Friday, February 28, 2014

Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

At Somerton #1
January 22, 2013
YA Historical Fiction
ACQUIRED: Public library


One house, two worlds...
Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies' maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can't help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.
For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada's beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family's honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name--but it would mean giving up her one true love... someone she could never persuade her father to accept.
Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting... at Somerton. 
-From Goodreads


This one was a difficult one to call, mostly because it was hard for me to get into at the start. It was a close race for the good and the bad on this one, and in the end I settled on a solid 3 out of 5 stars for Cinders & Sapphires
One of the things I loved about this book was that it had plenty of interesting twists and lots of drama. There was always something going on with some character. I particularly enjoyed Sebastian's story line, even though the story itself is about primarily about Rose and Ada. It was an interesting twist on the 20's in Britain. The novel also had some very well done characters: characters that were well rounded and seemed to leap off the page. 
There were some bad things about the novel as well. And when I say bad things, I mean that they are things that made it hard for me to give the novel a great rating. Things seemed to happen very abruptly in the novel, going from one thing to another without a whole lot of explanation as to why they were occurring. And while they eventually became well done plot devices, it did put me off a bit that there were several cliched that were used in the novel. The biggest one was the fact that there is the overdone "impossible love" angle. As well as the "good" angelic girl versus the "bad" scheming girl. Of course, they're used well, but they were a bit off putting.
By the end of the novel however, I was invested and loving the story. It took a while, but it was worth it. I look forward to book two. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Divergent

For this week's Waiting on Wednesday, I'm definitely waiting on the film adaptation of Veronica Roth's New York Times bestselling novel Divergent.

Set for release in March of 2014, the film stars Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of an American Teenager) as Tris, Theo James (Underworld: Awakening) as Four, and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Labor Day) as Jeanine Matthews. The film also includes such stars as Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, and Mekhi Phifer. With such a cast heading up this YA adaptation, it looks to be an amazing movie.

Divergent follows the story of Beatrice 'Tris' Prior, who has grown up in a world where self denial is the highest virtue. But when she learns that she isn't like everyone else, she finally realizes why she never felt comfortable in her faction. When she's given the choice to stay with her family and continue a life of self denial or let her life take a different path, Beatrice takes on a new life, a new faction, and a new name.

There she meets the mysterious Four, where she starts a relationship that will change her life forever. But when someone hatches a plan to get rid of people like Tris, she and Four must band together to find out why being different--being Divergent--is so dangerous in the first place. And they have to do it before it's too late.

I loved the book, and I'm looking forward to the film more than any other YA adaptation in recent months. I expect it to be better done than any of the recent films that were pulled from YA books (with the exception of The Fault in Our Stars, which we'll talk about next week). It'll be filled with romance, action, and angst. My favorite combination.

Divergent will hit theaters on March 21. Tickets go on sale March 5.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Starters by Lissa Price

Starters #1
Delacourt Press/Random House
March 13, 2012
YA Dystopia/Science Fiction


Her world is changed forever.
Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.
He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders--seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party--and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined...
--From Goodreads


I spent a while trying to figure out what kind of ranking to give Starters. It was difficult because it took me several chapters to get really invested in the story. It was one of those novels that would have benefited greatly from a prologue that described what happened before the beginning of the story, but since it lacked one, you have to piece together those events as they're given to you. (True the synopsis gives you a bit of information about the Spore Wars, but not enough to really get interested.) However, once I got into the story, I really liked it. So, I'm giving Starters a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars
What I absolutely loved about this story is that it has a great mystery and tons of action with one twist after another. That was enough for me to fall in love with this story. It was as action packed as The Hunger Games, and lacked the heavy handed use of a traditional love triangle. I loved this part of the story because it made you focus on Callie and her struggle to unwind this mystery. 
Perhaps my favorite thing about the story was at the very end, on the final page. It left me with one burning question: Is the Old Man really who I think he is? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: City of Heavenly Fire

This week's Waiting on Wednesday is all about Cassandra Clare's final MORTAL INSTRUMENTS novel, City of Heavenly Fire.

Set to be released on May 27, the novel is the much anticipated conclusion to the New York Times bestselling MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series. It finalizes the story between Clary and Jace and the world of Shadowhunters.

The early release synopsis describes the novel like this:

Shadowhunters and demons square off for the final showdown in the spellbinding, seductive conclusion to the #1 New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary's own brother. Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian--but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance...

Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world will change. Who will survive the explosive sixth and final installment of the Mortal Instruments series?

The entire series has been a favorite of mine since I read the first book. I remember reading it because I was writing a novel about demon hunters, and I wanted to read my "competition." From the first chapter, I fell in love with the characters and the whole world. It's a beautiful story and a world of compelling characters. Clare is a brilliant writer, and I'm looking forward to the final Mortal Instruments novel, even though I'm sad to see the series end.

City of Heavenly Fire will be available at all major book retailers on May 27, 2014.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns #3
Greenwillow Books
August 27th, 2013
YA Fantasy
ACQUIRED FROM: Public Library

The epic conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy.
The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion--a champion to those who have hated her most. 
From Goodreads 
It is with ease that I give The Bitter Kingdom 4.5 out of 5 stars. While it might not have been my favorite of the three novels (that easily goes to part one), The Bitter Kingdom was a brilliant novel that really brought to a stunning finish everything that began in The Girl of Fire and Thorns
The novel was filled with beautiful imagery and wonderful drama. There was one twist after another that kept the characters moving. It seemed they never got a break until the very end. Elisa really came into her own as a person in this novel, and I absolutely loved how she finally realized that it was only important how she saw herself. She faced her feelings about her sister, her prejudices about the Inviernos, and her prejudices about herself. I loved how, in the end, she loved herself. 
Another thing I absolutely adored about this novel was the fact that we got to see some of the story from Hector's point of view. That is one of the things that will keep me coming back to this novel again and again.
The only thing about this novel that I didn't like was that the rescues sometimes seemed too quick and easy, but this was overwhelmed by the fact that something new always popped up to challenge the characters.
Overall, The Bitter Kingdom is a breathtaking story about how being special is all about how you see yourself. Rae Carson is easily a master of fantasy. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The One by Kiera Cass

For Waiting on Wednesday this week, I want to talk about The One, the final novel in The Selection Series by Kiera Cass.

The One, set to be released on May 6, 2014, is the final novel in The Selection Series by New York Times Bestselling author Kiera Cass. I've adored the first two novels in the series--plus the novellas The Prince and The Guard--and I just can't wait for the final novel to be released!

According to, The One will determine which of the remaining girls from the 35 chosen for the Selection will be crowned as the Princess of Illea and the soon-to-be wife of Prince Maxon. The synopsis posted to the website reads:

The time has come for a winner to be crowned. When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown--or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose--and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

Just reading it gives me goosebumps!

I can't wait for the final novel, mostly because I'm cheering on America and Maxon. I loved the way that their friendship developed slowly into something more. And I truly hope that they both make the right decision.

The One  will be available at all major book retailers and in digital eBook form on May 6, 2014 from HarperCollins.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns #2
Greenwillow Books
September 18, 2012
High Fantasy

ACQUIRED FROM Public library


She doesn't know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.
Elisa is a hero.
She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.
Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.
To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom--despite everything--she is falling in love with.
If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost. 
From Goodreads 

I loved The Crown of Embers so much that it is more than easy to give it a solid 5 out of 5 stars. There was literally only one thing about this novel that I didn't like, and that was the fact that there was the cliched "forbidden" love storyline. But honestly, doesn't that happen a lot? So that was actually pretty easy to overlook.
Carson is a brilliant storyteller who can bring a world like this to life with just a few words. I loved the story of Elisa and her struggle to hold her kingdom together after the devastating war. The descriptions were beautiful and breathtaking, and the characters were beyond just realistic. To me, they were living, breathing people whose lives I became invested in. Carson is a master at bringing these characters into your heart and making you care about them.
There were wonderful twists and turns in the story, including lots of mystery and intrigue. The love story that developed was beautiful and very organic. It was right and not forced like many love stories I've read in the past. This truly is a brilliant novel that I would recommend to anyone in love with fantasy.
With a beautifully tragic love story and lots of action and intrigue, The Crown of Embers is a wonderful story about realizing that who you are is just enough. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feature Friday: Vampire Academy

Based on the New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, the movie version of the first novel hit theaters in the US today.

Unlike many recent young adult novel inspired films, Vampire Academy seems to be looking for both the male and female audience with its mix of humor, fantasy, romance, and action. I love that it's looking to bring more males into the theaters to enjoy this story.

Vampire Academy follows the lives of Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir, two students at the prestigious St. Vladimir's Academy. They're best friends, and they know just about everything about each other. And I mean everything. Because Rose and Lissa aren't normal friends. Lissa is a Moroi, a mortal vampire and a princess to boot, while Rose is her best friend and a Dhampir, a human/vampire hybrid training to be Lissa's guardian. Thanks to an accident, Rose is able to see inside Lissa's mind and emotions and tell when she's in trouble. But when the mysterious Dimitri Belikov steps into their lives, everything begins to change.

I remember the first time I read this book. I did it in a single day because I loved it so much. And I've read it a dozen times since then. It's a great story, least of all because there aren't any brooding vampires--Adrian and Christian notwithstanding. And it's filled with strong and vivid characters who are more than realistic, they're alive.

Although I haven't seen it yet, I fully intend to stop by the nearest theater to see Vampire Academy. 

And I'm going to bet it isn't going to suck.