Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Runaway King

A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

My Rating: *****

Warning! If you haven't read The False Prince yet, read no further!!! Spoilers are inevitable.

Copy provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Ok. Woah. This sequel blew me away. I was really excited to read it and really worried that it couldn't live up to my love for The False Prince, which was awesome partly because of Sage's big reveal about his real identity. That out of the way, how could The Runaway King live up? But it does.

It's successful because the adventure is so much bigger. The False Prince's action was contained in one setting, but in The Runaway King we actually get to see more of Jaron's kingdom, and what's going on is not pretty. There's all sorts of courtly intrigue ramping up the action and there's no way to know who to trust (a feature I always love in a book :D).

And Jaron has not changed (or at least not for the worst). He's still impulsive and ridiculously clever and Sherlock-ian observant and sometimes foolish, but any time he does something I consider stupid, it's revealed later that he knew exactly what he was doing and I have to declare him a genius. And his awesome thief skills are on full display in this book. Plus! PIRATES!!! As if this book needed any more coolness.

The final resolution is a little bit deus ex machina and I'm not sure I totally trust a certain character's almost complete turn around, but we'll see. And something's got to happen with the romance. There's NO WAY it can end up the way it just did. Can't wait to read the final book in this trilogy!

Recommended for: Fans of courtly intrigue, action/adventure, awesome thieves (reminds me often of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series), and a very entertaining story.

The Runaway King is out tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just One Day

From Goodreads:
A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

My Rating: ****

Contemporary YA is not my go-to genre, but reviews here and there have led me to pick one up now and again - leading me to discover that I trust two authors of contemporary YA to always deliver a gorgeously written story with real heart: Stephanie Perkins and Gayle Forman. Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went were so beautiful and heartbreaking, so I was kind of excited to try out Just One Day. Once again, she's given readers a very real, very entertaining, and very moving story.

Okay, but first I have to say straight up that it was hard for me to get past my "Oh my gosh I hope my daughter never ever ever makes the decision Allyson just did!!!!!" constant reaction to almost everything Allyson does from the moment she meets Willem until they part. This book could definitely serve as a "How NOT to Travel Safely in Europe" guide. I'm still shaking my head. What was she thinking????

But the point is that she has never allowed herself to be herself, to be spontaneous, to follow her dreams - and she does. And the chemistry between her and Willem is great and their adventure amazing. Oh so wishing I could go to Paris right now. Craving chocolate and bread and crepes and seriously I've got to stop thinking about it so let's change the subject.

I loved that certain things tied the book together - Shakespeare is a recurring theme, disguises and nobody being who you expect them to be. There's definitely a lot of mystery surrounding Willem and even though I can't say I loved this character, I know Gayle Forman's holding out on me and I can't wait to read Just One Year so I can't find out what's really going on in his head.

This story succeeds because it's much more than some whirlwind day in Paris, lovely though it may have been. Allyson has to return home and adjust to college and face up to her very demanding parents and her struggling best friend and realize that nothing about her life is going the direction she wishes it were. She makes new friends and stands up for her real interests and then, only then, does she finally return to Europe and I will say no more. :D

Recommended for: fans of sweet contemporary YA with real character growth. Also for fans of travel, Europe, and especially Paris.

Content: A pinch of sexual content, not graphic. Some innuendo and swearing scattered throughout. Allyson is not a drinker or a party-er, so there are no crazy college frat scenes.

Friday, February 22, 2013


From Goodreads:
Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

My Rating: ****

Warning: Spoilers for book 1!
Everbound was a big hit with me! I was immediately wrapped back up into Brodi Ashton's very clever, modern take on Greek mythology and I have to say that I liked this sequel even better than the original. Everything was more. There was more at stake for Nikki (she's being pressured from every direction about Jack's disappearance), more at stake for Cole (which I can't expound on without spoilers for book 2), and the absolute most at stake for Jack (Hello? Stranded and dying in the everneath here?).
Nikki continues to grow as a character. She started out in book 1 kind of empty (product of having the life sucked out of her for a hundred years of course, but I still thought she could have been less boring) but she has been on a very organic growth spurt ever since and I've really appreciated seeing her develop some guts and courage. And I was hanging on for the entire book, watching Jack fade from her dreams and panicking that she wouldn't make it in time (even though part of me knew there was no chance he would just die there). Then there's Cole who I thought was acting a little out of character at times, but a big reveal at the end... well, I won't say any more. And even though I suspected it, well done Ms. Ashton. Well done.
This book also digs deeper into the mythology and I could gush forever about Brodi Ashton's interpretation of the underworld (which we finally get to see and spend time in!). So original, so fresh, but so familiar - which is exactly what I like my mythology retellings to be.
There are some weaknesses here, mainly that it's a little predictable and that Nikki's quest through the Everneath is a little formulaic. I also think some of Nikki's relationships in the real world weren't very well done. Her best friend (can't even remember her name it was that bad), her dad, and especially her little brother all seemed kind of superficially drawn.
But still, this is an easy 4 stars (more like 4 and a half if I'm being honest with myself) because I really enjoyed the ride. :D Can't wait for book 3!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Classic Double Challenge: Wuthering Heights and Catherine

From Goodreads:
Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

My Rating: ****

This is a reread for me and much as my English major half would like to give this five stars, the rest of me can't get past the fact that Wuthering Heights is a miserable book, all about miserable people who are determined to make others miserable too. That said, I can never read this without getting completely engrossed in the story. It is incredibly readable and sucks me in. I don't know why, because there's so much tragedy and so much of it happens because either Catherine or Heathcliff use and abuse each other or everyone around them. Still, I think I keep going for the little bursts of happiness and the few sane people (Nelly, for instance). And it does end on a note of hope and happiness for the next generation of people living at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. I also love the wild setting and the gothic bits. Such a fan of the ghostly scenes. :D

Recommended reading (at least once in your life) if you like classics and if you like a study in human nature. Which makes it sound boring, but I promise there's nothing boring about this fiery, passionate, and tragic story.

From Goodreads:
A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you’ve never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.

Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.

My Rating: ****

I really enjoyed reading this and I think April Lindner did a great job of translating Wuthering Heights to the modern world. I loved watching for all the little nods to the original but I also loved that this story was NOT the original. In fact, I don't think it quite captures the same feeling of the original, which I'm okay with. I find Wuthering Heights a bit depressing and the characters completely unlikeable. Catherine, on the other hand, had much more sympathetic characters. I found myself empathizing a lot more with Catherine and Hence's story than I ever did Catherine and Heathcliff's. Catherine is not the horrible, selfish monster her literary counterpart is and Hence is NOT the devilish psychopath Heathcliff is. He maybe comes off a bit gruff and grumpy at first, but as the story moves along he only ever does one truly despicable thing (and it's pretty bad, but it doesn't ruin him as a character). Still, I couldn't help feeling that Catherine and Hence's love story was more of a lust story.

What really kept me speeding through this book was Chelsea. She's intelligent and determined (a little stubborn) and very brave. Chelsea is a great character and I enjoyed her sleuthing (even if I did see the big mystery and reveal at the end coming from the beginning - seriously there's obviously only one character in the whole book capable of homicide and it's made pretty clear from the start who that is. It drove me crazy that nobody thought to check out Quentin before. Guy hoards guns and is plainly mentally unstable - has a history of violence and death threats - and nobody looks for Catherine there? I'm not buying it.) Anyway, I really liked how the story was told about both generations and, once again, I loved that the story of the second generation is nothing like what it is in Wuthering Heights.

Also, the setting was fun for me, especially because I am a musician and played in bands throughout high school. The rock/punk music history was interesting and of course New York is always a great setting.

Content: There is some sexual content, though nothing explicit. There's also an attempted rape scene, which is also not very detailed. Surprisingly no drug use or drinking, considering all the rock musicians and very little profanity.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mini Reviews: 2-11-13

 From Goodreads:
In this light magical correspondence, letters fly between Cecilia (author Pat), with Aunt Charlotte in Essex Rushton manor, and her cousin Kate (author Caro), with Aunt Elizabeth in London's Berkeley Square for alluring Georgina's season. Mistaking Kate for "odious marquise" Thomas of Schofield, a mysterious Miranda tries to poison Kate with drink from hot chocolate pot at Royal College of Wizards investiture for their country neighbor Sir Hilary of Bedrick Hall. When their shy friend Dorothea attracts men unwillingly, her step-mama Miranda Griscomb nee Tanistry, reveals evil motives and immense power, with ambitions against innocent brother Oliver.

My Rating: ****

Jane Austen meets Harry Potter. Sound fun? It is. Loads. Two cousins, Cecy and Kate, exchange letters, one in London for the season, the other at a country estate. It's all the romance and comedy of manners fun of a Regency novel, but in an alternate universe where spells are flying and love potions are messing things up and people are vying not just for titles and land, but magical power. I found this really entertaining, even though I occasionally found myself mixing up the two girls and their love interests, not always sure who was talking - surprising considering each girl was written by a different author... they must have similar writing styles. I've heard that there's a sequel, but that it's not as charming or hilarious as this one so I don't think I'll follow it up.

Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction, magic, and regency romance. 

From Goodreads:
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

My Rating: ****

I was in the mood to read this back at the beginning of December when I requested it from the library. Unfortunately, so was everybody else in Boise so it took me this long to get it. I thought about just returning it, but decided to try it out first. I'm so glad I did. I haven't laughed that much at a book in ages. It was truly hilarious. The first story was definitely my favorite, but I loved that all three take place in the same town and interconnect. All the characters were fun, but I especially loved the parents - the kind of parents who cut Harry Potter novel-sized pieces of cake and get arrested in riots caused by ceramic Christmas village pieces - oh  my gosh I really just laughed my whole way through this.

Content: John Greene's story had a bit of profanity and there was a bit of sexually-based humor and innuendo.

Recommended for: Read this next Christmas if you love funny contemporary romances.

From Goodreads:
Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret.
Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans.

The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?

My Rating: ****

I've liked Julie Klassen novels before, but I was surprised by just how much I really liked this one. I'd honestly call it more of a 4.5 stars. I usually check out a Klassen novel when I'm in the mood for a clean regency romance, but this one more than fit the bill. Her novels tend to feel long and rambly and a bit heavy on the Christian influence for me, but this one had none of those problems.

First off, Mariah is secretly a writer. I LOVED that, because it gave me an in-depth look at what Jante Austen's life might have been like. How she published with the help of her family, the every day life of a secret novelist, how to handle it when the secret becomes known, all the scandal and social pressure against being a novelist - oh man I loved all the details. Plus, if you're a Jane Austen fan, there are subtle nods to both Mansfield Park and Persuasion (my fave!). That, and there are tons of details about the navy and some very fun swashbuckling characters.

So, it's top notch as a historical fiction. Then there are the mysteries within mysteries. I had so much fun guessing things and I was very glad not to have been able to predict everything. The romance is sweet, but not overly gushy and saccharine. There are lots of great characters to get to know and love.

Recommended for: Fans of regency romance. If you've heard of Julie Klassen but weren't sure about the label "Christian Fiction" I'd say don't worry about it. The Christian influences in this one are minimal, but the romance is very clean. I especially recommend this one for Austen fans.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shades of Earth

From Goodreads: (full of spoilers for books one and two)

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience.

But this new Earth isn't the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed's former passengers aren't alone on this planet. And if they're going to stay, they'll have to fight.

Amy and Elder must race to discover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been for nothing.


My Rating: *****

I love this series and I love Beth Revis's kind of sci-fi, full of mystery and danger and excitement, but with romance and friendship and family to balance it out. I'm very happy with how things have ended for the whole series and can't wait to see what Beth Revis does next!

SPOILERS (for books 1 and 2)
Have I warned you enough yet?

Amy and Elder have made it off the ship and onto Centauri earth and I think I've been waiting for this moment as long as they have. I tend to be a bit claustrophobic and it was so nice not to be trapped in space anymore. :D Of course, Beth Revis wastes no time and before long, Amy's parents are unfrozen and war is being waged on the hostile planet, which is hostile in every way - from plant life to animal life to... well, there's something else out there and I won't spoil it. As usual, there are plenty of surprises and nothing that you are expecting to happen happens (unless you're expecting everything to go wrong). Also as usual, Beth Revis has no problems blowing important things up and killing off people I like.

Somehow, there are still clues left behind by Orion and don't forget Orion himself has been brought down to Centauri Earth. He may be frozen, but he still causes trouble. I like that he's been a unifying theme through the whole series and that, much as I want to hate him and call him evil and unhinged, he definitely has a point (and he knows things). Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the dynamics between the frozens and the shipborns. The frozens expect to take charge, but it's not that easy and I like that eventually they have to learn respect for each other if they want to survive.

There's so much more going on here than the romance (one of the reasons I like this series), but the romance is still important. Amy and Elder have only had each other, but pretty quickly (once the frozens arrive on the scene), Elder has competition and Amy is a bit bewildered at having a choice. I liked that it didn't feel like a contrived love triangle, but that it really made them think about their relationship, since before there was really no other choice. And the resolution is good. Great, actually.

It ends with a bang and I, for one, loved it. Beth Revis is a master at foreshadowing, so when the surprises come, it's just mind-blowing, because I saw it coming, but I TOTALLY DIDN'T. If that makes sense :D.

Recommended for fans of sci-fi, mystery, romance, and great storytelling.