Friday, January 6, 2017

Freeks by Amanda Hocking (Review, Q+A, Excerpt)

I am delighted to present Freeks by Amanda Hocking, as part of the blog tour organized by St. Martin's Griffin! In this post, I'll have my own review, a Q&A by Amanda Hocking, and an exclusive excerpt from Freeks! Also found in this post are links to Amanda Hocking's social media accounts (check them out so you can stay updated with her new releases and giveaways) and websites to purchase this book!

Title: Freeks
Author: Amanda Hocking
Date Published: Januart 3rd 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Rating: 4 out 5

*ARC provided by NetGalley*

Goodreads Blurb: 
Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…
Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.
When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.
But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.
Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.


This book was partly an interpretation of the social stigma against people that are different. Society is cruel to those we don't understand, and while Ms. Hocking chooses to portray those differences in terms of supernatural powers like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, etc., it could be easily applied to how foreigners, the handicapped, and other "different" groups are treated in our homogeneous societies. So while the story itself, of Mara discovering the truth behind the attacks and the weird atmosphere of Caudry, was 3 stars, the overall message of the need for acceptance deserved an additional star. This message is especially important in the world we live in right now, with hate and ignorance overpowering common sense, and while I don't believe that this book fully addresses this issue, the theme is one of understanding our differences, and I appreciate the positive message it shares.

The main conflict in this book was between the Freeks from the travelling circus and the strange "forces" that are attacking them. Throughout the book, Mara and the other Freeks from the circus are trying to figure out what/who was attacking them, and why exactly their powers were so weak in Caudry. The mystery and tension starts building from page one, with Mara's mom's headache, until when the demon is finally discovered. A lot of the mystery rests with Gabe's family, whose mother was the my main suspect since Mara's first encounter with her.

Gabe was a conundrum, and sadly there wasn't too much character development with him until the very end. Mara, however, we get to know very well, and while she, unlike many MC, didn't seem like she was actively trying to solve the mystery, she is eventually the one that puts the pieces together, with the help of her mother and Gideon. I feel that the suspense was dragged out a bit too much and because of this, during the actual climax, I didn't really feel that excited nor relieved at finally figuring out who was behind everything, as my suspicions were proven to be true.

One thing I wished was explained in more detail, however, was the deal between the werewolves and the Kirpka, but the fact that such a deal existed made sense in the context of the story and all the loose ends were tied up quite neatly at the end.

SPOILER. The deaths of both Blossom and Selena were both shocking and sad, and I couldn't help but hate Della Jane; her character was too straightforward and we didn't really get to see her as a person but rather just the villain.

There were a lot of really cool quirks, such as how they travel in trailer homes- I've never heard of Winnebago until I read this book- and the tarot card reading, which is always super creepy yet interesting. Also, the story itself is really unique and I haven't read a single book with a premise quite like this one- a traveling circus/refuge for supernaturals? It's pretty interesting, and filled with cool characters, such as Roxie, with pyrokinetic powers, and Luka, with super healing.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a good mystery and are interested in the paranormal.

Author Bio: Amanda Hocking
Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom - all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles - are out now.

Her next book will be Swear, the final book in the My Blood Approves series, and it will be out November 9, 2016. After that, her next book is Freeks - a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a travelling sideshow. It will be out sometime in early 2017, with the St. Martin’s Griffin.
(Source: Goodreads)

For more info about her and her books, here are some other places to check out and ways to contact her:

Buy Links (Freeks)
Barnes & Noble

Social Links:
Author Website

Question and Answer with Amanda Hocking

1. Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

2. What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?
I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

3. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

4. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?
I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

5. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?
For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.

6. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

7. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

8. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

9. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.
And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

10. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?
Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

11. Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?
I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.
When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).
So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

12. Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.
But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.

13. The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

14. What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?
With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

15. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

1. premonitions

My feet rested against the dashboard of the Winnebago as we lumbered down the road, the second vehicle in a small caravan of beat-up trailers and motorhomes.

The sun hadn’t completely risen yet, but it was light enough that I could see outside. Not that there was much to see. The bridge stretched on for miles across Lake Tristeaux, and I could see nothing but the water around us, looking gray in the early morning light.

The AC had gone out sometime in Texas, and we wouldn’t have the money to fix it until after this stint in Caudry, if we were lucky. I’d cracked the window, and despite the chill, the air felt thick with humidity. That’s why I never liked traveling to the southeastern part of the country—too humid and too many bugs.

But we took the work that we got, and after a long dry spell waiting in Oklahoma for something to come up, I was grateful for this. We all were. If we hadn’t gotten the recommendation to Caudry, I’m not sure what we would’ve done, but we were spending our last dimes and nickels just to make it down here.

I stared ahead at Gideon’s motorhome in front of us. The whole thing had been painted black with brightly colored designs swirling around it, meant to invoke images of mystery and magic. The name “Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow” was painted across the back and both the sides. Once sparkles had outlined it, but they’d long since worn off.

My eyelids began to feel heavy, but I tried to ward off sleep. The radio in the car was playing old Pink Floyd songs that my mom hummed along to, and that wasn’t helping anything.

“You can go lay down in the back,” Mom suggested.

She did look awake, her dark gray eyes wide and a little frantic, and both her hands gripped the wheel. Rings made of painted gold and cheap stones adorned her fingers, glinting as the sun began to rise over the lake, and black vine tattoos wrapped around her hands and down her arms.

For a while, people had mistaken us for sisters since we looked so much alike. The rich caramel skin we both shared helped keep her looking young, but the strain of recent years had begun to wear on her, causing crow’s feet to sprout around her eyes and worried creases to deepen in her brow.

I’d been slouching low in the seat but I sat up straighter. “No, I’m okay.”

“We’re almost there. I’ll be fine,” she insisted.

“You say we’re almost there, but it feels like we’re driving across the Gulf of Mexico,” I said, and she laughed. “We’ve probably reached the Atlantic by now.”

She’d been driving the night shift, which was why I was hesitant to leave her. We normally would’ve switched spots about an hour or two ago, with me driving while she lay down. But since we were so close to our destination, she didn’t see the point in it.

On the worn padded bench beside the dining table, Blossom Mandelbaum snored loudly, as if to remind us we both should be sleeping. I glanced back at her. Her head lay at a weird angle, propped up on a cushion, and her brown curls fell around her face.

Ordinarily, Blossom would be in the Airstream she shared with Carrie Lu, but since Carrie and the Strongman had started dating (and he had begun staying over in their trailer), Blossom had taken to crashing in our trailer sometimes to give them privacy.

It wasn’t much of a bother when she slept here, and in fact, my mom kind of liked it. As one of the oldest members of the carnival—both in age and the length of time she’d been working here—my mom had become a surrogate mother to many of the runaways and lost souls that found us.

Blossom was two years younger than me, on the run from a group home that didn’t understand her or what she could do, and my mom had been more than happy to take her under her wing. The only downside was her snoring.

Well, that and the telekinesis.

Copyright © 2016 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Recreated by Colleen Houck

Title: Recreated (Reawakened #2)
Author: Colleen Houck 
Date Published: August 22nd 2016 
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
From Colleen Houck, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Curse, comes Recreated, the second book in the epic Egyptian-inspired Reawakened series, in which a seventeen-year-old must literally go to hell to save the love of her life.
Lily Young thought traveling across the globe with a reawakened sun prince was a grand adventure. Now she’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
When Amon and Lily part tragically, he transports himself to the Netherworld—what mortals call hell. Tormented by the loss of his one true love, he’d rather suffer in agony during Lily’s mortal years than fulfill his duty to protect humanity.
Heartbroken, Lily seeks refuge on her grandmother’s farm. Yet she can feel Amon’s pain, and she has been having dreams—dreams of Amon continually suffering. For before he departed, Amon gave Lily something very special, an item that connects them even though they are worlds apart. Now Lily must use this object to free him, and to free their realms from darkness and utter chaos. She will do whatever it takes.

Isn't that cover absolutely brilliant?

Sadly the book itself does not hold a candle to the cover. I am terrible disappointed with how this book fails to deliver. The characters were awkward, the plot annoying, and the writing absolutely lifeless. I loved Ms. Houck's Tiger's Curse series, it was fabulous. But all I was thinking while reading this book is what went wrong? 

I think its because the plots are almost completely recycled. Yes, this book is based on Egyptian mythology (and any reference to that made in this book I loved, hence the 2 stars), but it was similar to the books in her previous series in that they follow a formulaic pattern! First the character is presented with a challenge, she goes through some kind of transformation that makes her a bit different from who she was in the last book (either mentally or physically), has to solve/figure out around 2-4 small challenges, then she fights the big "battle", and at the end of the book, just when everything seems resolved she's dragged into another problem. 

Yes, I've heard of the Hero's Journey, and that's pretty much what I described above, but most authors tend to employ it a bit more creatively! There should be more to the story than following this mold, and I think that is exactly the reason I disliked this book so immensely. However, there were bites of Egyptian mythology which I happily gobbled down, and even some of the characters seemed like they could be interesting. One (two?) such character being Lily+Lioness= Sphinx. 

The Sphinx is the only interesting concept in this book. Literally. To explain a bit, in order to save Amon from the Netherworld (in which he inadvertently finds himself in while quitting his "job"), Lily has to turn get turned into a Sphinx, which happens when a spell is cast and Lily kills a lioness. But Lily fails to kill the lioness. Instead, the lioness sacrifices itself, and this complicates everything because now the Lily the Sphinx is now Lily and Lioness the Sphinx. The issue with this is both have to share the same body, and the fight for control plays out well. Another aspect of the book I can say I enjoyed is "meeting" all the characters. We are introduced to some Egyptian gods, better introduced to Amon's brothers, and also a crazy Pixie (which I honestly don't understand, because how in the world does it fit in with Egyptian mythology?) that takes up residence in Lily's head. Along with Lily and the lioness (this being the problem that the book ends with). 

The fight for control between Lioness (aka Tia) and Lily took center stage as the most interesting part of this book. Hearing them converse/argue was fun, and the only time I laughed during this book was because of Tia. I recommend this to those who enjoy Egyptian mythology and haven't read Tiger's Curse, because there is a good chance you will not get tired of the homogeneous plots. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken (Conqueror's Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White 
Publication Date: July 7th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

(this isn't the same cover as the book I read, but this one captures the book better)

Goodreads Blurb:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

After reading Ms. White's other books, I was shocked at the writing style, characters, and literally everything in this book; I can't believe the person who wrote the Paranormalcy series wrote this book! I think it's impressive that an author can try out and succeed with different styles and different genres, and even though I wasn't a fan of this book, many thoroughly loved it.

My feelings about the book itself are definitely conflicted. On one hand, the plot and characters were really complex, but on the other, they were a bit too complex that it was difficult to understand what was going on.

What I Liked:
* loosely based on history
* Lada was fierce, driven, and downright scary
* Radu was sweet and serious throughout the novel
* Mehmed was mysterious
* the narration was intense and the plot was driven
* there were a lot of historical allusions to the Ottoman Empire that I understood
* the writing style was good

What I Didn't Like:
* the plot was too much (for me), and the descriptions were a bit tedious
* Lada was a little too negative and bitter sometimes
* literally only three characters who were fully developed
* the book skipped the shift in Mehmed, from little kid to king
* role of women/ the stereotype was appropriate to that time period I suppose but it was still silly that Ladu was trying to be "manly" and stifle her feminism

Overall, it was not a fun, light read. It was engrossing and tough. The world they live in is brutal and at times a bit too fantastical. It is harsh and there weren't many positive, happy feelings in this book; I found it to be very dark and as a generally happy person, I found it discomfiting and wanted something a little more light. However, it was written in a time period that was harsh and gritty, so this book was successful in capturing that mood.

I recommend it to fans of historical fiction as well as those who enjoy reading dark, intense stories about thriving when the odds are stacked against you, about losing what makes you human, and about the darkness in all of us. Also, if anyone is interested in Vlad the Impaler, Lada is supposed to be the female version of him.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
Author: Susan Dennard 
Publication Date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
I ended last year with a WoW for this book and sadly after reading over it and comparing my expectations to what it actually turned out to be, I am a bit disappointed. Yes, it was a great book because of the characters, the setting, and the story, but it lacked the depth and presence that characterizes my favorite fantasy novels like ToG and Angelfall. 

  • Loved the idea of elemental magic, very Avatar-like 
  • World building/setting description was good
  • Characters were interesting and had lots of potential (there were so many roles and personalities that were full of foibles)
  • I gave this book 5 stars because it was fast paced and there was SO. MUCH. STUFF. The details, side-stories, descriptions, character interactions, magic, fights, travelling, and more fighting were all so interesting. I don’t think any one of these aspects of the book were developed as much as they could have been, but they were all undeniably interesting and added to the charm of this book.
  • The writing was good and honestly I loved this book even before it came out. Thanks Twitter.
  • The map in the front of the book really piqued my interest and I will continue this series in hopes of discovering the other regions. 

  • with all the build-up and hype, I expected the book to be my fave book ever, but it fell short of an ideal book
  • weak character interaction- there wasn’t much tension/humor in the dialogue between the characters- it seemed to fall short of my expectations
  • elemental magic could have been explained waaay better- I get that it’s a similar idea to Avatar, but it would have been helpful for the author to include how exactly the elemental witches contributed/played a role in society.
  • the history was almost non-existent, I want to know more about Nubrevna, about where Safiya is from, why Safiya has such a high rank but lived like a peasant and how she was unable to help Iseult. The mood and intensity of the book was a little shallow/superficial and it felt like the author was just crafting a pretty story. It wasn’t very meaningful (to me personally).
  • To compare to Throne of Glass, this book didn’t hold a candle to the action, suspense or gravity found in ToG. It had exciting moments, but neither of the heroines pulled off the “badass” vibe like Celaena did.
  • Safiya and Iseult had a strong bond but it wasn’t the best bond I’ve seen in literature… I compare every “best-friend” bond to that between March sisters and I found this one to be lacking.
Main Characters: 
Safiya: Truthwitch (can discern lies from the truth), impulsive, outgoing, loud, and more lively and I guess this book is more "hers" than Iseult's
Iseult: Threadwitch (can see life threads), for the most part acts calm and secretive. She is an outcast and her backstory is heart-wrenching
Merik: Windwitch, the prince of Nubrevna and his role is to help the his country as Admiral of the Nubrevnan navy
Aeduan: Bloodwitch, tries to kill both Safiya and Iseult... but fails every single time. Complicated character, scary at times, and downright confused at others. 

Favorite scene:
I absolutely loved the dancing scene between Safiya and the captain; it was a sort of turning point and heralded a major conflict in this novel. Also, the writing was very descriptive and almost poetic. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mini- Reviews #1: May 2016

This will be a new feature on my blog and in these posts I will write short reviews for about 3-5 books I've read throughout every month that I didn't have too much to say about, but felt the need to review for whatever reasons. 

Title: Scarlett Espstein Hates It Here 
Author: Anna Breslaw
Date Published: April 19th 2016
Publisher: Razorbill

Ratings: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her pot-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.  
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them...until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett's stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.

I found this novel a bit awkward at times, especially the interactions between the characters, however Scar's voice (both IRL and online) was genuine and hilarious. I literally cried when the Ruth died and it was such a big moment in the novel; I just wish that there were more Ruth + Scarlett scenes because they were so funny and honest. But I feel like the author definitely used Ruth's death as a way to advance the plot and I really didn't like how it was "thrown-in" for that purpose.

There was a lot going on, but the author did a really really good job telling it from Scarlett's point of view, and the vibes I got from this book were overall positive and warm.

I don't often read realistic fiction, but this was a light read. Fans of realistic fiction will probably love this, as the character is so relatable.

Sword and Verse (Sword and Verse, #1)

Title: Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Date Published: January 19th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.
That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.
Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees

I've been wanting to read this book forever, as I am a fan of high fantasy, but honestly this was so disappointing. Nothing original except the dual story line (which honestly wasn't very interesting). I did enjoy the mythological aspect of it and how it played out alongside the "real" plot, but it seemed unconnected to the actual plot and was really boring. 

The main character was an utter bore and I had no respect for her or the prince, who were both spineless and boring.

This novel really doesn't have anything original going for it and the justification for those two stars is the very literal interpretation of language having power, as only the upper class in this society were allowed to read and write.

Sword and Verse is based on an interesting concept but the the execution of it was entirely uninteresting. I would not recommend this book to anyone.... Unless you were writing an essay about how language consolidates power.

Ruined (Ruined, #1)

Title: Ruined (Ruined #1)
Author: Amy Tintera
Date Published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
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.
Sigh. This book is so similar to others in this genre. Overdone themes/ideas present in this book include, but are not limited to:
* magic wielders are persecuted/feared
* the assassin falls in love with the person they are trying to kill
* the parents are evil, and the children "pay" for their "sins"
* the MC is a fabulous fighter, super smart, and tries to hide her true emotions/ can't trust anybody
* the MC has one sidekick/ helper that remains loyal to them, yet they are treated by the MC as expendable and unimportant

Credit where credit is due, the narration was mostly exciting and the writing was not bad. The character were extremely under-developed however, and this more than anything was the real reason for only 2 stars.

I recommend this to those who enjoy any of the aforementioned themes.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Crown by Kiera Cass

Title: The Crown (The Selection #5) 
Author: Kiera Cass 
Date Published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Ratings: 2 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads Blurb:

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone. Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

To start on a positive note, that cover is absolutely gorgeous!!! The one thing that has stayed consistent throughout this entire series is the awesomeness of the covers.

But, sadly, it was utterly unexciting. I can count on one hand the number of books that have met or exceeded my hopes this year. This book is not one of them.

The Crown picks up where the last one ends, but it lacks the intrigue and fun that was present in the first three of this series, the ones not about Eadlyn but about America.

Almost every aspect of the first three (The Selection, The Elite, and The One), rank higher than this book.

Character? America was strong, kind, and interesting. Eadlyn? Not so much. Honestly was a sorry excuse for a princess.

Plot? The selection process was interesting in the first series, but doing it again really didn't work out with this novel. Also, there was really nothing going on in this novel, while in the first three there was rebellion, actual competition, family discord, and So. Many. Secrets. Eadlyn thought she was hated by the people but honestly where does she base this off of? There was no talk of rebellion or history in this novel.

The candidates? OMG the life-stories/personalities of the boys literally didn't shine through the at all. Like in the first three, we really got to know about the girls (very well) and this made the whole thing so much more interesting. I understand that Cass wanted to look at the process from another perspective, but this approach would have been much more successful if Eadlyn was a developed, interesting character.

Ending? Ok so there was some sort of rising action, tension, and drama in the first three. But The Crown had absolutely nothing. She picks one of the candidates, because she doesn't want to cause drama by undermining the Selection process. Then she undermines it anyway by picking someone else (not part of the candidates), literally seven minutes before announcing it to the entirety of Illéa. This was a bit suspenseful I suppose.... But we all knew how it would end and unlike in the The One, the MC was entirely predictable. So no climatic moment in this book.

If you read the first three of this series, I recommend not reading this one. And even if you read The Heir, don't read on. SPOILER: Long story short, she doesn't pick anyone in the candidate pool and instead chooses Erik the translator. That's pretty much all you'll miss if you don't read this book.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Date Published: April 26th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Rating: 5 out of 5

*ARC provided by NetGalley*

Goodreads Blurb:
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
Reincarnation! I totally love this topic and although it has popped up in a few books such as Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, Girl of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir, none of these books skillfully or impactfully weave it in as this one.

I absolutely love the two main characters and the horse.
I absolutely love the magical world of Akaran.
I absolutely love how this parallels Greek mythology and some Indian mythology but at the same time is something completely fresh and new.
I absolutely love the magical and sometimes frightening descriptions of the battles, cities, and palaces.

The plot and the characters were the best part of this novel, only rivaled by the beautiful blend of different mythology. 

The Star-Touched Queen is deep and thoughtful, unlike many fantasy novels being released this year 

Maya is a princess who is written off as a harbinger of death and bad luck. But it's a little more complicated than that as she is the actually connected to the underworld and Death. Cue Amar who saves Maya from her father's awful plan to let her die, and takes her away to be the Queen of Akaran, the place of dreams and nightmares (The Night Court in The Court of Mist and Fury reminded me of this a bit, but this is probably a really bad comparison as these two amazing books are quite different).

So Amar, I think, represents Hades, the ruler of the underworld, Death himself and his Queen is Maya. Except Maya doesn't remember any of her past lives, so she doesn't trust Amar. Cue the villain, Nritti, who is one of the secrets trapped behind the doors mentioned in the blurb. She entraps Maya in a web of lies, making her lose faith in Amar. This turns out to be cataclysmic, and heralds the end of Akaran as well as of peace.

After realizing her folly by discovering her past, Maya fights to get back to Akaran and free both Amar and the rest of the world from the evil of Nritti, And obviously she succeeds but I kinda wish she didn't just so we could have a sequel ;) 

I recommend this book to fans of The Wrath and the Dawn as well as of the fantasy or mythology genres. This novel is one of my favorites this year, and honestly recommending it to literally everyone because this novel is the definition of "magical".

The Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

Title: The Warrior Witch (The Malediction Trilogy, #3)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Date Published: May 3rd 2016 
Publisher: Angry Robot

Rating: 5 out of 5 

*ARC provided by NetGalley* 

Goodreads Blurb:
Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.
As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.
But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.
If there is one thing you should read this book for, it would be the ending.

That ending was a bit idiosyncratic, especially as it did not entirely "match" with the rest of the book. But it was beautiful and quite possibly one of the most heart-breakingly wonderful endings I have ever read. I am now going to create a tag just for that.

Cecile has lost so much over the course of this series. She lost here freedom when she was first kidnapped to Trollus. And then she lost her mom twice, once to the city and then again to the witch Anushka. She loses her innocence as she sees the evil in the world of Trollus as well as in Trianon. And then, this probably doesn't count, but she loses her heart to Triston.

This novel picks up exactly where The Hidden Huntress ends and, even more than the last, incorporates supernatural forces and alternate worlds.

One big problem (and non-problem) was that Tristan and Cecile seemed to be working for two different end goals and did not feel as united as they were in the first two books. This created more conflict/tension, and although it was annoying, it added a lot of suspense. It opened up a lot of possibilities: Tristan and Cecile were going to become enemies, maybe they were going to reconcile at the end, maybe Cecile realizes that trolls are evil and monstrous.

The freeing of the trolls was the catalyst for everything that happened in this book (which was catalyzed by the death of Anushka). The dilemma of freeing them/ not freeing them ended after Anushka's death. But a new dilemma arose- how would Tristan keep them under control? And who is the new king? SPOILER Tristan's mom and dad die, and although I personally was happy to see the crazy Troll King go, his death allowed another power-hungry to wreak havoc. This begs the question: are trolls evil? And if not for Tristan, Marc & the Twins my answer would have been a resounding yes.

There were a few epic/memorable moments (the singing during the battle, the death/ "rebirth" of one of my fave characters, and the awesome ending, but there were also silly/bad moments, such as when Cecile feels useless and decides to wander off right into the hands of the witch, when Tristan chooses to forget/dissolve the bond (that was truly annoying), and when the fairy King dude forces Tristan to leave to the other realm, which was frustrating.

If you liked the first two book, I think this one will come as a shock because 1) it is much different, and 2) it does not go the way you expect it to. But if you read it without expectations, I think you'll be able to thoroughly enjoy, just as I was able to.

I recommend this to fantasy lovers as well as those who are interested by magical (evil) creatures and life after death ;)