Stealing Snow

Last night, I finished reading Danielle Paige’s latest novel, Stealing Snow, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen. I figured that, since I adored Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, I would be equally enamored of her new book. That wasn’t exactly how things worked out.

I did enjoy some elements of Stealing Snow, but I like the Dorothy Must Die books much more. It may have something to do with the subject matter. I’m much more familiar with the Land of Oz than I am with the story of the Snow Queen. (Most of what I know about the Snow Queen comes from Frozen, and I think we can all agree that movie doesn’t come close to the original story.) The convoluted love story also didn’t really work for me. I liked the twist at the end of the book, and I fully intend to read the rest of the series, but Stealing Snow wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.

When Snow Yardley was just a little girl, her mother sent her to live at Whittaker, a psychiatric facility for “troubled” youth. Snow doesn’t think she’s crazy, but she can’t deny that she has odd dreams and a tendency to be filled with icy anger. (It’s hard not to be angry when you’ve been locked in an asylum for most of your life.) Her only friend at Whittaker is Bale, but even that is taken from when he turns violent shortly after their first kiss.

Snow can’t explain Bale’s sudden violence–and even more sudden disappearance–but maybe there’s someone out there who can. A new orderly at Whittaker tells Snow that there’s a world that lies beyond these walls, and all she has to do to claim it is meet him at the Tree that haunts her dreams. But how can this be possible, and what does it have to do with Bale?

Snow eventually finds a way to escape Whittaker and find the Tree in question. Beyond the Tree lies the mysterious land of Algid. Snow doesn’t know quite what to make of this strange world…or her place in it. Algid is ruled by King Lazar, a brutal, powerful man…who is also Snow’s father. According to prophecy, Snow will soon overthrow her father or join him, making his hold on Algid even more absolute.

Snow isn’t convinced of all that’s being thrown at her, but she has to play along if she has any hope of finding Bale. At the very least, she needs to learn to control her newly discovered powers. As her name suggests, Snow has the power to control snow.

Snow needs to use her new power against the King’s minions, and several interested parties want to help her do just that. There’s the River Witch, who has her own reasons for wanting King Lazar out of power. There’s Kai, a boy who can be standoffish but who Snow feels connected to. And there’s Jagger, the boy who posed as an orderly at Whittaker, and his band of Robbers. Snow doesn’t know who to trust, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save Bale…even if she’s not entirely certain anymore that he’s the love of her life.

Like it or not, Snow is tied to the future of Algid, and a day is coming that will reveal to her more than she ever wanted to know. She’ll discover hard truths about Bale, her parents, herself, and what she needs to do to control her own fate.


As I said before, I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. It felt kind of disjointed at times, and the “love rectangle” really got on my nerves. Snow’s back-and-forth between Bale, Kai, and Jagger was grating and often nonsensical. I get why she was connected to Bale, but she just met Kai and Jagger. I didn’t see any reason for her to be all swoony over them. They could have been complete psychopaths for all she knew. (Of course, Bale had his share of psychotic moments, and she was nuts over him.) I just wanted to reach through the pages, shake Snow, and tell her to deal with her own issues without worrying about all these guys. I mean, seriously, she had enough problems without the male of the species making things more confusing. (And that last sentence may as well be my own personal philosophy on getting through life.)

Anyhoo, Stealing Snow, despite its flaws, was an enjoyable read. I liked the curveball at the end of the book. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.) That surprise made up for a lot and made me want to read more of this series.

Speaking of the series as a whole, there are two prequel novellas that are already available. The first, Before the Snow, tells more about the River Witch and her connection to King Lazar. The second, Queen Rising, gives a closer look at Margot, queen of the Robbers. Since I found both of those characters to be quite interesting in Stealing Snow, I’ll give those two stories a read very soon. The second full-length novel, which is currently untitled, will be out sometime in 2017.

If you’d like more information on Stealing Snow and Danielle Paige’s other books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads.

Endure

A word to the wise: If you haven’t read the first three books in Carrie Jones’ Need series (Need, Captivate, and Entice), it might be a good idea to do that now.  And if it’s been about three years since you’ve read these books, a refresher might be in order before proceeding with the fourth and final book in the series, Endure. (Should have taken my own advice on that one.)

So, I’m spending part of my reading this year catching up on various series. It’s hard to keep up when most of what one reads is part of a series.  Three years ago, during a week-long snowstorm here in South Carolina, I read the first three books in the Need series by Carrie Jones.  Fast forward a little over three years, and I finally started reading the fourth book, Endure, during yet another freak snowstorm in South Carolina.  (When I say “freak” here, I’m talking like 6 inches of snow…which basically shut down the entire state.  It was a big deal, and I didn’t leave my house–or my pajamas–for days.) It seemed to fit as this series takes place in Maine, and pixies have brought on some sort of super-winter as a prelude to Ragnarok. (Don’t know what Ragnarok is? Look it up. That’s my sassy librarian answer for you.)

Anyway, I say I started this fourth book during Snowpocalypse 2014, but I didn’t finish it until a bit later.  It was difficult to get invested in the series again after spending so much time away from it.  To put things in perspective, it took me about three weeks to get through the first 30 pages of Endure…but I read the last 230 pages in the span of a single evening. Once I refamiliarized myself with the characters and story, I was enthralled, but it did take some time…and a mention of my favorite Norse god, Loki (who I will always and forever picture as the glorious Tom Hiddleston).

Zara White is not exactly a normal girl. Not anymore, anyway. After turning pixie to save Nick–her boyfriend and a werewolf–from Valhalla, Zara has hopes that things can return to some kind of normal.  But normal’s not really possible when you are tied to a pixie king, being hunted by another one, your grandma–a weretiger–is missing, people all over your town are being abducted, and you’re at the center of it all.

As if Zara didn’t have enough to deal with, Nick wants nothing more to do with her now that she’s a pixie–a pixie queen, as a matter of fact–and Zara’s growing feelings for Astley, the good pixie king, are more confusing than ever. It’s quite the conundrum, but Zara will have to put her love-life on the back burner for now…especially if she is to have any hope of halting the apocalypse. No pressure.

Zara is facing some tough choices. How can she train her human friends to fight evil pixies? Can she retain her humanness while taking her place as Astley’s queen?  What does that even mean, and what will Zara do when some things are completely taken out of her hands?  Will she still be a strong leader? Will she still save the world from certain destruction? How? What sacrifices will Zara have to make to protect those she loves the most…and will those sacrifices be enough? There’s only one way to find out. Jump headfirst into trouble…

_______________

Now that I’ve finished the entire series, I must say that the first book was probably my favorite, and this last one came in a distant second. (It would have been a close second, but it just took me way to long to get re-invested. The perils of loving to read serial fiction.) The entire series turns pixie lore on its ear, and it pays homage to Norse mythology. That’s something I appreciate.

On top of all that stuff, the Need series features some very strong female characters. Yes, Zara is the protagonist and is seen as the strongest of the series’ female characters–which I think she is–but there are many other strong women and girls given time in this series, and each one has her own brand of strength. From Zara to her grandma to Issie to Cassidy and several more, the females in this book do not depend on men to do their fighting for them. These ladies go out and make things happen, and they are fully capable of stopping the end of the world on their own, thank you very much. (The guys do help some, but the action definitely centers on the girls in the group, in my opinion.)

All in all, the Need series is a great read if you’re into supernatural stuff with a bit of good, old-fashioned mythology thrown in. You may need to look up a few things if you’re unfamiliar with Norse mythology, but that’s part of the fun! (Granted, my idea of “fun” may need a bit of work.)

For more information on the Need series and author Carrie Jones, check out her website at http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/. You can find links to all of Carrie’s social media pages there.

Jessica Rules the Dark Side

Spoiler alert!  You MUST read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey before proceeding!  You may also want to read The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu, an online novella available on the author’s website here.  This post will be all about Jessica Rules the Dark Side, which takes place shortly after the events of the novella.

After reading both the preceding book and novella, I had super-high hopes for Jessica Rules the Dark Side.  In some ways, those hopes were realized.  In others, though, this sequel just didn’t live up to the first book.  I liked how Jessica grew into her role as a leader, but I wanted to smack her in the face a few times for being monumentally stupid.  She was such a strong character in the first book that it was almost painful to see her weakness at the beginning of this one.  Yes, I understand that there’s probably a lot of pressure involved in being a Romanian vampire princess, but the first part of this book was kind of difficult to take.  Jessica was almost as whiney as Bella Swan (and that is saying something).

The honeymoon is over.  Now, it’s time for Lucius and Jessica–otherwise known as Princess Antanasia–to rule their contentious vampire clans.  But not everyone wants them to take the throne.  When one of their primary adversaries ends up dead, and all evidence points to Lucius, it is up to Jessica to make the hard decisions and step up when her dear husband is incarcerated for a crime she’s sure he didn’t commit.  Jessica doesn’t know what she’s doing, and, worse, everyone knows it.  How can she possibly find a way to clear her husband’s name and convince everyone she’s fit to be the queen…especially when she doesn’t think she’s queen material herself?

Jessica enlists the help of her best friend Mindy–who’s dealing with her own brand of failure–and Lucius’ best friend Raniero–who is hiding some pretty dark and disturbing secrets.  Jessica has complete faith in Mindy, but she’s not quite sure of Raniero’s motives…and when the truth is revealed about his past, she’s even more unsure.  Eventually, she trusts Lucius’ faith in his friend and seeks Raniero’s guidance and help in proving her husband’s innocence.  Jessica is still not entirely certain of who around her is ally or enemy, but it’s becoming crystal clear that a plot is afoot to remove Lucius–and her–from their rightful places.  But who would go to such great and horrifying lengths to destroy Lucius and Jessica?

The answer is closer than even Jessica knows, but time is running out.  Lucius’ time in prison–without the life-sustaining blood he needs–is causing him to grow ever weaker.  If Jessica cannot find out who is framing her husband soon, both of them will face certain destruction.  Who is friend?  Who is foe?  And can Jessica learn to tell the difference before she loses everything?  Will Jessica find a way to save her husband and assert her own power before it’s too late?  Or will the traitor that framed Lucius find a way to destroy Jessica too?  Uncover the mystery when you read Beth Fantaskey’s Jessica Rules the Dark Side.

It was clear to me from the very beginning who was behind the shenanigans in the Vladescu manor, but several of the characters in this book–with the possible exception of Jessica’s best (human) friend Mindy–were blind to what was obviously going on around them.  It was all so predictable.

While reading this book, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to that other vampire couple.  You know, the sparkly one.  The relationship between Lucius and Jessica is very similar to the one between Edward and Bella.  No, they didn’t have some weird, creepy mutant child, but their dynamic was basically the same.  Lucius is the powerful one who seems secure in his role as a ruler.  He’s dominant, formal, and protective.  Jessica is new to this whole thing and is very insecure and whiney.  She eventually grows into her power, but it takes a very real threat to make that happen.  By the end, she is Lucius’ equal, but the journey was not easy for her, and she had to overcome her own urge to run in order to truly rule.  Very much like Edward and Bella in Breaking Dawn, no?

I was a big fan of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, but I’m afraid this sequel didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  It was okay, but a few surprises would have made it a much more exciting read.

If you’d like to learn more about author Beth Fantaskey and her books, visit http://www.bethfantaskey.com/.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

It’s not often that I’m so enthralled by a book that it follows me into my dreams.  Well, that’s what happened with Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  I started reading this book earlier this week, and, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t get into it at first.  The past few days, however, I found myself eager to return to the world created in this amazing novel.  Last night, my dreams were fitful and centered around what the main character was going through and how she might prevail in the end.  As soon as I woke up this morning, I started reading again, and, with the exception of lunch, potty breaks, and a short nap, I read all day.  I finished the book a couple of hours ago, and I’m super eager to get my hands on the second book, The Crown of Embers.  For now, though, I must be content with reliving what happened in The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  Join me, won’t you?

At first glance, there’s really nothing special about Elisa.  Sure, she’s a princess, but she’s also chubby, not very graceful, has few talents to speak of, and she’s constantly compared to her beautiful, poised older sister. One thing, though, sets Elisa apart from everyone. She is the bearer of the Godstone–a stone in her naval that is believed to have been placed there by God Himself.  For this reason, she is destined to do great things…but she’s not sure what that means or if she can live up to her calling.

On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa’s life undergoes a drastic change.  She marries the handsome King Alejandro and leaves her comfortable life to journey to a new land and eventually become their queen.  Why was she chosen and not her sister?  Elisa is not sure, but she unites with Alejandro in an alliance that will benefit both of their homelands.

As Elisa travels to her new home, she is made aware of just how important she may be.  When enemies and allies alike learn that she is the bearer of the Godstone, it is made abundantly clear just why she was chosen to be Alejandro’s bride…and that her destiny is not one that will be easy.  There are those that would kill her for the power she possesses.  There are also those who would die to protect it…and her.

With war coming–and a powerful, horrific magic with it–it may be up to one scared but determined sixteen-year-old girl to save everyone and everything.  She will have help along the way, but, ultimately, Elisa must keep her faith alive and trust that the God who entrusted her with the precious Godstone will give her the strength and power she needs to live up to her destiny.

I haven’t done a very good job of explaining the events of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but it’s simply because it’s hard to put into words how excellent this book truly is.  It reminded me of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling books and even, at times, the tremendous works of J.R.R. Tolkein.  (Highest praise I can possibly give.) 

I loved how the heroine of the story was not your typical thin, waif-like, silly girl.  Elisa had some meat on her bones, she liked to eat, and she was often concerned with where her next meal was coming from.  (Finally, a character I can really relate to.)  She wasn’t the most confident person.  In fact, she was scared most of the time, but she showed those around her just what perseverance and bravery meant.  She kept on even though she doubted herself.

I don’t often say this about the YA fantasy that I come across, but, in addition to being a great book for high school libraries, I think The Girl of Fire and Thorns could find a place in church libraries.  Elisa is a character that many Christian teens and adults will identify with.  Even though she doubts herself and God on occasion, she keeps her faith strong and is in a constant state of prayer.  Even when things are bleakest, she trusts that God will see her through.  It’s a powerful message.

As you may have already figured out, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the first book in a trilogy.  The second book, The Crown of Embers, will be out in the fall of this year, and the third book, The Bitter Kingdom, is due out in the fall of 2013.  There will also be an eBook novella, The Shadow Cats, which will be available on July 17th.  For more information, visit http://www.raecarson.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @raecarson.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Thanks to an incovenient bout of insomnia, I’ve gotten a lot of reading done lately.  (Weirdly, nearly all of the books involve vampires.  Maybe the subject matter is keeping me from sleeping at night…or I’m turning into a vampire.  I’ll keep you posted.)  Well, my latest read is Beth Fantaskey’s Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.  As you may have surmised, this is yet another vampire tale.  Unlike some others that take a little while to get into, this one hooked me from the very first page.  I LOVED it!  There’s just so much angst in this book (and many, many allusions to classic pieces of literature…many of them also filled with angst).  It’s a really great read for literature nerds who like vampires.

Jessica Packwood lives on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania.  Her life has always been a bit drab, but things are about to change.  There’s a stranger in town who is about to turn her entire world upside down.  For Lucius Vladescu is not just any stranger; he’s a vampire prince and claims to be Jessica’s betrothed.  It should go without saying that Jessica’s a little resistant to this news.  Yes, she knows she was adopted in Romania and that her birth parents had some odd cultural beliefs, but she can’t possibly believe she’s a vampire princess and engaged to a guy she’s never met.  Can she?

Well, it turns out, all that stuff is true, and Jessica, or Antanasia as she’s known in vampire circles, must embrace her destiny to prevent war among vampire clans.  She’s just having a little trouble accepting all of this stuff.  It really doesn’t help that she’s strangely drawn to Lucius and beginning to crave blood.  And it seems the closer she gets to admitting the truth to herself, the farther Lucius slips from her.  You see, Lucius has been raised to believe he has no choice in his destiny, but his time with Jessica and other American teens has made him value the preciousness of choosing one’s own destiny.

Jessica has accepted her fate, but now Lucius is the one unwilling to unite their vampire families.  Why?  Does he really have no feelings for Jessica?  Or is there some larger, perhaps more sinister, plan at work?  What will become of Jessica and Lucius when the ruthless vampire elders decide to intervene?  Can these two crazy kids possibly work things out, or are they doomed to destroy each other?  Read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side to find out.

Like I said before, I loved this book.  It was a fast read and kept me captivated the whole way through.  The story is continued on Beth Fantaskey’s webpage, http://www.bethfantaskey.com/, and, as soon as I can stand to sit in front of a computer that long, I plan to read it.  For now, though, I’m going to move on to Beth Fantaskey’s next novel, Jekel Loves Hyde.  Happy reading!