Book Review: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Book: Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Published October 2017 by Philomel Books|363 Pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Rise Of The Empress #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/YA Re-telling

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

I absolutely loved this book!  It took me forever to get through (partly because I wasn’t in the mood, and partly because I was trying to get through some other books).

I love this re-telling of The Evil Queen, and while this story is Xifeng’s journey to becoming the evil queen, it’s still worth reading.  It makes me want to read the next book so, so much.  Regina Mills from Once Upon A Time is an amazing Evil Queen, but Xifeng comes pretty close.  It’s basically Snow White before Snow White, if that makes any sense.  It’s basically a prequel to the Snow White story that we all know (at least from Disney, but this is not the happy Disney version.  Please don’t expect a happy, Disney version of the Evil Queen, because this is not that book.

If you need to like characters, especially the main character, this book probably isn’t for you.  It was so hard to like Xifeng at times, but I did find myself understanding where she came from, and why she did what she did.  She does get jealous of other women, and she wasn’t very confident, especially at the beginning of the book.  She changes so much over the course of the book, but it felt really natural and not forced at all.

I feel like her journey isn’t going to end well, but this is one story that I feel pretty invested in, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes, even if the ending isn’t a happy one.

I thought the world was amazing and really detailed.  I had such a clear picture of what was going on, and I loved how vivid everything was.  My copy of the book was an annotated one from PageHabit, and those extra details really made the book for me.  It was interesting to see what inspired her, and where certain things in the book came from.

Also, this is not a light and fluffy story.  It is dark and twisted and sometimes gory.  I mean, she eats hearts to gain power and make herself stronger.  She will do anything to become Empress, and I thought the use of a prophecy was interesting.  As weird as it may be, I did like seeing how far she was willing to go to get what she wants and what she was willing to do so she could fulfill the destiny that was foretold.

I’m not sure if this was something the author intended, but I couldn’t help but think about prophecy and destiny and how cutthroat some people are, and how they’ll use prophecy to get whatever they want.  Also, some of the characters are pretty catty (and petty), and Xifeng was willing to take them down because they were standing in her way.  I’m sure there’s some sort of real world parallel you could draw.  I won’t, because my brain doesn’t want to work right (and I myself in not confident in my ability to draw a meaningful comparison) but it did feel very real.  Girls and women are pitted against each other as well, and you can definitely see why they act the way they do.

5 stars.  Overall, I loved this book.  The setting is amazing and vivid, and I just loved the world and the mythology and the characters.

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Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Book: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Published February 2015 by HarperTeen|337 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: A Wicked Thing #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/YA Re-telling

Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. 

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

I thought A Wicked Thing was okay.  I’ve wanted to read it for a while (and it’s been on my TBR for years), and I finally got around to reading it.

I did like that everyone she knew had passed away in the time it took for her to wake up.  Can you imagine waking up and learning that everyone you knew was dead?  And to be taken in by the current king and queen because their son is your true love?  I can’t say I’m surprised by that, because I really wasn’t.  But I did like it, predictable as it was.

I know this book is a series, so we’ll learn a lot more about Aurora’s world in the next books.  We did get a pretty good picture of her life before the curse and also what happened during her 100 years of sleep.  But I just wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be.

I thought Aurora’s reaction to everything was pretty well done- she did seem confused and overwhelmed and not sure what to do.  I feel like I’d feel the same way if I were in her position, and I can see myself reacting the same way she did.  She constantly felt like she a prisoner- both before her birthday, and long after.  I really felt for her, because her life was decided for her, and no one bothered to ask her what she thought or how she felt.  Everything was decided for her because everyone knew better than she did.

There’s a lot she doesn’t know, of course, and she does need some sort of protection.  I don’t think she helped things by randomly wandering around in the middle of the night, but she also didn’t deserve to be locked up again.  I think a little more freedom (and explanation and including her in things) would have gone a long way.

I did like that her tale is well-known, and that she reads a book that is her story.  I’m not sure why I liked it, but when you’ve been sleeping for as long as she has, it does make sense that stories would be told.  And of course, the original story is far more gruesome than what we see here.  It should be interesting to see where things go, if I do decide to continue on with the series.  I don’t know that I’m interested enough to keep going.

The book does move pretty slow, and even though it took me a few days to finish it, it’s because of how short the book was.  I expected more action, and the action scenes we do have were boring.  I did want to see how things would turn out for Aurora, and what she’d do, but that was one of the very few things that kept me going.

2 stars.  A Wicked Thing was okay, and even though I like the idea of a Sleeping Beauty re-telling, this one didn’t work for me.

Book Review: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Book: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Published October 2017 by HarperTeen|389 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Paranormal/Re-Telling

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change…

I’ve been a fan of Cynthia Hand since her Unearthly series, so when I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to pick it up!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I loved her Unearthly series but didn’t care for My Lady Jane.  It’s not at all like Unearthly, but the writing did remind me of My Lady Jane.

I really liked Afterlife, and it’s a really interesting take on A Christmas Carol.  I like that they try to do some good, and actually help people.  It’s light and silly and Holly is not a likable person, in life or death, but I do think she learned from her time at the Project Scrooge.  At least, that’s what I’d like to think.  She seems to try at the end of the book, and it really did seem like she wanted to make an effort to be a better person.

It is interesting that Ethan is what gets Holly to start seeing things differently.  Even years after her death, she was still the spoiled brat we saw int the beginning of the book.  Why Ethan changed things, I don’t know.  It is explained, but…I don’t know.  It’s just interesting that someone her age is what got her to change.  It seems like she was more changed by making this work than he was.

It is a quick read, and it’s fun.  It’s entertaining, and while it’s not this meaningful look at changing yourself, it did get the point across.

I also liked how each group had a team, and everyone worked together to make it happen.  It’s definitely a lot of work, and while you think it’s about Ethan, it’s really about Holly.  I don’t know about anyone else, but that did surprise me a little.  I wasn’t too fond of Ethan, and while I wanted to like some of the other characters we see in the book, we unfortunately didn’t see them enough.  At least, not long enough to have a strong opinion of them.

I remember liking some of the other characters we saw in her Unearthly series, but with Afterlife, we didn’t have enough time to get to know the other characters.  We probably saw Stephanie the most (after Holly and Ethan), but even with her, I had a hard time really caring.  Again, I know it’s about Holly, and Ethan (a little bit) but still.  I wanted a little bit more to some of the other characters.

3 stars.  I liked The Afterlife Of Holly Chase, and it is a cool take on A Christmas Carol, but I wish we saw more of some of the other characters.

Book Review: The Hollow by Jessica Verday and Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Book: The Hollow by Jessica Verday

Published September 2011 by Simon Pulse|509 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: The Hollow #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Re-telling

When Abbey’s best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead…rumors fly that her death was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen’s funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey’s life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he’s the only person who makes Abbey feel normal again…but also special. 

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As Abbey struggles to understand Kristen’s betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that nearly unravels her—one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as her own sanity.

I didn’t like The Hollow as much as I thought I would.

I mean, it is a re-telling of Sleepy Hollow, so that part is cool. And I like that Abbey knows what she wants to do- make and sell perfume for a living.  It’s really different, and it is odd to see a character who will probably take some college classes, but doesn’t have a plan to go to college.  College isn’t for everyone, and yet, she still knows what she wants to do, and has things planned out.

There is a little bit of a mystery, but I was bored by it.  It’s the typical best friend goes missing and turns up dead mystery, and of course, the missing best friend is basically Abbey’s only friend.  I know this book came out years ago, but what is with that sort of story?  It’s frustrating to read, and I’m not sure why.

I just wasn’t invested in Abbey’s story, to the point where I don’t think I’ll keep going with the series.  While there are some things I’m wondering, like everything with Caspian and the secrets Kristen was keeping, I have no burning desire to move forward with this series.

It seems like Abbey, especially at the end of the book, needs a lot of help, and I did like that she recognized she needed help.  But again, I just wasn’t invested in her story, and while I want to feel some sort of sympathy for her, I found I didn’t.

My Rating: 2 stars.  There were some things that I liked, but The Hollow ended up being okay.

Book: Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Published April 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|360 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Aristotle & Dante #1

Genre: YA Contemporary

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I know everyone LOVES this book, but unfortunately, I didn’t.  I liked The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life a lot better than this one.

It felt like I was reading snapshots of their lives, as opposed to a story about them.  I mean, there is a story there, and we see them hang out and become friends and discover things about themselves.  But I really felt like I was reading a lot of smaller stories that formed one big story.  It felt like there were a lot of scenes that were missing, and the pacing and timeline felt off.  It’s hard to believe this book took place over the course of the year, because it felt a lot shorter.  Again, I don’t think we saw everything that happened over the course of that year.

I did like the strength of their friendship.  That stood out, and there is strength in friendship.  I also liked the focus on family, and if there’s something Saenz does well it’s having parents be involved while also showing how much characters can grow and do things on their own.  He does fully-formed friendships really well too, but what really stands out is how much their parents are around and involved in their lives.  They’re actually there, and have really important roles, which is nice to see in YA.  It’s not very common to have parents actually around and involved.  Especially when the parents are still together.  I’m glad their parents were around, alive and still together.

I can see why people love the characters and story so much, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them.  As much as I want to believe that I just didn’t read this book at the right time, that just wasn’t the case.  I found myself bored and eventually, there were times where I skimmed the book because I just wanted to get through it.  It seemed a little slow, and while not a lot happens, I just wasn’t feeling it.

There was a moment where I wanted one of the characters to come to the realization that his parents did.  Unfortunately, we never see him come to terms with it in his way, or even talk about it on his terms.  Instead, he’s told by his parents, and I thought that took away from it, because we never see him actually think about.  I felt like he’s being coaxed into it, and that didn’t work for me.  However, I do understand that people may feel differently, and that maybe he did feel that way, but just didn’t want to admit it.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I didn’t actively dislike it, and while a few things things were done really well, it wasn’t enough to change the rating either way.  It wasn’t for me, obviously, but if it sounds like it’s up your alley, I’d say go for it.

Book Review War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Book: War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Published November 2017 by HarperTeen|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Queen Of Hearts Saga #3

Genre: YA Re-telling/Fantasy

 The final book in the twisted YA trilogy re-imagining of the origin story of the Queen of Hearts.

Dinah has lost everyone she ever loved. Her brother was brutally murdered. The wicked man she believed was her father betrayed her. Her loyal subjects have been devastated by war. And the boy she gave her heart to broke it completely.

Now a dark queen has risen out of the ashes of her former life. Fury is blooming inside Dinah, poisoning her soul and twisting her mind. All she has left is Wonderland and her crown, and her obsession to fight for both. But the war rages on, and Dinah could inherit a bloodstained throne. Can a leader filled with love and rage ever be the ruler her kingdom needs? Or will her all-consuming wrath bring Wonderland to its knees?

This is not a story of happily ever after.

This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.

I’ve been with this series since the very beginning, and while I’m sad to see it end, I also thought it was a great ending to the series.  I remember reading ARC’s of the first two books on netgalley years ago, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book ever since.  I’m really glad I finally read it!

There were things I did not see coming, and I really felt for Dinah.  I have, for the entire series, and in particular, everything with Wardley and her (biological) father broke my heart.  More so with Wardley than anything else, because I was wondering how things would work out for them.

I really liked this take on the Queen Of Hearts, and while I’ve read very few Alice In Wonderland re-tellings, this one is my favorite by far.  The Queen Of Hearts is such a villain in the Alice In Wonderland story, and yet, Dinah doesn’t feel like a villain at all.  She’s a very sympathetic character, and I couldn’t help but want things to work out for her.

I did love how the original version of Alice In Wonderland was tied in to this story, and I thought it was very original and different.  I’ve read quite a few re-tellings over the years, and this one is the most connected to the original story that I’ve ever seen.  It was unexpected but also really cool, especially since I did have fun trying to figure out who was who from the original story.  Now I feel like re-reading Alice In Wonderland…

It’s definitely the strongest in the series, and Dinah has changed a lot.  You’d want (and hope) that the last book of a series would be the strongest, and this book delivered on that.  I could picture the battle so clearly, and yet, it was pretty gory, so keep that in mind if you decide to pick this up.

And the epilogue…I have mixed feelings about it.  I don’t understand why Wardley did what he did, considering how things went between him and Dinah, but there was something very hopeful about the epilogue as well.  Like things are okay, and will continue to be okay.  I’m glad there’s hope for Wonderland, and that the series ended with some hope that things would get better.

5 stars.  War Of The Cards is a great ending to a great series, and I absolutely loved the book and Dinah.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Three

So, I’ve been doing a series of posts talking about some of the books I read that I never got around to talking about.  We are starting to get to some books that I’ve read a little more recently than some of the other books, so I have more to say about them…but also not quite enough to do a full review.  If that makes sense.

  • Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields.  I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.  It’s a cool concept, an assassin who can kill people by kissing them, but it didn’t work for me.  And that’s a little disappointing, because I really wanted it to work well.    I loved how Marinda looked out for her brother, and how much she cared for him.  It was really nice to see, but that was the only thing that I really, absolutely loved.  The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but things are magically explained at the end.  The thing that made the LEAST amount of sense was how another girl had to seduce the boys that Marinda kissed.  What’s the point of death by kissing if you’re not the one seducing them enough to get close to them?  And how do these boys even go from the one to Marinda without questioning it?  I do not understand this at all.  What, Marinda can’t seduce them or something?  Or this other girl can’t kill them?  This makes zero sense to me.  My rating is 2 stars for things that didn’t make a lot of sense and the lack of world building.
  • The Secret History Of Us by Jessi Kirby.  I used to LOVE her books, but the more Jessi Kirby books I read, the more I dislike them.  I don’t know if it’s because my interests have changed or I’m harder to please because I read a lot of YA contemporaries, but I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.  The pace was pretty slow, and I wanted more of Olivia dealing with her amnesia.  She does try to piece things together, but I wanted more frustration or something from Olivia.  I also wanted more with Walker, but instead, he barely made an appearance.  I wanted more of a reveal, and I felt like something bigger was going to happen.  But nothing bigger happened, even though the book made it seem like something mysterious was going on.  The Secret History Of Us gets 2 stars.  It was okay, but I wanted more than what we got.
  • American War by Omar El Akkad.  I really liked this book at the beginning, and it was really interesting.  But then it lost steam, and I lost interest by the end of the book.  Like The Handmaid’s Tale, the future we see in American War is one I can picture easily.  You do get a good look at what a modern war would look like, and it’s interesting that climate change is what triggers the issues between north and south.  I would have it expected it to be over something else, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights or something involving religion.  I know it’s terrible to make an assumption like that, but I do like that climate change is what triggers because it is different than what you might expect.   I felt like a lot of things weren’t really explained or addressed, and it felt like something was missing regarding the use of fossil fuels.  I don’t know if maybe Sarat’s perspective really limits what we know, since she was 6 when war broke out, but a little more broad of a picture would have been nice.  American War gets 3 stars.

Book Review: Hunted by Megan Spooner

Book: Hunted by Megan Spooner

Published May 2017 by HarperTeen|374 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Re-Telling

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

I really liked Hunted!  I really do like reading re-tellings, especially when fairy tales are involved.  Hunted is a re-telling of Beauty And The Beast, and I could definitely see the connections to the Disney movie that we all know and love.  But a little darker, and with some Russian folklore thrown in.  I really liked the addition of the Firebird, and it actually fit really well with the story.  I also thought that having Beauty be blindfolded was interesting as well.  I’m not sure why, but it made the story more interesting.

I also liked seeing the interludes that are narrated by Beast.  Interludes are the best way to describe them because they’re not really chapters.  But I really liked it because you get a lot of insight into who Beast is, and what he’s thinking.  You also get an idea of what happened, though not completely.

There’s something about this book that is cold and icy.  Which really fits the Russian feel of the book.  The snow and cold, and it’s rural and medieval Russia, and it just fits with everything going on.  It definitely feels more Russian than European, which was actually really nice, because it’s different than most re-tellings.  If you want a Russian twist on Beauty And The Beast, this is the book to read.  Actually, if you like Beauty And The Beast, this is a book I would recommend.

There is something about this book that is very haunting and restless, and Yeva definitely has a sense of wanderlust.  She definitely seemed happier when she was able to go between the cabin, her sister’s home, and the castle.  She and Beast seemed to fit well together, because they both seem restless and yearn for something more than what they have.  There’s definitely an…understanding…between them, and I actually really like that they aren’t in a rush to get married.  It would have been easier to have them get married in the end, but they don’t, and that was really refreshing to see.  Especially given it’s rural, medieval Russia.  I may be making assumptions here, but it seems like it would be the thing to do for that period and time period.

4 stars.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did really like it.  If you like fairy tales, Beauty And The Beast, and medieval Russia, this is the book for you!

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Book: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published February 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books|436 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Wintersong #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-Telling

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

I loved this book!  Wintersong was one of the books I was looking forward to reading, but I’m just now getting around to it.

I was reminded of a few books when I was reading Wintersong.  If you like the Iron Fey series, this is the book for you!  It has a similar feel to the Iron Fey series, so they’re pretty good read-alikes for each other.  I’d describe it as Hades & Persphone meets The Iron Fey meets Caraval (which I read after Wintersong but I’m still going with it because this review is obviously being written after reading both books).

I felt very much like I was in a fairy-tale, particularly a German fairy-tale.  I loved the idea of the Goblin King, and how people ended up in the Underground.  It’s such a vivid book and I really felt like I was in their world.  I really didn’t want the book to come to an end, because it meant leaving Liesl’s world, and I didn’t want to do that.  At least there’s a sequel, so there will be more to this story.  Which is good, considering the way Wintersong ended.  It’s going to be a long wait until the sequel comes out.

Liesl is such a great character- she is more courageous than she knows, and she would do anything for her sister- even agreeing to marry the Goblin King to keep her sister safe.  I think being Underground and around the Goblin King ended up being a good thing for her- she learns a lot about herself, and I feel like she becomes more confident in herself as she worked on her music.  She’s a character I can really relate to- taking care of everyone, and feeling like she isn’t good enough, even though she is, and she just needs to believe in herself.

There’s something very dreamlike about this book, and it’s very magical.  There’s something dark and…nostalgic isn’t necessarily the word I’m looking for, but…maybe lament and looking for something lost and/or forgotten?  This book is downright beautiful and poetic, and if you haven’t read it, trust me when I say that you really need to read it!

5 stars.  I’m so glad it lived up to my expectations and the hype!  This book is dark and beautiful and amazing!

Audio Book Review: The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Book: The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, narrated by Ariana Delawari

Published May 2015 by Listening Library|Length: 10 hours, 38 minutes

Where I Got It: I got the audio book via Audible.com

Series: The Wrath & The Dawn #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-Telling

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch…she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I really liked The Wrath And The Dawn!  I’ve had it for a while, but finally got around to listening to it.

I really liked Sharzhad.  She was so conflicted about her feelings for the king and getting revenge for her best friend, especially as she got to know him, and why he took so many brides.  It was really predictable that she’d start to fall for him, and that she would have conflicted feelings about her mission, so to speak.

I didn’t like either choice, but I’d rather her be with the king, because I did not care for the guy she left behind when she volunteered to become his bride.  Her childhood friend/love was whiny and annoying in the little we see of him. I felt like he didn’t care about what SHE wanted, and he wasn’t willing to hear her out.  I do get why he reacted the way he did, but it also really bothered me.  I’m not sure if it’s because we know things he doesn’t, or if I saw more of the king and feel a little more sympathetic towards him, but I was not a fan of this other guy. Who, by the way, isn’t memorable enough for me to actually remember his name.

It was interesting that she was the one he kept alive, at great cost to him.  I’m not sure what I was expecting in terms of why he was killing his brides, but it does make sense, and I liked it more than I thought it would.

I LOVED the narration!  Ariana Delawari is one of my favorite narrators, even though this is only the 2nd book I’ve listened to that she’s narrated.  I specifically switched over to the audio book because of her.  She really captured who Sharzhad is a a character, and I can’t imagine anyone else narrating this series.

4 stars.  I really liked The Wrath And The Dawn, and I really recommend the audio book.  I can’t wait to listen to the next book in the series.

Book Review: Heartless, Conviction, and Court Of Fives

heartless-cover-marissa-meyerBook #1: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Published November 2016 by Feiwel & Friends|464 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Re-telling

What It’s About: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

What I Thought: I really liked Heartless!  The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series, and when I found out Meyer was coming out with another book, I knew I had to read it!  At first, I wasn’t sure about it, and initially, it was just okay.  But the more I read, the more I fell in love with the book, and the more I liked Catherine.

She’s an interesting character, and at first, she really is the sweetest person who loves baking.  It was hard to see her becoming the Queen Of Hearts that we all know in Alice In Wonderland, but the change she made into the character we all know was really believable.  It was a pretty fast change, but it worked for her character, and it was easy the events that led to her change were so easy to believe and made perfect sense for her.

By the time I was finished, I was ready for more set in this world, and that was when I realized that it was a stand-alone.  Which is fine, since it is Meyer’s take on Alice In Wonderland and the Queen Of Hearts.  But I am curious to see what Alice In Wonderland would be like if it were done by Meyer, because she did something pretty cool with Cinder.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It took me a little bit to get into Heartless, but by the end, I really wanted more set in this world!

conviction-coverBook #2: Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Published May 2015 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

What I Thought: I really wanted to like Conviction, and it seemed like it would be a great book, but it ended up being really frustrating to read. There were so many different angles, and I felt like none of them really got the attention they deserved. There’s Braden, and the complicated family stuff- his mom left him, and the same happened with his half-brother’s mom. There’s a dad, who seems abusive, and pushed baseball on his kids because his dream of being a professional baseball died when he got injured. And all of the stuff with a brother, who’s gay, and was kicked out and basically almost killed by their dad. On top of that, Braden’s dad is accused of killing a cop, and people may or may not have lied about what happened that night.

I felt like a lot of things weren’t clear, like with what happened on the night that the cop died, and things were hinted at, but for the most part, nothing was clearly mentioned or explained. That was when it matched up with what was previously mentioned in the book, and there was definitely at least one time, where things didn’t match up at all.

Not only that, but you have different time lines- there’s Braden’s memories of his dad, there what happened the night the cop died, and what was going on in the present, and it made things less coherent and really jumbled. It didn’t feel very focused, and I felt like I was reading all of these different pieces that didn’t really come together. The flashbacks were also poorly done in my opinion, and randomly thrown in with no transitions before and after.

My Rating: 2 stars. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it 1 star, but it was really confusing and all over the place. I can see why people like it, but it wasn’t for me.

court-of-fives-coverBook #3: Court Of Fives by Kate Elliott

Published August 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Court Of Fives #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

What I Thought: I picked up Court Of Fives based solely on the recommendation of Gail Carriger, and it was a fun, interesting read. I do feel like there are a lot of similar books out there, plot-wise but I really liked this one because it felt different enough to hold my attention. I really liked the competition, and how things aren’t what they seem.

It’s interesting that the history they know seems to be slightly different than what actually happened (which isn’t surprising at all), and I was really intrigued by the original story, and the parallels to Jessamy’s family, particularly with her parents. I did like that her dad stuck by her mom, even though it would have advanced his career a lot more. He still seemed really ambitious, and it didn’t seem to matter in the end, since they lost their main protector. But it did seem to matter to him, at least for a little while.

I kind of wish the competition was explained a little more, because even now, I’m not quite sure how to explain it, or even what it is. Something about it reminded me of the actual Hunger Games, but far less deadly. And something that relies a lot more on actual practice and logic and strategy. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and how things work out for Jessamy and her family.

My Rating: 4 stars. This was intriguing and interesting and a really good read.