Publisher: Razorbill

Book Review – An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

Posted April 28, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 4 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Published by Razorbill on April 28th 2015
Pages: 464
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
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two-stars

In the Martial Empire, is it the soldier or the slave who’s truly free?

Laia is a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from other Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. At the academy, Laia meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in the Trials, a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. It is not long before the far-reaching arm of Trials snatches not just Elias but Laia as well; and soon the two will find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Baaaaa. Baaaaa. Look at me. Aren’t I cute?

An Ember in the Ashes was one of my most anticipated of the year. I knew very little about it going in, only that it’s a fantasy inspired by ancient Rome (Gladiator, anyone?) and there was already extensive praise from many bloggers. I’m sad to say that I not only found this extremely tedious but shockingly uninteresting based on the seemingly exciting subject matter.

‘You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes. That is your destiny.’

In this world, the Martials rule the Empire and have done so for the last 500 years since they defeated the Scholars. Laia and her brother live with their grandparents after both their mother and father were killed for being a part of the Scholar Resistance. When her brother becomes privy to secrets the Martials would prefer to keep safe, they send Masks, elite soldiers, to capture him. Laia manages to escape but the guilt she bears for running instead of trying to save her brother eats her alive. When she seeks out the Resistance in order to ask for their help in saving her brother, she finds herself agreeing to become a slave, in exchange for their help, and signed up for a job that no one has survived: spying on the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy.

Elias is a soldier in training at Blackcliff Military Academy but has dreams of one day escaping from the vows he made and from his mother, the Commandant. Just when he thinks his plans are secure and he’ll be able to consider himself free, he is named an Aspirant, a candidate for the throne if he can beat out the three other competitors in the Trials. He has no desire to rule, however, refusing to compete is a death sentence. When Elias and Laia meet, even though they should be enemies, they both recognize that they share a common goal to one day become truly free.

I had to line it all out again because even just that snippet has me dumbfounded that it managed to be so dull. First and foremost in a fantasy world for me is the focus on world-building. The previously mentioned Roman inspiration is apparent and fairly detailed, but while this is also meant to be a fantasy that’s where the world-building got real choppy. There were fantasy creatures that we’re told were beings in stories the characters learned when they were children and they basically came out of nowhere with no explanation. Some fed off Laia’s sadness but the fact that she was able to see them was apparently rare but it was never mentioned again. It just wasn’t logical to me.

Next up in my list of letdowns, the characters. The chapters alternate between Elias and Laia’s points of view and these are the most inexplicably dull characters, ever. Absolutely nothing they did was ever any interest to me. The fact that Laia was constantly being abused throughout the entirety of the book should have at least drawn a modicum of sympathy from me but for some reason there was none. Their obligatory romance also completely lacked any sort of passion which made me care even less for the duo if that was even possible. There is also somewhat of a love triangle (with a dude with red hair and freckles — in Rome? Yeah, think on that one for a sec.) and I didn’t like him any better. There was literally nothing I enjoyed about this one, honestly. The only reason it’s not getting one star is because it wasn’t horrible it just wasn’t compelling at all. I found myself reading the last 7% of the story, one of the main characters is facing certain death (although let’s face it, something miraculous always happens to save the day so I wasn’t too concerned), bombs are going off, the crowd is in chaos… *yawn* Hey, I need to organize my filing cabinet. No exaggeration. It took me a full two days to finish the last 10%. I really should have just quit but there’s always that inkling of hope where you think something amazing is going to happen at the end to turn it all around. View Spoiler »

No, what we do get for the majority of this unreasonably long book is a lot of violence and bloodshed, primarily towards the female slave who is always either cowering in fear from threats, being whipped, fighting off rape, etc. I understand that this is all possibly meant to show how a slave lived in ancient times but there’s violence and then there’s gratuitous. I felt that line was crossed often. There were few redeemable females in the whole of this book. The Commander was sadistic and whipped her slaves for being a few minutes late with tea and even had another of her slave’s EYEBALL ripped out when they were only five years old. She’s a real peach. I loved the concept of Helene, the sole female Mask in her class, but instead of remaining that badass, empowered female she morphed overnight into this simpering fool when she falls for Elias. The jealous aspect was something I really could have done without. I did enjoy the scenes with Cook in it (another slave) and Izzi was tenacious despite the threat of violence as well so there’s that at least.

The plot moved at a snail’s pace. Much of the story is spent with Elias undergoing the trials and Laia trying to survive while still attempting to figure out how to save her brother. The ending is one I pretty much saw coming but still managed to feel so very staged and engineered and just blah. Nothing was really resolved despite my understanding that this was meant to be a standalone. I’ve heard differing opinions on this though. Apparently, it could be a series if the publisher opts to pick up other installments? But based on that ending it wasn’t close to being resolved. I can’t say I’m interested enough in picking up any future installments even if they do happen.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Soundless by Richelle Mead

Posted March 4, 2015 by Bonnie in Wednesday Posts / 6 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Soundless by Richelle MeadSoundless by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill on November 17th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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From Richelle Mead, the #1 internationally bestselling author of Vampire Academy andBloodlines, comes a breathtaking new fantasy steeped in Chinese folklore.

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever....

About Richelle Mead

Scorpio Richelle Mead is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy books for both adults and teens. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington where she works on her three series full-time: Georgina Kincaid, Dark Swan, and Vampire Academy.

A life-long reader, Richelle has always loved mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses. She's a self-professed coffee addict and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous.

This will be Mead’s first standalone (YES) and first fantasy! Plus it’s inspired by Chinese folklore so this sounds amazing already.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Posted February 6, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 11 Comments

Book Review – Paper Valentine by Brenna YovanoffPaper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Razorbill on January 8th 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Ghosties, Horror, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: a Giveaway
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Goodreads


three-stars

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

Hannah Wagnor is struggling to cope with the recent death of her best friend, Lillian, and the details surrounding it. There is also the fact that Lillian’s ghost now follows her everywhere. While trying to overcome her guilt at not being able to help Lillian when she was alive, Hannah is also trying to understand how to go on with life without her. In addition to Lillian’s ghost which haunts her are several other ghosts that start appearing and they are all victims of a recent serial killer in her small town.

This is actually the first story I’ve read of Brenna Yovanoff’s and I definitely enjoyed the story and her writing skills but Paper Valentine didn’t wow me as much as I’d anticipated. The storyline itself was a tale full of emotional resonance but the combination of the ‘coming-of-age’ tale of Hannah finding herself after the death of her best friend AND the serial killer taking out locals was a strange yet engaging mix that managed to work for the most part.

The narrative is told in the first person from the POV of Hannah from which we are able to see just how deeply rooted her depression is. Hannah is a compelling character yet I found many of her actions to be extremely unreasonable especially when it came to the expeditious love for the local bad boy, Finny Boone. Like the time Finny suggested they take a shortcut through the dark park? When there’s a serial killer on the loose? Or when Hannah leaves her younger sister home alone and her and Finny go off to swim in the lake? The overwrought lines regarding him were also treading on ridiculous:

“And then we’re looking at each other, and it’s a look that goes on and on, stretching across space and time. Across galaxies.”

The insta-love was there but was subdued enough to not be too bothersome. Seeing Hannah’s progression throughout the novel in finding her individual identity separate from who she was when Lillian was still alive was the most satisfying and convincing aspect of Paper Valentine. While this book had its flaws, it was a somewhat satisfying of a read and succeeded in capturing my interest for the authors previous novels.

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Early Review – The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

Posted July 11, 2012 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2012 / 1 Comment

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki LoftinThe Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin
Published by Razorbill on August 21, 2012
Pages: 305
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.

Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch.

What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!

Tagged as ‘Coraline’ meets ‘Hansel and Gretel’ but this also reminded me a lot of ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl (in a good way!)

As of late, Middle-Grade books seem to be popping up everywhere but there have been some amazingly good ones that I never would have thought I’d be able to enjoy. This is one those stories that is perfectly suited for the younger crowd but are still a fun adventure for adults as well. Highly recommended!

This debut novel was extremely well-written and will keep any reader entranced till the end. Not just an entertaining read, this comes equipped with a deep message that I feel will be easily understood by younger readers.

In addition to the near-perfect cover, there were several pictures throughout the story that I loved. The artist to the cover  is Alexander Jansson. I would highly recommend you check out his website and view some of his other works – they’re amazing!

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