Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WoW: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

A weekly post hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating!

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Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
RELEASE DATE: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen

Goodreads Blurb: 

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.
In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.
Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.
Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
This is the most hyped book of my blogging career. No exaggeration. The book is not even out yet and there are "street teams" (#TruthwitchStreetTeam, #Witchlanders Street Team), twitter fan accounts (@WaterwitchBabes, @Airwitches, @Voidsisters, etc.), and frequent twitter chats/competitions in honor of this book. Not that I'm complaining. 

I really, really hope this hype is worth it. 

Ms. Dennard is super sweet and super active on Twitter (she responded to my tweet aaaaaahhh) and the fact that she is friends with SJ Maas makes me want to read this even more. That might be weird, but nevertheless true. 

My ONLY worry is that I wasn't much of a fan of her Something Strangle & Deadly series and I may not love her writing in this novel. But two completely different genres, so hopefully there's nothing to fear. 

Other than the fact SJ Maas read this book and loved it (she's my fave author ever), I think the main reason I want to read is because it gives off a slight "Avatar the Airbender" vibe with all the elemental clans. Also cool names, witches, and the saving the world concept all promise the best book ever. 

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S RELEASING IN 6 DAYS.  esp since I've been hearing about this since as early as October (maybe even earlier?) 

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publication Date:  May 12th 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
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.

Cast of Characters: (I'm including this part mostly as reference for myself because I'm horrible at remembering character names)

Shazi- MC
Khalid- King, MC
Tariq- Shazi's old friend
Jalal- Khalid's "friend"
Despina- Shazi's new friend/handmaiden/"spy"
Yasmine- small role, interesting princess
Jahandar- Shazi's (crazy) dad

Overall Thoughts: 

One word: serendipitous. This book was such a lovely surprise .
When I first read the description, I wasn't entirely sure this would be my kind of book. But I am so very glad I was bored enough to pick up this book because if I wasn't I wouldn't have discovered one of my favorite books this year (maybe of all time?!).

This is a story of a girl named Shahrzad who sets out to avenge her friend's death, but instead discovers unexpected friends, secrets, and her soul mate. She saves her own life with her wit and storytelling and along the way learns: that things aren't black and white, those she trust the most don't always understand, to forgive.

The Wrath and the Dawn had beautiful writing and magnificent scenes of feasts, the palace, and the desert. The world-building was phenomenal and I loved how this is based off of A Thousand and One Nights. The characters were so real and alive. It has been a while since I related/understood a character as fully and completely as I understood Shahrzad. Her motives, her thoughts, and her actions were so clear. The same cannot be said of Khalid's, however. I didn't know from which angle Ms. Ahdieh was portraying him at first (was he the villain? the good guy?), but in contrast, I loved his enigmatic backstory. The revelation of the curse was entirely unexpected and was a great explanation for Khalid's actions but I wish there was more clarity to the conditions of the curse. The plot was entirely captivating and I enjoyed every exciting moment of this novel.

The Breakdown:

The characters, both main and side, were fully formed and independent beings. Each had a character arc and all of them had such interesting personalities. My favorite "side" character (in my opinion, a side character is everyone except the heroes/heroines) was probably Despina with her sharp wit and
"best-friend" personality. She was intelligent and kind, and wasn't there only to support Shahrzad. Despina and Shahrzad were in the process of building a really strong friendship, and I hope to see it continue in the next book.

The plot twist. Guys I didn't see the end coming. What even. It was fittingly exciting and suited the tone of the entire book. But what a cliffhanger. It was frustrating because one conflict (the curse) was fulfilled and done with, while the consequences of Khalid's actions (which were in reaction to the curse) took over as the main conflict.

This book was brilliant from start to finish; I can't really say which my favorite part was (beginning, middle, end) because it was consistently great. However, there was one thing I found lacking: Shazi's backstory.  I want to hear more about her adventures with her childhood friends and little sister.

I love the mythology & folklore of other cultures. This book perfectly integrates the Arabian setting with the magical atmosphere, complete with curses, a flying carpet, and elemental (fire) powers, that I loved in Aladdin. The crowded city, the palace, and the desert were described in detail and I found myself right next to Shahrzad, watching her overcome challenge after challenge. I think something really makes TW&TD really stand out is it's diversity. There haven't been many YA novels with PoC as the main characters and I just love how this is a pretty accurate and positive portrayal of a different culture.

Favorite Quotes:
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”
― Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn
“You are not weak. You are not indecisive. You are strong. Fierce. Capable beyond measure.”
― Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn
“For without a measure of arrogance, how can one attempt the impossible?”
― Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

Title: Reawakened (Reawakened #1)
Author: Colleen Houck
Date Published: August 11th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 
When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.
And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.
But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.
From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.


As a fan of Colleen Houck's Tigers Curse series, I was ecstatic when I first stumbled upon this book on Goodreads about a year ago. It seemed too good to be true- Egyptian mythology! Mummified princes! Ancient Curses! But sadly I was a bit disappointed- Reawakened did have everything that was promised, but while reading this book I was bored and didn't feel the same sort of excitement that was ever-present with the Tigers Curse series. 

So why the 4 stars? With this one I'll admit that the rating reflects my love for the Tiger's Curse series (and this cover!) more than it does for the content of this book.

Now, don't think this book is bad- it's not. It was filled with mummies, Egyptian princes, funny moments, and a few interesting characters. It had all the elements of a 4 star book in the fantasy genre. But what I found lacking was the life. Reawakened was boring. I felt no excitement whatsoever and characters & events were formulaic, lifeless, and middle-grade. I'm thinking that this book is directed at a younger, middle grade age group rather than my usual YA- this might be the reason I find it lacking. *shrugs* I'm not sure why I didn't have a blast with this book when I absolutely loved Tigers Curse and I know, I know. I should stop comparing it to Tigers Curse. 

|OK, lets start the review portion of this post.|

The main character, Lily Young, is the only child of two wealthy parents and, as you can imagine, quite lonely. She is a bit unsure of herself and has a "bubble-wrapped" view of the world. She doesn't really have a defining character trait (not funny, smart, or bold) except for her "hidden" sarcasm, which seems to be the main trait that is required in all YA/middle-grade heroines. 

The male MC is Amon. He's an Egyptian prince who was awakens every couple thousand years or so to perform a ritual that is meant to protect his people from Evil (aka Seth). This time, he wakes up in the Metropolitan Museum. Amon starts off weirdly backwards and slowly gets more modern as the book goes on. He was an interesting character with a background I really wanted to know about but sadly his thoughts/personality didn't shine through and he wasn't quite a dynamic character. 

The plot itself was interesting- Amon had to travel back to Egypt, locate his two brothers, and perform the ritual but of course things don't go as planned. Amon can't find his canopic jars (preserved organs) so he was to use Lily's organs. Then while trying to locate his organs/brothers, the evil Seth makes life difficult and sends henchmen to impede their progress and/or kill them. However, the narration was often dry. The climax of this book (the fight between Seth and the brothers) was anti-climatic because there was already so much fighting going on that it was a bit too much. The Indiana Jones-type scenes that were present in Ms. Houck's Tigers Curse series were in this book; they were pretty good and had me engaged.

My biggest problem: lack of character development. There were only a handful of characters in this book. I personally enjoy a large cast (such as in the Throne of Glass series) but a small one can be nice as well since it helps the author focus on developing each individual. However, in the case of this book, the characters were mostly flat. Interesting but not quite alive. Hopefully Ms. Houck will develop the three brothers in the next book.

My favorite part: the backstory. There are periodic flashbacks through this book and provide context for most of the events. The flashbacks definitely provided more depth to the mysterious brothers, whose individual personalities I found to be lacking. The flashbacks also felt like the most solid and well executed part of this book, and without them, I think there wouldn't be such a clearly defined plot/purpose.

Overall, this book was good. Maybe not exactly 4 stars but it had so much potential. I recommend it those looking for a beach/light read and those who enjoy Egyptian mythology.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

WoW: The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

A weekly post hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating!

Title: The Vanishing Throne (The Falconers #2)
Author: Elizabeth May 
*RELEASE DATE: November 19th 2015
Publisher: Gollanzc 

Goodreads Blurb: 
The battle is over. Edinburgh stands in ruins. Only Alieana Kameron, former heiress and debutante, now murderess and fae-slayer, remains amid the destruction.
Humanity has moved on - but the war has only just begun.
So this book released in the UK in November but its going to release in the US in June (2016). I don't see why/how that's reasonable. Sigh. I still haven't read this book and that is a veritable problem. I must acquire a UK copy (maybe from Amazon?) and read this book ASAP. 

The Falconer ended with the biggest cliffhanger possible and I am very not happy with how long it took for the book to release (to partially release? to selectively release? why can't books release on the same date throughout the entire world?). Here is my review of The Falconer

Although I'm not happy with the release date, I am content in my knowledge that this book will be amazing and I guess it won't hurt to wait a bit until I can get my hands on this book. 

What I'm most looking forward to is Alieana growing into a warrior and saving the world. Because I'm sure that's going to happen. Also Kiaran's transformation might be interesting as well. Hopefully there will be copious amounts of witty banter and it won't be boring. 

Book, please don't be boring. 

*Note: Yes, technically this book is released but only kinda released so we're going to let this dubious WoW slide*

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Title: Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) 
Author: Rae Carson 
Publication Date: September 22nd 2015 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb: 

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.
Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.
She also has a secret.
Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.
When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.
The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.


A few years ago, when my friends and I discovered "A Girl of Thorns and Roses" by Rae Carson, I was skeptical of trying it. It is a fantasy book, yes, but the story line didn't pull me in. However, mostly everyone I encountered, who read the book, loved it. So, I gave a try... not my type of book.

Understandably, I didn't really have high hopes for this book, but a few reviews, as well as that fantastic cover, convinced me to give it a try. Let's take a moment to enjoy the cover. I absolutely love the font, and although its a bit too elegant/flowery for the action that takes place inside, the gold theme is spot on.

The MC, Leah Westfall (love the last name btw), has a special power: she can sense gold. She doesn't publicize her talent but somehow the store of gold in her house is discovered, and someone kills her parents to get that gold. This is how the story starts off, and there is a lot of action and running away going on, but it's nothing compared to the action during the middle/end of this book. I admit, I found the beginning a bit tedious, and if you find yourself feeling the same, keep truckin' it gets waaaay better!

The book is very character-centric, with a well developed, unique array of characters and they are the main reason I gave this book 4 stars.

The context for this book is the California Gold Rush, and as a history fan, this piqued my interest even more than the cover. To my knowledge, the writing/events were perfectly suited to this time period and Ms. Carson obviously did her research. The "Oregon Trail" part of this book had me a it worried because, hello, cannibalism (guys, don't click this link if you're squeamish, it talks about the Donner Party. Ugh I get the chills just typing that name), but never fear, no one eats anyone. But other stuff happen that make me simultaneously sniffle and sit up with alarm. Honestly, I think this book could be shelved in the horror genre, because some parts are dead scary. 

The "caravan" of peeps Lee (Leah disguised as a boy) travels West with includes two or three families and a small militia-like group of men (and of course her best friend Jefferson, who ran away from home before Lee did, but somehow they were able to find each other). A few memorable character include Major, Mrs. Joyner, and Therese. Yes, they're really really memorable. 

I hate horror stuff, but I can honestly say that the Trail was my favorite section of this book. The characters we meet are pretty unique (weird, crazy, awesome, inhumane are all apt descriptions) and honestly form the backbone of this book. I am not going to reveal anything that will spoil the book but this is the part of the book where you'll be needing tissues. And maybe a pillow to scream into when the buffalo stampede happens. That part was really stressful and it wasn't the only time I felt like I was actually with Lee, facing all kinds of wacky dangers while trudging resolutely to a place we've never seen before. 

This book touches on a multitude of issues: feminism, Native American/Anglo relations, slavery. It captures the pioneer spirit perfectly and does a good job depicting the difficulties/hopes of those who travel Westward. Although the overarching conflict is between Lee and the murderer (whose identity is revealed pretty early on), Lee vs. crazy people, gender stereotyping, and an arduous journey is ever-present. 

The ending was a shock and was really really frustrating, but I can't say anything to justify this statement or else I'll give it away. It's not quite a cliff-hanger because far from feeling hopeless, Lee feels empowered and gives off the vibe that she'll be able to handle anything. This could be a standalone from the way most things wrap up. But of course, the main conflict-confronting the murderer- didn't really resolve so I'm still looking forward to the next book. 

I recommend this to history buffs, fans of gritty Western action books, and those who enjoy character-based novels.