conclusion, instead of the big moment that happened. But the ending does fit the mood of the story, and it is one of the most clear and settled of all of Stiefvater's finales. Readers who struggled with ambiguity at the end of Forever should not worry about this one. (I loved Forever, BTW.)

I adore Maggie Stiefvater's writing. The way she crafts words and creates characters and gets inside of them. Her wackiness is in all it's glory out in LA. And of course her love of cars, is present as always. But this wasn't my favorite of hers. It was too bright and glaring in this book for me to live with Cole and Isabel long-term. I wanted to get back to Sam and Grace in Minnesota. Somewhere greener and wetter. I'm glad I visited, but I'm happy to leave Cole and Isabel to their California life. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone/series conclusion

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ten Books I Plan to Read this Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish

Ten Books I Plan to Read This Summer

Coming back from BEA, I have a lot of books on my summer TBR. But these are a few that I'd like to read sooner (than all the others that I want to read soon!).
The books that I have in paper from this list, all seem to be sporting a blue-green-yellow color palate. 

Books Already Released:

1) Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
2) Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Books Released This Summer:

3) Landline by Rainbow Rowell
4) The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
5) One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Young Adult
6) Conversion by Katherine Howe
7) Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
8) Shimmer by Paula Weston

Books Released Later This Year:

9) Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
10) Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers


A Book I've Read and Think You Should Add to Your Summer TBR:

Storm Siren by Mary Weber
I LOVED this fantasy book though it has a killer cliffhanger! I felt all the emotions reading Nym's story. Plus my daughter approves because thinks Elsa is on the cover. 

A Series I Will Read if I Can Obtain Copies:

Do you ever get a book or a series stuck in your head and become determined to read it? I REALY want to read these two Aussie titles, but they're not easy to get in the US. I think I'm going to have to buy them despite the steep price. 

What books do you want to read soon?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Early Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Trial by Fire
by Josephine Angelini 
Read: May 28 - 30, 2014
Published: September 2, 2014 by Feiwel &Friends 
Source: ARC from Macmillan - Thank you!
Category: Alternate reality, witches, Salem, Mass. sci-fi, YA

Series: The Worldwalker trilogy #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

Josephine Angelini writes some addicting stories. I wasn't sure how the witches + alt reality set up of this story would work out for me, but I ended up liking Trial by Fire a lot. I definitely couldn't put it down. Plus it's always fun to read a story that takes place in your backyard. 

Set-upLily lives in present day Salem, Massachusetts, where her life is a daily struggle to survive a compounding amount of environmental and food allergies. It doesn't help that her mom is a little crazy and her dad is pretty much absent. But she has the constant support of her sister Juliet and her best friend Tristan. Lily has been interested in Tristan as more than a friend for quite a while, and it finally seems like he's noticing her. But after a disastrous night at a high school party, which almost kills her, Lily gets transported to a different Salem, Massachusetts. One filled with magic and witches, all ruled by an alternate version of her, Lillian. Only this girl is the villain in the tale. 

Parallel worldsI generally avoid parallel world/alternate reality books like the plague. Mostly, because the main character is typically in the head of multiple versions of herself and that means love triangles and confusion for me. So I appreciated that the characters in each of these realities were distinct individuals. Although the story feels very contemporary high school when Lily is in her Salem, once she travels to the alternate New Salem, the story becomes something different entirely. I loved meeting the alternate versions of characters we'd known before, as well as new people too. It's definitely an interesting nature vs. nurture debate to see what other versions of people have become. 

Still, I did have trouble in places seeing Lillian as an evil villain. We don't spend a lot of time with her, and she rarely interacts with Lily. We also don't get her full motives or plans. I think also, because she was a version of Lily, I sympathized with her. Or at least felt like I didn't fully understand her enough to judge her, and I gave her some slack, despite the awful things she'd done. But all that also served to make the story and her character more compelling too, and it's one of the reasons this book was so very intriguing. I can't wait to see where her character goes in the future. 

Magic. The New Salem to which Lily is transported is a place ruled by witches who wield incredible magic. The difference between men and women's abilities and how their talents work together is fascinating. Although all people have some magic in them, women are the most powerful, and Lily is one of the strongest. The strength of her ability has to do with why her Salem was physically killing her. But Lily, like other female witches, works best when her magic is projected through others. She also needs Mechanics (doctors/healers for witches) like Rowan to keep her healthy. Oh Rowan. We will get to him next. 

Romance. [I'm going to outline this for those who like these details. Not major plot spoilers, but I'm candid about the romantic elements.] I would not consider this story to have any sort of Love Triangle, although it is a bit of of a progression in the beginning. It's clear pretty quickly that Tristan is not a great match for Lily, and I don't think there is any threat of that relationship reviving in any future world. Especially, after she meets Rowan in the alternate Salem. 

Rowan used to be Lillian's head Mechanic and how he hates her for very valid reasons. Then he meets Lily who is a version of Lillian but also is very much not her, and he dislikes her on sight. I really liked the way that Lily and Rowan's relationship starts off antagonistically and takes time to build slowly over the course of the book, as they discover who each other is. Even by the end they are not trying to rush anything, which hopefully will mean that the author won't introduce an awkward triangle in future books to add tension (I hate when that happens). 

However, just as I had trouble seeing Lillian as an evil villain, I struggled with the Lillian - Rowan - Lily situation. It's very clear that Rowan and Lillian once had a relationship. I don't think that Rowan would ever go back to Lillian, but it is a little awkward watching him move on to another version of her. I want to know more about how much his feelings for Lily are wrapped in Lillian - and see them separate from that. This lessened as the book continued, and I think the romance has potential to be very strong and epic as it continues. But it was uncomfortable at times, though that's also a reason why it intrigued me. 

Cliffhangers.  The end of this book is especially exciting. I really, really liked the direction it took, and that has made me quite impatient for the next installment. It's one of those cliffhangers that makes you eager to keep reading, instead of stressed out. It's also a good breaking point in the series. 

Final thoughts. I read Trial by Fire a few weeks ago, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. There was something incredibly compelling about this story for me. It's funny because the romance made me slightly uncomfortable, and I was't completely sold on the villain. But those elements somehow combined to make me more excited about what happens next. I want to know a lot more about these characters and I'm eager to get back into this story. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - more exciting/anticipatory than stressful. A good breaking point. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Early Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
by Erika Johansen 
Read: April 24 - 26, 2014
Published: July 8, 2014 by Harper
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, HarperCollins!)
Category: Fantasy, dystopian, Queens, ADULT

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

Kelsey has lived all her life in a sheltered cabin and its surrounding woods. She's had no friends or companions except for the two people who have raised her - Barty and Carlin, whom Kesley has loved like parents. Kelsey is the next Queen of the Tearling and for her own safety has been hidden until the age of ascension. But on Kelsey's 19 birthday, the Queen's Guards come to take her to the castle - called the Keep - where she will be queen. At least until she's assassinated or her uncle and acting Regent tries to overthrow her. Kelsey has been told little about her country or those that surround hers, and the more she discovers, the more she realizes the task and dangers ahead of her is far larger than she ever imagined. Especially with the sorceress Red Queen ruling the neighboring kingdom of Mortmense. 

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot. I found the story to be extremely readable but complex, surprising in places and a promising start to a series. But I can also understand those who had problems with it. I think it all depends on how much the issues bug you as a reader. 

5 things you should know before starting The Queen of the Tearling

1) Chapter one is very long. I'm pretty sure the first chapter took up the first 10% of my ebook, and it was a little slow moving for me. But by chapter two the story begins to pick up, and it definitely kept my interest throughout. The story is mostly told from Kelsey's perspective, with some key scenes from other characters' POVs. This is not a Young Adult story, though Kelsey reminded me of a YA heroine. But The Queen of the Tearling is darker and more graphic in places, and I have a feeling it will only get more so as it progresses. I'm hopeful that Kelsey will grow along with the series, as she gets more involved in the ruling of her kingdom and faces off against the evil Red Queen. 

2) Except for one detail, I really enjoyed Kelsey's narrative. Throughout the entire book, Kelsey obsesses about her appearance and body image. She worries about being plain and fat constantly. I like that Kelsey has insecurities and isn't the typical beautiful heroine. She also doesn't undergo any sort of makeover in the book. But her constant thinking about how she looks, felt like one note playing over and over again.  It was a little grating over time. 

Despite that, I came to really like Kelsey a lot. She is naive in many ways, but she also has an intense desire to learn and fix her country. And she's not afraid to make bold decisions for what she believes is right, even when they have consequences. Her inner strength is especially present in stressful situations, and I admired that she was swift to make decisions when she needed to do so. I could definitely see wisdom and the potential for greatness in her, as well as a grounding because of how she has been raised. There is an intense political drama at play, with lots of opposing forces, both within Kelsey's nation and with neighboring kingdoms, and I'm excited to see more of that in the next book. 

3) Answers to Kelsey's questions are slow to come, but they do come. When the book begins, Kelsey has lived all her life in a sheltered cabin with 2 other people who were thorough in her education but extremely limited about what they taught her about her country. When the Queen's Guard comes and Kelsey begins to travel through her kingdom, she starts asking questions - and continues to get few answers. The fact that no one will give Kelsey a straight answer about her kingdom or what she is facing, drove me crazy in the beginning of the book. But I eventually began to see the wisdom in why Kelsey was brought up the way she was. It allowed her to think out of the box her country has been in for so long, and I appreciated her different perspective. And thankfully, Kelsey does get real answers as the book progresses. 

4) The world building and context for the story was interesting, but also very confusing. Kelsey's world is a mashup of historical-modern-fantasy-dystopian, set on a previously undiscovered continent that was colonized sometime in the world's future. In her society are chain mail, castles and feudal farming, as well as Harry Potter books and modern plumbing. There's also magic and science, and I'm quite interested to see how those concepts feature in future books. It was both a fascinating and rather strange mix of elements. I had many questions about the actual "undiscovered continent" setting while I was reading the book, and felt a little uneasy at the lack of clear information about it. 

However, after I finished reading, I found the following on the Goodreads The Queen of the Tearling series page: "The story is set three centuries after a small portion of the human race has populated a landmass that mysteriously emerged in the wake of an environmental catastrophe." While reading, I was very confused at how a new continent could have been discovered somewhere on earth?! That one sentence clarified a LOT for me. I only wish the story had actually included that information. Although, I'm still not sure whether the rest of the world is present (have they been wiped out?), knowing the origin of the new landmass has cleared up so much of my haze about the setting. I'm very curious about how all the different world building elements play out in the future. 

5) What about the romance? Several people have asked me about romance in this book. There really isn't any, although Kelsey has definitely expressed interest in a specific character, and he seems to be gravitating towards her as well. Though it's hard to tell if his feelings are romantic, or if anything will develop at all between them. I find this person intriguing, and I cannot wait to find out more about him. However, I'm not sure what I think about him as a love interest for Kelsey in light of some revelations about him later in the book. (It has nothing at all to do with love triangles - I'm not seeing any competing parties if you're worried about that.) There's one other character I think could be a match for Kelsey, but I truly have no idea where this is going on that front. Kelsey has a lot more going on than her love life, and based on this book, I don't see that being the driving force of the narrative in the future. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - Medium, This doesn't end on a stressful moment. But Kelsey clearly has a long road ahead of her, and many people who don't want her to succeed. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but I remember at the end of last year it was helpful to have a mid-year list of favorite books from a TTT, so I'm jumping onto the feature this week. Maybe this will jumpstart me into participating more regularly again. 

Top Ten (plus) Books I've read so far this year:

 I've been on a big historical and historical fantasy kick this year:

1) Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen - This is a sequel that far out shined the first book for me. LOVE this new perspective on Robin Hood. 

2) Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blakeman - Seeing Hitler's rise to power in the early 1930s completely freaked me out. This is historical fiction so well done it was frightening. 

3) Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick - Adding a fantasy element to the story of the Bolshevik revolution and end of Tsarist Russia somehow combined to create a story that was riveting and breathtaking. 

 Books I loved with contemporary settings:

4) Something Real by Heather Demetrios - I almost passed this book by because of the wacky reality show description, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts. And Patrick Sheldon! 

5) Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley - This is one of the only books I've read in a while that truly had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I was completely riveted to Sam's story and what it was like for a girl to enter a prestigious military academy. The author does not disappoint on the gory details. 

Favorite fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi books:

6) The Unbound by Victoria Schwab - I loved this sequel to The Archived. Mac grows up so much and Wesley stole me heart again. Plus Schwab's prose and imagery continue to blow me away. 

7) Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini - Sci-fi + Fantasy, witches in an alternate Salem, somehow worked great for me. This book hooked me from start to finish and I'm still thinking about the characters and world, some of which made me uncomfortable or still don't understand fully. It isn't a perfect story, but it's a book that is sticking with me weeks after I read it, which is always a sign of success for me. I cannot wait for more of this series to come. 

8) The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa - I've read several disappointing series conclusions this year, but this wasn't one of them. I love how Kagawa wraps up Ali's story. 

Non YA books that I've read and loved this year:

9) Archetype and Prototype by M.D. Waters - This series is extremely readable addicting, and makes you want to keep going so you can find out what is happening. If you haven't started it yet, wait until the second book releases next month so you can read them together. This is one that it's hard to discuss ahead of time, and it definitely surprised me in places. 

10) All Lined Up by Cora Carmack - This is best New Adult book I've read in a while. I dislike the cover, but I loved Dallas and Carson's story. 

11) The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand - Chocolate, romance and Paris are a decadent combination. I'm glad I finally read this book. 

 I read four of my favorite 2014 books in 2013:

1) Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

2) Cress by Marissa Meyer

3) The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

4) Infinite by Jodi Meadows

I've actually felt like I've been in a bit of a reading rut this spring, so I'm hoping that I experience many 2014 favorites in the second half of the year!  After BEA I have a lot of promising choices. 

Tell me some of your favorite 2014 reads!

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