Review: The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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Title: The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Publication Date: April 26, 2016

Genre: YA, Re-telling, Romance

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.


While I definitely came late to this party, I have since become absolutely obsessed with this series. I have recommended it to everyone, including the guy at my local bookstore. Generally, I’m split on sequels and find them polarizing. Either they are fantastic or they feel irrelevant. Because this is a duology, this book was completely relevant. Because Ahdieh knows how to pen a story, this was completely enthralling. Though I enjoyed the first installment more, “The Rose and the Dagger,” is a strong follow-up. 

What I liked: One of the main pleasures I got from reading this next installment was getting to know the secondary characters more. Instead of just reading from Shazi’s or Khalid’s perspective, Ahdieh writes from the minds of several secondary characters, which flushes out their motivations and makes their support of Khalid more believable. Speaking of support, you actually get quite a lot of scenes between Tariq and Khalid, which I particularly enjoyed. Their relationship is definitely a strained one, but through a series of events and their mutual love of Shazi they develop a grudging respect. Ahdieh’s story is very character driven and I think that is highlighted in this sequel. If you love character driven drama then you’ll enjoy this. 

What I didn’t like: Everything seemed to be fixed very quickly and sometimes very confusingly. I want to elaborate here, but I also don’t want to spoil things. Essentially, I feel like because this was so strongly driven by the relationship between Shazi and Khalid and because of that the ‘action’ i.e. the curse and some random political intrigue was incredibly secondary and not as well developed.

Overall, great character-driven sequel that you’ll be unable to put down 5/5.

Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

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Title: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Genre: Suspense, Romance YA

Publication Date: February 25, 2014

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis: When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.


This was an impulse buy. Saw it in the store, knew nothing about the author, and picked it up just because I thought the story sounded interesting enough. I had buyers remorse directly afterwards. Did I really spend $20 on a book without reading reviews or doing any research? The only thing that kept me from returning it was I felt general excitement at the prospect of reading this story. So I kept it and a month later I finally read it. Throughout this whole experience I realized that as much as I love blogging and being part of the online book community, sometimes it effects what books I buy. I don’t go into the bookstore anymore just to browse around and make impulse purchases. Instead, I go in like a woman on a mission, grabbing the things on my list. I rely on a few trusted bloggers to color my opinions of certain books and I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I should take a break from reading other reviews. In part, I have Catherine Doyle and “Vendetta,” to thank for opening my eyes to the fact that it’s still okay to browse, and that’s how you sometimes find real gems. Enough about that though: on to the review!


What I liked: This book is full of positives. I mean really, really full of them. So full of them, I finished it in the span of two nights during my last week of finals teaching/tutoring. The story completely enraptured me from the first page. Doyle begins with a mystery and ends just as mysteriously. From the moment I opened the book she had me hooked as I was curious to know why our main character Sophie (or Persephone which is her much hated birth name) father is in prison. She seems like a normal enough girl, too normal to have a dad behind bars, and so I waited and waited for the mystery to be solved. When that was solved, another sprung into it’s place. Who were the mysterious and seriously hot boys who moved into town? These mysterious became interwoven, interlaced, and entangled, until I thought I would go crazy with anticipation if I didn’t uncover them soon. I’m a mystery lover and when it is done correctly it makes for a wonderful read. Catherine Doyle knows how to write a mystery. My second praise for this book was in the romance between Nic and Sophie. There weren’t a ton of scenes where the two interacted and somehow their relationship was not the central focus of the books, yet I was totally captured by their intensity. Nic is my perfect book boyfriend. Little bit of danger, little bit of the good guy, and lots of protective instinct. He can rescue me from the clutches of evil overlords any day of the week. The passion between Sophie and Nic is subtle but intense. Doyle spends a lot of time building little moments between the two into big moments. 

What I didn’t like: Wasn’t crazy about the ending. I have so many questions and it just kind of cuts. I needed more. My biggest contention was that no one called the mafia thing from day one. Let’s get out our mafia check list and see if these boys fit. Italian (Check) Super Intense/Kind of Dangerous (Check) Carry knives (Check) Know how to break and enter (Check) Live in a Big Creepy Mansion (Check) DING DING we have winners. Come on town of Cedar Hill, get it together.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m so glad I trusted my instincts. It was a stellar read with a very intense plot. 4/5

Review: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

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Title: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

Genre: Young Adult (YA) Suspense (?)

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Synopsis (from ma’ brain): Avery West has grown up without a father and constantly on the move with a military contractor mother. She’s never really had a family; never stayed in one place very long. Naturally, she longs for companionship. Enter, Jack–the new British kid at her school. Avery decided to be rebellious, but it turns out that Jack brought with him a whole host of problems. Now, Avery finds herself running through Europe as she begins to unravel the mysteries of her family and her destiny. Rating: 3.5/5


 

So when I originally came across this book I decided to pass on it. I was offered the chance to review it as an e-galley but I didn’t think it would be for me. The synopsis did not do a great job of pulling me in here. The cover is super pretty but I just thought “meh, I don’t really want to take this away from someone who wants it just to say I read it early.” The reason I mention any of this is (a.) I don’t think the synopsis does a great job of selling the book (b.) to show how crucial book/promotional tours can be to authors. Recently, I attended the NoVa Teen Book Festival where I had the chance to hear Maggie Hall speak about this book. When she described it with such vigor and excitement, talking about the research she did and the process she engaged in, I knew I needed to pick it up. So I did. Added bonus, she signed it and was so nice and sweet! So see, events do help sell some books. I’m proof. Now, on to my review: 

What I liked: Let’s start with the thing I liked the most and work my way to the things I liked and hated because I had really strong mixed feelings about a lot of thing here. That sounds really negative so let me preface this by saying I enjoyed the book, I just enjoyed it more as it progressed.

The research. Holy cow. This book is crazy convoluted, in a crazy good way. Hall clearly spent hours upon hours doing historical research, archaeological research, researching the etymology of words, and simply just going research crazy. As a deep lover of History, I love books that are able to engage with me in that way without it being a second thought, or it being trite. Hall manages to avoid all of this. She interweaves her facts with her fiction so seamlessly that sometimes I forgot that her version of events didn’t actually take place (as far as I know). Where there some parts that were confusing, sure. Did they slow down the book, no. To put it simply, I was blown away by this. I’ve never read a book where every word, action, and even landscape has a larger meaning to the main story–in this case The Circle of 12 and the mystery surrounding the mandate.

The action. After the initial introduction of the characters and first few kind of slow chapters, Hall jumps right into the action. The great thing about this is that she does this without explaining the back story of her character, villains, or the Circle of Twelve which though confusing, keeps the pace of the book going. The plot unfolded organically with Avery discovering more after each excursion. Hall’s story is very complication and I personally am glad she took this approach. If she had explained everything in the beginning I’m not sure I would have continued to read.

Stellan and Jack. Yes, they are hot. Jack has some hot scenes with Avery and they are both just badass. What I like most about the two male characters are that they both crave family. I feel like I rarely see men (or boys) in Young Adult books who openly crave familial ties the way these two do. That’s not to say we don’t have a typical love triangle brewing here, but still, nice to see a softer side.

What I didn’t like: Avery. Okay, let me explain that. I didn’t like Avery through most of the book. I do begin to enjoy her more towards the end, but through a majority of the book I wanted to smack some sense into her. I mean really girl who runs off to Paris with a guy she doesn’t know who wields a knife at her prom. Unless you are Liam Neeson’s daughter, this is not ending well for you. With Avery, I just failed to connect. It’s not until the end when she refuses to abandon Stellan to a terrible fate to save those she loves do I kind of start to come around on her.

Overall confusion. This book requires a careful read and even then I kept being all “whaaaa.” My main issues where with Keepers. I totally felt their role was under-explained. I needed that information kind of first thing.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I picked it up. The synopsis does not do it justice. If you are looking for a light read to blast through, this is not it. “The Conspiracy of Us,” requires and deserves your full attention. 3.5/5

Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

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A few months ago, when “Vampire Academy,” came out on DVD and I laughed/cried/laughed again/wished Adrian was involved, I decided to re-read “Vampire Academy.” I love reading novels again and again, it’s like chicken soup, full of comfort. Well, a good friend of mine (shoutout Jess) was all “HAVE YOU READ BLOODLINES??!!” I vaguely remembered staring the first book a few years back and not really keeping up on it. I grabbed it from the library to see what it was all about. I doubted I’d be as into it without Rose, but it was Summer and I was on vacation for a second so what the heck…I ended up catching up on the series in two weeks…yea..

Synopsis: “Silver Shadows,” follows Sydney in Alchemist prison-hell while Adrian goes of the deep end of crazy for a hot second. Naturally, she gets out–eventually–but after that hi jinxes ensue. There’s a wedding, a few visits to court, some general bad-assery,and a whole mess-load of human/Moroi/ Dhamphir interaction.

What I liked: Adrian’s response to Sydney being taken is true to his character. Adrian is my favorite character across all of the “Vampire Academy,” and “Bloodlines” novels and I’m glad that he has grown, but that Mead also isn’t writing him unrealistically. He’s always been the guy who would sacrifice everything for those he loves, but he’s also kind of a hot-mess. When Sydney is taken, he tries but is really all over the globe–makes sense. I was really suprised how much I liked the novel, especially since we didn’t get a lot of the usual gang, and we especially didn’t get a lot of Sydney and Adrian’s relationship cuteness. That all being said, the progression of events made sense and it made it so the ending (which is spectacularly amazballs) wasn’t super trite and cheesy.

What I Meh-ed on: Seriously? It took all over an hour to put a Wedding Ceremony together…it takes me longer than that to even blow-dry my hair and put make-up on. I call BS.

What I didn’t Like: Where is everyone? I get that this is mostly focused on Sydney, but I felt really let down that we only got brief glimpses into the gangs life up until the end shocker. I LOVE Jill and Eddie, I need them more flushed out here, not simply mentioned and then exploded in my face.

Overall, another fantastic addition to The Bloodlines family. I can’t wait until Winter to get the next one. This thing ends on a cliffhanger like you wouldn’t believe! (8/10)

Wishlist Wednesday

So, sometimes when I am bored at work I troll Goodreads for new books to add to my list. The problem with this is that I am that person who usually has about 5 books in her cue. Here are the latest books I am dying to get my hands on, some are out, and some are being released in the next month. Here’s my latest Wishlist Wednesday!

 

Ghost House

Ghost House has been getting a lot of hype recently and I am really excited to get my hands on it next month. England, check; supernatural romance, check; old-timeyness, check. Count me in!

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I just got my hands on this and I am so pumped to read it! This is going to be one of those books that I blow off real life for, I can just tell. Again, it has been getting a lot of hype ever since BEA and since it’s release it has received some great reviews. Personally, I love royalty books–contemporary, historical, or fantasy–does not matter to me. Be on the lookout for my review coming sometime in the upcoming weeks.

MAGNOLIA

This actually was not on my radar until today when Epic Reads released their list of books to watch out for in August. Usually, I don’t really go for contemporary romances. It takes something truly special to catch my eye, and the description definitely did that. Southern royalty, yes please. I absolutely adore the South and since I’m a “yankee” I always feel like it is this magical place. Novels that set themselves on the other side of the Mason-Dixon feel like a fantasy to me. Add a good love story and you may be seeing a non-fantasy YA review on here 🙂

So here are the top three books on my wishlist, which ones are on yours?