ARC Review: Bound by Blood and Sand (You want this book)

Bound by Blood and Sand

 

This story caught me off guard. Based on the reviews alone I chose to give it a go and I was not disappointed. From the first few minutes of this audio, I was hooked. I wanted to do nothing but finish this book. Sadly, my bills had other plans and I was forced to stop once in a while but when I was not reading this, I was wondering what was going on. To me, that is the sign of a great story. I haven’t been captivated by a story like this in a long time.

Jae is a slave to a household in the middle of the desert. She, and her twin brother, are the cursed ones in this civilization. They are bound an ancient law that forces them to obey every command given to them no matter how repulsive. They are unable to resist this curse no matter how much they try to fight against it. Everything within Jae’s world changes when she hears of Lord Elan’s arrival. Lord Elan is visiting from the main city because he, like many other people, is searching for The Well. The Well is the hidden source of magic and water that could save everyone. But… it is hidden and nobody knows the whereabouts. In a series of fortunate events, Jae discovers The Well and she alone has the power to control it. Elan discovers this and soon fights to control Jae but he cannot. He begs her and tries to bargain with her to help him find The Well. But why would someone that has only known slavery, abuse, neglect, and worse want to help someone of power? Jae sets out to discover the well and hopefully free all of the slaves, that is unless Elan’s power hungry father gets to her first. Will she be able to discover the Well and save those she cares about the most?

The writing style of this story blew me away. It is such a simple story, but wonderfully complex at the same time. The concept of the story was amazing to me. People who are considered to be the reason for the downfall of the civilization were Cursed and forced to pay for the sins of their ancestors for all time. This curse forces the person to do whatever vile order is given to them, not matter how horrid it is. They also are forced to only spoke when asked a question and they can only speak the truth. Brilliant! The foundation of the story, the history of The Well, the ancient war, and the Chosen was just fantastic. This story was so rich with fantasy that I couldn’t get enough.

I really liked Jae’s character. She is no proper female, that’s for sure. She is a tough woman that has been forced to be a slave from the time she could walk. She has served the same household her entire life, along with her twin brother. She has known no other life so being a proper lady with class is nowhere on her To Do list. She does her best to stand up for herself when she can. Her development within the story was very well done. She started out wanting nothing more than to tend the garden, and grew into someone that was determined to find the Well and set her people free, no matter the cost. Jae alone discovered the truth behind the Well and chose to do something about it. I like how she grew to trust Elan. Elan was out to prove that he was not as heartless as his father but still wanted to help people. He, too, grew as the story went along. He discovered the truth behind his family’s blood line and wanted to correct a wrong history. I can’t blame a son for wanting to prove to his father that he is his own man and is on the planet for a reason.

After a lot of thought, I realized that I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about this story other than the wait until the next in the series. How amazing is that? The best part of this story: NO. ROMANCE. That’s right! There is ZERO romance clouding this story! FINALLY! A bloody brilliant story that has no love angst clogging things up! That leaves the story up for more secrets to be revealed, more mysteries to be solved, more magic, and stronger characters. HOORAY! Thank you Allen for finally writing a story like this!

I cannot wait until the next book in the series comes out. I want to be first in line for that book! I wish more people were talking about this story/series because it deserves the attention. It is worth your time to read/listen. Please read and then we can gush about how amazing this book is.

 

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ARC Review: The Reader (The Reader #1)

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1)

 

I’m not sure where to begin with this book. The premise makes the book sound amazing, but this is a story where there is just too much going on. There are too many characters, too many settings, and too many stories. It did not work for me.

From Goodreads:

“Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.”

I wasn’t able to write the blurb about the book myself because I didn’t see this story the same way. I didn’t see it in a positive light. It is no secret that I was disappointed by this book, which was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016. This story was just confusing and left me with more questions than anything. I had was thrown by how quickly the POVs changed and how many POVs there were. Four POVs usually isn’t a terrible number, but it did not work for this story. Each POV started to sound like the same character, the voices just did not sound different enough. If you are able to get through to the end of the book, things come together. Well, enough that it leaves the storyline open for book #2. It just was not enough to save the story in my eyes.

Sefia and the other characters were so basic and interchangable that I am not really able to remember specifics about them. They all felt like they were confusing while trying to be mysterious but instead had a ho-hum backstory and I just never connected with any of them. There wasn’t anything for me to hold on to in order to keep my attention.

The pacing of this story did not work for me. There was so many flash back and flash fowards that I was getting whiplash. More than that, I simply had no idea what was going on. A new POV would start and apparently be talking about something that happened many, many years before the present day but the reader had no idea until the chapter was almost over. I kept checking the audio tracks to make sure I wasn’t accidently playing my tracks on random.

I did not enjoy this story. There was too much crammed into this story and none of it worked for me. I believe I should have DNFd this story instead of pushing through until the end. After I got into the story I was not excited to continue reading it. I still gave this story 2 stars and that is because it was an interesting concept but the execution was just not done well.

 

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Review: Magonia (hard pass on this book)

Magonia (Magonia, #1)

My thoughts immediately after I finished this book: What in the heck did I just read? Mind you, that was not said in a positive tone. This book is the textbook definition of “buying a book based completely on its cover”.

This is the story of sixteen year old Aza. Aza has had serious health issues since she was a baby. She has always had trouble breathing and was always in the hospital. This was Aza’s life and she knew at any moment she could take her last breath. By her side the entire time was her best friend, Jason. Jason loved Aza with everything that he had and would do anything to protect her. Everything changed when Aza started noticing birds outside of her home and one even flew into her lung one night. Shortly after that event, Aza took her last human breath and passed away. Well…. sort of. It turns out that Aza is actually from the mystical place called Magonia – a city that lives in the sky. In the sky, nearly everyone is a bird of some sort. Aza happens to be the long lost daughter of the ship’s captain that has been lost for 16 years and she is supposed to be the one that helps set the people aboard her mom’s ship free. Aza has to learn very quickly what her role is in this new life and how she fits in on this ship. She tries her best to fulfill her duties but she cannot stop thinking about her human best friend, Jason. Can Aza life up to the role that is placed before her? Can she save her mother’s ship and be the one everyone needs her to be?

I cannot stop shaking my head at this book. I mean…  I know it’s a fantasy story but this is an absurd fantasy. My mind just could not accept what was going on. Better yet, I did not care. I did not like Aza’s character, or any character within this book. I didn’t connect with anyone in this story. Aza was okay in the beginning but once she was taken aboard the ship, she became worse. She was so whiney, bratty, and wishy-washy that it was making me mad. First she would embrace her new future, then she would change her mind and want to go back to live with the “drowners” (the name for the people that lived on land). If she is the protagonist, I need her to have a backbone of some kind. Instead she flopped back and forth throughout the entire story. Don’t get me started on Aza’s best friend Jason. I couldn’t stand his character. He was sweet but that did not make up for how utterly annoying and frustrating he was. When he gets stressed, he recites the numbers of Pi as far as he can and hearing that on the audio is more than annoying. It would go on for minutes, just rambling numbers of Pi. I should have quit then because he did this all of the time. His character was so all over the place that he was just not well developed. Honestly, I don’t think he was the right type of character for the best friend role. It needed to be… well… anyone but who the author wrote. None of the characters were developed, nor did they develop at all during the story.

The pacing of this story was not done well, nor was the plot actually delivered in a sane fashion. The main part of the story didn’t happen until almost half way through and until that happened, all I learned was that Aza was really, really sick. Uh.. ok. I understand that but how about you get to the meat & potatoes of the story already, author? The meat & potatoes didn’t happen until after Aza died, which was about 50% of the way through the book. That means the reader gets to listen to her whine and complain and tell you again that she is sick. Once you learned why the book is called Magonia and what Aza’s true role is – BAM – info dump! Definitations, terminology, history, people, places, and things from this new world are thrown at the reader at rapid speed which leaves you very confused and wondering what is going on.

I am not against books about/containing/deailng with bird characters at all (Daughter of Smoke and Bone?! The Girl At Midnight?!) What I am against is books where the plot is not well written and the characters not developed well. That is what this book was to me: not done well at all. I fell victim to the beautiful cover and thought that the story must be just as beautiful. WRONG. I struggled to get through this book so I certainly will not be picking up the second book. I just don’t care what happens.

 

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Review: Jackaby (Jackaby #1)

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)

 

This has been on my shelf for the longest time and I finally did it! I read this book, well, listened to the audio actually. I’m very sad to say I was not as impressed as I had hoped.

Abigail Rook left England to get away from the life that had already been decided for her (becoming a trophy wife to someone she doesn’t know or love and having a lot of children). She runs away to the States and finds her way to New Fiddleham. This place was so different from Englad that Abigail was over the moon excited at everything. She sets out in search of a job and stumbles across a flyer looking for an assistant.. but not just any assistant, a detective assistant. Abigail quickly finds herself on the doorstep of R. F. Jackaby. Jackaby is an investigator of the unexplained about. Abigail is not about to walk away from her dream job because there are some ‘unexplained parts’. She quickly joins Jackaby while he investigates a string of strange and unusual murders. Strange and unusual because they are rather … paranormal.

This story was pitched as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”. Those are strong words. Sadly, I am not a Doctor Who fan so I did not understand that reference at all. I am a small Sherlock fan, but only a small one because I was not the biggest fan of his character. With both of those against me, you would think I would have passed on this book outright. I wanted to experience for myself if this book lived up to the hype. As I mentioned above, this book left me feeling underwhelmed. The storyline itself was not difficult to follow, it was the execution. Let me explain.

The characters: Jackaby is one of the oddest, rudest, most direct and literal characters I hae ever read. The audio probably made that more profound. The narrator for Jackaby was over the top proper with his dialect, which made me wonder what I was listening to. Abigail was a nice character, but a typical heroine of this time period. She wanted to be bigger than what she was born in to. I get it but it wasn’t very original. The rest of the characters were all around… odd. They fit into the story but some felt forced. Others felt strange for the sake of being strange. You want to include a duck and say he’s a former assistant? Meh, ok. I’ll let you have that. You have a ghost that lives with you because it was originally her house while she was alive? Uh… alright. What I couldn’t shake was how much every single one of these characters matched up with a Sherlock character.

The storyline: I wasn’t too keen on the story line. Someone dies but Jackaby doesn’t (ever) believe it is cut and dry as someone murdering someone else. Oh no. He believes there is always paranormal envolvment. Whatever blows your hair back, Jackaby. Parts of this story felt like the writer was trying to make a round peg fit into a square hole. I just didn’t jive with everything paranormal thrown into this story. I can say with certainty that there is no cliffhanger at the end of this book. It was surprising but not jaw-dropping.

I am not sure if I want to continue the series. I know I probably should but it really didn’t blow me away. I don’t want to read a book that leaves me feeling as if I should have read something else. I’m not upset that I read this, not in the least. I’m just not excited enough to want to continue with the series. I do recommend that everyone give this a try because as of lately, I have been the black sheep with books.

 

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Review: Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1)

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)

 

I really took my time getting to this book. Why? Two big reasons: high fantasy books sometimes go right over my head and this book had so much hype surrounding it. I listened to the audiobook and am sad to say that I did find myself zoning out at times but for the most part, I liked the story.

From Goodreads:

“Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.”

This was a heck of a YA book. Again, high fantasy books sometimes go over my head but I did my best to keep up with it. I really enjoyed Meira as a protagonist. She was a strong heroine who refused to be beaten down by the expectations of others. At the same time, she is complex and flawed. While Meira was great, she alone did not hold up this story. The rest of the characters were very well-developed and just downright superb. The introduction of the dreaded love triangle made me roll my eyes. This was unnecessary in this story.

There are parts of this story that get info-dumpy and I usually skim over those parts. I know they are important but that much information dumped at once makes my head spin and causes me to zone out. It felt like a lot to keep up with all of the eight kingdoms and what happens in each of them. That’s probably just me though. The images that I did get of this kingdom was quite horrifying. Meira and her Winterian people have gone through so much in the name of their kingdom. They all have had a hard life and would always have to fight for some reason.

I wasn’t very surprised when the twist at the end was revealed, I saw it coming early in the book. The story was a bit predictable but it was a fun read. While it was good, I (personally) had a hard time keeping all of the kingdoms and specifics of the kingsdoms straight. I’m not upset that I read it but I will probably wait to read the next book in the series.

 

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Review: Talon

DRAGONS! Dragons = intense action…right? Apparenlty, no. They are just typical angsty teens like the rest of us. Oh, and the same goes for dragon slayers. Who knew?

TALON is about teenage twin dragons Ember and Dante Hill (loving the names) who live in human form to fit into normal society. They are tasked  to fit in and eventually infiltrate areas of power for TALON, the dragon organization. In addition to blending in, they have to remain hidden from The Order of St. George who hunt down and kill dragons.

Obviously, I had very high expectations for this book and was very excited to begin reading. I pretty much held out hope that the action was right around the corner until I realized I was almost finished. The whole book felt more like a typical teen romance than a story about dragons. I swear, I would have forgotten that Dante and Ember even were dragons if they didn’t say so every other sentence and that hurt my feelings a bit.

Dante doesn’t actually have a huge presence in this book and I didn’t really connect with Ember as she is awkward and whiny. However, I did really like the St. George soldier, Garrett!!! Then, of course, there is the rogue dragon, Riley. As you’d expect, he causes the bad boy butterflies … who doesn’t love a slightly dangerous looking hot guy on a bike? Helloooooo bad boy!
Swoon

Ember talks and talks about how close her and Dante are but, there is never any evidence of that through the whole book, infact, it’s quite the opposite. As for Ember herself, she really wants to soak up the human teen experience and I get that but, that’s it… She begrudgingly does her dragon training and then runs right to the beach and hangs out with her friends. Then she meets the boys and you think “OK, now things will start getting interesting!” but, they don’t. I really felt like this was just a continuous transcript of her inner monologue. “I just want to go to the beach”, “I just want to be able to fly like a regular dragon” “I just want to hang out with my friends” “oh no, I like these boys but, don’t know what to do about that” “My trainer is mean”….

Now, let’s discuss the boys!!!  And yes, if you haven’t noticed, I get a little boy crazy but, only with book boys, not real ones… honest!

Garrett is assigned to the same town as Ember and Dante with the mission of killing them so, of course, he becomes a love interest. He faces several challenges throughout the story as he has been raised by a dragon slaying army and is now dropped into a beach town and told to act like a normal teen boy. He is a truly endearing character and he will always hold a soft spot in my heart.

Riley is a rogue dragon trying to help young dragons find freedom from TALON. He is the typical bad boy with a heart of gold and a dragon twist. I can’t wait to read more about him in book 2!

I have to say that I was pretty happy when this book ended but, not for the reasons you think. The ending seems to be setting up book 2 for the real action. Please don’t let me down! I know it sounds like I hated this book but I didn’t, I just couldn’t connect with Ember. But, I love Julie Kawaga’s writing style and there were definitely plenty of redeeming qualities about this story, mainly the boys ! It definitely left me wanting more.

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Review: The Rose Society (Young Elites #2)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites, #2)

 

Finally I picked up book 2 in the Young Elites series. I had been putting this off for a while only because I adore Marie Lu so much that I don’t want to be disappointed by her stories. Granted, I have yet to be disappointed as I loved this book.

Our protagonist, Adeline Amouteru, is back in what is not your typical book 2 of a series. Adeline has been broken, hurt, and shattered by family, friends, and loved ones alike. She has been used and taken for granted, but no more. Feared and known as the White Wolf, Adeline is back to raise her own army of Elites to take down the queen and the army, Inquisition Axis, that hurt her so painfully before. Do not be fooled – Adeline is not the typcial heroine. She thrives and feeds off of the fear of others, the fear that she puts in to people. Throughout this story, Adeline struggles to fight the good that is within her so she can exact her revenge on the Dagger Society. But is there enough good left in her to win out over the darkness that she is dependant upon?

This book freaking blew me away! This book did not suffer any of the typcial “second book syndrome” features that many fall victim too. Instead, this book was powerful and outstanding. Adeline’s character is brilliant. She is such a powerhouse! She is out for revenge and will settle for nothing less. Adeline has grown and developed so much from the first book that I could not get enough of her. She has been taken down to an all new level of darkness and I loved every single minute of it.

As for the rest of the characters, I have a love/hate relationship with them. That is the best way I can describe them all – love and hate at the same time. Especially Teren, who is portrayed to be the “villian” in this book/series. I have a feeling he will have to die but due to the complexity of the story and his character, this is going to make me very sad.

There were so many twists and turns that I was on the end of my seat the entire book. This book did everything that I had always hoped a second book would do – action, adventure, betrayal, plot twists, new exciting characters, lots of character development, and an ending that hooked me in for book 3. Ms. Lu, congratulations on doing what most authors always hope of achieving – a middle book that doesn’t suck.

 

 

 

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