Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

27774758Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Some thoughts I texted to Jess while reading:

  1. Oh no my best friends in love with me. Are all girls like this?
  2. Why are they so confusing I can’t handle basic human emotions and I just generalize all girls because she’s the only one I know
  3. I liked it at first because she wasn’t in love with him. She was annoyed when he stared at her and told him to get his life together
  4. So not only is his best friend a girl and in love with him, he finally meets the other main character and they fall in love instantly blah blah blah
    I mean, they’re not together, but they had that instant eyes meeting let’s stare at each other for minutes on end like nothing else mattered before now
  5. “I shout at her now because I’m so angry at her for loving me”
    This is an actual sentence that I just had to read with my own two eyes
    “If she had controlled her emotions we never would have fought”
    Aaaaaaand it got worse
  6. I want to like Elias, I really do, but he’s so [damn] stupid that I want to shove him off a cliff.
    And we’ve gotten to the part where the best friend hates being in love him. Of course.
  7. Honestly, if this book were only Elias, I wouldn’t keep reading. I like Laia’s story so far. Even if she can’t help loving Elias because that’s what you do in a YA novel.
  8. It is strange though that they both have other love interests. It’s a love square instead of a triangle.
    I mean, there’s not much to know about Keenan so far. Other than he’s with the resistance. And her father saved his life. At least he’s not an idiot like Elias.
  9. And now, Elias and Helene have to fight each other to the death. That’s one way to get rid of a love interest.
    So. He didn’t kill his best friend. But they literally gave him Laia as a prize for winning.
    Gross.

Now for a semi-real review:

This book mentions rape as a punishment for women, almost every other chapter. Not only mentions but characters are actively threatening (and almost succeeding) to rape other characters. And I am just… so tired. I need for all authors to do better.

I almost didn’t finish this book, but I have hope for the next one. Because the story is interesting and I want to know what happens. The idea of the augurs basically overthrowing the current emperor to host the trials for a new one is pretty interesting. The weird family dynamic of Gens Veturius is intriguing. Plus the drama within the resistance and how Laia and her family are connected and the betrayal that got her parents killed. I’m waiting every other chapter to see if it’s finally revealed. I’m always expecting anyone she talks to to slip up and give a hint that they were part of the reason her family was killed.

As annoyed as I was at some parts of the book, I’m excited to read the next one, and I’d give this one 3.5 bards.

3.5bards

 

 

 


Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

28814924

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.

Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.
But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

 

 

Reading Empire of Storms: A Timelapse

Midsummer Meets Maas

It’s no secret that the Midsummer Team are big fans of Maas’ Throne of Glass series and her A Court of Thorns and Roses books (although we both weren’t 100% on board until A Court of Mist and Fury).  So what was it like when we finally were able to meet the woman behind these outrageously popular books?

Well, Lyv (who hates me and moved all the way to Texas) was able to meet Maas the day after the release of Empire of Storms at Book People in Austin, TX!

olyvia-and-maas

Lyv and Sarah J. Maas

What did Lyv learn?

Lyv was there when Maas made the announcement of Hulu officially moving the television adaptation of the Throne of Glass books into production! Side note: it will be called Queen of Shadows, but they will be starting with book 1.

The best part of meeting Maas is that she takes time to talk to everyone, because she is a sweet snowflake with an ergonomic pen, and Lyv was able to talk to her about the 100 (this is relevant because one of the writers from the 100 is going to be working on the pilot script of Queen of Shadows) and their shared disappointment in Bellamy Blake and also their shared love of Ricky Whittle and shirtless hunks.

Lyv was also able to sign Sarah’s first edition Throne of Glass book that she normally has with her for fans to sign (Alas, we didn’t get the chance to do this at the Festival of Books and Authors in Winston a few days later).

Now, the difference between Lyv’s experience and Mine is that Lyv was able to purchase a signing ticket prior to the event, whereas I had to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive the hour to Winston-Salem, NC to stand in line to wait for a ticket for the signing.  This was fine, as it’s getting me back in the habit before Lyv and I take on the Texas Teen Book Festival in October and then head back to Book Expo America in May, but I definitely should have taken my back pack instead of my shoulder bag (ALWAYS TAKE A BACKPACK!).  maas-ticket

So I picked up Midsummer supporter, Marissa, and headed up to Winston. There were only about 50 people in line ahead of us when we arrived around 7:30 (they were going to hand out tickets around 8:30) so we stood in line and caught up and chatted to some lovely people around us.

The festival was pretty awesome, but in all honesty, we were mostly there to meet Sarah J. Maas, so we went and sat through two other authors’ talks just so we would have a guaranteed spot for the Renee Ahdieh (who is equally amazing, you can check out my interview with her and the reviews of her two novels here on Midsummer) led discussion with Maas.

empire-cover-snap

Marissa, Shauna, & Jess

We met up with Shauna of B00kstorebabe, who is a good friend of mine, and we listened to John Hart, a North Carolina native and a NYT Best selling author, speak…in which he kept talking to us about how he was a NYT Best Selling author.

Then the enigmatic and hilarious Terry McMillan took the stage.  She read us a chapter from her newest novel, I Almost Forgot About You, and it was so funny and sarcastic. I don’t normally get the chance to read a lot of adult fiction, but I might take time out of my young adult reading schedule just for that book.

So, finally, at 12:45 two queens of Young Adult Literature took the stage.  At this point myself, Shauna, and Marissa had found seats in the very front row (excellent) and had so much fun listening to these two women talk about anything and everything.

renee-and-maas

Renee and Sarah

Sarah and Renee told us all about their experience in a fancy restaurant during Comic Con, where they were sitting directly behind Norman Reedus (Darryl from The Walking Dead) and then Renee told us about her time on set as a zombie extra.  Surprisingly, the zombie make up is pretty heat resistant in the Atlanta, Georgia heat.

Not only did they get to spy on Reedus, but the entire Vampire Diaries cast came into the restaurant.  Sarah was on door watch duty and they both freaked out a bit when Ian Somerhalder entered the restaurant.

They jumped around topics, just like true friends do, and discussed their individual experiences traveling in Egypt.  Sarah encouraged everyone in the audience to travel as much as possible, even if it’s just to a town over, to get as many experiences in different places as you can.

Once we got on the topic of Smut, however, it was a pretty awesome conversation.  Sarah says that sometimes she has to get up and walk around when the book is getting too emotional for her, and when she is writing smut, in order to feel less awkward, she drinks a glass of wine while doing it.

maas-talkApparently, Sarah’s grandmother is all about some smut, because she told the audience that when she finished ACOTAR 3, she warned her gran that there would be lots of smut, and her gran replied, “Sounds like my kind of book.”

Also, Sarah said that if she could be any of the characters from the Throne of Glass books, she would want to be Lysandra, because shape-shifting is pretty awesome. (I couldn’t agree more.)

After the panel discussion, it was a mad rush to get in line for her signing.  At this point it was 1:30 in the afternoon in September in North Carolina.  IT WAS SO HOT.  So when we waited in the sun for an hour, and we finally made it up to meet Sarah “Sweet Snowflake” Maas, we were all a little bit sweaty.  Sarah agreed about how hot it was and told us she was glad she was sitting down because her shirt was drenched in sweat.  She’s so relatable and friendly to all fans.

Shauna gave her the book of nice things that she was collecting from Tumblr and from fans in line (Marissa and I were able to write short notes to Sarah) and then it was my turn.

me-and-maas

Sarah and Jess

It is absolutely amazing to see a woman who is just a year older than me being so successful and still so humble and friendly to everyone.  She was so sweet, she pointed out my Midsummer shirt, and said she loved it and asked where it was from.  So I told her about Midsummer and gave her one of our bookmarks.  If you ever visit our page, Sarah, we love you! Then we talked a little bit about my time lapse video that I did and she thought it was an awesome idea.  Overall, she was just so nice and kind.  The line was still outrageously long for her once we were finished, and I’m fairly sure Sarah spent 3 or 4 hours signing books and talking to every individual fan.  So wonderful.

It was a pretty long and exhausting day, but 100% worth the experience and getting to meet one of my favorite authors.  I know Lyv was exhausted after her day of work then the Maas signing, too, but we were both so amped to finally meet her and chat with her even for a few moments.

Did you get to see Sarah J. Maas on her book tour for Empire of Storms?

Share your experiences in the comments!

#TeamTerrasen and #TeamNightCourt

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

28818313

Release Date: October 11, 2016

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

Book Review: Arcana Rising by Kresley Cole

When the battle is done . . .
The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind–but Circe strikes back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . .
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter’s reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future–and her chilling past–will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter’s ashes, stronger than ever before?

If you want to check out my reviews of the first three (and a half) installments of the Arcana Chronicles, you can find them by clicking on their titles: Poison Princess, Endless Knight, Dead of Winter, Day Zero

Arcana Rising picks up immediately after the end of Dead of Winter, with the Emperor and Circe battling.  We find out almost immediately that two main characters have died, and Evie is then separated from Aric and goes, well, a bit bat-shit.

She ends up somewhere in Indiana, far from where any of her allies were, and literally runs herself practically into the ground trying to get back to her other Arcana.  I did make the mistake of reading this installment before reading arcanarisingthe 3.5 story, Day Zero, so upon meeting all the new Arcana in this narrative, I was a bit lost about what to expect. (I’ve since read Day Zero and feel like I have a much more well-rounded picture of these new characters)

Side Note: Kudos to Cole for including a polyamorous relationship in this story, and while it isn’t dwelled upon as a major plot point, it is mentioned as a heartfelt and meaningful part of a character’s past.

This is the first installment of The Arcana Chronicles to deviate from Evie’s sole point of view, as it switches to Matthew (the Fool), and another *spoilery* point of view that I won’t explain.  I’m not sure I can say that it adds or detracts from the story as a whole, as the narrative was still dominated by Evie, but it makes me wander if The Dark Calling will start to use her point of view less.

Evie has really grown as a character, minus her weird need to focus her life and mind mostly on the love triangle between herself, Jack, and Aric.  She’s become more vicious and powerful, although I speculate that by not embracing her Arcana persona, The Empress, she will become the weak link in the game, rather than one of the more commanding players.  Sure, she has the most formidable player on her side permanently, Death, but they can only accomplish so much with him compensating for her.

The love triangle is basically solved in this story, and Evie makes the choice I personally wanted her to, although both of her choices were always a bit misogynistic as characters over the course of the books.  I acknowledge that this was a problem for me as a reader, but I was still able to cheer for Evie and pick which character I found to be less problematic as a match for her.  Cole is first and foremost a romance writer, so the focus on the love triangle is to be expected.

I still count this as one of my favorite young adult series to date, because the originality of the story just blows my mind and I just adore the post-apocalypic game being heralded by the Gods through their Arcana game pieces. Plus, every time a new installment comes out, I devour the story within hours and there’s no bigger compliment.

4 Bards (Finally the smutty goodness I needed with Evie and Aric!)

fourbards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

28448287

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

 

 

Book Review: Day Zero by Kresley Cole

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams.

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . .

This novella/short story collection is set up a bit differently from most, and Cole acknowledges that at the beginning with a small forward explaining the original intention of this collection.  Originally, this was going to serve as a guide for the possible television series that was proposed for this story, so each card in the major arcana, all 22, are given names, descriptions, information on their Arcana powers and traits, and those that are still alive during the game are given their own short story about where they were and what was happening to them on “Day Zero,” or the day the Flash occured.

Readers are treated to a bonus story featuring Death toward the beginning, showing him as he prepares for the new games, each of the icons fading from his skin.

This is a kind-of spoiler-y review, but since all but maybe one or two of these characters have shown up in the main novels, I don’t really find it too pressing.

We pretty much just get to see where each of the cards, including a rehash of Evie, were on the night of/day of (depending on where in the world they were at the time), and it gives small glimpses into who they were prior to their participation in the game.

The Sun is with his two romantic partners, their polyamorous relationship is going so well he was planning to propose to them on the day that the Flash happened.  You know, after they throw a bitchin’ rave in an abandoned insane asylum.  He also *Spoiler Alert* wakes up to them attempting to suck his blood, having been turned into bagmen (Queue The Princess Bride gif).  But he pulls a Michonne and keeps them around by chaining them together and dragging them along.

Fortune is a gun cartel leader’s daughter in Brazil with a wicked desire for revenge and her ability to steal luck from others pretty much causes her father’s death, although I’m not sure if she is aware of that, or if it is just something that the reader realizes.

The Hanging Man is still the inactivated card, and a lot of fandom members speculate that Jack is actually the inactivated card, but considering the entire entry in the book is blacked out (clever), Cole keeps us in the dark on this.  I assume that in the fifth installment the Hanging Man will come into play, as all players in the game must be either killed or participate, so it seems unlikely that we’d continue to not know who this card is. To be honest, I’d be a bit disappointed if Jack turns out to be the inactive card, because it just seems to predictable to put Evie in the middle of a love triangle with two major cards.  Not only do we already have to deal with the triangle as it is, but if it’s between two cards? It just seems too…obvious?

You get a glimpse into the life of Tess, The World, and how she can apparate to her crush’s house, where she finds him masturbating to her yearbook photo.  So romantic.  She also almost takes herself out of the game by simply attempting to save her parents’ lives, which is really sad.

Poor Circe, though.  She’s my little ocean queen. She not only lost the love of her life, but also ended up leaving him at the alter during the Flash because the ocean called her to her watery temple. She’s probably my new favorite addition to the canon of characters, and I’ve liked her since she showed up at the end of Dead of Winter.

Overall, I give this book a solid 3 bards.  It doesn’t really give us that much insight into things other than the character backgrounds.  These backgrounds are limited, and I’d consider this really just a collection of information that benefits the author to help keep her canon in order rather than something readers absolutely had to know.

My review of Arcana Rising will be up Thursday, September 8.

threebards

 

 

 


Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

14061957The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I spent three books thinking Mal was gonna be the worst thing ever and I just didn’t see it at all? Maybe because I was expecting the worst, but I think Alina could have done a lot worse. Like the Darkling, for instance. And I get that that seems to be an unpopular opinion in the fandom, but here’s the thing, the relationship that Alina has with the Darkling reminds me so much of Buffy and Spike in Season 6 that I just cannot get behind it.

Every private interaction she has with the Darkling he talks about how she could “balance” him and make him a better man, and both times her response is that he wouldn’t do the same for her. She wants him, but she doesn’t want to want him, and that I think is the most important thing about Alina. She takes to power well, she’s a natural leader, but she doesn’t want to be a monster.

The Darkling is a terrible person. He has no qualms about using/killing people to get what he wants. Those rare moments of humanity we see in him are only brought out by Alina. He’s relying on her to be his gatekeeper, and honestly, I’m not here for that. But I also think that’s what makes readers love him so much. Bardugo does an amazing job of making this character, who should be totally unlikeable (he is the antagonist, after all), not just likable, but somehow relatable.

I don’t have super strong feelings on Mal one way or the other. I think the fact that he was important to Alina made him important to the story, but also that she didn’t necessarily need him. I will say that the best part about Mal is that he recognizes that. Like I’ve said, I kept waiting for him to screw up so badly that I would hate his guts and that never happened. Instead, I was always surprised by how much he cared about Alina to stop being so selfish and step aside for her be as powerful as she was meant to be.

I am not ruined. I am ruination.

Genya’s storyline has to be my favorite. “I hope the taste of me was worth it.” Just. Damn. That whole interaction with the King (and Nikolai!!! bringing his own father to justice!!!!! I just love him a lot, okay?) was one of the best parts of the series for me. I’m glad that she was able to come back from that and I’m glad that she stopped hiding herself after what the Darkling did to her face and I’m also glad for David and that he finally had some good words for Genya rather than just talking about science. (I’m never getting over this scene, sorry, not sorry.)

Nikolai continues to be the best thing ever. I love how just completely dramatic he is, but it’s not obnoxious, it’s just who he is. Bringing honesty and candor and just overall lightness to everything. I don’t have anything else to add. Except that I wish he were real.

I did like the ending, though I think it may have been more impactful if it had gone the other way. Overall, I loved the series, I read all 3 in 3 days. They were so easy to get into and they kept me on the edge the whole time I was reading. That being said, I don’t know if I would have loved them as much if I had read them before Six of Crows so I’m glad I read that first. 4 bards for the conclusion of this wild ride.

fourbards

 

 

 


Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

wintersong

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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