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Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies #1)

Release Date: June 7, 2016
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 512 pages
Source: Purchased Book/Library Audio Book

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

    

Review:

Protagonists: Oh my lord, these protagonists are fantastic. Jane is a witty and stubborn girl who won't just stand there and be told what to do, by society or anyone. She's a spitfire who can get into trouble and her stubborn streak won't always get her where she needs to go, and honestly can put her in danger at this time of political turmoil. Edward always felt like he was made to be a king, however, once he leaves his gilded tower, he may find that he isn't best suited for the job and that he may not be the great king he thinks himself as. G spends his days as a horse, but he has the heart of a poet and true romantic. He can't change his form at will as other Eðians seem to be able to do, and after getting married to Jane Grey he may be more frustrated with her than his condition. As I said, I loved all these characters, not all of them are perfect, in fact, none of them are perfect, but it's their imperfections that make them such joys to read about.

Romances: This isn't an overly romantic book by any means. There is romance in this book, in fact, there are multiple romances in this book, but even though they factor into the story in some very large ways, they don't' have much of a heavy presence, which I loved. Somehow, some way, these authors were able to convey romances that felt truer than many I've read before, but somehow did it in less time. It's a marvel. Don't get me wrong, I loved the romance when it showed up and things between Jane and G, as well as Edward and his love interest, felt so real and it didn't take much before I was rooting for each couple.

World Building: I'm a sucker for Tudor England, and even more so for things that involve either Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and/or Queen Elizabeth I. I didn't know who Jane Grey was before reading this book, I didn't much care except for that this story, that I'd heard nothing but positive hype toward, featured her. When I found out who she was and what part (however small) she played in history, I was nearly chomping at the bit to read this book and I'm so happy I finally did. This book is set in a world where there is contention between Verities and Eðians, these are allegories for Catholics and Protestants respectfully, and honestly, this way was more fun and far more whimsical as Eðians have the ability to change into animal forms, though it seems other than that there is no more magic in this world. The way the authors tell this story, as it truly did feel like I was being told a story and not just because I mostly listened to the Audio Book, has so much humor and excitement folded in. I can't believe how many times I laughed while reading this book. I knew it was a comedy, but I never fully grasped how until I started this story.

Predictability: When I first started this tale I thought I was able to very easily catch onto some twists that I wasn't expecting to be revealed until after the midpoint of this story. Then, quick as a cat the twists played out much earlier than I expected and I was left flabbergasted. Honestly, other than a few things I wasn't able to predict much at all in this book. It's not as though there were huge game-changing twists in this book, mostly things followed the status quo for a YA novel, however that doesn't mean that it didn't veer left or right when I wasn't expecting it to.

Ending: The final climax of this story is amazing, it really is a testament to each of these characters, their strengths, their weaknesses, and how far they've come over the course of this story. It was exciting and full of tension and suspense as things were coming to a head. This is a standalone and as such everything was tied up by the end. This doesn't exactly mean everyone had a happily ever after, but I was never left feeling as though there was more to this story to tell.

Rating:


I never expected this book to live up to the hype. I heard it was funny, witty, and exciting and while I expected to like it, I ended up totally loving it. From the writing style, the humor, and the phenomenal characters, this was such a quick read for me because I literally couldn't put it down. (Maybe not literally, but pretty darn close!)

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Blog Tour Book Review: Death Island + GIVEAWAY!

Release Date: December 31, 2017
Author: Kelsy Ketch
Publisher: Self-Published
Length: 726 pages
Source: Review Copy Provided by Good Choice Reading Promotions

Her family name tainted by her great-grandfather’s crimes of piracy, Meriden Cummings is far from the typical 18th century woman. A social outcast, she works in a carpentry shop in a small village, where the people barely tolerate unconventional behavior.

However, her life takes a turn after a gang of pirates attack her village and her blood reveals an ancient map adorned with Mayan glyphs leading to Death Island. An island legends say is ruled by the Mayan god of the underworld, Ah Puch. Her great-grandfather had sought after the island before he vanished without a trace. Now, Meriden is about to journey across the sea to understand her family history.

There are only a few problems: her growing feelings toward a mysterious stranger linked to her great-grandfather’s past; a greedy band of pirates after her great-grandfather’s legendary treasure; and a contract she has unwittingly signed in blood with Ah Puch himself.

    

Review:

Protagonists: This story is told from two points of view. The first being Meriden, the daughter of a carpenter, and a girl with fire in her veins. She isn't one to be told what to do, and she'll turn and give society the finger for trying to force her to someone she isn't. The second is Gregory, who upon meeting him is being held captive and tortured by pirates, which include his own brother. After said pirates attack Meriden's town, the two meet and go along on an epic seafaring adventure to find the lost and mythical Death Island. I really enjoyed both characters a lot, in fact, their backstories and characterization made them fascinating to read from. As the story progresses, despite some rather annoying events, their characters grow and develop even further. I appreciated how these two broken souls learned to not only lean on each other but, their friends and fellow crew members over the course of the story.

Romance: One of my biggest pet peeves is what I like to call the "True Love Rebound" trope, where you have one, or two individuals, who have been in serious relationships only to have those end horribly and for them to, almost immediately, or at least it feels that way to the reader, find their next romance to be their "actual" true love. It does give reason to why they wouldn't be chomping at the bit to find another romantic partner, but in the end, it just sort of feels like a rebound. This was the case for both our protagonists as they fight their growing feelings for one another. I say growing, but it's sort of handled like an insta-love held back by the previous hurt of their failed relationships and that was what made this romance hard to stomach at first. Over time it was easier to feel their bond and to really start to root for them as a couple, but it took some groaning on my part.

World Building: Now, I'm not expert on the linguistics of early eighteenth century England or Colonial America, but at least toward the beginning of this story, I found some of the phrases and idioms to be too modern for the era. Again, I could, and just might be, ignorant to when these phrases and idioms were first introduced, but they really pulled me out of the story whenever I came across them. As the story went on I noticed them less and less, but much like the romance, it felt like a bit of a slog to get through. The rest of the world building was amazing. I can't speak to how well the author incorporated Mayan mythology into the series, but as someone who doesn't know all that much about Mayan mythology, it was fun to see it incorporated into this series. What I was really excited about was the sailing and pirate aspects of this tale and it was glorious. There were so many great swashbuckling scenes and pirate-y action in this book and I loved every minute of it.

Predictability: On the whole, this story was pretty predictable. The foreshadowing was a tad heavy at times, it wasn't as though the author bashed me over the head with it like I've felt in other stories I've read, just that there a plenty of clues that if you pick up on them could tip readers off the twists well before they happen. There are a couple of twists to this story that I didn't predict that caught me off guard and really threw me for a loop, but those were the twists that didn't have any clues leading to them.

Ending: Going into this book I was expecting a standalone, and for as long as it is I wouldn't have minded this being the only book in a series, however, the epilogue of this tale seems to indicate a possible sequel, and while I'm not sure if I need a sequel, other than a few ends left loose at the end of this tale, I'm interested to see where this author goes next. The ending of this tale is fantastic. The final climax is fraught with tension and action and I savored every second I could get of it. As the story wound to a close, we didn't really get a cooldown period and there were a few things I would have liked to see wrapped up, even if this is the first book in a series.

Rating:


Despite loving the swashbuckling action and adventure this book contains, plus all of the magic and myth that are woven into the story, there were a few things I couldn't get past, the romance's rocky start, the possibly too modern text toward the beginning, and the fact that some of the time things felt a little too safe for even the secondary characters.

About the Author:


Kelsey Ketch is a young-adult/new-adult author, who works as a Wildlife Biologist in the state of North Carolina. During her free time, she can often be found working on her latest work in progress or organizing the New Adult Scavenger Hunt, a biannual blog hop. She also enjoys history, mythology, traveling, and reading.
Twitter: @kelseyketch
Facebook Page: Kelsey Ketch









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Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Review: The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)

Release Date: April 26, 2016
AuthorRenée Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 416 pages
Source: Purchased Book

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

    

Review:

Protagonist: After the devastation in Rey, Shazi has fled with her childhood love, Tariq, to take care of her family. The problem, Tariq vows revenge against the boy-king of Khorasan for taking not only his cousin but also his love, from him. As Shazi navigates, for lack of a better term, awkward waters, Khalid is setting about fixing up his destroyed city and mourning the fact that he doesn't know where his wife is. In the camp, Shazi wishes to find a way to break her husband's curse and discovers she has enemies of her own. I love both of these characters so much, and honestly, we get to see from the view of a good number of characters in this story and each and every one were a blessing to read from. Each character nearly jumps off the pages and even Tariq gets a good amount of character development in this story.

Romance: Looking back on this story there isn't a lot of romantic development between Shazi and, well anyone really but mostly Khalid. There's no need to worry about a love triangle anymore as Shazi has already made her choice. While the romance comes into play in the actions of both Shazi and Khalid, and has a large presence in the story for that reason, Shazi and Khalid's love doesn't exactly continue to blossom, it more strengthens its resolve. There is romance in other facets of this story as well, the romance between Despina and Jalal is still yet to be resolved and there are some interesting developments in store for fans of that couple. Also, Shazi's sister Irsa even has a bit of a romance in this story.

World Building: THIS is what I wanted from the first book. In the first installment, everything felt so isolated to the Khorasan palace and while we got to see beyond its borders occasionally, we didn't really get to see the grand scope of the world. In this story, while we mostly spend our time in Khorasan, the world feels far more expansive and the world really comes to life both in its scope and the detail in the author's writing. While I wouldn't say there are a lot more characters in this story, the importance of certain characters change and so it really feels like we're getting to know a lot of great minor characters from the first book, Rahim, Irsa, even Khalid's old teacher that we meet for a bit in the first installment, but that does come at a cost of not seeing as much of previous secondary characters such as Despina and Jalal unfortunately. For me, I was pretty okay with this since everything does get tied up by the end and I got the opportunity to learn more about the characters that intrigued me from the first book.

Predictability: For the most part this story is pretty unpredictable. Of course, there were a few things that I was able to pick up on throughout the story, but on the grand scheme of things this tale definitely went places I wasn't expecting and that really added a thrill to the story. I kept wanting to read to see where things would wind up and what unexpected thing would happen next. There were quite a few times that I disturbed people with how loud I gasped.

Ending: Normally I'm not a fan of duologies. Part of it is because most of the time the author isn't planning for a duology and when they end up with one, the second installment usually seems like books 2 and 3 crammed together which really messes with the story structure, and secondly I feel like every story should have a beginning, middle, and end and with duologies it's just a beginning and an ending. With all that out of the way, I loved this duology. I love how it was presented and how it felt like a truly planned duology. I was surprised with how everything gets resolved in this story, it felt very organic to the characters participating and I appreciate how the author didn't force things to a more conventional ending. There's an epilogue that takes place a little ways down the road and it was just a perfect way to end this story. Would I like another installment in this series, or just in this world, of course, but I'm still very happy with the series we got!

Rating:


I LOVED THIS BOOK! Don't get me wrong, it's not the best thing I've ever read, but it was still excellent! I laughed, I cried, I gasped, and I was left breathless at times. Even though it took me a while to read these books I'm so happy I did!

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Novella Reviews: The Wrath and The Dawn Novellas

Reviewer's Note: I've never done something like this before. I've reviewed novella compilations before, but since these stories are so short, and since there isn't a compilation of these stories, I've decided to review all three in one post. Also, please note that all three of these novellas should probably be read after The Wrath and the Dawn as they do spoil a few things that are revealed in the first book. I will be reviewing these stories like I do novella compilations, with short 1-2 paragraph reviews on each one. I hope you enjoy!


Release Date: March 22, 2016
Author: Renée Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 26 pages
Source: Library E-Book

It started as playful, if barbed, banter before rising to a fateful wager with a most notorious rake—the Captain of the Guard, Jalal al-Khoury—who may have finally met his match in a lovely, if haughty, handmaiden, Despina. But she, too, seems to have met her match in the handsome Jalal. What begins as a tempestuous battle of will and wit in short order becomes a passionate affair spurred on by tragedy of the worst kind.




    

Review:

I loved Despina in the first book as was excited to see more from her in this novella, as well as her relationship with Jalal. This story is perfect for those wanting to know more about how they met and their personal chemistry. However, this is also a story of Despina soon after she becomes the handmaiden to the calipha and her brief interactions with Ava. There isn't much to say more than that. I love these characters and their interactions are so well written and spark with electric chemistry. It was fun reading about these characters before the series starts, but it doesn't seem to have anything necessary shown, more like a deleted scene (or several) that helps to fill out the story a bit more.

Rating:


Even though this didn't have anything necessary in its text and it was rather short, it was a fun story that helped deepen a couple fan favorite characters. If you love Despina and Jalal, this story is for you!

Release Date: March 1, 2016
AuthorRenée Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 18 pages
Source: Free E-Book

Seventy-one days and seventy-one nights had come and gone since Khalid began killing his brides. This dawn, Khalid would mark the loss of the seventy-second girl, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. Khalid didn’t know how many more of these dawns he could take. And there was something about this latest girl that piqued his interest. Not only had she volunteered to marry him, but at their wedding ceremony, she had seemed not the least bit afraid. In fact, what he had seen in her eyes was nothing short of pure hatred. She was about to lose her life. Why wasn’t she afraid? Why did she hate him so? He had never before gone to his wife’s chambers before her death at dawn. Tonight would be different.

    

Review:

Honestly, there's only one point to this short story, to see how Khalid reacted to Shazi prior to TWATD. On the whole, I enjoyed what was pretty much a deleted scene from the first book, in all honesty, it could have been slid into the beginning of TWATD  without changing much of anything. I don't think anything was spoiled and it's so short that nothing really happens, so if you're a fan of Khalid and want to know his first thoughts of Shazi this one's for you!

Rating:


If this was marketed as a deleted scene or a bonus scene from a special edition, I wouldn't have batted an eye and it probably would have gotten five stars since it's a rather interesting scene, but since it was marketed as a short story, and there isn't all that much story here, I had to knock off a star.

Release Date: April 26, 2016
AuthorRenée Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 11 pages
Source: Free E-Book

The city of Rey is burning. With smoke billowing, fires blazing and his people fleeing, Khalid races back to defend his city, and protect his queen. But Khalid is too late to do either. He and his men arrive to find the city in ruins, nothing but a maze of destruction, and Shahrzad is gone. But who could have wrought such devastation? Khalid fears he may already know the answer, the price of choosing love over the people of Rey all too evident.

    

Review:

Did you ever want to know the reason Khalid didn't saddle up his horse and ride out after Shazi at the end of TWATD? Well, this is the deleted scene for you. I'm sorry, but I refuse to call it a short story. This scene shows Khalid learning of his city on fire and racing to find the people he loves among the chaos of the city. All in all, it was an interesting chapter, showing some of what happened in Rey after Shazi left, but like the other extra stories in this world, it doesn't add any necessary details.

Rating:


Much like with The Crown and the Arrow, this would have probably gotten five stars if marketed correctly. I mean, it is a free deleted scene which is great, since it's extremely short. I did really enjoy this scene as I do feel it fills out the story a bit.

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

Release Date: May 12, 2015
Author: Renée Ahdieh
PublisherG.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 404 pages
Source: Gifted Book

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

    

Review:

Protagonist: Shahrzad could do nothing as the Caliph of Khorasan married her best friend and killed her come dawn, but she won't let him win. Now as his new bride she plans on not only surviving but figuring out why her friend had to die, and killing her new husband. Shazi is a very strong-willed character who never lets someone else tell her what to do. she has a barbed tongue that will lash out whenever she wants and usually is some spectacular ways. Her development over the course of this first installment was done really well. Ever since Khalid started killing his brides Shazi has had one point of view on what must be going on inside the palace but given time she comes to understand things in a new light, but her search of the truth can get the better of her at times.

Romance: So going into this I knew Khalid and Shazi were going to have a romantic relationship, I mean, come on it's a retelling of 1001 Nights, but what I wasn't expecting is for Shazi to have an established romance at the beginning of this story that wasn't Khalid, and honestly I wish she didn't. Don't get me wrong, I'm never immediately opposed to established romantic relationships or love triangles for that matter, but here it just didn't work for me because I could never take Tariq, Shazi's childhood love, seriously as a contender. While I did like Shazi and Khalid's romance a lot, in fact,  it was one of those "hate to love" romances I can never get enough of for some reason, it wasn't without its problems, mainly that Khalid has killed his previous wives and Shazi, as well as the reader, doesn't know why. Still, while I wish there wasn't a love triangle, mainly because it doesn't feel necessary, nor was there enough time given to flesh out Shazi and Tariq's relationship in any meaningful way, I still wound up enjoying the romance between Khalid and Shazi and can't wait to see how everything plays out in the end.

World Building: While I do love that we get shifting third-person points of view and that we do get to see outside the palace walls, I still felt like there wasn't all that much to see in this world. Don't get me wrong the palace is described beautifully and there was nothing about the world building that was confusing to me, it's just that, especially with Shazi's maidservant and friend, Despina being from a Greece-like country, I wish we had just seen a bit more of the world.  This world never felt flat to me, I feel like the author did a fantastic job of letting the reader know how everything looked, it just felt very isolated and I feel that with the main focus being on Shazi, who spends nearly all her time in this story within the palace, It just never felt as full as it could have.

Predictability: With this being a retelling, albeit an interesting retelling that changes up the main character's main motivation and gives her a more hardened persona, it was pretty easy to see where things were going. There were a few good twists here and there and I really did like how the answers to the main mystery were revealed over the course of the story. Looking back while there is a solid storyline through this book, there weren't a whole lot of subplots that really felt like they mattered beyond a certain point, I mean there are definitely things happening behind the scenes and in the shadows, but because the focus was on Shazi, whose story, since it was a retelling, didn't feel all that in jeporady or high stakes, nothing that happened with the other characters really felt like it mattered, or in one instant didn't make all that much sense until, maybe, the end.

Ending: I have yet to read a conclusion to one of Ahdieh's duologies, so I don't know much about how she structures her stories and series on the whole, but I do really like how she decides to end things after the first book. Granted, I've only read the beginnings of two of her stories, but it seems like in both there's a big shift that happens, something that opens up the storytelling in a way that there wasn't all that much access to in the first installment. The final climax of this book went about as well as could be expected and honestly while I'm not a big fan of how Shazi's story ends in this installment, I'm hoping for great things come part two!

Rating:


I can't believe I'm giving this book 4 stars, I mean I enjoyed this book a whole lot, but after having some time to think about it, for me at least, the love triangle, while I understand its role in the story, just fell flat for me, and the world felt sort of isolated. Still, though, this is an insanely fun adventure and I can't wait to see how everything comes to an end!

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1)

Release Date: March 27, 2018
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Length: 368 pages
Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that? 


    

Review:

Protagonist: Aru Shah is a liar. To fit in at school she will stretch and manipulate the truth, but when her lies catch up with her, in order to save face with a few of her classmates, she lights a cursed lamp in her mother's museum and unwittingly unleashes the Sleeper, a demon hell-bent on awakening Shiva, the God of Destruction. After the dust settles Aru learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the legendary Pandava brothers and in order to save the world from destruction she must team up with another newly awakened Pandava and travel through the Kindom of Death, super easy right? I loved Aru, she's snarky and the ways in which she stretches the truth are astonishing. While it took me a little while to get used to her as a protagonist, once I did she was fantastic, she adds a lot of great humor to this story without making feel like an outright comedy. Aru's journey through this story, at least internally, allows her to really grow into herself and blossom into a character to root for. Aru is a very sympathetic character, in fact, her feelings of inadequacy with her classmates were very relatable to me, as is her vivid imagination and her penchant for twisting the truth. I loved seeing how she would react to things because even if she surprised me her motives always felt like they had some sort of tie to who she is a where she came from. Aru is a fantastic character who, like anyone, has flaws and sometimes makes mistakes, but she'll take the consequences and hopefully grow as a person.

World Building: While I don't know too much about Hindu mythology or the Mahabharata after reading this story I want to learn as much as I can. It's no wonder Riordan picked this story for his new imprint as it fits with his brand so well. This most definitely feels like a Riordan mythological adventure, but Chokshi's writing is what set it apart. It's like if there was a "Build Your Own Rick Riordan Adventure" kit, but instead of making one of the pictures on the box, Chokshi took those building blocks and created something wholly new and unique with her own signature style. I loved learning about the various characters in Hindu mythology and the roles they played in both the story and their origins. Now, you're not going to come out on the other side of this story with a vast and unending knowledge of Hindu mythology, but I can almost guarantee you that you'll come out knowing some pretty cool stuff with a want to know more. I've also seen this story compared to Sailor Moon, a popular anime from my childhood, and honestly, the connections ARE there, but unfortunately, there are really only a few with the promise of more in the future, and I'm straight up holding the author to that promise. I liked the connections we did get and honestly the fact that they sort of quiet down for a while didn't bother me, I was sucked so far into this story by that point I wasn't getting out anytime soon.

Predictability: On the foreshadowing standpoint, I feel this author did a fantastic job of weaving foreshadowing into her narrative while holding back on some of the bigger reveals for later. Now, arguably the biggest twist in this story was easy to predict and I honestly felt the author was a bit heavy-handed when it came to foreshadowing that giant twist. Leading up to the reveal I even remember wishing that the author had been more subtle as the reveal would carry more weight, however, while my guess was correct, I love how the author subverted my expectations and added layers to the twist that I didn't see coming. That's just the biggest twist, while there is quite a lot of foreshadowing (this is a Middle-Grade book after all) I still found myself, more often than not, still being surprised at how the story unfolded and how the author layered her reveals so that I never quite knew what would happen next.

Ending: The final climax of this story is outstanding. I mean, what a way to use your characters to their full potential and really show off how far they've come since the beginning. Now I won't go into specifics, but this final climax was a grand slam if ever I saw one. I love how it set things up for future installments as well as providing a great visual for how far things have come. After the final climax though, well there's a rather extended cooldown period. Don't get me wrong, I love cooldown periods in books where we can learn how our characters adjust to their new reality while continuing to set things up for the sequel, but the last couple of chapters felt more like the first few chapters of Book Two instead of the last few chapters of Book One. By the very end of the story, however, I do feel that it makes up for that in some ways.

Rating:


So... when I got to the end of this book and saw the title and release date of Book Two I let out a devastated scream because well, frankly I don't want to wait a year and a half (quarter?) to continue this magnificent story. I love the characters, I love the world, and just when it starts ramping up again it's all torn away from me! I had high expectations for this book, with it being the first book from Rick Riordan's new imprint as well as Roshani Chokshi's Middle-Grade debut, this story not only met those insanely high expectations, it far exceeded them as well!

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Book Review: War of the Cards (Queen of Hearts Saga #3)

Release Date: November 7, 2017
Author: Colleen Oakes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 352 pages
Source: Purchased Book

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

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

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

This is not a story of happily ever after.

This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.

    

Review:

Protagonist: Dinah feels as though she's lost everything in her life, her mother and brother are dead, her kingdom was viciously taken from her, and now the boy she loves doesn't love her back. The fury growing within her is more volatile than ever as she heads off to go reclaim her crown. I really liked seeing more of Dinah's dark side in this installment, while there's still a bit of a moral compass there, she's closer than ever to being a villain and I soaked up every minute of it. I really enjoyed the complexity of Dinah's character and how the choices she makes in this story affect the rest of her journey. Even though she's destined to become the cruel and villainous Queen of Hearts there are things about Dinah's future and about where she ends up by the end of this story that really caught me off guard and surprised me.

Romance: So, I have to say that I really loved how the author handled this romance from the very beginning. Even though Dinah's feelings for Wardley feel very presumptive and obsessive since the very beginning, it's obvious she does truly care for him, and I love that the author showed that even though he wants to he can never feel that way about her. It felt obvious from the beginning that that rejection would be what set her off and ignited her fury, but the nuances of the how everything comes together and just how far Dinah's feelings go really surprised me. This romance, or lack thereof, isn't over yet and even though Dinah's heart is crushed, that doesn't mean she'll give up.

World Building: So, going into this book I expected it to end with a hardened and furious Dinah taking the throne and ushering in the reign of the Queen of Hearts. I expected that to be where this story ended, but Dinah becoming Queen is just the beginning. A lot of this book deals with Dinah's reign and her struggle to be a good leader that Wonderland needs. Even though I had different ideas for where this story would end going in, I loved how this all unfolded more and more. Okay, so in my review of the previous book in this series I decided not to let the fact that the connections between this series and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are extremely thin affect my rating of the story, however, there's one connection in this story and a sort of justification for why it's so different that really bothered me. I mean, it all just sort of fell apart for me and cemented the feeling that this series would be better without the ties to Lewis Carrol's books.

Predictability: So, as I said before this book turned out drastically different than I initially thought, but in addition to that there are a lot of amazing twists and turns in this book. I mean, there's one that even though I was able to predict it relatively early, when things started happening related to that twist, I was so excited to see the path to its revelation. Everything played out perfectly and even though I knew the main twist, how everything came to be was still a revelation that I was excited hearing. There are a few other great revelations and while the predictability of those varies, I never felt like any of the twists lacked impact or were extremely easy and almost boring to predict.

Ending: So, I'm not quite sure how to talk about the ending of this book. I mean even if I don't give away specifics if I say things ended for Dinah like I expected then it's a spoiler, mostly, and if I say they didn't end up the way I was expecting, well that's also a spoiler. I will say this, the final climax of this story is amazing and much less action-packed than I expected. There is an epilogue to this story that ties up all the loose ends, while (possibly unintentionally) creating some new loose ends. I enjoyed the epilogue a lot and really enjoyed where and how the author chose to end this story.

Rating:


I want to give this book five stars. You have NO IDEA how much I want to give this book five stars because the story is fantastic and it definitely doesn't fit the YA mold in the best possible way, but it REALLY didn't need to be tied to Alice's Adventure in Wonderland in any way. The connection is so thin, mainly being names and titles, and the justification that we get for it in this book, while I like the concept, doesn't work with just HOW different everything is.

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