Posts Categorized: YA

Audiobook Review – Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) by Laini Taylor

June 5, 2015 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2) by Laini TaylorDays of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Published by Hachette Audio on November 6th 2012
Pages: 15 hours and 21 minutes
Genres: Angels, Fantasy, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Dreams of Gods & Monsters

four-stars

The sequel to the mesmerizing, acclaimed book DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by National Book Award-finalist Laini Taylor

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was declared a "must read" by Entertainment Weekly, was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, and The New York Times called it "a breath-catching romantic fantasy."

Daughter of Smoke & Bone series

Audiobook Review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1) by Laini Taylor {My Review}

‘Once upon a time, a girl lived in a sandcastle, making monsters to send through a hole in the sky.’

Having finally discovered who she truly is, Karou finds herself on the side of the chimaera, in a pivotal role, in the impending battle against the seraphim. Including Akiva. Bitter and resentful for the memories that bombarded her, she’s still unable to stop her heart from missing him despite the damage he has done. But harden her heart she must, because war is coming and with so few chimaera remaining there is much work to be done. In the back of her mind is a tiny whisper, that contemplates how this all could be avoided without further bloodshed. And while she ponders this thought, Akiva does the same.

Days of Blood and Starlight took a completely different approach from its predecessor that I was not anticipating. Daughter left us with a tragic ending, Karou having remembered her past love of Akiva, subsequently emboldening her current love for him, except his admission of wrongdoing throws her heart into complete and utter turmoil. Feeling that she must do what she can to help her people she joins forces with the unlikeliest one, Thiago, in order to help him save what is left of their people. Thiago has a different goal in mind though and is hellbent on slaughter and vengeance, even at the risk of his own people. The pain that Karou suffers both internal and external is a hard pill to swallow, but is nonetheless a necessary evil. Akiva’s story was equally impressive and his unexpected decision was shocking and one I didn’t see coming.

Days of Blood and Starlight was a dark and grisly story that lacked the passionate romance I loved in Daughter, but only served to strengthen this story as a whole. I didn’t realize the lightness of the previous installment was almost overdone and that the darkness was a necessary building block that made this an exceptionally strong installment. And it must be mentioned, but the writing? It continues to make me swoon. All this carnage leaves only a sole book remaining and I am quite nervous to see how it all pans out. I can’t wait.

‘I am one of billions. I am stardust gathered fleetingly into form. I will be ungathered. The stardust will go on to be other things someday and I will be free.’

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Early Review – Lock & Mori (Lock & Mori #1) by Heather W. Petty

June 4, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

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

Early Review – Lock & Mori (Lock & Mori #1) by Heather W. PettyLock & Mori by Heather W. Petty
Series: Lock & Mori #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 15th 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Mystery-Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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two-stars

In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students—one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty—meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more…

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James “Mori” Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule—they must share every clue with each other—Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

I love Sherlock. I love anything to do with Sherlock. But this? I wanted to rip my hair out. The frustration was insane between the characterization, the absurd plot, the even more ridiculous ‘mystery’, but the insta-love thing Lock & Mori had going on was beyond foolish. All lumped together, it was positively rage inducing for me. But I’ll try to break it down and explain myself instead of just summing up my review with this gif:

The Mystery: A recent string of mysterious murders catches the attention of ‘Lock’ and subsequently Mori when he enlists her help in investigating. All murders occurred in the same spot and the murder weapon appears to be, strangely enough, a sword.

The Characters: Mori is the oldest of four children who lives with her alcoholic father and her three younger brothers. Her mother recently passed leaving her father a changed man, taking out his grief on his children. Sherlock Holmes? We’re told next to nothing about. He has a brother, and a sick mother and… yep. Basically, this was all Mori’s story, told from her point of view and Sherlock, unfortunately, ended up being nothing more than a supporting character. It would have been completely fine if Mori was a character I wanted an entire story about, and I didn’t.

The Romance: The two inevitably fall into a hasty romance where they seemingly spend approximately half the story kissing and Sherlock is continuously making awkward declarations of love.

“I thought I was more evolved than that. But my obsession with revenge […] with wanting to keep you near me from now on, I fear I’m outing myself as the Neanderthal I never thought I’d be.”

In addition, Mori is a constant angst-ball complaining about having to suffer through life’s tribulations all by herself and telling herself that she can’t tell Sherlock about herself because *gasp* he can’t know about her so she’s trying to solve this mystery by herself. Of course, all along Sherlock is practically a leech in human form and he sleeps on her bedroom floor at night to make sure she’s safe. Yeah. So alone. Poor thing.

But the one thing that bothered me so completely that it dwarfed all previously mentioned issues: the logic of the decision making. Sure, it could be argued that “this is fiction! logic isn’t a requirement!” Well, this is what I have to say to that:

Most of what I’d like to say is just a giant spoiler so I’ll try to be as vague as possible. You know those types of mysteries that have the characters doing the most ridiculous things (like trying to solve murders on their own) instead of being smart and just going to the police? This is one of those stories. You know those stories where the character has friends there for them and instead of allowing them to be of some help they choose to go off on their own and handle it themselves (predictably getting themselves in a world of shit in the process)? This is one of those stories. All these silly, stupid decisions could have all been avoided with a little common sense. Common sense isn’t quite so common apparently, at least when it comes to Mori.

The ending sets up even more future angst and unnecessary drama to come. Considering we know how Sherlock and Moriarty’s relationship typically ends up transpiring, I guess the groundwork had to be laid somehow. However the series progresses though, I won’t be around to witness. Sherlock and Moriarty both are two of the smartest individuals in fiction and in my opinion that shouldn’t change if you switch up their gender and turn their relationship into a love affair. I guess I now need to change my “I love anything to do with Sherlock” to “I love practically anything to do with Sherlock” because I definitely did not love this one.

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Audiobook Review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor

May 30, 2015 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 2 Comments

Audiobook Review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
on September 27, 2011
Length: 12 hours and 32 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods & Monsters

four-stars

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

‘Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.’

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is one much raved about series. I never quite jumped on that bandwagon having read this first book as soon as it was released and not finding it to my liking. I quickly slid into the shadows after I realized I was the illusive black sheep uncertain whether I intended on picking up the future installments. Well, we can all praise Bookish Bingo for pushing me to do a re-read and deciding to give this one a second chance because I really, really enjoyed this one.

This is going to be less of a review and more of an analysis. And a comparison between my first thoughts and current thoughts. Regarding my first review, there were several things that I don’t think I fully appreciated in my first read. First of those is the fantastic friendship between Karou and Zuzana. I didn’t even mention those two and I’m kind of appalled with myself. Her addition to the story added a lightness and a humor that brought Karou’s character to life. Her character was interesting already in her descriptions (the blue hair, the hamsa tattoos) but her interactions with her best friend brought out the personality that made her something more.

The other thing I clearly failed to appreciate was the romance (with Akiva). In my original read my mind immediately went to ‘insta-love’ failing to completely grasp the significance of their meeting, of who Karou is and that it was a far cry from anything related to insta-love. Initially sure, their romance might have seemed quick and reckless, especially when this is someone that is supposed to be her mortal enemy. But as soon as their connected past is revealed? And that ending? Tear my heart out and run it over.

Whether it was the audiobook that finally got me to love this one or my overdue appreciation for the subtleties that made this story so wonderful (or both) the narrator for this is still definitely deserving of praise. So rarely will I listen to an audio narration and immediately seek out all other audiobooks from that narrator because I can’t stop thinking “Damn, girl, you know how to tell a story.”

I was undecided whether I had an interest in continuing this series after my first read. This time, however, I have the second audio ready and waiting for me to finish wrapping up my thoughts. I’m definitely on the bandwagon now.

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Book Review – Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. Gaughen

May 29, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

Book Review – Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. GaughenLady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #2
Published by Walker Childrens on February 11th 2014
Pages: 321
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Scarlet, Lion Heart

two-half-stars

Scarlet's true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet's love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet's past even she isn't yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman-a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin's cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves. With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet's tale will have readers talking once again.

Scarlet series

Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen {PurchaseReview}

Someday. Definitely not in this installment though. Good grief, this was DARK. And sick. And just relatively hard to stomach. And here I was hoping to like this one more than the first installment when I actually think I liked this one less.

*spoilers from Scarlet will follow*

Lady Thief opens with Robin Hood suffering through the effects of the torture he had to endure leading him to him developing PTSD. On numerous occasions, Scarlet would wake in the night to find Robin in the throws of an attack, unaware of what he’s doing, but hurting her nonetheless. I understand that Robin isn’t doing any of these things maliciously but maybe sleeping next to him at night isn’t the wisest of choices? And then there’s the fact that Robin isn’t as apologetic as one would hope him to be. There was also the feeling that “love can heal” but Robin was clearly dealing with some serious mental issues at this point that would go beyond “love”. I’m well aware that there weren’t exactly psychologists during this period of time but the whole love heals message and use of PTSD as a plot-point just didn’t sit well with me. When she begins to blame herself for it all is where this one just about lost me completely. Adding to all that, Scarlet then agrees to pretend to be with Gisbourne in an attempt to get an annulment so that she and Robin can finally be together! But of course, Gisbourne is abusive too (the difference is he’s fully aware of what he’s doing) but at this point, Scarlet is transforming in my mind to Sansa and for fucks sake how much shit is this girl going to have to go through?

And since I brought up Game of Thrones, the newly introduced character of Prince John is an exact, spoiled replica of Joffrey.

He’s a horrible, miserable human being but Scarlet is determined to suffer through it all just as long as she can get that annulment. Which, seriously? Thievery is cool. Murder? Sure, why not. But heaven forbid you allow yourself to kiss the love of your life because you just so happened to be forced into marrying a sadist.

Morals. Whatever. Moving on.

Lady Thief is the second in a trilogy and suffers from middle-book-syndrome. The plot doesn’t consist of any forward-moving progression, choosing instead to focus on stuff like pain, torture, pain, and some more pain. Seriously, I don’t understand why Gisbourne was even still alive at this point since they were able to swiftly deal with the sheriff in the last installment. Would have saved everyone a whole lotta torture (and pain) if he just ceased to exist. And alas, that ending failed to hint at any happily ever after in the near future. I enjoyed the continued expansion on Scarlet’s backstory but this poor girl just can’t catch a break. Lion Heart is the final installment and last hope for a HEA… we’ll see if it actually happens.

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Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen

May 28, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 8 Comments

Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. GaughenScarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #1
Published by Walker Childrens on June 7th 2012
Pages: 305
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Lady Thief, Lion Heart

two-half-stars

Posing as one of Robin Hood's thieves to avoid the evil Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only Big John and Robin Hood know the truth-that the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. It's getting harder to hide as Gisbourne's camp seeks to find Scarlet and drive Robin Hood out of Nottinghamshire.

But Scarlet's instinct for self-preservation is at war with a strong sense of responsibility to the people who took her in when she was on the run, and she finds it's not so easy to turn her back on her band and townspeople. As Gisbourne draws closer to Scarlet and puts innocent lives at risk, she must decide how much the people of Nottinghamshire mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles and temper have the rare power to unsettle Scarlet. Full of exciting action, secrets, and romance, this imaginative retelling of the classic tale will have readers following every move of Robin Hood and band of thieves.

‘I do what I do because I will always believe that no matter how awful life gets for however many of these people, there is something I can do about it. There is something I will do about it.’

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a huge fan of Robin Hood tales. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my all-time favorite movies and never fails to give me the swoons. I mean come on, just look at those two.

*cue Bryan Adams*

When I first heard about this twisted retelling, I was a bit hesitant. I expected a love story and (hopefully) an interesting backstory leading up to how Scarlet became a member of Robin and his band of thieves and why she’s posing as a boy in the first place. There was definite potential there but my initial hesitation was dead-on seeing as I did not love this as most have.

In regards to Scarlet’s backstory, I really liked this aspect and somehow managed to not see the twist that was clearly coming from a mile away. But once all is revealed, there were some things that failed to add up for me. Primarily, her speech. She talks like Osha from Game of Thrones, it was ridiculous. It’s highly uneducated and once you realize who and what she actually is it begins to sound incredibly forced. I understand that speaking in such a way served only to put her in less of a spotlight and allows her to blend in with the village folk, however, if she was trying to stay out of the spotlight maybe she shouldn’t have constantly been taking so many highly unnecessary risks? She was constantly putting herself and the band in danger and after the first couple of times, I was ready to kick her out of the band myself. But the fighting was awesome and badass! Except… more things failed to add up. Like where Scarlet picked up those awesome fighting/knife skills. It couldn’t have all been self-preservation and learning on her own. There was zero mention of any of that and there should have been since her past would have never included any knowledge related to fighting/thievery.

And now for the love story. I’m sorry but… it irritated me.

While I’m fully aware that a love story happened in my previously mentioned favorite movie, this love story still managed to come off as completely ill-fitting. There just seemed to be entirely too much going between the Sheriff of Nottingham killing villagers and the new thief taker brought in from London for there to be a legit romance let alone a freaking love triangle. WITH JOHN LITTLE. I could have accepted the romance but the love triangle pushed me overboard. There was also the fact that I just didn’t swoon over these too as much as I would have liked. Then there were lines like this:

“You called me a whore, Rob. You said awful things.”
“Ah,” he said, and his hand took mine again, tight. “Hurting you is the best way I know how to punish myself.

Ha! Change of Robins. But seriously, I don’t even know where to begin with that line.

One last and final issue is the fact that this is a historical novel that failed to feel anything like a historical novel. I missed the detail and the feel of this medieval time period being brought to life. But this is definitely one of the smaller issues I had with this novel.

Scarlet was, unfortunately, a massive disappointment for me. I went into this one with high hopes and maybe that was the problem. It intrigued me enough to continue this series with the hope that it will improve.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

May 27, 2015 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday, YA 8 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn BennettThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Binding the Shadows, Banishing the Dark, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?

About Jenn Bennett

JENN BENNETT is an artist and author who writes books for adults and teens, including the Roaring Twenties series (Bitter Spirits, Berkley Sensation) and the Arcadia Bell UF series (Kindling the Moon, Pocket Books). Her first YA contemporary romance, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, will be released in 2015 (Feiwel & Friends). She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs. Visit her at www.jennbennett.net.

Jenn Bennett tackles Contemporary YA (one of my least read genres) however I’m totally on board because I’m really loving the concept of this one.

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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Early Review – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

May 8, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 3 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.

Early Review – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 12th 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
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Also by this author: The Rose & the Dagger

four-half-stars

A sweeping and lush tale of romance and adventure

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.

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, this sumptuous and epically told love story heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in YA.

‘It did not matter that this world was far from as simple as she might have thought.
And it absolutely did not matter that her heart was… mis-behaving.
She had come to the palace with a clear purpose.
The Caliph of Horasan had to die.’

Shahrzad, sixteen years old, has been battling with her grief since her best friend was murdered by her husband, Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, Caliph of Khorasan. For reasons unknown, he takes a bride each night only to have her killed in the morning. When Shahrzad actually volunteers to marry him, her family and childhood sweetheart, Tariq, are devastated. To everyone’s surprise, she survives the dawn and begins to put her plan into action: to find the weakness of the Caliph of Khorasan that will help her to avenge her murdered best friend. She begins to realize though that his only weakness is Shahrzad herself.

Reading has been a bit of a struggle for me lately and I tentatively started this one not expecting to be able to stick with it. I also had some serious doubts that it would end up being something that lived up to the hype for me, especially after recently reading another super-hyped story that ended up being a major disappointment for me. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t stop flipping the pages, couldn’t stop wondering what was going to happen next, and couldn’t keep the ridiculous grin off my face watching all the emotions unfold. Oh man, the feels. They got me. For the most part, the story is told from the point of view of Shahrzad, however, we’re also given scenes through the eyes of Khalid and Tariq. All three points of view intertwine to form a most enthralling tale.

“As silver-tongued as a viper.” He laughed. “Tell me, my lady, do you ever miss a moment to strike?”
Shahrzad smiled, and it was brilliant and biting, all at once. “I fear that would be unwise, my lord. Especially in a den of snakes.”

I loved Shahrzad. She was wonderfully snarky and witty and courageous and bold. The addition in her story to being a prowess at the bow and arrow only sealed the deal to my love of her. I had my doubts at first that the story could pull off credibly Shahrzad falling in love with Khalid. I mean come on, she married her best friends murderer with the intent to kill him herself. How possibly could that be turned around legitimately? Well, I’m happy to say that it was done extremely well and I was completely sold. The passion between those two… that’s where that perma-grin I mentioned comes into play.

‘Her lips were hers one moment. And then they were his. The taste of him on her tongue was like sunwarmed honey. Like cool water sliding down her parched throat. Like the promise of all her tomorrows in a single sigh. When she wound her fingers in his hair to draw her body against his, he stilled for breath, and she knew, as he knew, that they were lost.
Lost forever.
In this kiss.
This kiss that would change everything.’

This could have easily been insta-love, but instead, it was a beautiful, slow and steady build up of honest emotion. It was a lovely thing to witness and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. Khalid even won me over at the same time. His pain and grief over what he felt he had to do, was his own personal suffering and it showed. I loved his own path to self-realization and how he became more confident in his roles and the decisions he had to make rather than sitting back and accepting his lot in life. I can’t wait to see how that continues in the next installment.

I had massive love for this book but there were a few aspects that could have made this better for me. First, I wanted to know more about Shahrzad’s family, especially her father, and there seems no doubt we’ll find out more in The Rose and the Dagger. The magical aspects of the novel were incredibly interesting and while I wished there was more of it, I appreciated the subtlety of it all. Second, Tariq’s character was a major low point and I disliked his point of view sections even if I can understand how necessary they were to see things from that aspect, to learn what all was being set in motion. Tariq is Shahrzad’s childhood sweetheart and while I get the whole “do whatever it takes to protect her” he got a bit manic about it, especially once he started realizing she was changing her mind about Khalid. He jumped to the conclusion that something was being done to her to make her change her typically immutable mind, which I get, but could have ultimately done without. Essentially I just wanted more kissy scenes. All the kissy scenes and all the swoons, please.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a wistful re-imagining of Arabian Nights with a forbidden romance that will leave you completely enchanted. I’m both eager and dreading the concluding story, The Rose and the Dagger, and desperately wishing for a satisfying ending that won’t leave my heart in tatters.

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

April 28, 2015 Bonnie 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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


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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Early Review – Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2) by Anne Blankman

April 10, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

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

Early Review – Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2) by Anne BlankmanConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21st 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, WWII
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Prisoner of Night and Fog

three-half-stars

In this thrilling sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog—perfect for fans of Code Name Verity—Gretchen and Daniel must uncover dark secrets and revisit old enemies to unravel a dangerous conspiracy.

In 1930s Oxford, the days are long and pleasant, the people simple and straightforward.

Except for one.

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: she used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

Prisoner of Night and Fog series

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Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman {PurchaseMy Review}

‘It was starting. What Hitler had always promised – the Party and Germany were becoming one. The union that she had once thought sounded so perfect. Now it terrified her.’

 The year is 1933. Gretchen and Daniel have managed to extricate themselves from the dangers of Germany and have been slowly rebuilding their lives in England. Their lives are far from perfect and they both miss their families, but they’re at least safe. When Daniel receives a telegram with terrible news about an incident involving his family he rushes back to Germany without a second thought. Gretchen, being unable to remain sitting in safety while constantly wracked with worry, packs her bags and follows him straight back into danger.

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke centers around the mystery behind the factual Reichstag fire. Gretchen and Daniel feel that if they can expose the lies surrounding the fire that they can hopefully put a stop to Hitler’s rise to power. I actually knew very little about the fire prior to this read so a little investigation of my own was needed. It was shocking to learn just how important that fire became in establishing Nazi Germany because as a result of the fire, Hitler was able to get the Reichstag Fire Decree passed which subsequently suspended civil liberties of German citizens. This Decree remained in effect throughout WWII, technically legalizing many of Hitler’s actions according to German law. That time in history will never cease to shock me.

This second installment in the duology was a solid one with the inclusion of actual historical events adding some legitimacy to this tale. The characters seemed to be constantly placing themselves needlessly in danger but I can’t decide whether it was actually or the fact that we know the outcome of it all made it just seem like a lost cause. Akin to horror movies where people are constantly making the worst possible decisions and you’re screaming at them to stop, I was begging them to stop from the very start when Gretchen and Daniel both travel back to Germany and right into Hitler’s dangerous hands. But considering it from their point of view, they may have understood the danger as it was during that time, but they couldn’t even begin to understand just how terrible it would truly get.

Equally knowledgeable and thrilling, this is a must-read for historical fiction fans. What I loved most about this duology is how interesting it was to read a story that was set well before the war, just as Hitler was first gaining power. While we are all cognizant of the occurrences of WWII, it was still hard not to hope that Gretchen and Daniel would actually succeed.

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Book Review – Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

April 3, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 0 Comments

Book Review – Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa MeyerFairest by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3.5
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 27th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Sci-fi
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress

four-half-stars

In this stunning bridge book between CRESS and WINTER in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana's story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her "glamour" to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

The Lunar Chronicles series

Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5)  {Online Free Read}
The Little Android (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.6) {Online Free Read}
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer {PurchaseMy Review}
The Queen’s Army (The Lunar Chronicles #1.5) by Marissa Meyer {Online Free Read}
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer {PurchaseMy Review}
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer {Purchase – My Review}

‘Levana had not seen the bodies, but she had seen the bedrooms the next morning, and her first thought was that all that blood would make for a very pretty rouge on her lips.’

Fairest opens on disaster from the very start with Princess Levana and her older sister Channary attending the funeral of her recently murdered parents. Channary being the older sister ascends the throne despite the fact that Levana would be the far superior ruler. It could be said that the beginning of Levana’s mental breakdown happened after a childhood tragedy left her scarred and disfigured. Levana became obsessed with physical beauty which she can only personally obtain by using her Lunar glamour to change how others see her. Whether this knowledge of her past allows you to forgive Levana her actions or not, her story is full of shocking revelations that will nonetheless change everything you thought you knew about her.

We all knew Levana was psychotic before we got her full story, but finally we find out why. We also find out that Levana wasn’t always this way, that particular circumstances set her on this path of madness and it’s far more sad than I ever would have expected. Taking us back to a time before Cinder even existed, Meyer gives us a spin on the story of the Wicked Queen from Snow White: the story of Levana and the path that led her who she became. I’m not sure what it says about me exactly, but this story of the villain we’ve all come to despise has been my absolute favorite installment in the series. What I found most impressive was how Meyers introduced Levana as a good character and in just 222 pages had her character arc come so far as to make her transformation to the Evil Queen one of complete authenticity. The focus on character development lessened the amount of ongoing action but it was still a moving story. Also, in terms of the plot originality we’ve come to expect from other installments, there was less variation from the original fairy tale but while the conclusion seemed far from unexpected it still managed to leave me astonished.

It’s always an exciting switch to be inside the mind of the villain and Meyer doesn’t disappoint. We may be more informed as far as Levana is concerned, but her methods of ruling are still drastic and often extreme yet having this knowledge of her will certainly have me looking at her with a closer eye when we see her again in Winter.

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