Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

Reading this book was a wonderful way to start off 2017! I felt like I has lost a friend when I had finished. Let's talk about it!

The Bear and The Nightingale 
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... 

Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.

The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect book to read on a day where I could see snow falling through the window. Arden's writing is lush and beautiful. I adored the fairy-tale feeling of this story. Everything was vivid from the characters to the Russian setting. I was completely immersed.

The book started off a bit slow for me. The writing was exceptionally gorgeous from the beginning, but I had to get used to a slower pace and lots of characters. Once, I was a few chapters in though, I was in for the long haul. I loved Arden's eye for details and I could tell she was passionate about creating a world that seemed real. The Russian setting was exquisite. Also you learned a lot of character's backstories. 

Our whole cast of characters was intriguing. Vasya, her father, step-mother, brothers, sisters, nurse, Konstantin, Frost, and many more characters play a part. Vasya is wild, independent, and strange. She's victim to being a woman in medieval Russia so she's treated like property a lot, although she rarely lets others control her. She can ride a horse as good as a man. And she rebels against marriage and the church. She's the underdog you have to root for. There's not a major romance plot line for Vasya here, but I sense one in later books. 

One of our main conflicts is the church vs common local beliefs in spirits and fairytales. When a renown priest comes and strikes fear of God into the hearts of the townspeople, the spirits grow hungry and restless as they are ignored and forgotten. Vasya knows this isn't good. And she can see these spirits, and she is also the target of a great evil. The ending of the novel is climatic, powerful, and left me breathless. 

Overall, I cannot recommend The Bear and the Nightingale enough. If it starts off feeling slow to you, persevere! I was so glad I did. This is a magical, well-researched, intriguing read. If you love medieval Russia, fairy tales, religion and myths, and atmosphere, pick this book up! I cannot wait to see what Arden does in the sequels. I want to see more of the brother, Sasha, and Morov, The Frost Demon, in book two. 

*Received for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers*

4.5/5 Stars
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Happy 2017! A new year brings new books... and boy do I want to read all of them! Here are the gems I am MOST excited for:

1. Strange the Dreamer
Laini Taylor's writing is unparalleled. It's beautiful, emotional, and eccentric in it's own way. After falling in love with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I am breathlessly awaiting Strange the Dreamer. It's my #1 most anticipated of the year.

2. A Court of Wings and Ruin
A VERY close second to Strange the Dreamer is A Court of Wings and Ruin.  You all know I am a huge Sarah J Maas fan and ACOMAF holds a big place in my heart. I can't wait to see what Feyre gets up to in this third book, especially after ACOMAF's brilliant ending.

3. Always and Forever Lara Jean
A third book? A third book! Jenny Han has absolutely delighted me with the announcement of the unexpected conclusion to Lara Jean's story. These books are some of my absolute favorite contemporaries.

4. The Valiant
The cover, the synopsis, the blurbs, the excellent bloggers shouting praise... yeah, this looks like an Emily book. Female gladiators! Fighting school! Rome! Julius Caesar!

5. By Your Side
My mission to read all of Kasie West's novels continues. They are just so cute plus the premise is that our two main characters get trapped in a library together. I repeat: a library!!! Doesn't that just sounds perfect?

6. Royal Bastards
With a title like Royal Bastards, who can doubt that this book will be awesome? If you are not sold, check out this in-depth synopsis on Goodreads, I am so ready for this YA royal romp. (Also can't wait to see the final cover!)

7. The Upside of Unrequited
I will read anything the author of Simon Vs. The Homosapien's Agenda writes. And this sounds amazing and cute... I'm so, so excited.

8. The Hate U Give
This looks like such an important read- it's inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement! I love the author's voice on twitter and I have heard so much praise for this book. I have a feeling this will be a major release this year.

9. Traitor to the Throne
We all know I loved Rebel of the Sands... so this should come as no surprise. I am so ready for this sequel and I want more Amani and Jin! (Also, yes I'm using the cover image I want to be on the US version *cries*)

10. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue 
LGBTQ read with two gentlemen embarking on a Grand Tour of Europe and having adventures? Yes please! Plus I hear there are a lot of pages.... I love big books.

11. Caraval
Okay, I already read this! But I loved it and can't wait to buy a final copy for my bookshelves. Read my review here. It's so magical and brilliant, trust me.

12. Hunted 
This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling from an author that I trust with a gorgeous cover... there's no way I'm not adding this to my bookshelf when it releases!

Coverless/No title:
ToG #6
*Sobs* After Eos I NEED this, but also I'm scared and don't want it to end!

Untitled- The Diabolic #2 
Yay! I knew The Diabolic wouldn't stay a standalone!!!

It was so hard keeping this list (semi) short!!! Which books are you impatient for this year? :) 
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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Double Review: The Impostor Queen and The Cursed Queen

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Wow. This was Fine's best book yet! The Impostor Queen was compelling, inventive, and featured an amazing cast of characters. All fantasy lovers like me won't be able to resist this tale of a girl who didn't turn out to be the queen she though she was. 

So, let me quickly summarize this: Elli has been raised as a Saadella to become the Valtia of the Kupari. However, when she fails to inherit the powers of fire and ice from the previous Valtia, she is forced to run from her pampered life. 
Elli ends up living with a group of rebels and criminals. And there she learns she is not so powerless after all. A prophecy gives her a role in perhaps saving the Kupari from both the dangerous raiders, the Solturi, and from surprising corruption and evil within their own walls. 

I admired Elli for her love for her people, her Valtia, and her Saadella. I also loved how hard she worked and grew through the book. And I can't not mention the romance! Elli is bi, and has a crush on a girl in the beginning. I loved Fine's diversity! However, the main ship in this book is between Oskar and Elli. I loved these two together sooooo much. I can't wait for more of them. 

Overall, The Impostor Queen was a major win. I was surprised how quickly I got sucked into the pages. The twists and turns in this new world of magic and strife are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. After finishing this, I was so pumped for The Cursed Queen! 

The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine 
Ansa has always been a fighter. As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her place next to Thyra, the daughter of the Krigere Chieftain. She fought for her status as a warrior in her tribe: blood and victory are her way of life. But the day the Krigere cross the great lake and threaten the witch queen of the Kupari, everything changes.

Cursed by the queen with fire and ice, Ansa is forced to fight against an invisible enemy—the dark magic that has embedded itself deep in her bones. The more she tries to hide it, the more dangerous it becomes. And with the Krigere numbers decimated and the tribe under threat from the traitorous brother of the dead Chieftain, Ansa is torn between her loyalty to the Krigere, her love for Thyra, and her own survival instincts.

With her world in chaos and each side wanting to claim her for their own, only one thing is certain: unless Ansa can control the terrible magic inside her, everything she’s fought for will be destroyed.

I really loved The Cursed Queen. This story is fierce, dark, action-packed, and offers a new, unexpected perspective. However, I am forewarning you that we have a new cast of characters. No Elli. No Oskar. Now we have Ansa, Thyra, and others. Be prepared for the sister story to the Impostor Queen; It's around the same timeline in a different place. And it reveals the true queen of the Kupari!

Ansa is in the Solturi tribe, although they call themselves the Krigere. Ansa is ruthless, scary, and flawed. She's sometimes even unlikable. And that's what made her a real and intriguing character. After a battle with the Kupari "Witch Queen", Ansa is certain she has been cursed with witchcraft. She suddenly has powers over fire and ice (If you've read the Impostor Queen you'll know what this means). Ansa has to come to terms with recognizing the significance of her newfound magic.

I love Sarah Fine's openness for diversity and lgbtq characters. I also love how she doesn't make a big deal of these things. The characters love who they love, and that's that. Ansa and Thyra are our main couple. They have a lot of chemistry but boy do they have a lot of difficulties! They have trust problems, rank problems, and they disagree on a lot of moral principles. Thyra, the Solturi leader, was a very interesting character. In fact, in some ways, she was more likable than Ansa. She is deadly, but, unlike her tribespeople, Thyra doesn't have a taste for killing, plundering, and raiding. This difference in values causes rifts between the Solturi and Thyra.

Our new characters are... well... some are good, some are bad, and a lot are a bit of both. Fine's characters have layers, and faults, and secrets. But let me just say I loved Halina as a character. Others of the cast included Sanders, Jasper, Nisse, and more.

Overall, the Cursed Queen was an interesting, surprising, and twisty read. Fine's decision to give us a key character from an "enemy" tribe was both brave and ingenious. I can't wait to see how the fates of Elli and Ansa entwine in the third book. I'm so excited!

Note: I read this immediately after the Impostor Queen, and I think reading these back-to-back is a good idea because, while the characters are new, the stories obviously go hand in hand. The reader probably should try to remember the significance of the Solturi, the Kupari, the Valtia, Sig, Keiko, and more.

*I received this book for free from the publisher. Thank you Simon and Schuster! 

Hope you enjoyed my review of this wonderful new series! What are your thoughts?

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best 2016 Releases

It's that time of year to round up all the favorites! I can't believe 2017 is almost here. Also, by the way, I only picked nine releases this year!

1. A Court of Mist and Fury  
Yes, I'm tired of hearing myself talk about it too. To recap: 5 stars of amazingness, magic, fae, courts, Rhysand, wings, painting, and power. I am ready for ACOWAR. 

2. Empire of Storms
I finally finished this baby over winter break! I'll have a whole post up soon (hopefully!) talking about this beauty. Sarah J. Maas killed me in this one. 

3. My Lady Jane 
I really want to reread this one. It's funny, adventurous, and creative. I SO love when authors mess with history. Here are five reasons to pick My Lady Jane up

4. A Torch Against The Night 
I finally read An Ember In The Ashes and, after surprisingly falling in love, I immediately picked up the sequel. ATATN did not disappoint. Sabaa Tahir is a talented writer and her dark, fierce, beautiful storytelling captivated me. Laia, Elias, and Helene are such amazing characters. 

5. The Diabolic
I read this on a plane and I was glued to it's pages the entire flight! Nemesis is one of my favorite characters ever and I loved the political intrigue, powerful relationships, and action in space. Kincaid just recently announced sequels! 

6. The Long Game
Jennifer Barnes' Fixer series is so underrated. This sequel was twisty, and all my ships kind of fell to pieces, and everything was horrible and I still loved it so much. Politics and scandal abound. Go read this so I can have a third book!! I NEED to know what happens next. Here is my review for The Long Game

7. The Butterfly Garden
This was a disturbing, terrifying thriller that I picked up after reading Emily May's review on Goodreads. It was not my normal read, but the Butterfly Garden kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time with it's dark case and surprising twists and turns. 

8. It Ends With Us
I haven't always been successful with Colleen Hoover in the past. It Ends With Us, however, blew me away. I cried and laughed and smiled and cried some more. The author was brave to write this novel, there is no doubt. 

9. Rebel of the Sands 
This was one of my more recent reads and I am still so in love. I feel like this book is a mix of Tamora Piece and An Ember in the Ashes? Does that make sense? Jin and Amani are adorable, plus there is so much lady power. Here are 5 reasons to read Rebel of the Sands. 

What were your favorite books of 2016? Have you read any on my list? Are any on your TBR?

Thanks for stopping by! 

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Monday, December 19, 2016

5 Reasons to Read Rebel of the Sands

Over Thanksgiving Break, I read devoured Rebel of the Sands in a matter of days. So, without further ado, here are five reasons to pick up this book:

1. Amani- and all the girl power
Our main character, Amani Al'Hiza, is one of those characters I couldn't help but root for from the beginning. She is tough, smart, and a sharpshooter. Amani's voice is both gritty and real. How could you not love a character with the nickname The Blue-eyed Bandit?

2. Jin- everyone's favorite fugitive
Jin was another amazing character. I loved every run-in with him, as excitement always followed. I loved seeing him and Amani grow close and I can't wait to see more of them together!

3. The desert and all its surprises 
First of all, the desert seems to live and breathe in this book. It is so vividly described and you can see how it is such a part of Amani. And, the best part, is that mythological creatures roam the desert. All of the mythology in Rebel of the Sands was incredibly well developed.

4. Guns! Shooting! Adventure!  
I was surprised and impressed by Alwyn Hamilton's affinity for action scenes. There is never a dull moment and I loved Amani's ability with a gun. The fight and on-the-run scenes were always fraught with tension.

5. The ending- I'm ready for book two 
After some amazing reveals and twists, I am ready for everything to go down in Traitor to the Throne. (Although I am a bit disappointed by the cover change... Rebel of the Sands is SO BEAUTIFUL and I would have loved the second book to match. *sigh*)

Overall, I cannot recommend Rebel of the Sands enough. You will want to get on board with this new, exciting series!!!

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Friday, December 16, 2016

My Auto-Buy Authors: Part One

2016 is coming to a close and I think it is time to reflect on all the great authors, the new and the old. Here are the authors who could write a cookbook and I'd buy it :D

1. Sarah J Maas

Maas is a no-brainer. I've written an entire post about my love for her work! (Read it here.) Her books are thrilling, beautiful, and pull me into new worlds. Likewise, her storytelling and world building abilities are insane. ACOMAF might be my #1 read this year.

2. Rainbow Rowell

My love for Rainbow Rowell knows no bounds. I own three copies of Fangirl alone! My other favorites are Carry On and Attachments. If you haven't picked up her work, you should get on that :D Her books are always simultaneously cute, real, and out-of-the-box.

3. Richelle Mead

While I wasn't on board with The Glittering Court, Mead's work has previously always been reliable. Vampire Academy and Bloodlines are two of my all-time favorite series. In my opinion, her strength is in her characters. Who could not love Rose, Dimitri, Sydney, and Adrian? I can never resist Mead's novels... and I hope her next books meet her earlier standards.

4. Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins can do no wrong in my eyes. Anna, Lola, and Isla were all perfection. One of the most reread books on my shelves is Anna and the French Kiss. It's funny, has a serious message, and always makes me smile. I also applaud Perkins for her Summer Days and My True Love Gave to Me anthologies. I cannot wait for her next endeavor.

5. Rick Riordan

My childhood! This dude is responsible for my obsession with mythology. I have every single one of Riordan's mg/ya books. I admittedly still need to read some of his newer series, but Percy Jackson and the Kane Chronicles are forever in my heart. (PS we are all just pretending the PJ movies never happened, right?)

6. Kristin Cashore

Let's talk about Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. These books are the epitome of what makes fantasy amazing. I read Fire and Bitterblue this year (I don't know why I waited so long) and they knocked my socks off. Fierce female characters and the expansive world make this series a standout.

P.S I had so many authors I wanted to talk about that I'm making two parts! Be on the lookout for part two soon <3

Who are your auto-buy authors??? 

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Caraval: A 2017 Release to Watch!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
 Mark your calendars for January 31st!
There is no doubt about it, Caraval will be the next big thing to hit YA shelves. Stephanie Garber has penned a breath-taking debut full of magic and twists and delicious, dangerous atmosphere.
The Premise:
Two sisters, Scarlett and Tessa, escape their home to participate in the fantastical Caraval. Headed by the mysterious Legend, Caraval is an event the sisters have wanted to see since they were very young. Then, Tella is taken, as a part of Caraval's game. Scarlett, with the help of Julian, an unexpected ally, has to find her sister within five days.  
The Setting:
This book shines with it's imaginative and descriptive look at scenes of Caraval. Things are glamorous, weird, decadent, and creepy. You can buy things with secrets, nightmares, or days of your life. The people around you may be allies or enemies. Nothing is as it seems. 
The Characters: 
I loved the strong sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella. They both want to protect each other. I also loved how Garber showed the differences in their personalities: She showed both Scarlett's fear and Tella's recklessness. Then, of course, we have Julian. He was such an intriguing character, and the romance was exciting and well-done. 
The Special Effects: 
Now I come to what I call the "special effects" of Caraval. And by that I mean all the clever twists and games Garber has put into her book. You will be addicted to turning Caraval's pages, waiting for what will happen next. I finished it in two days! 
In Conclusion: 
I cannot wait for the sequel! (And I definitely have a long wait!) Caraval has a complete story arc on it's own, but Garber teases us with so many more questions to be answered and characters to meet and a world to explore in her epilogue. 
4.5/5 Stars 
P.S Isn't the cover stunning? 
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