Thursday, October 30, 2014

Swoon Thursday (#92): Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay!


"Don't talk." I press a kiss to her throat, feeling her pulse racing beneath my lips, its rhythm confirming that her blood is rushing as fast as mine."

"Niklaas wait, I -"

I slip my hand from her hair, trapping her jaw between my fingers as I fit my mouth to hers, cutting her off with a kiss. She moans, a panicked sound that surprises me as it vibrates across my skin, but when I part my mouth, she parts hers, too, her lips gliding over mine with a ragged sigh. She doesn't pull away, and after a moment I regain the courage to angle my head, then rushing out, warming the whisper of space between her mouth and mine.

A whisper is too much.





I really enjoyed this book! What did you all think? :D

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#96): Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Book Two of the Seraphina series
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: March 10, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. 

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?



I read Seraphina over two years ago, before blogging, when the book had its brown/tan cover. I NEED this sequel!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir


Suspicion by Alexandra Monir
Publisher: Delacrote Press
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.

"There's something hidden in the Maze." Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family's English country manor.

Haunted by her parents' deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin's untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion's aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself--and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

Combining a fresh twist on the classic REBECCA with a spine-tingling mystery and powerful romance, SUSPICION is an action-packed thrill ride.

What I Liked:

This is my first Monir read - she has a duo published (Timeless and Timekeeper), but I was never interested in those two. This book caught my attention, because it seemed to deal with historical events and paranormal occurrences and a gorgeous, haunting labyrinth. I loveeeeee labyrinths, so I was all over this one when review copies were made available. I think my expectations were a little too high, but I still enjoyed the story.

Imogen's parents were killed in a fire at the Rockford manor in England ten years ago. Now, her grandfather, the Duke of Rockford, is dead, and her cousin, the heiress duchess, is also dead. So the Rockford manor and title belongs to Imogen. So Imogen goes to England, but she finds out that things are not as they seem at Rockford. Not to mention Imogen's supernatural power - she finds out that she is an Elemental, able to control the elements. But how can she use her power to find out the truth at Rockford, and discover the mystery of the labyrinth...

I really liked the dual setting of New York and Rockford. It's interesting to see Imogen go from a typical American teenage girl in New York to an heiress duchess in England, with a well-known title, family, history, property... I liked seeing her adapt to the endless etiquette rules and proper dress code and whatnot. Very well-written by Monir.

The author really had me going with the mystery and the creepy occurrences at Rockford, at least for about half of the book. I wanted to know what was in the maze. I wanted to know how Imogen power fit into anything. I wanted to know how her parents' death, the grandfather's death, and Lucia's death were tied together, and why Imogen was supposed to stay away from Rockford.

Unfortunately, most of my questions were not answered. But I'll get to that in the next section.

The romance is pretty obvious, though I thought the author was going to take it in a different direction (I don't mind the direction she took though). It's obvious that Imogen won't end up with anyone in New York - the boy would have to be from England. I liked Sebastian a lot, but he was dating Lucia... I also liked Theo, but he seemed more of a cute friend.

NO love triangle, don't get me wrong. There were just two different directions Monir could have gone, early on, and she chose the one way. I liked the romance. Even if it was obvious.

Up until everything started to be revealed, I was really pleased with the mystery and the story in general. I wasn't as happy with the amount of questions I had through the end, and how the author didn't really explain things, or go into depth. I'll explain below!

What I Did Not Like:

Like I said above, I had a lot of questions by the end of the book, and most were not resolved. Monir doesn't do a good job of tying things together. For example, how does Imogen's power help her in the big climax, when trying to clear up certain truths? How does her power help anything at all? It seems very random and not helpful to the plot. Like, if you completely take out that aspect of the book, it would not make a single difference.

Which is a problem, obviously. You want your paranormal aspect to actually affect the plot. 

I'm also confused about how the death of the two sets of parents (Lucia's and Imogen's), Lucia's death, and the grandfather's death, relate. Like, it's never really clear as to how the deaths relate, if it was all just a coincidence, if like, spirits influenced the manner of their deaths, etc. I'm totally inventing the spirits thing, but I'm just saying: how did all of these sinister deaths just happen? Who or what caused them? How did so many people die, leaving Imogen to inherit the property?

I'm confused by the labyrinth. You could take out the labyrinth aspect of the novel, and it would not make much of the difference. I love that the labyrinth is a thing, but I expected it to have more of an impact on the story. So people died in front of the labyrinth. Okay. It had nothing to do with the labyrinth.

Continuing that thought - so there is supposed to be something mysterious in the labyrinth. THAT reveal is so anticlimactic and cliche. Literally, the timing of the reveal in conjunction to another event is so cliche. And another thing - I don't actually know if Imogen retrieved the thing from within the labyrinth? She had to go into the labyrinth to, um, bring someone out, but did she actually retrieve the thing hidden in the labyrinth? I'm not sure. It's not explicitly stated.

A lot of things aren't stated. A lot of things are glossed over. Especially in the end, when the culprit/villain/bad guy gets away. Like, what?! Sorry if you consider that a spoiler. But it makes no sense - the ending is so open-ended, yet this novel is a standalone (as far as I know). Standalones shouldn't really have open-ended endings, like, THAT open-ended!

Basically, I'm confused about things.

Would I Recommend It:

This one is a hit or a miss. Honestly, I think it lacked a lot of depth, so you could skip it and move on with your life and there would be losses. The cover is GORGEOUS, but the story, meh.

Rating:

3 stars. I liked the story - I enjoyed it while I was reading it. But I wouldn't re-read this one, or buy it. It's not the most impressive use of the elemental magic or a labyrinth that I have seen.


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Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay


Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

What I Liked:

I feel like I have been a "fan" of Stacey Jay for a really long time, without actually reading her books. I'm apathetic about her Juliet Immortal series, but I've always wanted to read Of Beast and Beauty, and now, this book. I'm a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, books based on fairy tales, original fairy tales, etc. So, I was all over this book when I saw that, one, it was by Stacey Jay and two, it was fairy-tale-based fantasy.

Princess Aurora is fairy-blessed by her mother passing her gifts to her, but the gifts are a curse of a sort. Aurora has the ability to steal the will of anyone she kisses. So Aurora won't kiss anyone else, after Thyne. Dressed as a boy, Aurora and her brother Jor live with the fairies, until one day, Jor is captured by the ogre queen. A human prince finds Aurora, and believing her to be Jor, makes a deal with her: he'll help her find her way to the Feeding Hills, if she will bring him to Aurora (he believes that she is Jor). Bu the road to regaining her throne - and Niklaas obtaining Aurora's favor is not straight and narrow. Who will survive, and who will win?

Right from the start, I knew that the intricacy of this world and its history would leave me breathless. It's fantasy, and it's amazing. Jay adapts the worlds of Sleeping Beauty and creates her ow fairy tale. Sleeping Beauty is Aurora's mother, and Aurora is the heir to the throne of which the ogre queen currently has taken possession. Jay does a fantastic job of setting up the history and timeline of events of this novel, I was impressed by how well the world was developed!

I was rooting for Aurora during this entire book. Not once did I completely not understand her decisions or motivation. I felt for her as she pretended to by Jor, using her fairy ways to make excuses for the long hair and privacy when bathing and slightly more feminine ways. Niklaas knew that Aurora was very feminine-looking for a boy, but he never suspected that it wasn't Jor. Nevertheless, I really felt for Aurora. She did an amazing job of pretending, of hiding herself.

Aurora is pretty kickbutt. She has incredibly powers thanks to her magical gift, but she is also very brave and determined. She and Niklaas argue all the time, because both are stubborn, and want their way to be done. When two royals get together... it's especially funny because 60% of the book is spent with Niklaas believing that Aurora is Jor - and Aurora has to go through the journey to the Feeding Hills listening to how much Niklaas wants to marry her (but he doesn't realize that it is her).

I really like Niklaas. He is also brave, but in a calmer, more rational, peaceful way. His life hasn't been easy at all. All eleven of his brothers have been turned into swans upon turning eighteen, because his father had his sons cursed so that none would ever ascend his throne. Niklaas wants to escape the curse by marrying Aurora, an heir to a different throne. But Aurora doesn't ever want to marry Niklaas, because of her gift and ability to take away the will of whomever she kisses.

The romance is so subtle in this book. Again, about 60% of this book is spent with Niklaas thinking that Aurora is a boy. So, for 60% of the book, we have these two as friends, good friends, like brothers. I actually really like this setup, because they really get to know each other - especially since Niklaas believes that Aurora is male. While their relationship is built on lies (on both sides), the core of the relationship is a strong friendship. And then Niklaas finds out. And then he's mad. And yet... there is still so much between them.

I really like the plot of the story, dealing with Aurora trying to get her throne back, and Niklaas running from the curse. I wanted to know how both would get what they wanted, because both seemed to have impossible goals. This book wraps up really nicely, as a standalone should. I won't say anything specific, but I liked the ending, all around!

What I Did Not Like:

While I really liked the ending, I was a bit confused about some of the events. I can't say anything because then I'll be spoiling things and I don't want to spoil anything. But I was confused as to what specifically happened to the ogre queen in the end. Also, why she did what she did, in relation to Aurora. Basically... what? I need clarification. Or possibly a re-read.

Would I Recommend It:

I would recommend this novel to any fantasy lover out there! Or if you like fairy tale retellings! Or if you like a sweet romance that isn't just a romance! The subtleties are beautiful in this book. There are so many beautiful things about this book! I'm so glad I gave it a shot.

Rating:

4 stars. My first Stacey Jay novel was a huge success! I'll definitely be going back to read Of Beast and Beauty at some point... just need to obtain a copy soon!



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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review: Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath


Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse calls this story for readers of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray "a fine and haunting work." Blending magical realism and lyrical free verse, this is an intense survival story of three siblings caught up in the horrific events of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen's way. But when the Ottoman pashas set their plans to eliminate all Armenians in motion, neither twin has a choice.

After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, Shahen and Sosi flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. Shahen keeps their parents' fate a secret from his sisters. But the children are not alone. An eagle named Ardziv watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

What I Liked:

This book. Oh, my heart. I knew this one would be a powerful read, but experiencing the novel, the story... I so wanted to cry while reading this book. Historical fiction meets magical realism - this book was amazing.

This book is written in verse, and follows four different perspectives. No, don't get upset, it never FEELS like too many. Usually, I get irritated with more than two. But with this story written in verse, and the nature of the fiction, four perspectives totally worked. This isn't your typical fiction novel, with an epic plot, someone saving the world, a prominent and sweeping romance. Don't get me wrong though, this book was all kinds of epic and sweeping.

Shahen, Sosi, and Mariam are three Armenian siblings living in 1914, during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The animosity between the Armenians and the Kurds is palpable. Anahid, their older sister, married a Kurd (which is frowned upon). When soldiers start to pillage and burn villages, the siblings' parents send the three siblings into the mountains. Sosi and Shahen are twins, in their teens, but Mariam is five. This is their story, of how they fled their village, left behind their parents, and began to survive and find their way out of the crumbling world.

I LOVE the setting of this novel, the history, the political conflict, the portrayal of the war, the effects of the deteriorating empire... Walrath really did her research, to make this book come alive. I love historical fiction, and this novel is no exception. It feels almost like non-fiction, like an actual account of children's life during the Armenian genocide.

The nature of this story actually made me want to know more about the Armenian genocide. I know a good deal about the two World Wars and many other events that occurred in the 1900s, but the Armenian genocide isn't well-thought in grade school, and I didn't know much about it. I love how well Walrath writes about this tragic time in history, how she incorporates small details that make such a difference. But I also love how this book made me think, made me wonder, made me curious, made me sad.

Oh, how this story was heartbreaking. It's one of those books where you're sure that everyone is going to end up dead. That is not the case (no spoilers, but that's not the case), but I could see how Walrath could have made that happen. Walrath includes content such as prejudice (between the races), gender roles, rape, pillaging, death, death, death. What happened during this time is so incredibly tragic and heartbreaking. My heart aches for the mother of the three siblings especially.

I love how well-written this book is. It's completely in verse, and it is beautiful. I was skeptical about how I would respond to the novel being written in verse, but I loved it. It totally works for this story, because it makes it so much more powerful. This story would not have read the same way, if it had been written like freestyle fiction. 

Each of the siblings are so different. Shahen wants to go to America. He is small for a boy, almost feminine. Sosi wants to stay in the village and marry Vahan, a clock-maker's son (someone she can never marry because of other factors). Mariam is five and loves that her brother (Shahen) is teaching her to write. We get each of their perspectives, in the first person. It's interesting to see the evolution of Mariam's perspective - a child.

The fourth perspective will remain unknown... mwahaha. 

I love this book so much. I would totally reread it, and I wish that everyone would give this book a chance. Don't like historical fiction? Okay. But this is like, non-fiction historical fiction. It's real, it's powerful, and it sheds light on a very real and very tragic historical event. Excuse me while I go cry!

What I Did Not Like:


I can't think of anything! I always say, no book is perfect, and there is always something that a reader does not like about a book... but I can't think of whatever that is at the moment.

Would I Recommend It:


YES! Historical fiction fan or not, read it! It's worth the read, if not for the historical fiction aspect, for the beautifully written verse! 

Rating:

5 stars. Well deserved (you know I'm stingy with the 5-star ratings)! This is definitely one of those books that will stick with me for a long time. 



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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (#96)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, October 12th to Saturday, October 25th?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:



Ahhh, historical romance. Thank you, Jessica!


From NetGalley:



I've actually already read this book, back in June! My review will be posted in a few weeks.



I love Beth's books! I had not had the chance to read this one yet, so I'm pretty excited to have the chance!


This week was okay for me, not bad at all! Not amazing, but not terrible. How was everyone's week? :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West


The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Kindle copy bought from Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn't approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn't been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn't a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

What I Liked:

Well, that's that. I have read all four of West's novels, all within less than five months of the year. You can read my reviews of On the Fence, Pivot Point, and Split Second. I'm happy to say that I am four for four with West's books! And now I really, really can't wait to read The Fill-In Boyfriend.

This counts as my Pili-pushed read of October! Be sure to read all of my Pili-pushed reviews. I'd been meaning to read it anyway, as it has been on my TBR list for quite some time, but Pili really, well, PUSHED me towards it! Especially since I've binge-read West's other three novels this year. So, The Distance Between Us!

Caymen knows all about rich people, and she doesn't have to do much to really avoid them. After rich-boy Xander comes into her mom's doll store for a doll for his grandmother, her perception of rich people changes, because he keeps coming back. He keeps up his interest, and pretty soon, he and Caymen are seeing each other pretty often. But will he stick around? Is Xander the problem?

Let me start by saying that I really like Caymen. She is so incredibly sarcastic - we would get along so well. Some of the things she says, the fact that she lets nothing go... yeah, we'd either love each other or hate each other (I'm going with the former). I totally related to her on many levels, sarcasm included. The not-so-well-off thing as well. Being scared of letting yourself get close to someone. Yes. Yes yes yes.

I really like Xander. He's rich, he's slightly stuck-up because of it, but I think he's a down-to-earth person (despite being slightly stuck-up). If that makes sense. He's incredibly sweet and considerate and thoughtful and good-looking and physically fit and everything I want in a boy and everything that I know can't come in a complete package and AGH WHY DO BOYS IN REAL LIFE NOT COME WITH ALL OF THESE OPTIONS. It's times like these when fiction makes me sad... because it's not real. Waahh.

I love the dynamic of this book. Caymen and her mother run a struggling doll store, and so Caymen spends most of her free time at the store, helping out. Xander, on the other hand, is super rich, has everything at his fingertips. But it's not like his life is easy peasy squeezy. Both teens are extremely different, but both teens are quite similar.

The conflict of this story does not just deal with Caymen struggling with her feelings for rich-boy Xander. The doll shop has not been doing well at all, and Caymen's mother has not been herself lately. Caymen wonders about her unknown father. Throw in Caymen's best friend's boyfriend's band's lead singer hunting for Caymen's attention, and you've got a pretty interesting set of conflicts.

I love the romance in this book. No love triangle, so don't worry about that, no matter how it sounds in the synopsis. Xander and Caymen are sweet and spicy together, very cat-and-mouse-like. I love the way West crafts the romances in her books.

The ending of this novel is very sweet. I know, I've used the word sweet a lot. I liked the ending, despite the fact that it was a little weird. Not in terms of the romance, but in another aspect of Caymen's life. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the ending, and this book in general!

What I Did Not Like:

Like I mentioned above, the ending was a bit strange. Not in terms of the romance, don't worry about that. But in another aspect of Caymen's life, I didn't quite like how West resolved the issue. She threw something new at readers, at the charity benefit, towards the end. I almost saw it coming, but I didn't really like how it fit the story. Sort of. 

I liked the ending. I liked how West wrapped things up. But I totally could have seen this book ending differently, in terms of that one aspect. You'll have to have read (or will read) the book to know what I'm talking about. Trying to be vague on purpose! 

Would I Recommend It:

I love West's books. I love the romance in her books especially. Yes, this is contemporary. On the Fence is contemporary as well. I'm not a contemporary person, but I loved both books. West is definitely a go-to contemporary writer for me, in addition to Jennifer Echols, and Sarah Ockler!

Rating:

4 stars. I really liked this book! I'm so glad that Pili really pushed this one on me - I really had every intention of reading it, but she made it shoot up my TBR list! And now I have successfully binged on all of West's books - and rated them no lower than four stars each. Impressive!


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