Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

Genre: Fantasy YA

Synopsis: Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


 

Guys, it has been a hot second since I have actually posted. School started and things got wayy hectic. Plus, as a teacher I get up at 4:30 am and teach until 3:30 with one break. Basically, I have been super tired and not in the mood to read. On top of that, I am coming down with a cold! Boo me. 

Anyway, time to get to a new review. I finally finished “An Ember in the Ashes,” which I began my last week of summer vacation. To say this book is an amazing example of a YA Fantasy is selling it short. Let’s break it down. 

 

What I liked: It’s a little hard to break down what EXACTLY I liked since I liked pretty much everything! Elias. He was by far my favorite character. I enjoyed Laia but there was something about Elias’ POV that really captured my attention. He was tortured but dignified. Elias is not a perfect character, which was why I liked him so much. Laia is also not perfect, but she’s not as stained as her counter-part. Elias’ is someone who has killed and not necessarily for the right reasons. His struggle to define himself outside of the confines of his societal role was incredibly interesting and captivating. It didn’t hurt that he comes off as super dreamy.  I really felt a deep connection with all the characters; they are all flawed and disjointed but their motivations are distinctly human. In a world of magic and mayhem, Tahir created deeply flawed, yet relateable characters. It was truly a testament to her skill that there was not a single person I truly disliked. Speaking of skill, the world-building in this book is off the charts. Usually, Fantasy novels either have too much world-building and you get bogged down in all the details, or you don’t get enough and are constantly confused. “An Ember in the Ashes,” was a perfect mixture. You knew enough to become engaged in the story, yet the main focus remained on the story. I kept reading to learn more but I knew enough to stay interested.

What I didn’t like: The ending. Ugh, why!! Is it time for the next installment? My biggest gripe is not even the ending-thought that was pretty evil. I struggles with the love square. I’m not someone who complains about love triangles, but I am someone who hates when I don’t know who to root for. I like them all! This is hard.

Overall, this is a captivating YA fantasy that will keep you turning the pages. 5/5 

 

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Review and Giveaway: Secrets Don’t Keep by Elora Ramirez

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Title: Secrets Don’t Keep by Elora Ramirez

Buy Links: Amazon,

Publication Date: August 10th, 2015

Genre: YA Thriller

Giveaway:a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis: My name is Kera Collins, and I would do anything for a golden nod.
At first glance, my life appears perfect: the best friends, the best school, the attention of Dex Albright, the deliciously irresistible grandson to the Headmaster. All I need is the prestige behind La Boheme, an elite secret society formed within the walls of my school, and my life would be complete. Once I’m in, I’ll be the one with all of the secrets.
                                                    It’s just…no one told me these secrets could kill


 

 

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What I liked: This played into all my teenage dreams of going to boarding school and being taped by a secret society. Maybe that’s weird, but I loved the content here, especially because at the end of the day, everything is not always as it seems. Also, maybe I’m dating myself but this began to give me major Skull and Bones flashbacks. That’s a testament to the richness of Ramirez descriptions, that she made me believe all of this craziness was actually possible, and why is that, because these characters are actually kind of real. What kind of kids create a secret society that intense you may ask yourself as you read this–SUPER RICH ONES! Too much money leads to too much entitlement, leads to teens with no boundaries, which is kind of a strong basis for a book. Anyone who has ever read a review here knows I love a character driven novel, and though I did not find this one to be so such character driven, I did find it to be driven by relationships and not necessarily just the romantic ones. 

What I didn’t like: None of the characters really grabbed onto me. I need someone to really connect with or root for whether it be the MC, her best-friend, or a love-interest I really crave that connection because it helps me to be invested in what is happening. Unfortunately, I did not feel that. While this is a fantastic read and incredibly thrilling, I just felt like these kids were too much for me; Even Kera, the MC. I wanted more ‘real moment’ if that makes sense, because it all started to feel very fantastical.

Overall, if you like fast-paced extravagance and deep mystery you should pick this up ASAP 3.5/5

 


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Elora Ramirez has been telling stories her whole life.

 It started when she was four, when she taught herself how to read and write as a way to entertain herself while her grandmother kicked and danced in aerobics class. She cut her teeth on books from Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space — including her Fischer Price kitchenette, the pages of picture books, and Highlights Magazines.

 She’s matured a bit since then, now choosing to write in the margins of her books and on the mirrors of her apartment ideas and thoughts surrounding story and what makes us human. You can read more on her blog, eloranicole.com

Top Ten Tuesdays: 10 Authors I’ve Read the Most Books From

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For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday as hosted by The Broke and Bookish is all about the author’s who I have read the most books from. This was surprisingly easy/hard–how you ask–because I read a lot of series and I can’t remember all those authors! This required some Goodreads sleuthing and me kicking myself for not getting a Goodreads back in the day. DAMN ME. 


 

1. Jennifer L. Armentrout: I’m not sure how many books I have read from this women, but since she produces like 5 a year (probably more) I know it’s been a lot. From my count I have read 2 series from her, read most of her romance novels, and have started the first books in her new series. I’m guessing over the last couple of years I have read a cool dozen books from her. 

2. Cassandra Clare: There’s like a million Shadowhunter books and I’ve read them all because I can’t stop. Plus, they all kind of tie-together.

3. Ellen Hopkins: I am not usually a reader of Contemporary but I enjoy the way she attacks the deep, dark issues.

4. Lemony Snicket: I devoured “A Series of Unfortunate Events” when I was a Middle-Schooler and they are books I turn back to, to this day.

5. Francine Pascal: There are like 1,000 ‘Sweet Valley’ books and I’m sure I’ve read somewhere between 90-98% of them. Guys, it was hard for a YA lover in the late 90’s early 2000s

6. Meg Cabot: She has written several YA and Adult series, all of which I have read. I’m eagerly awaiting the adult companion to ‘The Mediator’ series.

7. Janet Evanovich: I saw the ‘One for the Money’ movie starring Katherine Heigl and knew I needed to read these books. If you haven’t, you should pick them up ASAP. They are funny, thrilling, and you’ll go through them so quickly.

8. Marissa Meyer: I’ve read the entire Lunar Chronicle series (minus Winter) plus the companion. This is a bit unusual for me, because if a series spans multiple years I tend to loose interest until 5 years later when I finally pick it back up. Sue me, I’m weird.

9. Charlaine Harris: The ‘Sookie Stakehouse’ novels were way better than ‘True Blood’ the show. 100% better. They opened me up to Harris’ wonderful sassy and steamy writing. Her other series are just as good, so be sure to pick them up.

10. J. K. Rowling: I’m sure there’s an author I’ve read more books from, but I can’t think of anyone else right now. Also, those last books are LONNNG and as my students always say “I’m counting them as more than one.”

So that’s this week’s list. I can’t wait to read yours. 

 

 

Review: Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries #11) by Meg Cabot

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Title: Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding—but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?


 

I am a huge fan of The Princess Diaries series. I began reading them when they were first published and they spoke to my little pre-teen heart in a way that no other contemporary has managed. It helps that I am absolutely obsessed with the idea of royalty and continue to wait for my ‘real’ parents to come and tell me I’m actually a Princess. Until then, I’ll eagerly read all about ‘fake’ and real royals. 


 

What I liked: Mia’s voice is the same! I really worried that because she was now an adult in her late 20’s some of Mia’s crazed pop-culture related rants would cease to exist, instead replaced by more practical freak-outs. I was so glad and relieved to see that she remained crazy as ever. As someone who thinks very similarly to Mia–on the dramatic, soap opera, anxiety filled side of life–reading her journal is like catching up with an old friend. The main cast is the same and even raunchier than before. TINA AND LILY FOR LIFE! I imagine being a Princess is super hard when you can’t be sure who likes you for your dazzling personality, or for your wonderful palaces, so I’m glad to see that while time has made these characters more raunchy, they are still at Mia’s side ready to jump in with some crisis control. Obviously, I love the romance between Michael and Mia–I mean hello, it was totally swoonworthly, especially for the former thirteen year old in me; however, what I loved the most is how Mia has embraced being a Princess. Sure, she still complains of being followed by the paparazzi, and is not happy about her fluctuating rank of “Rate the Royals,” but ultimately she’s trying to use her role to do some good in the world–seems like she’s succeeding.

What I didn’t like: I feel like I missed some backstories. Perhaps, I just can’t remember all the plot point–I read these books a long freaking time ago! Also, despite the title, we basically see nothing from the actual wedding. Sad face.

Overall, reading this was like catching up with an old, wonderful friend–if that friend is basically the spazzier, book version of the Duchess of Cambridge--5/5

Review: Every Last Breath by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Title: Every Last Breath by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Genre: Paranormal YA

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis: Some loves will last ’til your dying breath

Every choice has consequences—but seventeen-year-old Layla faces tougher choices than most. Light or darkness. Wickedly sexy demon prince Roth, or Zayne, the gorgeous, protective Warden she never thought could be hers. Hardest of all, Layla has to decide which side of herself to trust.

Layla has a new problem, too. A Lilin—the deadliest of demons—has been unleashed, wreaking havoc on those around her…including her best friend. To keep Sam from a fate much, much worse than death, Layla must strike a deal with the enemy while saving her city—and her race—from destruction.

Torn between two worlds and two different boys, Layla has no certainties, least of all survival, especially when an old bargain comes back to haunt them all. But sometimes, when secrets are everywhere and the truth seems unknowable, you have to listen to your heart, pick a side—and then fight like hell…


I have a major girl crush on Jennifer L. Armentrout and this series is one of the reasons why. It was so refreshingly imaginative–I mean who thinks to write a YA book about gargoyles. Amazing. Each book just kept getting better and better, and I was highly anticipating this one. While it was good, it was not fantastic and I’m not just saying that because of the way the romance ended up. This books stumbles into some major YA cliches and at times the plot felt boring. The second book blew it out of the park, but this one struggles at points. Let’s break it down. 


 

What I liked: Layla is much more confident in this book than she has been in the other two; this felt like a natural progression for her character. She’s been through a lot in the past two books, so naturally her character is going to evolve. JLA does a great job of not making her transition seemed forced. Layla is not a completely different character but the things she has experienced have caused a natural shift in her character. I enjoyed the strength she exuded and how much stronger she became. Nothing makes me more excited than a strong, female MC. The writing style remains true to JLA, with plenty of poppy pop-culture references. Sometimes these felt inappropriate, but others they made sense. Even though this is a book about supernatural creatures and features a potential apocalypse, these are still teenagers and teens are huge consumers of pop culture.

What I didn’t like: This was boring. There I said it, I’m sad I had to say it, but I just didn’t love this one as much as I did the other two. This was supposed to be the climax of the fight between the Wardens, Demons, and the Lilin, but not much happened in the way of this. Sure, people died but this was more of a love story. I just did not dig it as much as I did the other two. It was good, but did not hold my interest as intensely.

Overall, this was a fine installment. It is not as wonderful as the first two, but it has it’s moments. 3.5/5

Release Day: Home by Melissa Pearl

Synopsis

Rachel Myers never meant to stay in Payton. Her eyes were set on bigger things than waitressing at Clark’s Bar. She wants to perform on a stage of her own with bright lights, fame, and fortune. But something got in the way—Joshua Clark. He’s a good man who loves her, a solid rock she can depend on. She wants that to be enough, but it hasn’t quelled her yearning for the big city.

Josh knows Rachel wants more out of life and might leave one day. Yet so far, she hasn’t gone anywhere. Deep down, he believes his love is enough to keep her…or at least he hopes so. Until one night, a city boy from Hollywood promises Rachel a record deal and destroys everything.

Jumping at a chance she never thought she’d have, Rachel leaves Payton. And Josh. But the sparkle of Los Angeles is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Rachel quickly figures out that some sacrifices are not worth the risk. Is she too late? Will Josh forgive her, or has her desire for fame ruined the best thing she’s ever had?

Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say forever.

About the Author

Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has continued to produce a steady stream of books. Recently she signed with Evatopia Press and her first Evatopia book is coming out in February 2014 – True Colors, The Masks Series #1. She is very excited to be trying out new things this year while continuing to publish under her
own name as well. She has six books planned for 2014 and is excited about writing each and every one of them.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Fairytale Retellings I Like/Want to See

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I’m baaaack. I’ve missed the last few Top Ten Tuesdays as hosted by The Broke and Bookish this summer has been beyond hectic and blogging has taken a back seat to my million other responsibilities. But now I’m back and ready to jump on this topic. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to focus on the retellings I like, or just the ones I want to see, so instead I’m going to do both. It’s my blog I’ll do what I want. 


 

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: I just read this one and I am now obsessed. A retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ my favorite Disney cartoon was great. Making it hella steamy. Yes please, more, more, more.

2. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Possibly one of my favorite books of all time, this Cinderella re-telling is a fantastic book. Even though it’s middle grade, it’s one of those books that stands the test of time.

3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer: What I love about this retelling is that it is so original. Cinder is not the type of retelling that just skews the original, it actually creates a new story from the existing. Cinderella is a cyborg Princess in a new China.

. 4. Grimm Tales: Wendy Higgins is releasing a book about the Grimm tales which I haven’t read but I am super excited about this one. These tales are dark and amazing for YA.

5. Splintered by A.G. Howard: This is a funky retelling of Alice in Wonderland which got me hooked on Alice retellings. Surprisingly, there are a lot out there and not all of them good.

6. The Collectors’ Society by Heather Lyons: Speaking of Alice in Wonderland…this is an AMAZING retelling. Alice is a kickass Queen traipsing around with other storybooks characters. The English nerd in me wants to die and go to nerd heaven whenever I read this.

7. Robin Hood: There are a ton of amazing Robin Hood TV shows out there and the tv series/comicbook Arrow is kind of a retelling of that, but no good books. I mean Marian and Robin have an amazing love story.

8. Camelot: So technically I guess this is not a fairytale but I would love to see a new YA playing with King Arthur’s court. Yes, I know Meg Cabot wrote one but the Disney movie totally killed it for me.

9. Swan Princess: Has anyone seen this movie? How would this make a bad book. Do any currently exist?

10. Snow White: I’d like to see a gritty version of this one a la ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses.’ Maybe Snow is a witch being hunted for her magic…these are things I think about.

What fairytales do you guys want to see? Any good retellings I am missing?