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!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval
by Stephanie Garber
Read: January 18 - 23, 2017
Published: January 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Source: ALA MW 2016 (Better late than never!)
Category: YA, Fantasy, Magic
Series:  Yes. At least one more book. Possible companion

Book Description: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
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Scarlett has grown up hearing stories of Caraval from her grandmother and has always been enchanted by the wonder of a traveling performance where the audience takes part. But living all her life on an island with her sister and controlled by their cruel father, she's never been able to go herself. Now when Scarlett is weeks away from an arranged marriage she hopes will take her and her sister far away from their home and father, she finally receives an invitation to the show. Scarlett isn't sure what to do, but Tella takes things into her own hands and makes the decision for Scarlett - they're going to Caraval. But as soon as they arrive at the show (with the help of a roguish sailor) Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind Legend. Now Scarlett must find her sister and win the game before the show ends, her father finds out where she is, and she loses everything. 

While life with their father has made Scarlett cautious, Tella has grown up wild and rebellious. In the beginning I didn't know what to think of either of them, but as the story went on, I grew to like Scarlett a lot more - and Tella a lot less. Although Scarlett's behavior could be frustrating at times, I can definitely relate to her. She is not a risk taker by nature and is trying to make as few waves as possible. All she wants is to protect her sister and get them both away from their father. Although Scarlett has never met her fiancé, she sees her arranged marriage as the way to do that, and she is terrified of messing that up. Tella, on the other hand, wants Scarlett to get out and live life. But she also comes across as very selfish, and I didn't like her thorough most of this story.

From the start I admired Scarlett for her loyalty to her sister and determination to rescue her at all cost, but the more she got caught up in the performance of Caraval and began to take risks and make choices for herself, the more I liked her. It was rewarding to see Scarlett worry less as she took control of her own life. As much as this tale is a fun and mysterious fantasy, it is also the story of two girls who have grown up in an abusive home, who have learned to survive in different ways, and who have to figure out their own ways to escape. I think the true magic of this story is the mix between the enchanting fantasy and brutal, honest themes. 

Did you notice I mentioned a sailor above? Well that is Julian. We meet him in a bit of an uncomfortable and compromising situation, but as is everything with Caraval, nothing is what it seems. As with Scarlett, I grew to like him a lot more as the story continued. He begins as a sort of reluctant ally to Scarlett on her quest to rescue her sister, but their relationship slowly changes and deepens as the book continues. This is a slow burn, and as with everything in Caraval, Julian isn't exactly what he appears. But he is good for Scarlet, and I loved seeing them begin to trust each other. Julian challenges her, and they rescue each other repeatedly, and I enjoyed their interactions so much. I only wish that once the dust settled from all the revelations, we'd have a chance to get to know him even more. 

I don't know where this story is going. I know there will be a sequel, and the end of this book seems to set that up as a companion following another character. However, I'm not sure Scarlett's story is completely over either. As long as no one messes with Scarlet and Julian, I can't wait to find out what happens next. We still have some revelations to uncover and mysteries to solve. 


Caraval has a lot of hype. A lottttt of it. And that definitely played into my reading of the story. On the one hand, I can see the comparison to The Night Circus, and if I'd read Caraval without anyone telling me it was similar, I would have made the connection myself. A magical circus-like place that is only opened at night? In this case it's a game, but its impossible to miss the similarities. While that helped to define this story, it also managed to work against me a little bit. Because, while I enjoyed Caraval a great deal, The Night Circus is one of my favorite books of ALL TIME and in comparison, this just isn't quite there for me. But still Caraval was a really great story, full of twists and mysteries and magic. I'd highly recommend it. 

Love Triangle Factor: None. (Spoiler: Scarlett does have a fiancé when the book begins, but she's never met him and has no romantic feelings for him besides hoping he'll be able to rescue her and her sister from their father. /End Spoiler)

Cliffhanger Scale: Low. Epilogue definitely sets up another book. But story does not end in a painful or dangerous way.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Not So Perfect Life By Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life
By Sophie Kinsella
Read: December 22, 2016
Published: February 7, 2017 by The Dial Press
Source: Netgalley (TY PenguinRandomHouse)
Category: Adult, Chick-lit, Social Media, Image

Book Description: Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. The final, demeaning straw comes when Demeter makes Katie dye her roots in the office. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the image.
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Goodness, I didn't realize how much I'd been missing Sophie Kinsella's books until I got a chance to read this one. I completely agree everyone who says this book has all the charm of Kinsella's older stories! 

Heroine Katie is endearing and relatable, and her narrative is hilarious even when everything is a disaster. I laughed out loud numerous times throughout this story. I especially loved Katie's relationship with her Dad and Biddy and how that grows through the story, as well as the unexpected friendship she develops. The romance in this was a nice element. Although slow to get going and not my favorite of Kinsella's romances (Can You Keep A Secret and Twenties Girl are my favorites), it turned out well in the end. I just wish we'd gotten to know Alex more and sooner. 

This story is all about the disconnect between perception and reality, and it is very timely for our social media obsessed world. Although the message - that it's easy project a false image of ourselves through social media, but we shouldn't be afraid to show our real selves - is clearly shown, I did think it was a little over the top and black and white in its directness. (Spoiler: Suddenly Demeter is actually totally good! and 100% misunderstood! I wish she'd acknowledged more of how awful she was, instead of Katie mostly feeling like she'd misunderstood her boss. /End spoiler)

I read this story in one day on a long road trip, and had the best time hanging out with Katie and her family and watching her begin to see herself and others more clearly and real-ly (haha. Not a word, I know). I want to go glamping in a yurt on their farm now! Definitely recommended for Kinsella fans - and if you haven't read her books, read this and then pick up her back catalog (although maybe skip Shopaholic).

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


Friday, January 20, 2017

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints and Thieves
By Natalie C. Anderson
Read: December 10 - 13, 2016
Published: January 24, 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young 
Source: Galley from publisher (TY Penguin!)
Category: YA, Thriller, Africa, Congo
Series:  Standalone as far as I know

Book Description: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

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From the first page of City of Saints and Thieves, I was taken with Tina: h
er life as a thief, the gritty descriptions of Sangui City, and her love for her sister. This girl is fierce. She has survived the past 5 years living on the streets as part of the Goondas gang, and every part of her is focused on her plan to take down the man who killed her mother. 

Tina is good at what she does. She is quiet. She is careful. She is quick. She is determined. She gets in and out without being seen...until she breaks into the house of her mother's former employer, and is caught in the the same room where her mom was found dead. It is at this point in the book where I was HOOKED, and the story just got more and more addicting from here. City of Saints and Thieves is a mystery and a thriller, and the danger increases as Tina and Co. get closer to discovering the truth about her mother's death. Some of the revelations surprised me, some did not, but still the story was fast paced and exciting all the way through.

I'm not going to tell you who catches Tina, but this book has lots of interesting and complex characters - many I'd want to stay far, far away from. However, my favorites, besides Tina, are Boyboy and Michael. This story does have a sprinkling of romance. It is not the focus at all, and not necessary to the plot, but a nice compliment. It fits the story well in the way it's messy and a little complicated, but is also clear cut and makes perfect sense for the characters.


In many ways, Tina's mother is the catalyst for this story, and as it continues, Tina discovers a lot of truths about her mother and their past in the Congo. But it is Tina who is at the center of this tale, and as Tina finds out more about her own history, she is shaped into the person she wants to be in the future. This is a girl who has lived the past five years on her own, and the more internal revelations that she makes about the value of friendship and not having to be alone, affected me more than many of the overall plot revelations. 


However, I think the most compelling element, and what set apart 
City of Saints and Thieves for me, is the setting. Especially when Tina travels back to the Congo - from where she and her mother escaped when she was a young child. Although this story is fiction, the Congo is a real place and so is the turmoil its people have faced for hundreds of years (look up King Leopold's role there for a start). This country has been - is being - torn apart by war and violence, but beauty still abounds, and the author depicts the contrasts in the extreme darkness and light - as well as the grey areas in the middle - in a powerful and thought provoking way. 


Highly recommended. 

Love Triangle Factor: none
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone, as far as I know. (Threads could open for a sequel, but this ending is strong if it stays)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Heartstone
By Elle Katharine White 
Read: January 12 - 15, 2017
Published: January 17, 2017 by Harper Voyager
Source: EW - (TY Haper!)
Category: Adult, Retelling, Pride & Prejudice

Book Description: A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.


Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.


Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.


It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.


Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.
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I love retellings, and I'm always up for one based on Pride & Prejudice. But despite that, I've come to realize how rarely they meet my expectations. I've also discovered that my favorite kind of retellings are those that take the flavor of an original tale and blend it into something new, instead of trying to hit all the same plot points of the first story. Despite taking place in a world of dragons and hobgoblins and making "Darcy" a fierce warrior Rider and Aliza a Herbmaster, this story is pretty much exactly the original tale of Darcy and Elizabeth. We do have some characterization shifts, and names have been changed - Daired and Aliza are our main characters here - but it wasn't enough to excite me into loving this book more. 


To me, the faithful retelling felt constraining and frankly a little boring. Partially this is my fault. I didn't read the description closely enough, and my expectations of what this book would entail were off. However, that doesn't change the fact that instead of excitement for what came next, I mostly felt like I was waiting for the next box to be checked on what was supposed to happen. I also didn't like the Bingley (here Brysney) character nearly as much as the original, and that made me sad. 

I did however, like Aliza's sister Anjey more than I ever did sweet Jane. Anjey has a lot more spunk, and is clearer about her feelings. I like Daired's dragon Akkara a lot, and I appreciated that though Daired is a warrior, Aliza is not and has no desire to become one. Although she does prove herself to be brave and capable too. The world itself with dragons and other mythical creatures living and fighting among humans was interesting and had a lot of potential, though I didn't feel like I got to explore enough of it. I am also so happy this author didn't try to make the story triangle-y at all with the introduction of the Wickham character. But those things, and the few places the story managed to add it's own plot directions - mostly at the end - did not add enough new for me. 

Basically, if you want a more or less straight retelling, set in a Regency like fantasy world, this is the book for you! And knowing that ahead of time (or even not), you may love it. I wish I'd paid more attention to what I was getting into before starting this. If you are looking for a story that takes the flavor of Pride and Prejudice and turns it into something all its own, you will not find it here. 


Also, note, this is an adult fantasy book (Aliza is in her early 20s), but it is as clean as the original text, and would be great for a crossover to YA. 
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone (as far as I know?) I could see more stories set in this world, however. 


Monday, January 16, 2017

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer
By Alexandra Bracken
Read: December 23, 2016 - January 5, 2017
Published: January 3, 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: Hardback from publisher
Category: YA, Time Travel
Series:  Duet Book 2/2 

Book Description: All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.
 
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Wayfarer is the sequel to Passengerand it is a well-written and worthy conclusion to a gripping time travel duet. See my thoughts on the first book, Passenger, HERE, and don't miss this series! 

I read Passenger over a year ago, and though the whole series is told in dual perspective, it is Etta's narrative that I remember most from the first installment. Her entire life changed in an instant when she discovered she was a traveler. I mean, imagine standing in contemporary NYC one moment and then all of a sudden waking up and you're on a ship in the middle of an ocean at the end of 18th century? I'd be more than a little freaked out! I was swept along with Etta's emotions through the entire journey, and just amazed at how well she worked to adapt and keep going forward. However, Nicholas - the pirate privateer Etta meets on said ship - and his POV were very much present, and goodness, I love him too, but it was Etta's voice that spoke to me the most in the first book. 

However, the exact opposite was true for me in Wayfarer. This story fully belongs to Nicholas. It is his journey - emotional and physical - that has affected me the strongest, and it's the one I'll remember the clearest in the future. Nicholas goes through a lot in this book, as he and companions make increasingly dangerous choices that have rather destructive consequences. Etta faces much as well, and I don't want to discount her experience in this sequel either, but it is Nick who spoke to me the most - and for whom I ached - as I read this story. His strong sense of honor is one of his defining characteristics, and I was on the edge of my seat as it is repeatedly tested against his life and those he cares about. Nothing in this story is easy for Nicholas, but I love him all the more for how he handles himself through it all. I know I wouldn't have held it together, or been nearly as clear thinking as he is.

As a lover of history, I love time travel books, because I can relate to the idea of watching characters go back in time and try to blend in while navigating a foreign place that has completely different rules. I don't think I'd do half as well as these characters do. Both Etta and Nicholas crisscross the world through time in Wayfarer as they work to make their way back to each other and find the astrolabe before Ironwood gets his hands on it. However as they go, they realize 1) that they're fighting against something much bigger than they ever thought, and 2) their journey back to each other is increasingly less clear or certain as it becomes more dangerous and complicated. I love that the stakes are even higher in this book, and the world is even more complex than it was before. 

Of course Wayfarer has other characters in it besides Nicholas and Etta, as each spends time traveling with different companions. Sophie was not my favorite person in the first book, but she grows on me throughout this story, as she travels with Nick. She also gets her own romance with Lin Min, whom I wasn't sure about through most of Wayfarer. But they are definitely well matched and I can understand that they were drawn to each other. Etta, on the other hand, gets to know Henry Hemlock and Julian Ironwood better. I really liked seeing Etta's relationship with the former, while the latter character managed to be both infuriating and endearing. I enjoyed seeing the ways Julian grew up and changed through the story, and I love that Etta won't put up with his nonsense. Although it's partly the point, I never felt like I was able to pin down Rose in this story, and in the end, I wish we could have seen more of a conversation between her and Etta.


My only complaint is that Etta and Nicholas spend the majority of the novel apart. However, though the promise of a happy and long lasting reunion grows increasingly more dim as the stakes get higher, they are always dedicated to and thinking about each other. Although new characters and old return, there is absolutely no waffling or petty drama about their feelings for each other, or their understanding that they are the best partners for each other. Even when others try to deceive or misdirect them, they trust in each other. They want to find each other again, but both have big roads and world changing choices ahead of him. As I said, nothing is certain, but I'll say that I ended this book very satisfied.


I definitely recommend this duet. Don't miss Wayfarer if you haven't yet read Passenger, and if you've yet to read either, this is the perfect time to experience the entire series together.

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Series conclusion

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood
By Elly Blake
Read: December 14 - 16, 2016
Published: January 10, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Edelweiss (TY LBBYR!)
Category: YA, Fantasy
Series:  Yes 1/2? (Not sure if this is a duet or trilogy)

Book Description: Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.
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Frostblood is a fairly typical "MC doesn't know yet, but she has great and unique powers that will save the world, if only she can control them (spoiler alert: she figures it out at the right moment!)" BUT still I liked this book as a whole, and I don't mind this storyline set-up. 

What I loved - I loved the Fire vs Frostblood gifts and the way the character traits of each person matches their abilities. Ruby, our MC and a Fireblood, is much more prone to a fiery temper and not afraid to express her emotions. She needs to learn focus and control. Arcus, her love interest and a Frostblood, freezes his emotions under layers of ice, and it takes work to know know what he's feeling sometimes. I loved the contrast and tension between these two, and especially their banter. Their dialogue was delicious and snappy and just so so good. I could have read a whole book of their interactions. 

Questions I have - This world has a fairly complex mythology of gods and goddesses fighting and granting different gifts to humans that has led to later chaos. I wish there was a glossary of who each of them is, though, because I felt a bit lost about it all. I also still have many questions about the world building. I'm not at all sure how Ruby got her abilities - maybe it's not hereditary? It doesn't seem to have come from her mother, but not once was any father mentioned. Did he die? Was he a one night stand? It was a strange omission to me that Ruby never thinks about that figure at all. Also, (Spoiler: Why is Ruby the child of darkness? I was a little confused about what that meant and how that happened.) I'm hoping a lot of this is answered as the story goes forward. I think Ruby has a lot more to discover about herself and her history. I'd also love to see a map of this land, as a bunch of different places were mentioned, and I'd like to visualize all the different surrounding kingdoms and where the Fire vs Frostbloods came from. 

What I didn't love - It's hard to talk about this without mentioning spoilers, but I didn't love how all of the conflict plays out in the second half of the book. I LOVED the story in the first half, and the action was strong and kept me reading in the second half, but some of the direction it took wasn't my favorite. Though, take that with a grain of salt because I know there are certain things that bother me, that most people will not bat an eye at. I'll talk more about it under a spoiler tag: I know it's not a true love triangle, but the way Ruby is almost seduced by King Rasmus while she's being courted by the darkness, creeped me out, and made me really uncomfortable. Although she's being taken over by the power of a corrupted darkness that's pulling at her, this is never a storyline that I like. That said, things are sorted in a way that I don't fear any sort of triangle coming from this direction in the future, so that's good.

Anyway, I liked this book as a whole, and I see where it's getting a lot of buzz. I just hope that as the story goes forward, the author won't throw in any unnecessary love triangles, especially because my favorite part is Ruby + Arcus. 


Love Triangle Factor: Essentially none, but see the second spoiler above for more information. I think I need a new category called, "It's not really a love triangle." 
Cliffhanger Scale: Low. Part of a series. Not sure how many books, but this one wraps itself well. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Favorite books of 2016

My library in snow 

Hellooooooo everyone! It's been forever since I've written anything on here. It was so nice to take a break. But I've also been evaluating what I want to do here in the future. I'm just not feeling as relevant or present in this community anymore, so I'm thinking a lot about what that means for me and this blog. However,  do love you allll! And still want to read and talk about and promote books. I've just found that direct communication with people is often a better fit for me, personally. Though I don't know how that translates with my blog. So for now, I'm going to be posting still but more slowly.

Whew. Anyway, enough of all of that. I wanted to give a brief recap of my reading in 2016. I don't think this will be as long as some years, but I wanted to tell you my top most read books of the year out of the 104 I read (aka, on average 2 books a week, though some were less and some were more). Mostly, this post is for my own benefit, so I have a record of what I've read and loved in different years.

My Top Books of 2016 (In no particular order)
I've also included a little note at the end of each book as to whether it's Middle Grade, YA or Adult.


1) Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett - 

Ok so right off I'm cheating, because this is not even one book, it's four. But I read this Urban Fantasy series all together and consider it one unit.

When I started this series, I hadn't binge read anything in ages, and I'd forgotten how much I love the fog of reading through a series in one go. This is an entire series where a couple works together without crazy misunderstandings or separations, from when they get together in the first book until the end of the fourth one. Once I got over Lon's mustache (it was a little traumatic LOL), I LOVED every minute of it. The mysteries and danger kept me glued to the pages as well as the secondary characters. Especially Jupe, Lon's son. I adore him so so much. I'm going to miss being inside of Cady's head and tagging along with all her crazy adventures. I read these books in September, and I just can't get over how much I love them. All of Bennett's books are great, but this series is for sure my favorite. (Adult)


2) The Hating Game by Sally Thorne - 

This book was amazing! I am a huge sucker for hate to love romances, and am finding it to be one of my favorite romance tropes. This is one of the best I've experienced. I rarely reread, but I read this book twice in a row, almost back to back. One time in print and the other on audiobook. I could watch Lucy and Josh banter forever. I love that this story feels like a mix between chick-lit and romance. It's fun and swoony, without the angst and drama. For me, the hype was 100% true for this book. I cannot wait to find out what Sally Thorne writes next. (Adult)


3) The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron - 

With this book, and reading Cameron's Dark Unwinding duet this year, she's cemented herself as one of my go to authors. Whatever she publishes, I want to read it! You can check my full review of this book, HERE. But basically, this story is impossible to talk about without giving much away, and it's more fun to go into it blind. The book has a cool sci-fi element to it that I wasn't expecting. I loved the MC Nadia, a quiet fighter who will do anything to protect her family, and the love interest Gray, who is not what he seems either. Such a good story and not to be missed! (YA)



4) This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills - 

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this one, and didn't have super high expectations. But right away I was hooked. I COULD NOT STOP reading! I would have read this book all the way through from start to finish in one sitting if I'd had the time. It is for sure one of my favorite contemporaries of the year. I love how This Adventure Ends is a light and fun and quickly read on the surface, but it packs a deeper punch that is there all along, though you have to get to know to see. In many ways this parallels Sloane's character and her journey through the book. I enjoyed the sweet and subtle romance with a Darcy like hero, but it's the friendships that stole the show with this one. (YA)

My favorite blog tour post ever was also for this book, where I interviewed the cast. Find it, HERE


5) The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski - 

This book, this series, are going on my all time favorites shelf. What an incredible ending to a story that began when a girl purchased a boy in a slave market. I - and they - had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But from the first page, I was hooked, and I knew it would be something special. The language alone is so incredible it makes me ache. And the story of Kestrel and Arin - one of tenuous hope, intense heartbreak, and a love that heals the most broken places - has stolen my heart once and for all. Highly, highly recommended. This is another book that I read multiple times this year. I've gotten to dread series conclusions a little bit, but this one does not disappoint in any way. (YA)


6) The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - 

I'm so glad I finally picked up a Susanna Kearsley book this year. I was long overdue, and ended up reading three of them, because they were so good. But this one, which I read first, remains my favorite. Kearsley is incredible at blending historical with contemporary stories, which she does here by exploring women living around the Scottish castle at Slains in both the the early 21st and 18th centuries - the earlier time being during the attempted Jacobite rebellion from England. There is a bit of a mystical quality to the connection between the time periods, but without taking away a sense of true history, and what life was really like in Scotland in the early 1700s. This is a duet, and The Firebird follows up and concludes this tale nicely. (Adult)


7) The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid -


At first The Diabolic seems like a typical dystopian - where the kick butt heroine inhabits a Roman Empire influenced space setting. And the book is those things, but it is also something different than that in a way that is intense and riveting. Maybe it was the way the author pushed the scheming and twists and everything else. But I was hooked from the start, and the story just got more and more exciting the crazier everything became. Of course this book book has a romance. And it is another favorite part. Tyrus and Nemesis are perfect for each other. They both have sharp edges and have had to learn to adapt to survive. That is why they are a great match, but it makes some things harder for them too. I was fascinated by this story ended. It is solid but also a little bit unsettling in a way that made the story more powerful. The book was sold as a standalone, but now will have sequels, and I'm so curious to see what happens next. (YA)

8) The War that Saved My Life by Kimberley Brusker Bradley - 

This book was amazing! Ada's voice and emotions were so real. I was completely wrapped up in her life and her words and hooked on her story from start to finish. What surprised me the most about this story is how layered it is, as well as the depth of the emotions of these characters. We see the world through Ada's limited viewpoint, while also understanding a much bigger picture of what was happening around and to her. Alongside Ada's personal journey was a fascinating - and sometimes frightening - look at Britain at the start of World War II. What a harrowing time in history. I am dying for the sequel to this book, which I've been assured is being written. I cannot wait to find out what Ada does next and catch up with all of her friends! (Middle Grade)

9) The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry - 

The Passion of Dolssa is one of those stories with a quiet impact that slowly builds as you read it, until you're eventually and unexpectedly slapped with how amazing it is. I enjoyed the story all along, finding it to be addicting, despite taking a while to read it. But months later, I am still l thinking about the vibrant characters, the fascinating - if terrifying - time period, and the the way the author constructed her story as if she'd found a series of historical documents. 

I love well researched historical fiction and this was exactly that. I felt like I had a real glimpse into thirteenth century provincial France, especially what life was like for women at that time. Don't let the length of this book or its seemingly slow start or heavy subject deter you in picking this up. The Passion of Dolssa is a beautifully crafted tale filled with characters and a story that you will not soon forget. Although it takes place in the past, this book has many parallels to today. Don't miss this one! (YA)

10) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - 

I know very little about video games and only a tiny bit more of 80s culture (tho I was alive for almost all of that decade), but I was totally hooked on this story. I cannot believe it took me so long to pick this one up, but I'm so glad I finally did. I was rooting for Wade from the start and wanted all the things for him and his friends! My husband read this book as well, and he enjoyed it just as much as I did. I can't wait to see what becomes of the movie that's supposed to come out about this story. (YA) 

10.5) The Grift of the Magi by Ally Carter - 
I LOVE the Heist Society series and Ally Carter surprised fans (or maybe just me!) with a new holiday novella right before Christmas. It was the best surprise ever! Kat + Hale and co forever. They are never better than when they're outsmarting a smart con, plus lots of swooooonnnnnn. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I hope Ally Carter never stops writing about these thieves. (YA)





BONUS: Two books I read in 2015 but published in 2016, both amazing. 


11) Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys 

I love the way Ruta Sepetys carefully and powerfully gives a voice to little known history, and how she infuses them with strength and hope, despite the heavy subject matter. Without her words I would not have known anything about the Wilhelm Gustloff, or the events surrounding this story. 

12) Passenger by Alex Bracken 

This is a strong and solid time travel book that completely swept me away in its magic. This story is timely despite taking place in the past, I loved Etta and Nicholas' dual narration and of course the swoon. Plus, anytime I can 'visit' history is a winner for me. I've now read the conclusion of this duet and it is a wonderful and worthy conclusion! 

_______________________________________________________________

Okay, so actually, I decided to be super wordy above. HA! Although these were my most favorite books of the year, I enjoyed so many others that I feel sad I'm not including more. But I have to cut myself off somewhere. You can see my full list of 2016 titles on Goodreads HERE.


We spent Christmas in Florida and I want to be warm againnn


What were your favorite books of last year?

Happy 2017 and Be well!


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