Tag «cover love»

Blog Tour: Ignited (Dance of Elements #1) by A M Deese

Synopsis for Ignited (from Goodreads):

A NOBLE DAUGHTER.

A FORMER SLAVE.

SCORCHED EARTH AND DANGEROUS GAMES.

“Jura imagined it sounded like rain.”

Juggling death is nothing new for seventeen-year-old Jura, daughter of the First of the Thirteen, successive rulers of the Republic of the Sand Sea. However, when a blood chain ensnares her father, she is thrust into the seat of power and forced to rule her elders.

“To Tylak, water had never tasted sweeter.”

Jura must track down her father’s assassin and balance a country on the verge of collapse. To find the Prince of Shadows and uncover the truth, Jura puts her trust in Tylak, a former slave accused of stealing from the Everflame—a man she once condemned to death.

In a world where water is currency and enemies lurk around every corner, Jura will use her wits or risk igniting a world war.

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Dance of Elements
Author: A M Deese
# of Books: 1+ (Ignited)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Pre-Order: Radiant Crown Publishing // Google Play

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love books with political intrigue and this one seemed like it would have that in spades. The whole idea that a young girl has to play a political game while trying to save her father’s life had me interested in seeing what would happen next.

What I Liked

–The World / Concept–

I loved the many layers to this world. First, you have the whole political system which is so cutthroat and devious that I couldn’t help but devour it. Next you have the class system that separates the peoples and creates its own conflict. Add the currency of water, throw in people with special abilities and dragons and you’ve got yourself a pretty epic world to get lost in.

–Multiple POVs–

I love books where we follow multiple leads because it provides a wider, full coverage view of the world. Having all the character POVs we do here does a great job of moving the plot forward and revealing those little tidbits that have you craving more.

–Game of Thrones Vibes–

One of my favourite things about Game of Thrones is the political intrigue. You don’t know who you can trust, there are supernatural elements at play and you never know who is going to live. There are so many players that something is always evolving and I felt like this book captured that same suspense as GOT, just in a YA kind of way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It is a Little Overwhelming At the Start–

When it comes to the world, Everything is explained well so I was never lost in that respect. Where I did get a little lost was keeping all the things straight at the start. A lot of information is thrown at you and trying to remember everyone’s roles overwhelmed me a little. But as you get deeper into the world it gets easier to follow.

–Slower Start–

I found that this book took a while to get its footing. Part of that reason is that we switch POVs a lot in the first few chapters in order to establish all the key players and drama. It takes time to build up the various plotlines but once they get there, you really do become sucked into the story.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I had a pretty good idea of what was actually happening in the book, there’s a great unexpected twist that really shook things up for me. Now that the world is familiar and I know most of the key players, I’m hoping the sequel can take that great momentum and build on it.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

Ignited 3.5/5| Book 2 TBP

overall
If you enjoy fantasies with a lot going on and lots of characters, this is a great one. The action is in the politics and suspense and not of the physical variety but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Read if You Like: political intrigue, books with multiple POVs
Avoid if You: want more action, faster start

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A M Deesse

Alexis Marrero Deese isan avid reader of young adult and fantasy. Her favorite authors include Brandon Sanderson, Jaqueline Carey, and Orson Scott Card. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and a sun tan she misses dearly since her move to northern Georgia. She has a passion for cooking, spends entirely too much time on Pinterest, and is a self-proclaimed dog training expert to her family’s legion of dogs.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

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Series Review: Starbound by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Broken Stars (from Goodreads):

Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth.

The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

breakdown

Series: Starbound Trilogy
Author: Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner
# of Books: 3 (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light)

There is a novella: #1.5 This Night So Dark (free on most eBook Stores)

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2013 – December 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: After finishing These Broken Stars, I opted not to pick up books 2 and 3 of the series. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been searching for a great science fiction “thriller” since I read Across the Universe by Beth Revis years ago. You know, that science fiction novel that has a mystery element to that gets slowly revealed the deeper you go. I have yet to find a book that compares to Revis’ stellar trilogy, but I had high hopes for the Starbound Trilogy.

Of course, the beautiful cover of These Broken Stars (TBS) drew me to this series but the synopsis kept me around. Add to that, is the fact that Kaufman’s Illuminae Files Series is probably the closest thing I have come to finding something comparable to Across the Universe (ATU). This one seemed like a no-brainer for me to pick up. TBS and ATU have similar premises: a hero and heroine who should never cross paths yet somehow find themselves as the sole survivors of some mysterious phenomenon and are left trying to find out why. So, needless to say, I had high expectations for These Broken Stars.

What I Liked:

–The Covers–

Ok, I just have to say that these covers are gorgeous. It almost makes me regret reading the eBooks because I didn’t get to see these covers in person.

–The Character Development–

Both characters had great growth throughout the novel. They learn to adapt and learn to appreciate the other person and its beautiful to watch. It really is the primary focus of this novel–besides the slow burning romance–and it works well.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Inspiration for Illuminae?–

Am I the only one who feels like this series is eerily similar to The Illuminae Files? Both series are three connected novels, each focusing on two different leads, and by the end, everyone is linked together. Even the interview briefings before each chapter with Tarver talking to whomever were reminiscent of Illuminae. It just didn’t seem as fresh to me as I expected.

It is a nice concept though. I think I would be bored watching the same two characters in this world and I like the 360 degree it provides of the overall world.

–The Almost Supernatural Science Fiction Elements–

I really enjoyed the anticipation of figuring out what was happening on this planet Lilac and Tarver find themselves on. But the reveal kind of disappointed me. It really wasn’t what I was expecting and it was a bit of a let down. I think I wanted a more logical explanation than what we got.

–Very Slow Plot–

This could have easily been 100 pages shorter if you ask me. It felt like it took forever to get to the main plot or get anything new happening. It’s reads like an adventure novel–and if you’ve read previous reviews, you know I don’t enjoy adventure novels for this reason. I wanted this novel to be more of a mystery/suspense read and instead, it’s a slower paced novel about two people learning to adapt to their surroundings.

Will I Finish It?

I contemplated back and forth about picking up This Shattered World. After I finished TBS, I marked it as a “pass” on Goodreads. But then, I thought I should give the next two leads a shot–they might be different so I thought I should read it. And then a couple days later, after reading some friends’ reviews on Goodreads, I changed my mind once again and decided that I wouldn’t be continuing this series.

I get the impression that the rest of the series is similar to this first installment and so I don’t think I will enjoy the next 2 novels.

Series Rating: DNF

These Broken Stars 3/5 | [This Night So Dark] 3/5 | This Shattered World N/A | Their Fractured Light N/A

overall

I’m definitely in the minority for this one so maybe look elsewhere for a review. I think if you want a science fiction story that slowly builds its science fiction plot and keeps its focus on the characters and the romance, this is a great one. but it’s not an action packed story by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: more romance based YA reads, supernatural-esque SciFi
Avoid if You: want action
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Single Sundays: Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Offsetting Penalties (from Goodreads):

Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a bit of blackmail, a lot of sarcasm, and an ending guaranteed to melt your heart.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave YA Contemporary 2017
Author: Ally Mathews
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Dance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks Entangled Teen Crush!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I saw the premise for this novel, I just had to read it! You see, the book that introduced me to the New Adult genre, Crash, featured a football player and a ballerina meeting and falling in love. One of my favourite tropes in romance is when two unlikely people meet and fall in love and this one fit the bill. Throw in a little blackmail, tights and a goth, this is a wicked combination that seemed like it would be both fun and heartwarming at the same time.

The Plot:


I had so much fun reading this book! Not only are Izzy and Garret charming characters but the plot was fun and definitely adorable. I found myself sucked into this book and easily could have finished it in one sitting if I didn’t have to go to work.

What I liked about this book is that it had a great flow and plot progression. It had that great balance between plot development, character growth and sweet, romantic moments. The evolution of Izzy and Garret’s relationship was awesome to watch.

The Characters:

I loved Izzy and Garret from the start. Individually, these two are genuine people who you can’t help but love. They aren’t over-dramatic or angsty teenagers; they react in the rational ways to the various situations they find themselves in. Their characters could easily have been a cliche but they had this edge of individuality to their presentation that separates them from what you expect.

The Romance:

Together, these two are positively adorable! They have fantastic banter and chemistry from the start. The romance had a bit of a slow burn aspect to it as they two take their time to get to know each other a little more. I loved watching them establish that deeper connection.

A big positive for me was the fact that the romance doesn’t cause them to lose their individuality. I like when couples bring out the best in each other and this one succeeds in that aspect without a doubt. This relationship doesn’t consume them and they don’t lose sight over what they want or need.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

If you’re looking for a cute contemporary romance about two unlikely teens falling in love while aspiring to make their dreams come true, I highly recommend this book! You will easily get sucked into Izzy and Garret’s story.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, enemies to lovers, high school romances
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary, don’t enjoy sport/dance stories

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Fresh Fridays: Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1) by Rhoda Belleza

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Empress of a Thousand Skies Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Empress of a Thousand Skies (from Goodreads):

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

breakdown

Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
# of Books: 2 (Empress of a Thousand Skies, Blood of a Thousand Stars)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Blood a A Thousand Skies will be published February 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. I marked it on my wishlist at my local library simply because I love the cover. The synopsis was intriguing enough but it seems like every plot in a science fiction novel lately has had a similar premise (I get why though: race and class divides are a part of the science fiction backbone so of course there are similarities) so I wasn’t overly eager to read this. Add to that the somewhat mixed reviews on Goodreads and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Note on Empress of a Thousand Skies Synopsis:

What I’m about to say may be considered by some to be a spoiler but I actually think it is better labeled as a warning because it is important to know what you are getting into and what type of story to prepare yourself for. So read this section if you want a little guidance for the type of story you are picking up or avoid and continue down to the next section.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding

When you read those lines from the synopsis, you think the plot will be Rhee and her accused killer meeting and proceeding to save the world together. The key word there being “together”, implying that they actually get introduced to each other. That is not the case.

The best way to describe this story is as two parallel stories that contribute to the overall plot of the world. Maybe there is some suspense in wondering if they will ever meet but for me, knowing that they weren’t going to meet helped me starve off some of the disappointment of discovering that they won’t…yet.

What I Liked:

–The Plot is Always Moving–

I don’t like stagnant plot lines and this one never felt like it got stuck or dwelled too long on one thing or another. I think it helps that we get both Aly and Rhee’s POVs too since you get that back and forth plot development. New secrets and alliances are constantly being revealed so something is always grabbing your attention. It helps to build the story and subsequently the finale.

–Not Afraid to Take Risks–

Not that you need to kill off characters to keep a story going but I like the suspense that happens when you aren’t sure who is safe and who isn’t. The action scenes we get here–while sometimes few and far between–had me paying attention because who knows what could happen next!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Somewhat Predictable–

While there were definitely plot twists that surprised me, I think the one big twist in this novel was super obvious. So that dampened the reading experience a touch but I still found myself interested in what would happen next.

–Slightly Lackluster Ending–

Because of the obvious plot twist, the ending was definitely lackluster in my opinion. I really needed something big to happen to “wow” me to take my experience to the next level.

My Audiobook Experience:

For a third person POV narration, I had a very easy time following what was happening. The narrator kept my attention and she was really expressive which helps. I think I would have liked a male narrator to do Aly’s parts simply to remind me when I stopped mid-chapter who the POV was following. Otherwise, it was a solid narration.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I wasn’t wowed with this novel, I did enjoy it. I’m curious to see what will happen in the finale and how everything weaves together.

My Rating: 3/5

Empress of a Thousand Skies 3/5 | Blood of a Thousand Stars TBP

overall

While not a standout novel in its genre, this series will definitely keep readers interest throughout.

Read if You Like: science fiction, world-building
Avoid if You: dislike slower stories, want more romance

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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Jewel (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

breakdown

Series: The Lone City Trilogy
Author: Amy Ewing
# of Books: 3 (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black City)

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This is one of those series that would pop up on occasion for me. Mostly anytime when I reviewed any of the books from The Selection Series or browsed my library’s eBook collection. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what the series was about until I decided to pick it up as an audiobook series and read the synopsis.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect but I have a few standards that I like all my dystopian novels to have: an intriguing world, a heroine I can tolerate and an actual plotline.

The Concept / The World:

Although the concept is very similar to other dystopian novels (especially The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely got sucked into the world. I just love high society books and all the scandals of the haves vs the have-nots. Ewing does a great job of establishing the society here and why everything is as it is. There are a ton of secrets so you don’t know who you can and can’t trust and it just makes the entire story addicting.

The Plot:

You aren’t going to find the action-packed plotlines of The Hunger Games here but you are going to get more of a dramatic plot than The Selection Series ever provides. Meaning there is more than just a forbidden romance at play here.

It helps that this world is so intricate in its structure. Like most caste system stories, it’s the haves vs the have nots and that creates a tense atmosphere of danger and intrigue. The risks are high and you never doubt that for a moment thanks to the antics of the upper classes.

However, I did find the pacing to be off at times. For example, The Jewel starts off with a bang because you are thrown into this super interesting world. Getting acquainted with it and watching Violet navigate this was exciting to read until it reached a lull. The introduction of the romance (just past the 50% mark) really slowed down the plot since the romance becomes the larger focus and the rest of the intrigue takes a backseat. Thankfully it picks up again at the end.

The same can be said about The White Rose which suffers from the typical Book 2 of a Trilogy Slump. It was terribly slow even though important developments do happen–especially near the end.

The Black City, book 3, keeps the pacing strong at the start but wanes a little again in the middle. I was a little disappointed by some of the big “twists” but it was a solid ending to the series as a whole.

The Characters:

I went through a bit of a rocky relationship with Violet. In The Jewel, I liked her as a heroine more so than others I’ve encountered in this type of dystopian story. She didn’t drive me insane though I did roll my eyes many a times at some of her comments. (Often during the romantic scenes because I really wasn’t feeling that aspects). I think I was able to forgive some of her naivety because she really is kept in the dark due to her position/role in society. Of course she is going to react impulsively and not really think things through all the time.

And that’s the case as the series progresses. She doesn’t make the wisest decisions–she fails to see the bigger picture at times and that drove me a little nuts.

But I did like a lot of the side characters and I liked that it was easy to hate the villains.

The Romance:

This was a huge disappointment truthfully. I’m all for forbidden romances but this one just bored me. Their connection just seemed very superficial to me and it definitely borders on insta-love. I just wanted a little more substance here. I can’t help but feel that Garnet (the son of the Duchess who bought Violet) would have been a more intriguing love interest for her rather than Ash (who is a little dull despite all the efforts to make him compelling).

The Novellas:

I read both Garnet’s Story (#1.2) and The House of Stone (1.5) right after I read The Jewel. Garnet’s Story in particular does a good job bridging The Jewel and The White Rose and since I loved him as a character, it was great to get that insight. Raven is also a strong character so it was nice to fill in some of the gaps about her story. I opted not to pick up the other short stories.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was the first series I had read exclusively through an audiobook and I think it was a great choice. As I’ve often said in my other audiobook reviews, audiobooks do a great job of conveying emotions I wouldn’t have necessarily felt while reading. I also think it helped me understand Violet a little more. It’s so easy when you read words to interpret them one way instead of another. And I think by having someone speak Violet’s words and convey the emotions she is feeling, it helped me get what Violet’s motivations were–cooling my irritation with her.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Jewel 3.5/5 | The White Rose 3/5 | The Black City 3/5

overall

I’m a particularly hard critic on my dystopian novels but this one was solid from start to end even if it didn’t feel like that at times. While some things were predictable, others wowed me and had me wanting to know more. It’s addicting albeit slow at times but I think readers who enjoy high society dystopian novels will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: high society, dystopian
Avoid if You: want physical action

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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Must Read Author
Series: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (Flame in the Mist, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you asked me what my top 3 Disney movies are, I would say without hesitation: Aladdin, Mulan and Hercules. I loved Mulan as a young girl because she is like every girl you will ever meet. She’s bound by family duty and love and pressured by society to be a certain way. What girl doesn’t feel that at some point or another? And her transformation to assert her independence is inspirational for any young girl who watches it.

So I think it goes without saying, I was very, very excited to pick this book up. Even if this story wasn’t based on Mulan, I was eagerly awaiting Ahdieh’s next series after I completely fell in love with her The Wrath and the Dawn Duology last year.

Best Advice: Forget Disney’s Mulan & Keep to the Basics!

I know I just touted Disney’s Mulan (and I could write a very long post praising the movie) for its awesomeness, but I think it important to go into this remembering that that movie is based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan–as is this book.

So expect plot differences and new characters; don’t expect songs and a talking dragon.

What do they share? A heroine who has always struggled with her place in society and her family. A girl who is smart in ways people don’t expect; who has a knack for crafting military devices that save her friends. A young woman who begins a journey to learn that she is more powerful and independent than she ever thought.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love everything about Japan, particularly feudal Japan. I just find its history and culture to be fascinating. So having the novel set here immediately hooked me in. Ahdieh has a great power to weave worlds and it shows here. It’s rich and layered and even though it is influenced by another source, she makes it her own.

–The Politics–

I’m a sucker for political intrigue in my reads. It’s one of the reasons I adored The Wrath and The Dawn series so much. I love when you don’t know who you can trust; when there is more at play than you can ever imagine. This book has that thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You have this 360 degree view of the world and everything that is at play and I loved it.

–Mariko’s Character Development–

Mariko really blossoms before your eyes in terms of her growth. She’s shy and reserved at the start but slowly begins to break out of her shell. Her journey isn’t without fault, and she sure isn’t perfect but she continues to learn as she goes. Definitely a heroine you can root for.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

This was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for it, but its appearance just seemed so sudden and abrupt that it took me a long time to realize what was happening. (It’s hard to elaborate without spoilers).

I genuinely grew to like the two of them together by the end but I just didn’t like how this was handled at the start. I guess I wanted a little more build-up.

–Slower Start–

I’m not sure what I was expecting at the start of the novel. I thought it was action but when I thought about it, I think I knew that there wasn’t going to be physical action immediately. Mariko’s character definitely isn’t at that point at the start and you know that thanks to the synopsis. So what was my problem?

Truthfully, I think it just takes the reader a few chapters to get acquainted with the world. Like I said above, this world is rich and layered and you don’t really get the full picture of what is happening until you are a few chapters in. It needs to build, and it definitely does as you go, just give it some time to get there.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! This start has so many great inklings to lead into the sequel. It’s building up to a fantastic climax that I can’t wait to see!

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This story kept my attention from start to finish; from the rich setting to the intriguing characters, there’s a lot to like about this retelling!

Read if You Like: feudal Japan, world-building, Mulan
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Spinoff Saturdays: Finishing School by Gail Carriger

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Etiquette & Espionage (from Goodreads):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

breakdown

Series: Finishing School

This is a prequel spinoff of the Parasol Protectorate Series.

Author: Gail Carriger
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Steampunk, Paranormal
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2013 – November 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up the second novel, Curtsies & Conspiracies. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a Steampunk story and Gail Carriger is a staple author when it comes to the YA world of Steampunk. The espionage aspect also caught my attention. I’ve been searching for a Gallagher Girl-esque series ever since I finished it. Her Parasol Protectorate Series has caught my eye a few times but I ended up picking this one because my library had the audiobooks (and I wanted to try listening to an entire series via audiobook).

What I Liked:

–Steampunk & Espionage–

Obviously this would be a highlight for me. But I really liked the blend of paranormal and the classical steampunk features. The world is really rich and it keeps things exciting.

I also enjoyed the espionage plot as well. The idea that these girls are getting trained in everything from dance to swindling is just so much fun!

–Smart Writing–

I was truly impressed with the wit story. It’s so subtle that you almost miss the humour of everything. And I think listening to the audiobook helped me grasp that humour quicker than if I had read it thanks to its delivery.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Felt Old Reading This!–

I’m a firm believer that just because a book is listed as “young adult” doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as an adult. I’m in my mid-20s and I still read more YA novels than adult.

However, sometimes there are stories that you would enjoy more if you were the target demographic and I think this is one of them.

While there is an overarching plot in Etiquette and Espionage, it also suffers from what I call an aimless plotline. You know, when the “new to the school” lead explores the boarding school. The plot takes a back seat and teenaged shenanigans begins. Which is fine and all but I just didn’t care to listen to that at this point in my life. I need the book to stimulate my mind and this just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself zoning out more often than not and when the main plot line resurfaced, I just didn’t get as involved as I would have liked.

Will I Finish It?

Unfortunately no. This is a classic case where if I had read these books years ago I would have loved every minute of them. It’s just that my interests aren’t here anymore for the type of plot this series uses.

Audiobook Experience:

I have to point out that my waning interest while listening to this audiobook had nothing to do with the audiobook narration. I have to say that this is one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to when it comes to the narrator. Not only was the accent great but she did a fabulous job when delivering the dialogue of other people. Sometimes I struggle with female narrators doing male voices because they seem odd to me when they attempt to change their voice. But each character here had a distinct voice and that made listening to it super enjoyable.

Series Rating: DNF

Etiquette & Espionage 3/5 | Curtsies &
Conspiracies
  N/A  | Waistcoats & Weaponry  N/A | Manners & Mutiny  N/A

overall

This is perfect for fans of steampunk, espionage, girl power and fun historical stories. However, this book does feel like a younger YA read so be sure to keep that in mind before you pick this up.

Read if You Like: espionage, steampunk
Avoid if You: want a strong plot, want a more mature YA read

similarreads

  • I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girl Series#1)
  • Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  • The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles #1)

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Series Review: A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Thousand Nights (from Goodreads):

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: A Thousand Nights
Author: E K Johnston
# of Books: 2 (A Thousand Nights, Spindle)

There is a FREE short story, #1.5 called The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes — I think
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2015 – December 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most people, the cover is what drew me to this series. They are gorgeous!

But A Thousand Nights was everywhere the year it came out, gracing a ton of lists for one reason or another. It is also a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights–a story I’m still not acquainted with despite reading The Wrath and The Dawn last year and noting that I probably should read it because it is a popular base tale for retellings.

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard not to compare two similar things and I’m going to do my best to stop comparing A Thousand Nights to The Wrath and The Dawn before I even begin this review.

This series is a world layered with a darker power. Whether that power actually exists or not: I’ll discuss that in The Writing Style section below. You have a king murdering women for some unknown reason and people are suffering because of it. There is this air of mysticism to the story and it makes the circumstances so much grittier as a result. You truly get transported to this other world within the first chapter and that was definitely a highlight for me

The Writing Style:

I think you will either love or hate E K Johnston’s writing style. It has an old fashioned feel to it often seen in your classic stories; the words flowing like you are reading an epic.

It took me awhile to get comfortable with her style because books just aren’t written like this nowadays (or at least what I usually read isn’t). Personally, it’s a touch wordier than I like, though I found it had a great flow.

But I think my biggest issue was the fact that I couldn’t tell what was real vs what was just allusion. What I’m trying to say is that I had a hard time deciding whether the magic of it all was actually happening or it if was just the result of the narration. As a result, I often had a hard time understanding the progression of events and that in turn caused me to lose interest at times.

The Plot:

I was really disappointed in the plot for A Thousand Nights. I truly felt like nothing was happening until the last 50 pages or so. It seemed to be more stories about the Heroine’s life back home and I just didn’t care–that wasn’t the story I wanted to read. I wanted to see how she was going to save the king. Instead, you spend most of your time reading about stories within the story and that just has no appeal to me. I needed a little more stimulation and the book just seemed to drag.

Spindle started off a little more promising but it lost that momentum around the 45% mark. I’m not a huge fan of adventure stories and this one felt like that at times. Again, my interest waned and I found myself skimming the last half of the book. It just couldn’t keep my attention.

The Characters:

I think this is one of those rare cases where the worldbuilding overshadows any character development. Johnston spends so much time weaving tales of this land that she fails to really build up her characters. Yes, you get their histories thanks to the various stories but because you spend so much time in the past, their growth in the present is lackluster.

I also think because of the writing, I felt distant from the characters. You weren’t getting a lot of inner monologues because not a lot was happening in the present.

The Romance:

As a romance fan I like it in my stories and it really isn’t present here. That isn’t a bad thing but when you don’t have much going on, it would have served as a nice distraction.

The Novella–A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers:

This is supposed to be a bridging novel of sorts between the two stories and it does serve that purpose. I really found it to be more of an extended epilogue of A Thousand Nights so I like that it brought me some closure in that respect.

It is a free eBook so if you like this series I do recommend you pick it up before you read Spindle.

Series Rating: 3/5

A Thousand Nights 2.5/5 | [A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers 3/5] | Spindle 2/5

overall

If you are a fan of worlds filled with stories and love the weaving of tales, you’ll enjoy this series. But if you like action, romance and adventure in your retellings, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: story telling, retellings
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action
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Single Sundays: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for 5 to 1 (from Goodreads):

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Contestant Five, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Five thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

Told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Contestant Five’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Holly Bodger
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Poetry
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this as a book I found from a blog but I’m not sure where. Not that it really matters, this book seemed to be everywhere when it came out so I’m sure it wasn’t a single source. The cover was making lists of fave covers; the synopsis is more than intriguing and the narration style is noteworthy. So I put it on my TBR but never got a chance to read it back in 2015. Which is why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a pick for 2015.

The Concept:

I love stories that challenge our everyday norms; in particular our views on gender roles. I just loved the idea of a matriarchal society–where women are in control and boys compete to win their hand. It’s very reminiscent of something you might see in Victorian times; only this is the future and an isolated society and girl’s are the ultimate prize. I thought this exploration was done fantastically and you can tell it is the driving force behind this story. It really makes you think about what it means to be a woman or a man in society and the expectations that come along with it.

The Narration Style:

I definitely missed the part in the synopsis about Sudasa’s chapters being in verse so that was a cool surprise. It’s easy to read (the flow is great) and the formatting is awesome. Very unique. As a whole it really works as a tool to convey how restricted Sudasa is in her life.

HOWEVER, I did struggle near the end trying to interpret what was happening. The ending seemed so rushed to me because it is told in verse (not in full paragraphs) and I had a hard time following. I just felt like I was misinterpreting what was being said and so I couldn’t put in together the developments. And in turn, that dampened my reading experience (and my rating).

The Characters:

I really liked these two as leads. They were not only rebellious but also intelligent as well. Meaning they thought about everything they did before they did it. I liked that they weren’t overly impulsive.

For this story being a shorter novel, I was really impressed by how developed they were as characters.

The Romance:

I just want to say that if you think this is going to be some epic romance between two people who never wanted to get married–think again. Like I said above, this story is all about pressures from society and not the romance. The marriage situation is just a tool to emphasize the circumstances.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

As I approached the final few chapters, this was going to be a 4/5 star read for me. Unfortunately, this story just felt a little rushed at the end. It’s a great story about gender roles/expectations but it isn’t a romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: dystopia, reversed gender roles
Avoid if You: want a romance
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Blog Tour: Breakwater by Catherine Jones Payne

Synopsis for Breakwater (from Goodreads):

A red tide is rising.

As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she’d ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean’s fragile peace.

Can the city’s divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?

Other books in the series:

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: Breakwater
Author: Catherine Jones Payne
# of Books: 1+ (Breakwater, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mermaids
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 30, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Kobo

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been going through a bit of a mermaid withdrawal since I finished Jennifer Donnelly’s Waterfire Saga last year. I particularly liked that series because it had strong female characters and the world was fantastic. So I was eager to find another story to get lost in and this one looked promising!

The World:

One of my favourite aspects of an underwater world is when the author uses our everyday expressions and “water-ize” them. It’s the little things like “What the Depths!” (instead of “What the Hell!”) or “I’m not going to float here all day” that get you integrated into the world as a reader. It also shows all the effort the author puts into creating their world by looking at those “tiny” details. This one does this flawlessly and I loved watching it come to life as I read.

The Plot:

This book definitely has a slower plot line to it than I was anticipating and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This story is all about doing the right thing even when other’s tell you not to. It’s more talking and reasoning than physically kicking bum, like so many other stories out there that have the clash between races/social hierarchy as their main plot. Most of the time, those stories require actually fighting back to make a change. So I found it really refreshing here that Jade tries to create a positive impact by speaking the truth and fighting for ideals through actions.

As a reader, you get caught up in the flow of the novel and it is easy to read even if it isn’t your typical action packed fantasy novel.

The Characters:

Jade lives in a bubble at the start of the book so it was nice when it burst and she got a dose of the real world. Once that bubble burst, she’s able to grow as a character…but not as much as I wanted. See, the problem is that Jade is a classic case of “Lead Heroine Sacrifice Syndrome“–meaning she thinks she alone can save the world by sacrificing herself. Like I said above, I can appreciate her efforts to change her world but I can’t believe how dense she is to the situation at hand. Her naivety (which is understandable given the fact that she is treated special by practically everyone) is a little tiring to read.

The Romance:

While I liked that this wasn’t a huge part of the story, I can’t help but think that it was bit of a missed opportunity. You are kind of told that there is this connection  instead of being shown it. So I didn’t really get behind the romance as much as I had hoped.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

The last 15% of this book does a lot to set up a sequel and I’m eager to see what is in store.

My Rating: 3/5

overall
If you want a fantasy novel that isn’t action based, this is a great one for you! Especially if you love mermaids.

Read if You Like: mermaids, slower stories
Avoid if You: want more physical action
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Catherine Jones Payne
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