Category Archives: Young Adult

Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis

Sixteen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as the royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their kingdom and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

Jarvik is infuriating, bossy and unfortunately, the only person she can turn to when she unveils a heinous plot. Together, the unlikely pair will have to work together to stop an enemy that everyone thought was long gone, one with the power to destroy her family and the people of Emperion. Now the cage Allyssa so longed to break free from might just be the one thing she has to fight to keep intact. In order to save her kingdom, she will have to sacrifice her freedom, her heart, and maybe even her life. – Goodreads

I think I’m part of the minority, but I wasn’t head over heels for this book. I know, I know.

I like Allyssa — she was an alright MC. However, in true YA fantasy fashion, Allyssa is doomed to take part in an arranged marriage, which eats up most of the first half of the book. Though I can obviously understand not WANTING to be forced into an arranged marriage, Allyssa’s apprehensions come off as angsty and whiny, to a point where she deliberately puts her own safety (and that of her friend) at stake to go gallavanting into the night. She’s a badass, she can fight — I will give her that.

The “plot twist” is something you can spot from a mile away. It’s apparent from the moment it shows up and the first clue is given. I won’t delve into it anymore, but I was annoyed at how easy it was to figure out.

Also, side note, since I’m on a rant — I understand the name of the book is Cage of Deceit, but holy shit. If I had a dollar for everytime I read the words ‘gilded cage’ or literally just ‘cage’ in a metaphorical context,  I would have enough money to buy many books.

This was a miss for me, but don’t let my pessimism discourage you — Jennifer is a good writer and I will read other work from her in the future. I rated this a 2/5.

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25817407Love is a risk worth taking.

Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny…and Kahlen doesn’t want to.

Falling in love with a human breaks all the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart. – Goodreads

Yeah, I wasn’t feeling this one. I picked it up for a light romantic fantasy read, but it just didn’t dazzle me or do it for me. At all. I read The Selection series and enjoyed it for its light-hearted Bachelor-esque feel, and I was hoping for something similar out of this. The Siren just didn’t deliver.

I’m going to start with what I liked about it first — for one, I enjoyed the writing style. The word choice, flow, etc was done well. I really enjoyed the CONCEPT of the story — that the Ocean must consume souls to survive, and to do so She saves certain unlucky victims (female, unmarried, not mothers) from drowning to become her Sirens, who sing the deadly song and lure those unlucky souls to their deaths. The Ocean must survive in order to provide the masses with food, etc. Those chosen victims must dedicate 100 years of servitude to the Ocean in exchange for their life. I don’t know much about siren folklore, but this was definitely new to me and I enjoyed that piece of it.

I did not enjoy the instalove and whiny MC. I was also annoyed at everyone’s names, specifically the MC and her love interest. Kahlen and Akinli? This book is set in present-day, Kahlen “died” in the 40s…these aren’t typical names, and for some reason that really annoyed me. And the instalove. I. Can’t. Even. They meet. They decide to hang out. They make cake (with about 9000 mentions of effing almond extract). They fall in love. Wait, what? That escalated quickly. Don’t even get me started on when Kahlen washes up on a tiny town in Maine where Akinli is from (they met in MIAMI, ok) and he doesn’t even ask questions. He just takes her in and they go on a date. WTF? WTF.

During the times that those two aren’t together, Kahlen is obnoxiously depressed and withdrawn — super boring to read about.

Anyway, rather and drivel on about how much I didn’t like this, I’ll just leave my 2/5 rating here and move on with my life.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

22840421The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England. – Goodreads

I just finished this and had to log-on ASAP to write a review — this is by far one of my top five favorite books of the year (so naturally I had to write it before 2016 timed out).

I’m not sure what initially drew me to this book — I think it came through as a Kindle deal or something. When I saw that Cynthia Hand lives in my town, I figured, eh, I like historical fiction, I suppose I’ll drop a couple of bucks for a fellow Idahoan.

Could not put down, to a point of the boyfriend complaining about how I look at my Kindle more than him (ironic, because he got it for me for Christmas). It IS a 500+ page book, though, so it took a small chunk of time to read (not complaining — I loved the book, and thus loved the length).

First things first (and our dear narrators let us know from the get-go) – this is not an entirely accurate depiction of history. In fact, it’s a bit more of a historical/fantasy mashup, with the Tudors, shapeshifters, and the like thrown in.

The story is told from three points-of-view — Jane, Edward and Gifford. Jane is a firey redheaded bookworm. Edward is the king, who is quite immature and has no idea how to run a kingdom (he’s also dying). Gifford is a lord’s son, who happens to turn into a horse.

Edward, who is dying, names Jane the next in line for the throne and mandates her marriage to Gifford (at the suggestion of his royal advisor, who is Gifford’s dad). Now, Jane and Gifford know of each other, but know nothing about each other — needless to say, they’re not pleased with their marriage.

The humor in this book — that’s what hooked me and what made it so enjoyable. I loved how occasionally the narrators would butt in with a quip or comment — it always fit, and was used sparingly.

I really enjoyed the character development — the three POVs worked well and I enjoyed all three characters. They had dimension and their chemistry was fantastic.

I also enjoyed the worldbuilding. Though set in old England, the fantasy elements with the Verities and Edians worked well.

The writing was also fabulous — in fact, I completely forgot the book was written by three different people.

5/5 for sure!

L

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1) by Rae Carson

17564519Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift. – Goodreads

This. THIS.

It’s no secret, I’ve been a terrible reader lately — and by that I mean I haven’t been reading a whole lot. Partly due to life, partly due to having a hard time finding a book that really drew me in. This one did it. I downloaded the free Kindle sample and was hooked before the sample was over.

I wasn’t entirely sure about it when I started reading it — the old time-y dialogue and phrases kept making me shudder — it felt forced at first. After I settled in and became comfortable with the time period and main character, I began reading it in her accent and it became comfortable.

Before I delve into this review, let me warn you: I am obsessed with three historical time periods and/or events. Ancient Egypt, the sinking of the Titanic, and the Oregon Trail. Now, I grew up on the Oregon Trail — Bonneville Point (an Oregon Trail Historical Preserve) is literally down the street from my house. I used to be terrified of digging in the dirt because I thought I’d happen upon a skeleton or something. I never found anything, but I studied the Oregon Trail extensively during my homeschooled years. I also loved the hell out of the PC game.

Once Lee was on her way (after her parents are brutally murdered and she’s forced to flee — after all, if you have the ability to sense gold and people find out, they want to use you) and posing as a boy, I was sucked in and couldn’t put the book down. I loved that the whole posing-as-a-boy was done differently than other stories I’ve read. She was still proud to be a woman, but extremely upset at the fact that in that time period women were bartered back and forth and essentially owned by men. After her secret is out, she freely wears a skirt, shoots a rifle, and rides a horse.

On that note, Lee is a strong female MC — though she has her trials, she works through them realistically and believably. I really enjoyed her character, as well as the supporting characters. Even the ones who began as folks I disliked grew on me after a while.

The worldbuilding was decent, but I did find myself getting lost at where they were at in the journey. I would have liked some more orientation as to where they were in points — some familiar names would pop up — Fort Laramie, Fort Hall, etc. and I would know where they were, but that’s only because I know them.

Anyway, I’m obsessed. It’s fine. I’m definitely starting the second book ASAP. Added to my favorites and rated a 5/5.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

18584855Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. – Goodreads

I devoured this one. Kind of like the characters in the book who were obsessed with Catherine’s baking.

Can I just say that Marissa Meyer is a badass as retelling fairytales? Seriously! I’m not a Queen of Hearts kind of girl (hated the ones in the movies, didn’t like the one in the book). This book is the only telling of the Queen of Hearts that I’m down with. It’s basically a prequel to Alice in Wonderland — after all, we never really learn why the Queen of Hearts is so horrible.

Catherine is not your typical strong heroine. She doesn’t fight people, she’s not out on quests. She wants to open her own bakery, not marry the freakin’ king. But she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents. Then Jest comes and everything changes.

It’s instalove. It’s totally instalove. And I didn’t really care at all. Once it happens, their romance develops slowly and though it’s the overarching storyline, it wasn’t obnoxious. It worked really well.

I need to reign this in because I’m just gushing at this point.

The story is dark and twisted. The worldbuilding is fantastic — there are so many characters, beasts, and elements from Alice in Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat, the Looking Glass, the Mad Hatter…the list goes on. They all fit in flawlessly.

I can’t really go into too much more detail without ruining the plot — the ending was painful, though. I set the book down feeling the most intense form of book sadness ever.

I loved this book. I rated it 5/5!

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

28114396Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force. – Goodreads

When I first started reading this, I was like, awww yeah. I love me some YA fantasy.

And then I found myself getting progressively more and more annoyed. At first I thought Brita was a badass (don’t get me wrong, she is — she can definitely handle her own) but one moony-eyed look from the dude she loved and she’s twitterpated and dumb. I also felt that as a reader, I wasn’t really shown that Britta was as strong of a heroine as I was told.

So yeah, I was annoyed.

The book started fairly slow — I was into it, but it took a while for the storyline to really get moving. Britta is trying to find her father’s murderer, which involves some adventuring, getting captured multiple times, running from her jailers, etc.

I don’t know. I just thought it was predictable and the romance was dull. The worldbuilding was okay, but I never really felt pulled in. I rated this a 2/5 on Goodreads.

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

23203252I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves? Goodreads

I knew nothing about this book before requesting it. Sure, I read the description – but I’d never heard of the author, and I was a little bit nervous from reading the description.

No need to worry. This book was fabulous.

Henrietta can set herself on fire. That’s cool, but not in a time when witches are burned at the stake. She keeps her abilities a secret, until she is discovered — not as a witch, but as a sorcerer. She’s sent to study with Her Majesty’s sorcerers in an effort to destroy the Ancients, a group of magical creatures who slaughter people.

The worldbuilding was freakin’ awesome. I enjoyed the magic — it’s split between witches, sorcerers and magicians. There’s some history laid out in the book behind the three. London is surrounded by a ward which helps protect the people inside from the Ancients. The people in the slums outside of London are SOL, though.

The pacing was fantastic — I read this pretty quickly and stayed up late too many nights reading it.

I enjoyed Henrietta as a main character — she was strong, independent and didn’t rely on a man to get her out of any situation (I am slightly sad about the lack of romance, though).

There were lots of questions that were left unanswered at the end of the book. History of the Ancients, Henrietta’s father, the ivy on her stave, etc. I wished those had been answered, but hello, that’s the point of a series, amiright?

Overall, excellent read and I look forward to the second installment! 4/5 on Goodreads!

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Shadow Bright and Burning in exchange for an honest review. 

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The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

23299513Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. – Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t IN LOVE with it, but it was a fun, quick read that was very refreshing after being in a reading slump for so long. It definitely made me realize how much I miss the Fantasy genre, that’s for sure.

I have one tiny gripe with the book, and it’s a personal problem…so I’ll get it out of the way and get on to the positive aspects of the book, which are far more numerous. I hated the names. Hated them. They felt made up and forced — Ravenspire, Lorelai Diederich, effing’ Kolvanismir Arsenyevnek…I could not stand the names. Again, tiny gripe.

I loved the characters, names aside. Lorelai was strong and confident and embodied many characteristics that I appreciate in a strong female MC. I also really liked Kol — rather than treating Lorelai like a damsel in distress, they were a team. Irina was a fabulous villain, especially because the POV would occasionally switch to her. The only character who lacked significant development was Leo, Lorelai’s brother…I’m hoping more is coming on him in future installments, because he fell flat for me.

The worldbuilding was great, especially between Ravenspire and Eldr. I could clearly picture the two, the magic system, etc.

There is some romance, but it’s not the primary focus on the story. It’s a little instalove-y, but not enough to turn me off.

In all, this is a great retelling of Snow White — if you enjoy magic, retellings, light romance and strong female leads, check this one out. I rated it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

L

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

25324111NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point. – Goodreads

A teenage Game of Thrones set in the Ottoman Empire? A female Vlad the Impaler? Whaaat?! Sign me up.

On one hand, this read was very unique, dark and brutal for a YA novel. I liked that. It was complex and graphic, two features that aren’t always typical for YA.

On the other hand, I kept getting distracted because it was so slow in so many parts. The epic battles were awesome, but in between I found myself straying away to do household chores instead.

I enjoyed the characters, who were all multidimensional and unique in their own ways. There are three primary main characters, whom I felt were all constructed and detailed well.

Lada is the main heroine and is pretty much what I would imagine a daughter of Cersei Lannister and Vlad the Impaler would be like: fierce as hell. Though the men make fun of her for being ugly, she kicks their asses in swordfighting and combat.

Radu is Lada’s younger brother—he’s the sensitive, gentle one. He’s the cuddly Samwell Tarly of this book. Sometimes I liked him, and sometimes I wanted to smack him and tell him to get a grip. Unfortunately, many other characters did that for me. His kindness definitely made the surrounding brutal events seem more…brutal.

Mahmed is the sultan’s son — Lada and Radu’s father is kind a jerk, and he sent them to live with the enemy (aka the sultan). Mahmed becomes their friend and peer, as they have to study with him and hang out with him.

White is a great writer — the book was certainly written well. The descriptions were fantastic, I could clearly see the world (cue Aladdin music). That being said, this book was SO not my cup of tea. It was so over-the-top brutal and graphic, and though the characters were complex, the story seemed to only prey on their weaknesses and hardships. I guess I’m a softie.

I rated this a 3/5 because the writing was great and the characters were constructed well. I think that many other people will enjoy this read, but it simply wasn’t for me.

L

I received a copy of And I Darken from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. – Goodreads

Just when I was starting to get gripey about the lack of wonderful suck-you-in-and-don’t-let-you-go-until-you’re-done fantasy YA — this sucker jumped out and got me.

I literally hermit-ed myself away in my room and didn’t talk to people just so I could read this. I even tried to draw it out over the course of several days to minimize my book hangover. It didn’t work.

The premise and description of this book sound kind of lame, but don’t let that sway you. It was awesome. In this world, some people are born with witch abilities. Some witches can manipulate fire, water, or wind. Some can see people’s lifethreads (the threads that signify how people are feeling and who they are). Other witches, like Safi, can sense when someone is telling the truth. The bad guy is a Bloodwitch, and he basically can track you once he smells your blood. Also, his eyes turn red. So naturally I pictured him as Darth Maul.

There’s a treaty, people are out to snatch up Safi (because knowing whether or not someone is telling the truth is pretty damn handy), there’s war, mystery, sexual tension, and all of that fun jazz.

I liked how the love angle was played in this. It wasn’t instalove, and there was certainly tension. It didn’t develop quickly, which was a nice change.

The worldbuilding was fantastic. I can still vividly picture Merik’s ship, the forest, the villages—the description was just right.

I honestly can’t stop gushing about this. I thought giving myself some time between reading the book and writing the review would make me calm down, but the hype is there for a reason. Pick this puppy up. Adding it to my favorites and giving it a 5/5.

L