Format: Hardcover

January 9, 2017

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #3
Publisher: Harper, November 2016
Pages: 478
Format: Hardcover
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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.
And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.
To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.
So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...
With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

I have extremely mixed feeling about The Fate of the Tearling. One one hand, I loved it. On the other, well, let me explain.

In the first two books of the Tearling trilogy, Kelsea discovers that she is not just an ordinary girl – she’s the queen. As she grows into both herself and her reign, the Tearling faces an impending threat from Mortmesne, the terrifying country ruled by the Red Queen. Together with her second in command, the Mace, and her loyal guards, Kelsea takes the reins as she prepares her peaceful, utopian country for the fight of its life.

Kelsea herself goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the trilogy. She’s always a little rough, a little blunt, but she evolves from an uncertain girl into a strong young woman. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her insecurities; those moments of uncertainties are what reminds us of her humanity in Fate. It’s the moments she’s presented with an obvious choice in Fate that made me fall in love with her character even more.

Yet Johansen makes sure that Kelsea isn’t the end-all of the series. The side plots and more minor characters are powerful enough to carry the divided narrative of Fate, even occasionally making me wish they had more page time. Johansen made it clear that Fate isn’t just Kelsea’s story – it’s the Tearling’s.

I loved that Johansen makes room to tell the Tearling’s history, but as continued, I felt a little confused. Instead of the high fantasy I expected, Fate verged more into an alternate reality. There was talk of Boston, modern medicine, and other things common in today’s society, but unexpected in a world of swords, medieval battles and magic. The alternative timeline threw me, and I couldn’t quite get back on track.

That same disjointedness continued throughout the end of Fate. Instead of the ending I expected (even hoped for), Johansen threw us for a loop and closed out Kelsea’s story in an entirely unexpected way. Personally, I wasn’t a fan: it left me with more questions than answers, and I felt lost without certain plot closures. This unusual ending dropped my review from what could have been four or five stars to three.

What do you think of the ending? Did it fit the storyline? Or were you expecting the more traditional ending?

3 Stars

Posted January 9, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 5, 2017

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Review | Under a Painted Sky by Stacey LeeUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, March 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.   This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Under a Painted Sky is the tale of two girls, wronged and misjudged by society, hitting the open trail to leave their past behind. It’s a story full of friendship, brimming with buoyancy, and made of morals. I should have loved it.

I didn’t.

Initially, I was hooked. The drama of the hard last words Samantha said to her father, the danger she suddenly finds herself in, and the unlikely ally in Annamae was exactly what I wanted to read. It was engaging, fascinating, and so chockful of potential that I settled in for the long haul.

And then, rather abruptly, the bottom fell out from the story.

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All of that lovely potential disappeared. Samantha and Annamae, so ALIVE in the first pages of Under a Painted Sky deflated like someone let out their air. The narrative felt flat, rehearsed. I had the abject feeling of reading the dialogue instead of seeing the characters play out the scene in my mind.

Yet all this isn’t to say Under a Painted Sky is a bad book. It’s not. The descriptions of the Oregon Trail brought back memories of playing the game on bulky PCs in elementary school. The morals of the power of friendship, perseverance, and destiny are great, especially for the YA reader (this book’s target audience).

But after it failed to live up to the first few heart-pounding, emotionally wrenching pages, I was disappointed when it didn’t continue. I couldn’t get excited about the law, hot on Samantha and Annamae’s heels, or feel their concern when they worried their boyish disguises were slipping. I lost that connection with them and, without it, Under a Painted Sky couldn’t pull me back in.

2 Stars

Posted January 5, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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January 2, 2017

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Review | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen, September 2016
Pages: 398
Format: Hardcover
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When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown. 

In Fennbirn, the island kingdom set apart from the rest of the world, the battle for the crown is a dangerous ritual. Every generation, a three sisters are born, destined to fight each other to the death for the honor of wearing the crown. But this year, with these sisters, things just aren’t going as planned.

The premise of Three Dark Crowns drew me in instantly. Hunger Games meets female Game of Thrones? Yes, please!

While the novel had all the necessary elements to create a YA fantasy battle of the royals, it dropped the ball. Why? The narration. Simply, it took too long for something to happen, and I found myself running out of both patience and sympathy for the three young women thrust into this destiny.

Despite each girl having her own unique brand of magic (nature, poison, and elements), their lives were remarkably similar. Each had friends who thought they were the absolute best, someone who hated them, and some twisted romance. Creating such similar plot lines did each character a major disservice: they quickly became hard to tell apart, and I started to not even try.

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Three Dark Crowns picked up in the last quarter of the book as each magical faction brought the sisters together at Beltane to showcase their talents. With tempers starting to run high, the pace of the narration finally began to turn. I loved the showcase sections, the love affairs brought to light or destroyed, and the way the sisters found unity with each other.

However, I didn’t realize Three Dark Crowns was a series. I had hoped for a stand alone novel and was looking forward to a neat tie-off in the end. Instead, the story concludes with a cliffhanger, one that I’m not entirely sure I want to read on to the finish.

3 Stars

Posted January 2, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 20, 2016

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue GraftonO is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #15
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 2001
Pages: 354
Format: Hardcover
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Through fourteen books, fans have been fed short rations when it comes to Kinsey Millhone's past: a morsel here, a dollop there. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, the long-lost family up the California coast. But husband number one remained a blip on the screen until now.
The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them—Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions, but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter.
It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril."O" Is for Outlaw: Kinsey's fifteenth adventure into the dark side of human nature.

Oh, Kinsey.

O is for Outlaw might have broken her heart. And mine.

As I put this book down, I remembered writing how I wished Kinsey showed more of herself in the novels, letting us as readers get to know her better. I got my wish.

Kinsey Millhone was married twice (and prefers to be single, thank you very much). We met her second husband in E is for Evidence, but her first is rarely mentioned…until we get to O. In Outlaw, Kinsey finally reveals their relationship when news arrives that Mickey Magruder, the pointedly-ignored first husband, has been shot and is in a coma in Los Angeles.

I’ve always wondered at Kinsey’s determined lack of information about her relationship with Mickey and her reaction to his condition solidified my theory: he was her first love. You know, that one we’re always slightly irrational about, even years later? Mickey Magruder, a paranoid vice cop a decade her senior, was the guy who broke Kinsey Millhone’s heart.

Being Kinsey, she can’t help but start investigating, despite the investigating cops’ warnings. She unravels the life of a serial playboy, a man destroyed, and an addict in recovery. In discovering so much about Mickey’s current life, she understands his past a little better and finally comes to terms with their relationship. But it’s the last scene that had me sniffling back tears.

The mystery in O for Outlaw was up to par, and Kinsey’s snooping nature brought light into an otherwise emotionally heavy story. The difference? Mickey’s shooting rocked her to her core, so her typical unbiased perspective was deeply slanted.

I wanted to know more about the characters, their situations, and their relationship to her, but there was only so much room in the book. Still, O is for Outlaw was a surprisingly intense story, one that I’m thrilled finally was told.

4 Stars

Posted October 20, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 15, 2016

Review | The Reader by Traci Chee

Review | The Reader by Traci CheeThe Reader by Traci Chee
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold, #1
Publisher: Putnam, September 2016
Pages: 442
Format: Hardcover
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Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.
Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

I wanted so badly to love The Reader. I always want to like debut novels, since I can only imagine the heart and soul that goes into each word. But Chee’s debut wasn’t for me,

Why? I was bored. The flashbacks were fun reads, but the action in the present didn’t grab me. I felt my mind wandering when Sefia’s aunt Nin was kidnapped, when she follows her trail on a rescue mission, even as she starts to learn to read. There wasn’t enough of Sefia to grab my attention.

I mentioned the flashbacks: those are the winners in the first pages. The heartbreaking narrative as Sefia discovers she’s an orphan, the numbness as she moves through the predetermined route to safety. It was stunning, but not enough to make up for the lack of character in the present Sefia.

I loved the introductory pages as Chee weaves a mythical, almost hypnotic description of a world without books, without readers. It felt engaging, fascinating. But The Reader didn’t live up to this narrative promise. It didn’t have that vibrancy, that urgency Sefia must have felt when she took off after her aunt. It didn’t leave my heart pounding, my mind frantic to find out just what the hell was going on.

The Reader isn’t bad, per se…it just isn’t all the way there. Without the urgency, the emotions, or a powerful protagonist, it fell flat. And after 50 pages, I didn’t want to go on.

 Stars

Posted October 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 3, 2016

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Review | The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012
Pages: 409
Format: Hardcover
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Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Blue Sargent wants nothing to do the raven boys, the prized students of the local rich-kid academy who run through Henrietta, Virginia like it’s their playground. But when her amplifier gift (to improve the psychic gifts of those around her) brings her face-to-face with the spirit of a raven boy, Blue is hooked. Who is he? How can she save him? Despite herself, Blue is soon caught up in a world of intrigue, long-lost kings, mystical favors, and hidden magic.

The thing about Blue is she seems pretty normal for living in a house full of psychics. She may not bat an eye at the tarot card readings, the random mumblings of her mother’s best friend (who also lives there), or think to gather the names of the soon-to-be-dead weird, but at heart, she’s a typical teenage girl. One who wants to find her place, something we can all understand.

Except Blue has a secret or, rather a curse. If she kisses her true love, he’ll die, but the spirits don’t share how. To take precautions, she’s just not kissing anyone. It’s this combination of pragmatic and mysticism that makes Blue so enchanting. But don’t get me wrong – The Raven Boys isn’t about her.

The stars of the novel are, without a doubt, the four Raven Boys: Gansey, the get-along guy driven to discover the secret of Glendower; Ronan Lynch, the brawler haunted by a horrible secret; Adam Parrish, the local scholarship student trying to find a way to fit in; and Noah, the quiet, unassuming one. Their internal relationship dynamics are fascinating reading; add in Blue’s sensibility, and you’ve got quite the story.

The paranormal aspect brings The Raven Boys to a whole new level. When Blue sees Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road, she can’t stop thinking about him. And when she meets him in real life, her determination to protect him solidifies. The complexity of teenage angst and romance set against the paranormal history and the mystical quest to discover Glendower creates a world that I just didn’t want to leave.

4 Stars

Posted October 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 29, 2016

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. RobbApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #43
Publisher: Berkley, September 2016
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
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The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.
Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.
Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

Master and apprentice in death. It’s a new take for Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Homicide. She faced down lovers, loners, psychopaths and worse. But when a long distance serial killer (think sniper) starts killing in New York City, Eve has a feeling she may be out of her depth.

I couldn’t get into this book at first. After waiting (im)patiently for the latest book in the In Death series, I expected a grand opening scene. The initial murder scene at the ice skating rink didn’t catch me at first. The connection, the viciousness that I’d come to expect from Robb’s villains didn’t stand out. Instead, it was cold, impersonal, and almost clinical.

As Apprentice in Death began to play out, the implications began to sink in. I realized that these villains, the master and apprentice, were unlike anything Eve has faced before. I was hooked into the massive manhunt for the serial killers for one reason: the psychological profiles.

The depth and variation in both the master and apprentice’s mindsets, motives, and rationale were intense, emotional, and entirely engaging. In other words, I loved it. The dueling narration of Eve’s hunt and the snipers’ thought processes fascinated me, pulling me deeper into the story than I ever imagined.

Most of Robb’s installments are what I would consider thrilling, but the gritty nature of this manhunt made it downright heart-stopping. Although it took a while for it to get started, Apprentice in Death lives up to Robb’s standards.

As thrilling as the new characters were, it was the returning cast that made me fall in love with this book. The dynamics between Peabody and Eve in Interview always add a thrill, and Roarke…well, Roarke is an entity unto himself. Their perfectly imperfect marriage is one of my favorite relationships in literature today.

I don’t know why I doubt it; Robb’s In Death series has won me over time and time again. Apprentice in Death was no different.

4 Stars

Posted September 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 26, 2016

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Review | The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs WallerThe Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking, March 2016
Pages: 392
Format: Hardcover
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Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.
Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

It started the moment Elodie showed Deacon Wainwright the plant, the forbidden orchid blooming on top of the glass house her father built for her younger sisters. Soon, Elodie’s family is caught up in their father’s world, a place of mystique, secrets, and men that will stop at nothing to get what they want. Can Elodie save her family and her father’s reputation in the wilds of China?

I had some with this book, issues that kept the rating at three instead of four stars. While I realize the condescending attitude men showed towards the woman in The Forbidden Orchid may have been historically accurate, it was infuriating. At every turn, Elodie was told she couldn’t speak out, couldn’t ask questions, couldn’t look at an orchid because it might tempt her…Really? This effect would have been offset if there was one (ONE!) man that didn’t look down his nose at a woman, but it was rare. At first, I thought Elodie’s father, famed botanist and adventurer, would be the one but View Spoiler ». The closest was Alex, Elodie’s new husband, but even he had a few moments.

Regardless, I was hooked into The Forbidden Orchid from the first chapter. I loved the dynamics between Elodie and her nine sisters, how their mother coped as a woman essentially on her own, and their interactions with the townspeople. The level of detail with even the most minor of characters brought life to the book.

I loved Elodie and Alex’s relationship, although I may have rolled my eyes once or twice (or more) at some of Elodie’s reactions. They had the same sweet, enduring romance that caught my heart when I read Waller’s first foray into YA, A Mad, Wicked Folly. Besides bringing a little bit of light into a rather dark situation, it forced Elodie to grow up in ways she never would have had to in the family home in Kent.

Once Elodie, Alex, and her father land in China, I was hooked. Every detail came alive. I felt like I was walking in an 1800s opium den or riding a horse in the hot Chinese summer. It was vivid, memorable, and extraordinary.

While The Forbidden Orchid has some misses, its hits by far make up for them.

3 Stars

Posted September 26, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 23, 2016

Review | Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Review | Empire of Storms by Sarah J. MaasEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #5
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, September 2016
Pages: 693
Format: Hardcover
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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

One day, I will learn how to adequately express my feelings about Maas’ work. But after reading Empire of Storms, I can tell you honestly it won’t be today.

Empire of Storms picks up shortly after Queen of Shadows. Aelin Galathynius has shed Celaena Sardothien, taking up the role as the true Queen of Terrasen. As her court comes together, however, her world shatters around her. Broken apart by old feuds, a terrifying Valg prince, and a furious Faerie, Aelin has the cards stacked against her. Still, she begins to gather an army of misfits through blood debts and favors to build a force that will save her world.

Aelin is not your typical nice person. She’s blunt, a little manical, borderline obsessive, and definitely bossy. And I couldn’t love her more. All of these hid the heart of gold and strong sense of duty that push her forward. I love how Maas creates this push-pull in her protagonist, using the worst parts of Aelin to highlight the best.

Surprisingly, for me anyway, was how much I loved Manon. She and I haven’t always been on the best of terms, but Maas gives her character the same treatment as Aelin, Aedion, Rowan, Dorian…and, well, everybody. She pushes Manon into a corner, makes her worst nightmare come to life, and sees what happens. And I love her for it.

There was an addictive quality in Empire of Storms, an intense need to know what happens next, and a deep fear that the characters I’ve come to know and love wouldn’t make it through the many heart-stopping battle scenes. (I actually had to check the back before I read on. Sorry.)

It’s this intense drive to know what happens, to feel enveloped in her world, that makes Maas’ works so consistently amazing. Empire of Storms may be her crowning achievement of the Throne of Glass series…which makes me only yearn for the final, yet untitled, installment of the series.

5 Stars

Posted September 23, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 22, 2016

Review | The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Review | The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen, #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, April 2016
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
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Fate 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.

The Star-Touched Queen blew me away.

Really. It is quite that simple.

See, I knew Chokshi and I were soul sisters when I read her biography in the back of the book (I showed up to lit class too many times in pajamas, to my mom’s chagrin). But it was her masterful retelling of Persephone and Hades that grabbed me.

Maya, a daughter of the Raja, is cursed. Her horoscope, predicting a disastrous marriage, has cast her out for life, whispers and hated looks following her wherever she goes. Despite it, she studies, learns, and tries her best to ignore the whispers. But when her father demands she give her hand in marriage to avoid war, her entire world changes.

I didn’t feel much for Maya until Amar, the mysterious Raja of Akaran, sweeps her away. Once he did, she and I alike were stunned, trying to take it all in. She and I became one, looking for the answer to the oddly-empty halls, the strange but kind scribe, and to where Amar, her now husband, disappears to at odd hours.

But it wasn’t just our shared curiosity that brought me around on Maya. It was her determination, as the story progresses, to right wrongs and injustices, and her intrinsic desire to save. Soon, The Star-Touched Queen turned from a romance to a heroic journey. (Side note: best sidekick ever.)

I fell in love with this world, built from a mythology that I knew little about but quickly entranced me. I loved the tapestry, the different perception of Hades, and the grand battle between love and evil. It was enchanting, engaging, and kept me up late at night, hoping I could finish it before my eyes slid shut.

The biggest win for me was Chokshi’s decision to make The Star-Touched Queen a standalone. Instead of leaving me on a cliffhanger (and there were plenty of opportunities to), she wrapped it up beautifully. It’s a book that I can’t wait to read again.

4 Stars

Posted September 22, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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