Thursday, 9 May 2019

Recent Reads (#1)


Hi everyone! Welcome the newly renamed Recent Reads (previously Mini Reviews), the series on my blog where I review books in a couple of sentences to give you my thoughts and recommendations. Here's some books I read in the last couple of months, including a couple of new all-time favourites.
25203675Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

Quick Thoughts: The first thing I want to say about this book is that the writing is fabulous - it's so flowery and descriptive and frankly delectable. I just didn't have any particular connection to the characters or the plot so although I enjoyed the experience of reading it, it felt average to me.
40381392
Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!

Welcome, welcome to Caraval...all games must come to an end.

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win...and those who will lose everything...

 
Quick Thoughts: What a great conclusion to a fabulous YA fantasy series. This one is very different from both Caraval and Legendary in terms of plot, but still somehow retains that magical atmosphere. A very satisfying "Finale".


39280480For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

 
Quick Thoughts: Emma Mills never fails to impress me with her fabulous characters, fun plots, and most of all witty dialogue. With each new book from her I fall in love with a new group of characters who just feel so real. I will read everything Mills writes.






40220881Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.

But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.

As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost?





 
Quick Thoughts: This was a cute, fun fantasy with which I could only describe as The Hunger Games meets The Great British Sewing Bee. It's a fun read but not anything particularly deep or stunning in terms of plot or characters. I would say it is maybe aimed at a younger YA audience.




26156985She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she's had it with her life at home. So Anna "borrows" her stepmom's credit card and runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn't quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn't the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna's singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn't, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.

 
Quick Thoughts:This one was just not for me. Anna and her sister as well as all of the other characters in this book are just so shallow and difficult to relate to. The make terrible decisions, but not in a way that makes them intruiging or fun to read about; they do these things in a way that is just annoying. I was also really hoping that the Manson Girls investigation would be a main plotpoint, but it was hardly mentioned. Unfortunetly, this one was a letdown.




37569347Death wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning…

Sybella has always been the darkest of Death’s daughters, trained at the convent of Saint Mortain to serve as his justice. But she has a new mission now. In a desperate bid to keep her two youngest sisters safe from the family that nearly destroyed them all, she agrees to accompany the duchess to France, where they quickly find themselves surrounded by enemies. Their one ray of hope is Sybella’s fellow novitiates, disguised and hidden deep in the French court years ago by the convent—provided Sybella can find them.

Genevieve has been undercover for so many years, she struggles to remember who she is or what she’s supposed to be fighting for. Her only solace is a hidden prisoner who appears all but forgotten by his guards. When tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands—even if it means ignoring the long awaited orders from the convent.

As Sybella and Gen’s paths draw ever closer, the fate of everything they hold sacred rests on a knife’s edge. Will they find each other in time, or will their worlds collide, destroying everything they care about?







Quick Thoughts: Wow. How do I even begin to describe this book? I honestly don't think I can without as it's the fourth in a series but all I can say is that I love this series with my whole heart and LaFevers continues to impress with each book. The one thing I would say is that even though this book is marketed as a new series, I really do think it is essential to read the prior books to get the full experience out of this book.

Have you guys read any of these? Please let me know!
Love,

Friday, 5 April 2019

Blog Tour: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan




Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Wicked Saints blog tour. I'm so excited for this gorgeous book and I'll be reading my pre-order as soon as it arrives. Anyone want to do a buddy read with me? Anyway, when the lovely folks at Wednesday Books offered for me to interview the author, I jumped at the chance.... here's what I asked...

36118682A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.





 

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.









https://www.amazon.com/Since-Last-Spoke-Brenda-Rufener/dp/0062571087/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=booksbirds-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=8ba6b28146da76c80e12897c8c4b284f&creativeASIN=0062571087https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38338708-since-we-last-spoke
https://www.bookdepository.com/search/Since-We-Last-Spoke-Brenda-Rufener/9780062571083/?a_aid=BooksBirds





Hi Emily. It’s so lovely to have you on the blog! To start off with, do you think you could tell us about your book in a couple of sentences?
 Lovely to be here! Wicked Saints is a dark fantasy about a girl who talks to the gods who has to team up with two enemy blood mages in an attempt to assassinate a king and stop a holy war. Bam. One sentence.

Wicked Saints sounds like such a wonderfully dark and atmospheric read, with lots of monsters, magic and court intrigue! Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for the book?
 
Video games and metal music. Full stop. I was playing Skyrim and thought ‘hm. could be a book.’ Which, truly, isn’t the most dramatic of answers but there was not really much else than that! It was written over the course of years, so inspiration isn’t a singular thing that can be tracked, but rather little ideas picked up and sprinkled in along the way without any real conscious thought to them.


Finally, could you tell us a little about your characters, who sound so interesting and complex? Who is the character you think you are most like and which character would you like to get ice cream and hang out with?
 
WELL. There’s Nadya, one of the POV characters who is a cleric from the country of Kalyazin. She has theability to communicate with the entire pantheon of gods and wield themagic they grant. She’s impulsive and dry and probably too empathetic for her circumstances. Then Serefin, the other POV character--who is the one I’m most like, ultimately--the High Prince of Tranvia, a blood mage and a deeply traumatized
boy general in the army. He’s so tired. He’s just. so. tired. And Malachiasz, a Tranavian blood mage who harbors an empire of secrets who’s anxious and melodramatic and just doing his best. I’d want to hang out with him. He tells the worst jokes.


Thank you so much, Emily! I can't wait to read Wicked Saints!
 

Horz stole the stars and the heavens out from underneath Myesta’s control, and for that she has never forgiven him. For where can the moons rest if not the heavens?
—Codex of the Divine, 5:26

“It’s certainly not my fault you chose a child who sleeps so deeply. If she dies it will very much be your fault, not mine.”

Startled by bickering gods was not Nadya’s preferred method of being woken up. She rolled to her feet in the dark, moving automatically. It took her eyes a few seconds to catch up with the rest of her body.

Shut up!
 
It wasn’t wise to tell the gods to shut up, but it was too late now. A feeling of amused disdain flowed through her, but neither of the gods spoke again. She realized it was Horz, the god of the heavens and the stars, who had woken her. He had a tendency to be obnoxious but generally left Nadya alone, as a rule.

Usually only a single god communed with their chosen cleric. There once had been a cleric named Kseniya Mirokhina who was gifted with unnatural marksmanship by Devonya, the goddess of the hunt. And Veceslav had chosen a cleric of his own, long ago, but their name was lost to history, and he refused to talk about them. The recorded histories never spoke of clerics who could hear more than one god. That Nadya com- muned with the entire pantheon was a rarity the priests who trained her could not explain.

There was a chance older, more primordial gods existed, ones that had long since given up watch of the world and left it in the care of the others. But no one knew for sure. Of the twenty known gods, however, carvings and paintings depicted their human forms, though no one knew what they actually looked like. No cleric throughout history had ever looked upon
the faces of the gods. No saint, nor priest.

Each had their own power and magic they could bestow upon Nadya, and while some were forthcoming, others were not. She had never spoken to the goddess of the moons, Myesta. She wasn’t even sure what manner of power the goddess would give, if she so chose.

And though she could commune with many gods, it was impossible to forget just who had chosen her for this fate: Marzenya, the goddess of death and magic, who expected
complete dedication.

Indistinct voices murmured in the dark. She and Anna had found a secluded place within a copse of thick pine trees to set up their tent, but it no longer felt safe. Nadya slid a voryen from underneath her bedroll and nudged Anna awake.

She moved to the mouth of the tent, grasping at her beads,a prayer already forming on her lips, smoky symbols trailing from her mouth. She could see the blurry impressions of figures in the darkness, far off in the distance. It was hard to judge the number, two? Five? Ten? Her heart sped at the possibility that a company of Tranavians were already on her trail.

Anna drew up beside her. Nadya’s grip on her voryen tightened, but she kept still. If they hadn’t seen their tent yet, she could keep them from noticing it entirely.

But Anna’s hand clasped her forearm.

“Wait,” she whispered, her breath frosting out before her in the cold. She pointed to a dark spot just off to the side of the group.

Nadya pressed her thumb against Bozidarka’s bead and her eyesight sharpened until she could see as clearly as if it were day. It took effort to shove aside the immediate, paralyzing fear as her suspicions were confirmed and Tranavian uniforms be- came clear. It wasn’t a full company. In fact, they looked rather ragged. Perhaps they had split off
and lost their way.

More interesting, though, was the boy with a crossbow silently aiming into the heart of the group.

“We can get away before they notice,” Anna said. Nadya almost agreed, almost slipped her voryen back into its sheath, but just then, the boy fired and the trees erupted into chaos. Nadya wasn’t willing to use an innocent’s life as a distraction for her own cowardice. Not again.

Even as Anna protested, Nadya let a prayer form fully in her mind, hand clutching at Horz’s bead on her necklace and its constellation of stars. Symbols fell from her lips like glowing glimmers of smoke and every star in the sky winked out. Well, that was more extreme than I intended, Nadya thought with a wince. I should’ve known better than to ask Horz for anything.

She could hear cursing as the world plunged into darkness. Anna sighed in exasperation beside her.

“Just stay back,” she hissed as she moved confidently through the dark.

“Nadya . . .” Anna’s groan was soft.

It took more focus to send a third prayer to Bozetjeh. It was hard to catch Bozetjeh on a good day; the god of speed was notoriously slow to answer prayers. But she managed to
snag his attention and received a spell allowing her to move as fast as the vicious Kalyazin wind.

Her initial count had been wrong; there were six Tranavians now scattering into the forest. The boy dropped his crossbow with a bewildered look up into the sky, startling when Nadya
touched his shoulder.

There was no way he could see in this darkness, but she could. When he whirled, a curved sword in his hand, Nadya sidestepped. His swing went wide and she shoved him in the direction of a fleeing Tranavian, anticipating their collision.

Find the rest,” Marzenya hissed. “Kill them all.

Complete and total dedication.
 
She caught up to one of the figures, stabbing her voryen into his skull just underneath his ear.

Not so difficult this time, she thought. But the knowledgewas a distant thing.

Blood sprayed, splattering a second Tranavian, who cried out in alarm. Before the second man could figure out what had happened to his companion, she lashed out her heel, catching him squarely on the jaw and knocking him off his feet. She slit his throat.

Three more. They couldn’t have moved far. Nadya took up Bozidarka’s bead again. The goddess of vision revealed where the last Tranavians were located. The boy with the sword had managed to kill two in the dark. Nadya couldn’t actually see the last one, just felt him nearby, very much alive.

Something slammed into Nadya’s back and suddenly the chilling bite of a blade was pressed against her throat. The boy appeared in front of her, his crossbow back in his hands, thankfully not pointed at Nadya. It was clear he could only barely see her. He wasn’t Kalyazi, but Akolan.

A fair number of Akolans had taken advantage of the war between their neighbors, hiring out their swords for profit on both sides. They were known for favoring Tranavia simply
because of the warmer climate. It was rare to find a creature of the desert willingly stumbling through Kalyazin’s snow.

He spoke a fluid string of words she didn’t understand. His posture was languid, as if he hadn’t nearly been torn to pieces by blood mages. The blade against Nadya’s throat
pressed harder. A colder voice responded to him, the foreign language scratched uncomfortably at her ears.

Nadya only knew the three primary languages of Kalyazin and passing Tranavian. If she wasn’t going to be able to communicate with them...

The boy said something else and Nadya heard the girl sigh before she felt the blade slip away. “What’s a little Kalyazi as- sassin doing out in the middle of the mountains?” he asked, switching to perfect Kalyazi.

Nadya was very aware of the boy’s friend at her back. “I could ask the same of you.”

She shifted Bozidarka’s spell, sharpening her vision further. The boy had skin like molten bronze and long hair with gold chains threaded through his loose curls.

He grinned. 



Love,

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Blog Tour: Enchantée by Gita Trelease




Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Enchantee Blog Tour! This book is probably one of my most anticipated of the entire year, and it totally lived up to my expectations. You can read my review later in the post, but first, here's some details about the book! Thank you so much to the lovely folks at Flatiron for sending me an ARC and making me squeal all over the place!




36613718Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians...

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she's playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…


About the Author:
Born in Sweden to Indian and Swedish parents, Gita Trelease has lived in many places, including New York, Paris, and a tiny town in central Italy. She attended Yale College and New York University, where she earned a Ph.D. in British literature. Before becoming a novelist, she taught classes on writing and fairy tales. With her husband and son, Gita divides her time between a village in Massachusetts and the coast of Maine. ENCHANTÉE is her debut novel.
 

Wow. This book was incredible.

I've been anticipating this book ever since it was announced nearly two years ago, and I had built up such high expectations for it which I never expected to be fulfilled. And they completely were - this book blew me away.

I love historical fantasy books - some of my favourites are A Great and Terrible Beauty and the His Fair Assassins series, and so I was really hoping this book would be in the same vein. But it was something else entirely, something magical and enchanting beautifully woven. I was hooked from the first page, with the beautiful descriptions and rich writing style.

Camille, her sister Sophie and the other characters introduced in this book were so relatable and believably flawed. Camille is such a likable protagonist, and her aristocratic friends were such an amazing group - I wanted to dive into the the pages and spend time with them all. Even the villains in the book were complex and I loved the way we were introduced to the characters.

There is only one word I can think of to describe the story and that word is MAGICAL. I devoured the opulence of the palace and the brewing revolution in France, and Camille's part in it all. I don't want to say too much in terms of the plot for fear of spoiling the surprise, but the magic system in this book is so imaginative and well-thought out.

As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to start all over again, but I settled for pre-ordering a finished copy. It came this week and it is SO. BEAUTIFUL. Look at the prettiness! *shoves book into your hands*.




Love,