The Kiss of Deception

I love books with strong women at the forefront. I adore fantasy. I’ve also been known to enjoy a good love triangle. Well, I got all that and more in The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, but…let’s just say it took me a while to get into this book.

My copy of The Kiss of Deception is an uncorrected galley (thanks to NetGalley), so I’m hoping that some of the things I had issues with will be worked out in editing. The book is scheduled to be released on July 15th, so I may have to pick up another copy to see if anything changed. Now, I’m not saying it was a bad book. Trust me, I’ve read LOADS of bad books, and this one definitely has the potential to be a truly outstanding book in a promising new series.

Our story begins with Lia, the Princess of Morrighan, preparing for her wedding to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. She’s never met the prince, but Lia wants no part of a marriage where love is never considered and she’s viewed as little more than a broodmare. So, on the eve of her wedding, Lia and her maid Pauline make a run for it.

Lia and Pauline evade everyone looking for them–soldiers, barbarians, bounty hunters–and arrive in Pauline’s hometown of Terravin. Here, the two are no longer princess and maid. They are now girls who work in an inn for their wages…and Lia has never been happier. She’s finally escaped a destiny that was mapped out for her, and she’s the one in charge of her life.

What Lia barely considers, however, is that there are people out there looking for her…and two have found her.  The prince she left at the altar and an assassin sent to end her life.  They have tracked young Lia to the inn where she now lives and works, and each of them is determined to see his own agenda through…but they don’t count on their own feelings for this girl. Lia has captivated both young men, Kaden and Rafe, and it seems they will do nearly anything to earn her favor. But what will Lia do when she discovers who these young men truly are? Will she be able to trust either of them when so many lies stand between them?

Soon Lia is faced with an untenable choice. Should she stay in her somewhat comfortable life in Terravin, or should she come out of hiding and face her past and her future? Lia does what she must in the hopes of preventing war, but that choice will lead her into troubles that she could scarcely have foreseen, troubles that could endanger her very life.

Will she be able to get out of alive? Who can she trust to help her? And what will Lia do when she realizes that she’s more important than anyone ever thought? Is she strong enough to fight–and win–the battles in front of her?

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So, in the little recap above, I think I’ve made The Kiss of Deception sound pretty good, and I’ve captured the highlights without giving too much away.  It is a good book, but here are a few things that bugged me a little:

  • I didn’t figure out what a Remnant was or what was so special about it until about halfway through the book. Since this is book one in The Remnant Chronicles, I thought a little more explanation at the beginning of the book would have been nice.
  • Sometimes, the story seemed to drag on. There was a lot of time spent on donkey- or horse-back, and I felt like I experienced every single one of those miles. I could have done without some of that.
  • A pronunciation or translation guide would have been helpful for all of the foreign words and phrases in the book. Sometimes, they just weren’t explained adequately by using context clues.
  • It wasn’t exactly clear where or when this book was set. Is it post-apocalyptic Earth? Is it an alternate history? I just wasn’t sure, and that was a little aggravating.

All that being said, I do think the main character, Lia, is one to be admired. That girl has a backbone of steel, and I’ll probably read the rest of this series just to see her make mincemeat of the Neanderthals around her. (The next book, by the way, is The Heart of Betrayal and will be out sometime in 2015.)

I also liked reading the chapters from the prince’s and assassin’s points of view. Eventually, we learned their names, but it was still unclear which one was the royal and which was the killer. Personally, I had the two mixed up, so the big reveal was a bit of a shock for me. I’m sure other readers will feel the same way.

I hope you’ll give The Kiss of Deception a try.  I’ve been impressed with a couple of Mary E. Pearson’s other books (The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fox Inheritance), so I knew this would be a good book. With a little polishing, I think it could be a great one.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Boundless

Warning! If you’re new to Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series, you may want to change that before continuing with this post. You’ll need to read, at the very least, Unearthly, Hallowed, and Radiant (an ebook novella), before reading Boundless, the third and final book in the series.

So, nearly three years ago exactly, I started the Unearthly series, and yesterday, thanks to a rather unexpected “winter event” in the South, I had time to finish reading Boundless, the series finale. (Today’s post is also the result of an unexpected day off. It seems we can’t handle snow and ice here in South Carolina.)

Boundless picks up right where Radiant–and, to a lesser extent, Hallowed–left off. Clara is about to embark on yet another adventure. She’s starting her freshman year at Stanford, but, if you’ve followed this series at all, you know that Clara is no typical college freshman. She is a Triplare, the rarest of the angel-bloods. (Her mom was half-angel, and her dad, Michael, is 100% angel.) Clara and her fellow angel-bloods Angela and Christian are dealing with visions of an uncertain future where it seems they will have to fight the dreaded Black Wings (fallen angels) that would seek to destroy them.

In addition to learning to fight the bad guys, Clara and friends are also dealing with some other heavy stuff.  Clara is still torn between Christian, a fellow Triplare who is always there for her and makes her stronger than she would be alone, and Tucker, the human she left behind. She has feelings for both boys, and she doesn’t really know how to reconcile those feelings with the visions of a not-exactly-happy future.

Clara is also worried about her brother Jeffrey. After their mother’s death, Jeffrey seemed to lose a bit of himself, and Clara wants to help him find his way back to the light, but it’s not easy. Jeffrey resists all attempts to help and rarely even speaks about what happened in Wyoming. Clara doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she has to at least try to be there for her brother…even if he pushes her away.

Clara’s friend Angela, meanwhile, has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, and that trouble is going have some pretty huge ramifications, both in Angela’s own life and in the coming war between angel-bloods and Black Wings.

What does all this mean for Clara and her destiny? Is she meant to be with Christian or Tucker? Does she even have a choice in the matter? What will happen with Jeffrey? With Angela? Can they hope to defeat the Black Wings when their lives are in so much turmoil? War is brewing, and Clara and company will have to face their deepest fears and journey through hell to emerge victorious. Will they succeed? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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After finishing this entire series, I have to say that I want more. The ending was sort of satisfying, but–spoilers!–not every character gets what I would call a happy ending. Some of the ending was a little too neat for me, but other parts were left at loose ends. I won’t tell you which parts I’m talking about. I’ll leave that for you to figure out. I will say that a spin-off series for one character in particular wouldn’t be totally unwelcome.

All in all, the Unearthly series was entertaining, and I would recommend it to teen readers who show an interest in angels. Now, I think I’ll continue this “angelic” theme of the week and binge on some episodes of Supernatural. (I do enjoy Castiel!)

For all of you visual people, here is a short book trailer for Boundless from HarperTeen. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tiger Lily

I’ve been kind of inundated with Peter Pan lately. Eighteen of my current students have been involved in a local high school’s production of the play. (Several former students were also involved.) For the past couple of months, all I’ve heard about is Peter Pan. The classic Disney movie has also been playing on cable. In this case, I decided to join in the madness by not only seeing my students in the play (which was fabulous, by the way), but I also moved Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily to the top of my reading list.

If you know anything about the story of Peter Pan, you can probably figure out that this book focuses on Tiger Lily, one of the natives of Neverland. In this book, she is the adopted daughter of a shaman (not the chief’s daughter like she’s been portrayed in the past). This novel, told from Tinker Bell’s perspective, gives readers a glimpse of a character that has often been overlooked. Sure, everyone loves to focus on Peter, Tink, Wendy, Hook, and the Lost Boys, but Tiger Lily often gets shoved to the background. Tiger Lily brings this mysterious character to the forefront and shows us the struggles she encounters. We also learn that, before Wendy even entered the picture, another girl stole the heart of Peter Pan…

Tiger Lily–of the tribe of Sky Eaters in Neverland–is no ordinary girl. She is tough, she keeps to herself, and she has few friends. She is close to her adopted father, Tik Tok, the tribe’s shaman, but she knows she doesn’t really fit with the rest of the tribe. In fact, they often seem a bit scared of her. (She’s not the scary one. That honor goes to Giant, the massive man who she is promised to marry.)

Tiger Lily is dreading the day that she is forced to marry a man she despises, but she does have an escape from her worries. That escape comes in the form of a strange boy…a boy that her tribe has always thought is surely a monster. Peter Pan. With Peter, Tiger Lily can let her worries go, if only for a little while. She’s still holding parts of herself back, but she gradually grows to love Peter, his freedom, and even the Lost Boys who are always ready for a new game or adventure. Soon, the time will come when Tiger Lily will have to choose between her love for Peter and her duty to her tribe. Will she choose love over duty, or will that choice even be hers to make?

Changes are coming to Neverland. Some of them are dangerous and have the power to completely destroy Tiger Lily’s life as she knows it. One such change comes in the form of a girl. Wendy Darling. Who is this dainty English girl who has so captivated Peter and the Lost Boys? How could Peter so easily forget Tiger Lily in the presence of this new girl? And what will Tiger Lily do to recapture Peter’s attention? How far is she willing to go–and what alliances is she willing to make–to get rid of this girl?

Journey to Neverland to discover the story of Tiger Lily, the girl who first loved Peter Pan. Yes, this is a fairy tale in the strictest sense of the phrase. (It is told by a fairy, so there you go.) It may not be the happily ever after we’ve always expected, though. What really happened to Peter Pan, Wendy, the Lost Boys, Hook, Smee, and Tiger Lily? The answers may surprise you, but, I promise, you’ll never look at this classic story quite the same way again.

I always enjoy books–particularly YA books–with strong female characters, and Tiger Lily definitely fits the bill. At some points, Tiger Lily could even be considered too strong, and readers will want her to bend a little, but you have to respect someone who is so strong-willed. Tiger Lily was determined to live life on her terms, and, even when she did what others wanted, she still retained her will, determination, courage, and tenacity. Things didn’t always go the way she would have wanted, but Tiger Lily endured.

Tiger Lily is told from Tinker Bell’s perspective, which I think is kind of cool. Tink, though she’s always been portrayed as totally loyal to Peter Pan, was a faithful companion to Tiger Lily in this novel. Yes, she did spend some time with Peter and the Lost Boys, and she even did a little recon to gain information from the pirates, but she always returned to Tiger Lily. In this book, we experience Tink’s frustration with the situations around her and how little she could do to change things. Tink sees and hears all, but she can’t really communicate that with the people she’s come to care about. It’s up to them to figure things out.

Tiger Lily turns the beloved Peter Pan story on its ear, and I think that’s a good thing. I like it when familiar stories are shaken up a bit, and I’ve always been a fan of fairy tale retellings. This new perspective could help to reintroduce this familiar story to teen (and adult) readers who want to experience just a little of their childhoods all over again. Yes, the story is a little different, but, now that we’ve grown a little older, so are we. (Notice I didn’t say that we’ve grown up. I, for one, plan to stay young at heart forever. “Growing old is mandatory.  Growing up is optional.”)

For more information about Tiger Lily, author Jodi Lynn Anderson, and her other books, visit her Facebook or Twitter pages.

Published in: on April 29, 2013 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Clockwork Princess

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By the Angel, I don’t even know where to begin. Unless you really haven’t been paying attention, you already know that I am absolutely nuts about anything written by Cassandra Clare. Seriously, the woman could rewrite the dictionary, and I would not only buy it, but I’d also want a first edition autographed copy. It should surprise no one, then, that I rushed to the nearest bookstore after school on Tuesday, purchased Clockwork Princess, the final(?) book in Cassie Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, and commenced with the reading. It may, however, surprise some that I didn’t finish the book until last night. Honestly, I’m surprised myself, but my need for sleep and, you know, having to go to work prevented me from reading until I dropped. (I’m not as young as I used to be.) Also, I kind of wanted to prolong the exquisite agony…because that’s exactly what this book was.

Based on everything (and I do mean everything) I read on Twitter, Tumblr, and any other source I could find, I had an idea that Cassie would break my heart in Clockwork Princess, and I was absolutely correct. I’m not going to tell you what happened in the book, but suffice it to say that I just about went through an entire box of Kleenex. (I’m beginning to think that Cassie Clare is in league with Stephen Moffat. Clearly, these two individuals are trying to do me in with all the feels.) I did some serious crying during this book. We’re talking wracking, Reichenbach-Fall, weeping-angels-take-the-Ponds-away-from-the-Doctor, intense sobbing. My eyes are still kind of red. It was awesome.

If you’ve been following the Infernal Devices series at all, you know that things are coming to a head with Tessa, Jem, and Will. On top of all their love triangle stuff, the evil Mortmain is waging war against all Shadowhunters. In Clockwork Princess, questions are answered about Mortmain’s motives, Tessa’s origins, the bond between Jem and Will, and so many other things. I can’t begin to go into everything that happened in this book, partially because I’m afraid I’ll start weeping again but also because I don’t want to take any of this reading experience away from anyone. (Someone accidentally posted a spoiler on my Twitter page, and let’s just say that I am less than happy with that person. I can’t do that to someone else.)

It’s enough to say that this perfect book is perfect. Even though my heart felt like it was being split in two, I felt that everything happened as it should have, and I’m looking forward to City of Heavenly Fire, the final book in the Mortal Instruments series, even more now. (Sadly, we have to wait another year for what I’m sure will be yet another amazing book. Curses! Luckily, we have the City of Bones movie and some novellas all about Magnus Bane to get us through!) I can only hope that we’ll see more of some beloved Infernal Devices characters (and I won’t say who!) in Cassie’s upcoming books.

For those who haven’t yet experienced any of the Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices books, I don’t know what else I can do to convince you. Get thee to a bookstore or library, or download these fantastic books on whatever ereader you prefer. I don’t care how you read these books. Just read them! You can thank me later.

Published in: on March 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Halflings

In less than two weeks, I’ll be attending the annual conference of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.  At this gathering of librarians, I’ll be leading a couple of sessions.  One is on blogging in the elementary school library, and the other is a question and answer session with a few YA authors:  Sophie Jordan (Firelight, Vanish, and Hidden), Julie Halpern (Into the Wild Nerd Yonder), and Heather Burch, author of the Halflings series.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you.  Heather Burch wasn’t even on my radar until I heard that she would be attending this year’s SCASL Conference.  When I was asked to facilitate this author panel, I knew, however, that I would need to read at least one of her books to be really effective.  I finally did that this week.  In fact, I finished the first book in her Halflings series about an hour ago.  It was good, but, in a lot of ways, it left more questions unanswered than not.  I guess this is a sure way to get readers to check out the next book.

Nikki Youngblood is in danger, but even she is unsure of just what is after her.  When she’s nearly killed by what can only be described as hellhounds–and she’s rescued by beings she believes to be angels–she comes to realize that the dangers she’s facing are more horrible–and unearthly–than she could have ever imagined.

Nikki wasn’t exactly rescued by angels, however.  The three “boys” she came into contact with are known as Halflings.  They are half-human, half-angel and are considered outcasts in Heaven and on Earth.  These Lost Boys do have a purpose, though.  Mace, Raven, and Vine are on a heavenly journey to protect Nikki–or someone close to her.  But why?  What is so special about this teenage girl?  Why is she now a target of the enemy?  And how can these supernatural beings protect someone who clouds their feelings and has the power to impact their futures?  Mace and Raven, especially, are drawn to Nikki (and Nikki to them), but divine mandate prevents any of them from being together…without truly hellacious results.

As Nikki, Mace, and Raven battle their desires, an unknown evil is penetrating everything around them.  No one is really sure who is behind the terror that is brewing, but Nikki, her Lost Boys, and several other heavenly beings will do everything they can to uncover the truth and fight in the war that’s coming.  What will be lost in the battles ahead?  What will be sacrificed?  And will Nikki and company be able to handle the choices that must be made…and their inevitable consequences?  Begin to unravel the mystery when you read Halflings, the first book in an exciting series by Heather Burch.

If I had to classify this book, it would be young adult Christian fantasy with a bit of mystery and romance thrown in for good measure.  It’s a decent read for those in middle school and beyond who like “angelic” fiction.  As for me, the book was a little frustrating because it left me with so many questions.  I didn’t really have a sense of closure at the end of the book, so I’m hoping that the question and answer session at the SCASL Conference will tie things up a little better for me.

The second book in the Halflings series, Guardian, is already out, and I hope to get around to it soon.  (This probably won’t happen before my conference, though.  I’m being realistic here.)  The third book, Avenger, is due out this April.  For more information about the author and this series, click here.

That’s all for now.  I may edit this post a bit after my conference in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned.  Until then, do you have any burning questions you’d like to ask the YA authors attending this conference?  Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to get a few answers for you!

Published in: on February 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Pledge

Well, Christmas is over, and it’s getting close to the time for me to return to the real world. I’m trying to read as much as possible before that happens because I know my free time will be limited soon. (I must go back to school on January 2nd. I’m nowhere near ready.)

Anyway, tonight I finished reading a book that was on my to-read list pretty much all year:  The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. Like me, you may have read Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series (The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, The Last Echo, and Dead Silence–which comes out in April). Well, this new series–which begins with The Pledge–has some things in common with The Body Finder (a strong female main character, a love interest, special abilities, and battling evil), but in other ways, it’s completely different. Where The Body Finder, at least in my mind, is a paranormal mystery series, The Pledge is more dystopian with a supernatural twist. It’s kind of cool.

In the distant future, powerful queens with magical abilities rule each nation. Some queens are merciful and loved by the people. Others rule with an iron fist and tolerate absolutely no sign of rebellion. One queen in particular insists that each class be divided by language. In the country of Ludania, Queen Sabara is a ruler to be feared. Her power is formidable…but it is fading. If she doesn’t find another to take her Essence (the life-force that has been passed from queen to queen for centuries), both she and her Essence will die. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Charlaina–Charlie to her friends and family–has always known she was different. Unlike those around her, she can understand all of the languages spoken around her. Even when she’s not supposed to. Even if she’d never heard the language spoken before. If Charlie’s secret were discovered it could mean certain death. Her parents have helped her to keep this gift hidden, but someone–someone powerful–may have inadvertently discovered Charlie’s secret.  What will he do with his suspicions? Will he turn her over to the queen, or will he pledge to be Charlie’s fiercest protector?

As revolution against the queen draws ever closer, Charlie finds herself embroiled in something that she never expected or wanted. According to those around her, she’s more important that she realizes, and it may be up to her to usurp the queen that she–and every other citizen of Ludania–has pledged their lives to obey and protect. Charlie is unsure of who she can trust, but she is sure of one thing. Her secret is about to be revealed…but even she isn’t prepared for what that might mean. Can Charlie do what must be done? Can she sacrifice all she’s ever known or believed for the possibility of a better future for Ludania? Is she strong enough to face the battle ahead? Read Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge to learn how one young girl has the power to topple a despot…if she’ll only believe in herself.

Before anyone points it out, yes, I know I haven’t told you a whole lot, and I know this isn’t the greatest recap I’ve ever written.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know what to say about this book.  It’s a dystopian novel with some supernatural stuff thrown in, but it’s also a story about love, friendship, loyalty, and rebellion. The main character–and many others in this book–are battling an evil that none of them truly understand.  I’m not even sure I understand it fully.  (I do know, however, that a queen that can essentially Force-choke those who cross her would be an enemy I wouldn’t want to have.)  I’m hoping things will be cleared up in the next book, The Essence, which is set to be released on New Year’s Day (if it’s not already out in some places).

If you’d like more information about The Pledge or other books by Kimberly Derting, I encourage you to visit the author’s website. You may also want to follow the author on Twitter @kimberlyderting.

To hear the author herself talk about the creating of The Pledge, check out this vlog from Novel Novice.

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Hobbit

I first read The Hobbit when I was in the fourth grade. Over twenty years have passed since then, and I figured I needed to reread this epic novel before I saw the movie on December 14th. (As you can imagine, I’ve forgotten a bit in 20+ years. I didn’t, however, forget how freakin’ awesome this book was.) I remembered most of the major events of the novel, but I think my immature 10-year-old brain just didn’t grasp the importance of some of the details…or even how amazing Tolkien’s writing was. My 33-year-old brain had no such problems. I know I appreciate the book more now, but I’ll always be glad I read The Hobbit as a child because it was really my introduction to fantasy fiction. I’ve loved fantasy ever since.

Now, unlike most of the books I talk about here on Knight Reader, I’m not going to tell you much of anything about this book. I shouldn’t have to convince anyone to read The Hobbit. It is a classic piece of fantasy for a reason, and, if you consider yourself a fan of fantasy at all, you should have already read this book. If you are simply a literature buff, you need to read this book. J.R.R. Tolkien is a legend, and his work should be read by everyone. Just my opinion (but I’m usually right about these things.) ;-)

Unless you live under a rock (or in a hobbit-hole or in a mountain with a fire-breathing dragon), you know that the movie adaptation of The Hobbit comes out in two weeks. I have no doubt that this film will be just as awesome as the movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. After all, Peter Jackson is at the helm once again. I also can’t wait to see how Martin Freeman (who also plays Dr. Watson in the BBC’s Sherlock, one of the best shows on TV) portrays Bilbo Baggins. I’m fairly certain this role will make Mr. Freeman into even more of a nerd icon than he already is.

It will surprise no one that I have every intention of being present at the midnight premiere of The Hobbit. I will be watching it in an IMAX 3D theater, and I’ll enjoy every minute of it. As I was for all three Lord of the Rings movies, I’ll be joined by my dad. (Both of us have already taken the next day off work. It’s kind of a nerd holiday for us.) I can’t wait to share this experience with him, and I know this will be a memory we treasure forever. I just hope the movie lives up to our expectations. I have a feeling it will.

To whet your appetite for what is sure to be an awesome movie-going experience, check out one of the many trailers for The Hobbit. (I’ve included one below.) I will say, though, that I highly recommend reading or rereading the book before you see the movie. It adds so much depth to the entire experience. I think all avid readers would agree with me there.

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bitterblue

While it’s not entirely necessary to read Graceling and Fire (the first two books in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series) before reading Bitterblue, it is highly recommended…simply because all of these books are freakin’ fantastic!

On May 1st of this year, I rushed out to my nearest bookstore to pick up a book that I had every intention of reading immediately.  Sadly, as it often does, life got in the way, and I just recently made the time to read Bitterblue, the third book in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling trilogy.  I’ve been anticipating reading this book for a LONG time, and it was very much worth the wait.  I absolutely adored Graceling and Fire, so I knew that Bitterblue would be no exception, but I wasn’t prepared for exactly how much I would love this third installment.  It did take me a long time to read this one–nearly three weeks.  (A lot of different things factored into this, including but not limited to being displaced from my home due to a break-in, webmaster training and faculty meetings at school, sickness, fatigue, work, and just being busy doing other stuff.)  Anyway, I think taking so long to read Bitterblue helped me to really absorb what was happening, and, at least in this case, made entering this fantasy world the escape that I really needed it to be.

Bitterblue picks up eight years after the conclusion of Graceling. King Leck of Monsea is dead, but his legacy of cruelty–and his Grace of having everyone believe his lies–lives on.  His daughter, Queen Bitterblue, is left with the arduous task of picking up the shattered pieces of Monsea and putting them back together again.  But who can she really trust to help her?  She is certain that her advisors–who also worked for her lying, sadistic father–are keeping things from her.  She can’t get a straight answer from anyone, and anytime she brings up the past, those around her simply shut down.  (Some things, it seems, are simply too painful to remember.)  Her true friends and confidantes (Graceling‘s Katsa and Po among them) are few and far between, and, though they’re willing to help Bitterblue when they can, it ultimately falls to Bitterblue to find the answers she needs…even if she has to disguise herself and escape her guards to do it.

Bitterblue finds a new freedom when she leaves the castle and loses herself in the capital city of Monsea.  No one knows her as their queen.  She can be anyone and do anything.  She can find some answers to the questions that plague her every waking minute.  She can become friends with people who won’t make a habit of lying to her…because they don’t know who she truly is.

One of those friends is a Graceling named Sapphire.  Bitterblue is drawn to him like no one she’s ever encountered.  What’s so special about this young man?  And what will he do when he finally learns the truth…that the girl he’s come to care about is actually the Queen of Monsea?

While Bitterblue is facing her new, confusing feelings about Sapphire, she’s also dealing with betrayal at every level, the haunting legacy left by her father, spies in her midst, uncovering the lost history of her people, and the threat of war with neighboring kingdoms.  It’s all a little much for an eighteen-year-old monarch to handle.  Bitterblue is doing all she can to keep her head above water, but the pressure of everything weighing on her is starting to make her question her ability to rule.  Will she be able to rebuild Monsea while retaining her sanity, or did her father do more damage than Bitterblue can ever hope to repair?  Read Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore to learn if one young girl can be the queen–and the hope–that her people need.

So, yeah…I loved this book, and you should read it.  It’s beautifully complex, and it allows those of us who adored Graceling and Fire to revisit some of our favorite characters while introducing us to new characters to love and loathe.  I think I’ve said this about the previous two books, but I’ll say it again because the same applies to Bitterblue:  Tolkien fans will delight in this book and its companions.  (My fellow Ringers know this is super high praise.)  Kristin Cashore is wonderfully adept at world-building, and I found myself, at several points in this book, looking outside and being disappointed that my surroundings didn’t mirror those in Monsea (especially Bitterblue’s castle).

I can’t say enough good things about the entire Graceling trilogy.  I just wish there were more books to look forward to.

If you’d like more information about this series or author Kristin Cashore, check out her blog at http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/.  You may also enjoy the Bitterblue book trailer below.  I truly hope you enjoy this book and the others in this series as much as I have.

Published in: on October 8, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rivals and Retribution

Caution!  If you haven’t read the first four books in Shannon Delany’s 13 to Life series (13 to Life, Secrets and Shadows, Bargains and Betrayals, Destiny and Deception), turn back now.  I just finished the fifth and final book in the series, Rivals and Retribution, and I don’t want to ruin things for you…but I will.

I started reading the 13 to Life series a couple of years ago, and I completed the journey through this series earlier today.  I’ll try not to go into too much detail here just in case you haven’t experienced these books, but I’ll admit that I’m a little sad that the story of Pietr and Jessie (and Max, Alexi, Cat, Marlaena, etc.) is over.  Rivals and Retribution seeks to resolve the many issues and problems that have plagued Jessie, the Rusakova family, and those close to them.  Was this resolution all that I hoped for?  Well, we’ll discuss that in a bit…

Can Jessie Gillmansen’s life ever be normal?  (With her boyfriend being a Russian werewolf, probably not.)  Any semblance of normality dissolves when Jessie is kidnapped by a rival pack who wants to force the Rusakovas, especially Jessie’s boyfriend Pietr, into action.  Action that will, hopefully, force Pietr to once again embrace the wolf that lives just under the surface of his skin.

Well, it works.  Almost too well.  Not only has Pietr regained his wolfish nature, he’s also determined to end any threat to his family.  But that may be easier said than done…particularly when he’s unaccountably drawn to Marlaena, the alpha female of the pack that tried to kill his beloved girlfriend, Jessie.  Why is this girl, this enemy, invading his thoughts?  Why do all of his instincts scream for him to be around her?  And why is he becoming sick the longer he’s with Jessie and away from Marlaena?

Alexi, Pietr’s brother, thinks he knows the answer, but he’ll have to make some unsavory deals and mend some fences to even have a chance to come up with a solution.  Will he be able to solve Pietr’s dilemma–and finally find a cure that lasts–before it’s too late?  Before his family, his life, and his brother’s love for Jessie is destroyed forever?  Read Rivals and Retribution, the conclusion to Shannon Delany’s 13 to Life series, to learn how the werewolves of Junction–and those who love them–finally take control of their own destinies.

For those of you who’ve read this series, I’ll tell you that this final book does answer several questions…but it does leave a few unanswered.  (I’m still not sure what makes Jessie’s blood so special or why Derek’s thoughts kept invading the minds of Jessie, Sophie, and Sarah.  Maybe I’m missing something.)  The action in Rivals and Retribution is super fast-paced, almost too much so.  When I had just a few chapters left, I was really worried because I knew that there wasn’t enough time to get the closure I was looking for.  Was there some closure?  Sure, but it kind of felt rushed to me.  For all of the action in previous books–and even in this one–the ending was a little too neat and anticlimactic.  I hate to say it, but I would have enjoyed a little more violence and blood-letting in this conclusion.  Maybe that’s just me, though.

The 13 to Life series, as a whole, is definitely one worth reading, especially for those who are enamored of all things werewolf, but I have to say that Rivals and Retribution was my least favorite book in the series.  It was a fast-paced, enjoyable read, but I would have liked just a few more chapters with a little more meat to flesh out some plot points.  Do with that what you will.

For those who would like to learn more about author Shannon Delany and the 13 to Life series, visit http://www.13tolifeseries.com.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Scorpio Races

Unlike nearly every girl I grew up with in rural South Carolina, I never had a fondness for horses.  (I’ve always been more of an indoor kind of gal.  Horses are for those outdoorsy types.)  I should have known, then, that The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater might not be my cup of tea.  Honestly, I only picked up the book because I thoroughly enjoyed Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, and I thought this one would be just as wonderful.  In a way, it was. 

The action in the book, while horrifying at times, was still understated and even beautiful and natural in its own way.  The author didn’t hit readers over the head with the relationship brewing between the two main characters.  It was subtle and true to the characters’ personalities.  It did take me a while to get into this book, however, and I often found my interest waning.  The Scorpio Races is not a light-hearted romp of a novel, and the seriousness of the book kind of put me off a bit.  It didn’t help that the book made me even more wary of horses than I already was.

The Scorpio Races take over the island of Thisby every November. It is the island’s most exciting, money-making, and tourist-attracting event. It’s also a fight for survival. While struggling to tame the vicious water horses that are the focus of the brutal display, racers put their lives on the line for the chance to cross the finish line first and become legends.

Sean Kendrick is already a legend when it comes to the races.  At the age of nineteen, he’s already a four-time champion, and it’s looking like this year will be his fifth victory.  But Sean, a serious young man with a rather taciturn nature, is battling for more than just another mark in the win column.  He’s fighting for his own taste of freedom.  But there may be someone on the horizon that needs to win more than Sean ever has…

Puck Connolly is a young woman who is on the verge of losing everything she’s ever known.  Her older brother is determined to leave her and their younger brother behind on the island, so Puck does the only thing she can think of to get him to stay a little longer.  She enters the Scorpio Races.  The odds are stacked against her from the very beginning.  Puck is the first girl to ever enter the races, nearly everyone on the island tries to bully her or convince her to change her mind, and she’s not racing on one of the fierce water horses.  No, she’s racing on her own dependable land mare, Dove.  No one thinks Puck has a shot of winning–including Puck–but everyone will soon find out that there’s more to Puck Connolly than anyone ever suspected…

Sean is intrigued by this girl who has entered the races despite the odds.  Puck is fascinated by the boy who seems to always have one leg on land and the other in the sea, the boy who has a special bond with the beasts that claimed her parents’ lives.  The two young people are inexorably drawn together by the very races that could tear them apart.

Sean and Puck both need to win the races that are sure to claim lives before all is said and done.  Both of them need to win to preserve everything that they hold dear.  Who will win?  Who will lose?  Will Puck and Sean be strong enough to handle the races that are sure to change their lives forever?  Will the races draw them together or destroy them forever?  Find out when you read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

I don’t know what else to say about this book.  It was good, but I’m ready to move on to somewhat lighter fare.  If you think you might enjoy The Scorpio Races, I strongly urge you to read the author’s note at the back of the book first.  I stumbled over the name of the water horses–capall uisce–and the author’s note has a handy pronunciation (CAPple ISHka) as well as some of the myths surrounding the mysterious water horses.

If you’d like to learn more about The Scorpio Races or other books by Maggie Steifvater, visit her website at http://maggiestiefvater.com/ or follow her on Twitter @msteifvater.

Published in: on July 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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