Tag «magic»

Fresh Fridays: Blood Rose Rebellion (#1) by Rosalyn Eves

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:

Blood Rose Rebellion Series

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blood Rose Rebellion (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

breakdown

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion Trilogy
Author: Rosalyn Eves
# of Books: 3 (Blood Rose Rebellion, Book 2, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 28, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Blood Rose Rebellion at 57%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to Blood Rose Rebellion thanks to the lush setting. I’m a sucker for historical novels and I just love the associated tropes with it. You’ve got the clash of the classes, forbidden romances and rebellious heroines who you can’t help but root for. So I was eager to start this book!

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

A lot of the historical romances I read take place in London or Imperial Russia, so I was really excited to read this one set in Hungary! There such a rich history in this country (one that Eves has definitely researched) and it shows in this book.

You’ve got all the social hierarchy of the English aristocrats but the intriguing cultural divide with the Romani population and that really sets the stage for Anna’s world. It’s something I haven’t experienced before and I found myself absorbed into it.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Slow Plot–

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nothing is happening in this book, it’s just that there isn’t a whole lot happening in this book at one time. I get why: it’s the series start, so you want to build up the world and characters. However, this happens at such a slow pace, dealing with one (literally) issue at a time instead of layering them. I like a little more complexity to my plots.

I felt like I was just going with the flow of everyday life for Anna and that wasn’t very exciting for me to read.

–Nothing New Here Either–

As someone who has read a few magic-based series, nothing about this seemed very new to me. Not that anything seemed like a copy of another work by any means, rather, I’ve seen these plot twists before and have followed the similar sequences of events many times. It just didn’t seem “fresh” to me.

–The Romance–

I know this is a big flaw for a lot of people since Anna has three potential love interests within the first quarter of the book but I can’t help but cut her some slack. She’s just a girl who wants to be loved (she’s basically an outcast in her family who seems to loath her) and she goes looking for it in all the wrong places. It happens and I can understand that flaw.

BUT, this forbidden romance with Gabor just lacked any substance to me. Like, what was the big draw for each of them? I just wasn’t feeling it.

Will I Finish It?

NOPE. I even skimmed the last chapter after all the “excitement” happens and couldn’t muster any interest. It also looked like I hadn’t missed too much.

My Rating: DNF

Blood Rose Rebellion DNF | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

If you like straight forward stories in a rich historical setting, I think this is a great one for you to pick up. But if you are well acquainted with magic based stories, you might not find anything new in this one.

Read if You Like: slower stories, historical settings
Avoid if You: dislike magic

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Fresh Fridays: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

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:

Other books in the series:
book3

Synopsis for My Lady Jane (from Goodreads):
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

breakdown

Series: My Ladies Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane, My Calamity Jane)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was everywhere in 2016! And I’ll admit, I didn’t know much else about it other than it was a retelling of Lady Jane Grey who was somehow connected to the British throne and it was supposed to be funny. I’ve also read series by all three of these authors in the past and enjoyed them. Sounded like a winning combination to me!

So I went in without reading any other reviews in order to not raise my expectations too high. I was hoping for a fun and entertaining read–and if I learned something about the British Monarchy, bonus!

The Concept / The World:

Years ago, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and really enjoyed it. So I am completely open to magic/supernatural changes to a classic story or history. But I really wasn’t expecting the animal shifter storyline we got here. It took me a long to time get comfortable with it.

I also think part of the problem was that I’m not entirely familiar with English History. It was a similar problem to when I picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer–I don’t know American history and so I couldn’t make the little connections between the parody and actual history and that diminished my reading experience.

I really didn’t know who Jane Grey was before I picked this up.  So I read Wikipedia a lot to find out who all the players were and what actually happened in history just so I knew what the authors were trying to do.

Once I made the connections between history and this fictitious story, I started to appreciate it a lot more. The writing here is smart. The conflict between shifters and nonshifters here and its parallel to the religious conflicts of Jane Grey’s time (for example) is fantastic. It’s those little things that make this story interesting to read overall.

The Plot:

I really found the first half of this book to be slow–so slow that I almost contemplated DNFing. Yes, I did love the humour but the animal shifting really threw me off and I wasn’t sure if I liked how the story was progressing. But once I got familiar with the history and got comfortable with the world, I started to enjoy it a lot more.

Plus, I really wanted to know how it was going to end!

And I have to say, that once I got to the halfway point, it really started to pick up. It got a hell of a lot more exciting and I started to get won over by the characters and the plot.

The Characters:

What I liked about this story was that it was told from Edward, Jane and Gifford’s POVs. Not only do you get to learn more about these characters through their POVs, but I find multiple POVs help keep the story moving even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

All of these characters have their little quirks which makes the narration a lot of fun to read. So even when the plot was slow to get somewhere, the characters kept me entertained.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge part of the story but it is pretty cute. The romantic in me was happy with the little spurts we got throughout the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see what will happen next and what these ladies have in store.

 

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

My Lady Jane 4/5  |  My Plain Jane TBR  |  My Calamity Jane TBR

overall

I’m in the minority with this book I think because I know a lot of people who LOVE this novel. If you go into it knowing that it doesn’t take itself seriously and has magical elements to it, you’ll enjoy this a lot more.

Read if You Like: humour, historical novels, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike parodies, want a serious retelling

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Series Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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

The Crown’s Game Duology

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Crown’s Game (from Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

breakdown

Series: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
# of Books: 2 (The Crown’s Game, The Crown’s Fate)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiosity) was inevitable. But it was also on my radar because it is set in Imperial Russia–the kryptonite of book settings for me. I LOVE that setting and I try and read any book that uses this time period.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Like I said, Imperial Russia is one of my favourite book settings and this one was pretty perfect. You could tell that Evelyn Skye had done her research before writing this book. She really brought this setting to life in nearly every aspect: clothing, royalty, perception of magic. It hit all the marks.

–Multiple POV–

I LOVE having multiple POVs in my novels. It just gives you a full-circle view of the world I think and adds dimension to the plot and world. This one succeeds in that. It kept the story moving, added suspense to the plot and just gave you more insight into the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Hard Time Picturing Magic Scenes–

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the best headspace to start reading this book. I was studying for my licensing exams and was a little pre-occupied in my brain. So maybe take the next two paragraphs with a grain of salt and read another review to get another perspective.

For a third person POV, this book flowed wonderfully. It’s easy to get lost in the 3rd person narration when pronouns are used liberally; but I never found that to be the case here.

What I did struggle with is the scenes where magic is described. I had a hard time visualizing it. I think I missed the part about the purpose of the Enchanter and how the Game works so I didn’t get why these two were doing what they were doing when it was their turn. Again, I think I just wasn’t in the right place to read this.

–The Romance–

While I don’t enjoy the aspect of a love triangle in any book, that isn’t my sole issue here. My issue: the insta-love. I can forgive Vika and Nikola’s insta-connection because of the magic. That makes sense. But love? Stretching it a little. And Pasha hardly interacts with Vika before he is swooning at her feet. I just wanted a stronger romance here or at the very least, pick a team to root for and I never did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There was a rush of things that happened at the end and so I’m excited to see what will happen next. There’s so much potential moving forward.

updates

–June 25, 2017– Book #2: The Crown’s Fate

I think I might be in the minority but I fully believe that this book was better than the first one. I found the plot to be much more engaging and interesting than it was in The Crown’s Game. Despite some slight monotony in the middle of the book with one plot aspect, I found that this story always kept moving and developing in a way that was rather addicting to read. I was flying through the pages.

The character development was also great. When you have essentially 3 key players to keep tabs on, one or more will inevitable fall to the wayside in terms of growth. But I felt like everyone had a great story to tell and I’m glad we got to see them all.

This series is still missing that something to make me give it a 5/5 though.  And truthfully, I was leaning more towards a 3.5/5 rating for this particular book because I did find the middle of the novel to be a little stale. But I really liked how everything was brought together in the latter half of the novel and I did feel like this was a much stronger showing on Evelyn Skye’s part. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her in terms of her writing and I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate 4/5

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. (Maybe the hype monster killed this one for me?) It’s a solid series and definitely worth a read if you love alternate history with a dash of magic!

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia, alternate history
Avoid if You: dislike magic, want more romance
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Fresh Fridays: Ruined (#1) by Amy Tintera

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:

Ruined Trilogy

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Ruined (from Goodreads):
A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Faves 2016
Series: Ruined Trilogy
Author: Amy Tintera
# of Books: 3 (Ruined, Avenged, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Avenged, will be published in May 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Action, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for the romantic trope “in love with the enemy”. I just love the high stakes of it all and all the wonderful sexual tension it brings.

But this novel also promised to have a slightly darker edge to it; or at least, I hoped it would. Not that I like to have a lot of violence in my novels, but I do enjoy novels with action and the grittier scenes that happen from physical confrontations. It adds another layer of risk to the story.

I saw a lot of mixed reviews for this novel just after its release, but I still really wanted to read it. So I avoided reading too much into any other reviews so that I could go into this fresh…and I sure am glad I did!

What I Liked:

–The Pacing–

This book always kept moving! Whether it was romantic developments or character scenes or action scenes, I never had a dull moment while reading this.

Honestly, if I could have stayed in bed all day to read this, I totally would have!

–The Romance–

Like I said, I’m a sucker for this trope of characters falling in love with their enemies. So this was one of my favourite aspects. These two were a perfect match in my eyes and I like the character growth that is a result of their relationship.

A lot of people will probably struggle with this trope–especially with these two and all that happens between them–but I don’t think it overshadows the story too much. You still have a lot of great plot development outside of the romance even if it is often the main focus of the plot.

–The Willingness to Take it to the Next Level–

I like books that aren’t afraid to take risks. If that means killing off a character or two, that’s ok. It makes the story that touch more unpredictable and keeps me excited to see what will happen next because there are no restraints.

I also like that there seems to be true villains here. Evil characters are often water-downed but I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s in store.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The World Building–

I’m one of those readers who likes things spelled out for her, especially when I’m starting a new series.

When it comes to the term “ruined” I honestly had no idea what that meant when I first started reading. I knew these people had “powers” but it was never clearly explained. Or if it was, I totally missed it. Sure, it was easy to understand it once I got a grasp of their abilities but I hate when things are told as if you should already know what it all means. 

I also would have loved a map of the world! While it was pretty easy to orient it, I just think it would be neat to see.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There were so many interesting plot developments at the end of Ruined that I can’t wait to see what is in store. I’m hoping for a touch more world-building and maybe a dash more politics; but otherwise, if Avenged sticks to the same foundations as Ruined, it’ll be great!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Ruined 4.5/5 | Avenged TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

While this story does borrow characteristics and tropes common to the genre, (I think many readers will draw parallels to other novels) I still had a lot of fun with this story. It still felt fresh to me and it definitely has its own unique quirks to make it stand out on its own.

Read if You Like: in love with the enemy romances
Avoid if You: want stronger world-building

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Series Review: Ravenspire by C J Redwine

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

Ravenspire Series

book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Shadow Queen (from Goodreads):

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

breakdown

Series: Ravenspire
Author: C J Redwine
# of Books: 4 (The Shadow Queen, The Wish Granter, The Traitor Prince, Book 4)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, The Traitor Prince will be published February 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: February 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I really enjoyed Redwine’s Defiance Trilogy for its strong characters and thrilling plotline, so I was eagerly awaiting her next series. Not only did The Shadow Queen have an awesome cover but I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale retelling and I knew Redwine would do a great job.

This book was one of my top TBR picks of 2016, but some not so favourable reviews scared me away from grabbing it right away. But when I reread the synopsis in December 2016, I just knew I had to give it a shot.

What I Liked:

–The World–

The premise in this series is that each kingdom is going to get its own retelling and I could not be more excited for that! Each kingdom is so unique and has its own little quirks so I can’t wait to uncover them.

The world itself is easy to understand and easy to visualize. Redwine doesn’t drone on about the setting but she doesn’t bypass it either. She finds that right balance to get you acquainted with the kingdoms without boring you.

–The Characters–

I’m not sure how many people watch ABC’s Once Upon a Time but Lorelai reminded me a lot of Snow (and not just because they are Snow White). She’s a kickass lead with a heart of gold but she also has her own flaws. I like that she isn’t perfect and I like that she isn’t defenceless and requires a “prince” to save her from her troubles. And the same can be said about Kol–he isn’t some flawless character either.

The cast as a whole was a lot of fun. It was easy to root for the good guys and despise the bad guys (you always need a good villain). They were all so likeable to me and that made me want to read more about their story. And there were some heartwarming moments as well.

–The Loose Retelling–

I like that this story wasn’t so focused on the retelling. That it isn’t a cut and dry Snow White story. It follows its own path and borrows some key features of the Snow White fairy tale along the way. It’s very reminiscent of The Lunar Chronicles in that respect where the fairy tale serves as the base but the plot goes its own way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Was that little bit too long–

Somewhere around the latter half of the book, I started to get a little bored. Which was weird because things were happening–it wasn’t like the characters were just sitting around waiting; there was plenty of action. I think I just wanted to get to the climax that little bit sooner. One plot device in particular seemed like it was just regurgitated in a slightly different way after it had been resolved and that really slowed down the story for me.

Otherwise, the pacing was great and the story kept my attention.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Like I said above, I’m excited to explore more of these kingdoms. I’m super glad that this story isn’t going to be dragged out across multiple volumes.

updates

–April 13, 2017– Book #2: The Wish Granter

I was really curious to see how the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale would be brought to life in The Wish Granter and I wasn’t disappointed. While the fairy tale itself is pretty classic, Redwine had some great creative twists.

The first being that Teague is fae–such a simple thing but one that is perfect. Faerie characters are known for their deception and tricky deals with others; perfect for a Rumpelstiltskin character. It also helps that he is a pretty evil dude that you can’t help but hate (in that great way you can detest a villain).

As for the heroes–I really loved Ari. It’s nice to have a strong heroine who isn’t strong because she can physically kick ass. Ari is intelligent, compassionate and you can’t help but root for her. She also has great character growth throughout the story. Sebastian was much of the same. I really liked how he evolved as a character throughout.

And the romance was just adorable. One of my new favorite couples. They just had great chemistry in all aspects and I loved every scene they had together.

My Rating: 4/5

The Shadow Queen 4/5 | The Wish Granter 4/5

overall

With any fairy tale retelling, you’re going to get comparisons and similar plot lines. (The source material is the same of course) But Redwine does a good job of creating an entertaining read that has its own unique twists on a story that has been done again and again.

Read if You Like: fairy tale retellings, subtle romance, strong heroines
Avoid if You: dislike magic use
similarreads

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #1)
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #1)

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Series Review: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

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 Wrath and the Dawn (from Goodreads):

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2016 Fav
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (The Wrath and the Dawn, The Rose and The Dagger)

There is also 3 novella short stories. Full Reading Order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
Heat Rating: warm *more implied than anything*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s a bit of a weird story. I always thought that I had The Wrath and The Dawn on my TBR (ie Goodreads) because it was around quite a bit on the blogosphere when it was first released and it sounded like a story I would enjoy. When I saw it again at the bookstore, it’s cover (the one I added below) caught my attention and I thought it was a new book. But as soon as I read the synopsis, I realized that I already had marked this book as TBR. So imagine my surprise when I checked on Goodreads to see that I hadn’t even added it! I think I just added it to my library wishlist and left it at that.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

The revenge trope is one of my favourites; especially when there is an assassination involved. Perhaps that is a little morbid, but I find stories with that “I must kill my enemy” element are grittier and have that (obvious) element of danger to them. The stakes are higher and that makes every subsequent action even riskier and more thrilling. Forbidden love is so much sweeter when you fall for your target.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing about A Thousand and One Nights nor The Arabian Nights. I’m sure I would get more out of the retelling if I was more familiar with these works but it really isn’t necessary.

The world here is beautiful! I loved how Ahdieh was able to create this magical world that was so easy to see and emerge myself in without copious amounts of detail. The pages weren’t littered with unnecessary descriptions and so I never felt lost or bored while reading.

Oh! Also, there is a glossary! There were a few terms that I had to Google because I couldn’t find the glossary when I first looked for one. But don’t let that scare you! It’s not like there are a ton of terms you have to learn to enjoy this.

The Plot:

What I really loved about this series is that it wasn’t unnecessarily complicated. It struck that perfect balance between world building, character development and dramatic plot.

The Wrath and The Dawn has a great suspense to it. Why is Khalid killing his wives? Will Shazi really fulfill her need for revenge? I loved watching all that unfold before me. It really hooked me into the story–in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. I really just wanted to sit all day and read this compelling work.

The Rose and The Dagger also had a suspenseful plot but more for the political aspects–which I absolutely adored. It just had that hint of danger to it that had me glued to the pages. And the twists were fabulous!

The Characters:

I think Shazi can be a hard character to like initially. She’s hurt and jaded and she gives off this aura of selfishness that makes it hard to root for her. But she really grows throughout the series and I really appreciated that. And it wasn’t long before I was on her side, wanting her to succeed.

As for Khalid, I really liked him. As much as he is the catalyst for the story we get, the story really is about Shazi and how she deals with everything. And because of that, his development takes a bit of a backseat. But he really is a fascinating character to uncover as the series progresses. I always love a good, mysterious male counterpart.

But one of the highlights of this series is the strong secondary characters. I really fell for the rest of the cast as the story progressed.

The Romance:

This was lacking a bit for me in The Wrath and The Dawn. Despite the fact that it was easy to see why these two would fit together as a reader looking in, I just wanted their sparks elaborated on more. The romance was more implied than I would have liked; more show and tell than watching it unfold. But I still enjoyed it and liked these two together.

And I think that’s why I enjoyed The Rose and The Dagger more. Everything there was just emphasized that little bit more and the romance was definitely amplified there. Here, it was obvious why these two felt the way they did and it was a joy to watch as a reader.

The Novellas:

Well, to call The Crown & The Arrow and The Mirror & The Maze novellas is being generous. They are merely deleted chapters totalling 9 pages and are free on eBook sites. However, I do recommend reading The Crown & The Arrow before The Wrath and the Dawn for some context. Same with The Mirror & The Maze before The Rose & The Dagger. Nevertheless, you could get by without ever reading them as well.

The Moth & The Flame is an actual novella that is probably best read after The Wrath & The Dawn because it is a little spoilery about some side characters.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Wrath and The Dawn 4/5 | The Rose and The Dagger 5/5

overall

The entire series is crafted beautifully. From the characters to the drama to the romance; it’s everything you want in a solid YA series.

Read if You Like: retellings, forbidden love, duologies
Avoid if You: want more action, dislike more romance-based stories

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Fresh Fridays: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

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:

Frostblood Saga

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Frosblood (from Goodreads):

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.

breakdown

Series: Frostblood Saga
Author: Elly Blake
# of Books: 3 (Frostblood, Fireblood, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Fireblood is to be published in September 2017
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: January 10, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Since 2015, I’ve been devouring any YA fantasy novels that I can get my hands on. They’ve replaced my dystopian obsession (which had replaced my paranormal YA obsession). So, I think it goes without saying that I am a little picky about my fantasies and what I want to see in them.

World-building is a big one. Recently, I’ve found newer series to be lacking that in particular. I don’t want to be thrown into a world and having to figure it out on my own. I also want a heroine or hero I can root for. I don’t need them to be perfect or all powerful, I just want them win me over to their side. And of course, a little romance never hurt anyone. Unless it becomes an unnecessary love triangle: nobody wins with those.

What I Liked:

–The Worldbuilding!–

I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels lately that have something to be desired when it comes to the worldbuilding–but that isn’t the case with Frostblood. I loved that the world was straight-forward but complex all at the same time. Ice vs fire is a battle that is so simple but has a lot of play with it, and that’s what Blake does here.

It takes the time to explain the history of the world and how the magic/powers work, which I greatly appreciate. It also adds a unique flare to the world as well. While readers will probably see parallels to other YA fantasies, this one still had its own refreshing take on the genre that made it so much fun to read.

–Ruby–

I really, really liked her as a heroine. She’s got this sassy, independent side to her that you can’t help but love and root for. Her passion and drive to control her own destiny is exactly what I want to read about in a heroine.

But she also has her flaws and her weaknesses and that makes her a well-rounded heroine who can only grow as this series continues.

–The Pacing–

This novel always felt like it was building. While some of the events might be seen as minor, they all contribute to the plot overall. Whether that was establishing character relationships, giving background on the world or leading to the ultimate plot climax, this story kept me on my toes.

–The Romance–

While not a huge aspect of the novel, it was more than enough to keep me satisfied. The banter between Ruby and Arcus was fantastic.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Misleading Synopsis–

It really isn’t that big of a deal but I did think the story was going to focus more on this “king’s tournament”. So I was expecting a lot of physical action. But truthfully, that particular aspect doesn’t start until past the halfway point.

And in the end, I much preferred the story we get instead building up to that point. There was plenty of action even if it wasn’t of the variety I was necessarily expecting.

In short: don’t expect this book to be about a heroine fighting her way to the top in a tournament, there is so much more at play!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This was a solid start to a series! I’m not sure what exactly the future will hold but I’m excited to see more of these characters!

My Rating: 5/5

Frostblood 5/5 | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

From the sassy lead to the rich world, this is a fantasy series that will surely entertain!

Read if You Like: fantasy, sassy leads
Avoid if You: dislike action/violence, want more romance
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Fresh Fridays: Caraval (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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:

Caraval Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Caraval (from Goodreads):
Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

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

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite ARC 2016
Series: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
# of Books: 1+ (Caraval, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Book 2 is to be released
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: January 31, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Jamie @ Books and Ladders–ARC  | Thank you so much Jamie!!!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Jamie asked people back in August of 2016 if there were any Canadians interested in participating in her little ARC tour of Caraval, I immediately said YES! It isn’t every day people recruit Canadians on Twitter and I had had my eye on this novel for a long time. So the chance to read it before it even got released was awesome!

What appealed to me about this book was the idea of a “game”. I love stories that play with your mind and make you come up with all these crazy theories as you read. Caraval promised to be an intricate story that would have me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t expecting a romance but I was expecting to read a great story about one sister doing everything in her power to save the other.

What I Liked:

–The World–

I’ll admit I was worried that this world was going to be too complicated. That this story was going to be peppered with unneccesary flowery language that makes it hard to follow what on earth is happening.

Yeah….definitely not the case here!

This story has some of the best world-building I’ve ever come across. It’s straightforward but still elegant. You easily understand what is happening and why. It just makes everything flow so nicely; and books are 20x more enjoyable when you know what the heck is happening!

–The Layers to the Plot–

This story is complex in the sense that there is a lot going on–even when it doesn’t feel like it. Now that isn’t to say this book is boring–you’ll be hooked from the start. What I mean is that there are so many great surprises in store, you won’t even see half of them coming.

I had so many different theories happening–that were all proven wrong I might add–while I was reading. Everything just builds at a great pace and the twists are introduced at just the right time. Ahhh, it’s glorious!

–Scarlet–

I just have to say that Scarlet had some of the best character growth I have ever read. She transforms into this fabulous character right before your eyes. You can’t help but root for her to succeed.

What I Didn’t Like:

–That I have to wait FOREVER for the sequel!–

Honestly, I don’t have a bad thing to say about this book! It is beautifully crafted.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This one surprised me so much in its delivery that I can’t wait to see what happens next in this fantastic world!

My Rating: 5/5

Caraval 5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This will appeal to fans of all ages. It’s a smart, fantasy YA that will have readers on the edge of their seats!

Read if You Like: world-building, layered plots
Avoid if You: dislike magic/fantasies, want more romance

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Single Sundays: Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

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 Cogling (from Goodreads):
When fifteen-year-old Edna Mather tears an expensive and unfamiliar pocket watch off her little brother’s neck, he crumbles into a pile of cogs right before her eyes. Horrified, Edna flees for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is: a device to power Coglings—clockwork changelings left in place of stolen children who have been forced to work in factories.

Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags’ swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop the revolt, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers. No one wants to believe a lowly servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that label them both as traitors.

Together, Edna and Ike must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike is forced to embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.

breakdown

Author: Jordan Elizabeth (Mierek)
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: January 25, 2016
Source & Format: Author–eARC
disclaimer

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read Jordan Elizabeth’s Escape from Witchwood Hollow earlier this year and enjoyed it for its unique story. I had never read a YA novel like that before–I tend to stick to the romances and that book definitely lacked one.

So I was curious to see what she would do in the world of Steampunk. I’m a sucker for a good steampunk novel. I pretty much read or TBR anything with the word steampunk in its description.

What drew me to this one was the premise. Automations impersonating people of power is something I’ve come across in steampunk before but I was curious to see what would happen with the addition of hags and other magic.

The Concept / The World:

First, the world was really cool. Like most Steampunk novels, this one has a unique spin to how the world operates. The use of “hags” (kinda like witches) was a neat approach and one that works well. But there are other creatures you get introduced to and Jordan Elizabeth does a good job of describing everything in a way that is easy to visualize.

The Plot:

I don’t really enjoy adventure novels too much; I find them very slow. And this novel was definitely more in that vein. Which is totally fine, I just found that it had its slower parts.

I also think the synopsis is a little misleading and a bit of a spoiler. The whole bit about them impersonating “nobility” doesn’t get touched on until later and I think it would have had more of an impact if I didn’t know. (Perhaps it did get mentioned earlier and I just missed it…that happens sometimes too.)

But where that mystery is lacking, there are plenty of other great twists along the way. There were definitely some things I never saw coming that kept me reading this story to see how it all played out.

The Characters:

Everyone is pretty straight forward here. Some of those twists I mentioned do have to deal with the characters which gives them a little depth; but otherwise they are all solid characters who help carry this story.

The Romance:

You really only get a dash here and there. It never distracts from the story at hand which is refreshing.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This was on the slower side for me so my attention waned at times. But there was always a great twist that kept me going forward. I think this is a great Steampunk novel for teens who want to explore more of this world!

Read if You Like: adventures, little romance, steampunk
Avoid if You: want a faster story, want more romance

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Single Sundays: Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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 Escape from Witchwood Hollow (from Goodreads):
Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

breakdown

Author: Jordan Elizabeth
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Fantasy, Magic, Witches, Suspense
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 29, 2014
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Jordan Elizabeth!

disclaimer

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t usually enjoy witch-based stories, though there have been notable exceptions in the past. But what intrigued me about Escape from Witchwood Hollow was the mystery of Witchwood. Who is the witch? What is her hold on the town of Arnn? What happened in the past?

The Concept:

One of my favourite aspects of this story is the flashbacks to the past. I love layers to my story, and by alternating POVs that’s exactly what happens. It was fun trying to take everything in and put it all together to figure out what is happening in Arnn.

The Plot:

Despite the alternating POVs keeping the plot moving, I did find the book to be terribly slow at the start. Not a lot is happening besides Honoria trying to learn about her new school and town. Which is why I appreciated the other POVs because it gave me something to be interested in while building the story.

And once everything comes together and the mystery comes to light, this book is great. I love when I can’t really figure out the plot until the big reveal and that’s what happened in this book.

The Characters:

I feel like the characters take a bit of a backseat because the forest is really the focus of this story. While I felt like these characters are developed enough to contribute to the story, I didn’t become particularly attached to any of them.

Honoria was a bit of a dud but I warmed up to her as the story continued.

The Romance:

There really isn’t a romance in this story! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a YA novel where romance isn’t a main focus of the story so I enjoyed the break!

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I really liked how everything came together in this story. The slower pace of this novel isn’t my preferred style but this book was a refreshing Young Adult Fantasy nonetheless!

Read if You Like: slower paced stories; lack romance; mystery
Avoid if You: want romance, dislike slower stories

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