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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)

Blurb from Goodreads:
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

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.

3.5 stars
Confused is a good word to describe how I felt throughout most of the book. It is clear that the author created a complex and intricate world. It was very hard to keep track of all the different kingdoms and leaders. The map in the beginning was really small, but that helped make sense of all the details. Everything was introduced so quickly and at times there was info dumping. The world was so detailed that I wanted to know all about it, but the information needed to be parceled out a little slower and more concisely.

Meira is an interesting character. She so desperately longs for acceptance and wants to find a place where she feels she belongs. As an orphan, that rang true and was well done. You could almost feel her longing. I thought her relationship with Sir was complex and layered. I did not like the insta-love and the changing of her affections so abruptly. One minute she is in love with one guy and the next she is madly in love with someone that she barely knew.

All in all, this was a good read. I want to read the next book as I feel that the world building was all set up in this book so the next one can concentrate on the characters more.

Content: There was no sex or language in this book.  There are some violent scenes, and the main character kills several enemies.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Salt & Storm

Blurb from Goodreads:
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

4.5 stars
What a delightful surprise! I loved the setting and the premise and the characters and the tensions and the, well, you get it. I just loved this book. The carefully tended conflict between the generations was expertly handled. The ending between mother and daughter left me in tears. I am just an old softy when in comes to mamas and their babies. Fortunately, my 14 year old is such a great kid, and there is very little conflict in our home.

This book is so well researched that you can't help but believe in the world that has been created. The whale business is dying out being replaced by kerosene and the whales being harder to find. This mirrors the Roes as Avery and her mom are not taking over. The parallels are nicely done and striking. I really enjoyed the rich history of the whaling business. You felt for the sailors, but I was happy for the whales that the industry was dying a natural death.

The beginning is a little slow as the world is introduced but it is worth pushing through. I highly recommend to readers who enjoy a great fantasy with historical content thrown in.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink, #2)

Blurb from Goodreads:
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

This is so gorgeously written, and Lynn is one of the most compelling characters I've ever read. Having said that, I felt that Lynn was such a strong character that she overshadowed Lucy. Not that I minded because I adore Lynn. She does not shy away from getting done what needs to be done. I felt the mountain scenes really showed what she is made of.

The ending felt a little rushed. Things magically happen, and tension is resolved without much explanation. We have this long journey and then it is over within a couple of pages. I needed to see the entire thing and not just the Cliff Notes.

This book really raises the question of whether or not humanity has any decency and integrity left in it. The characters are really pushed to the breaking point, and it illustrates humankind at its most vulnerable. Can people still be good when faced with surviving against the odds? Lynn and Lucy are faced with that question every day. Who to trust or even should you trust at all. Lynn and Lucy make great examples of the spectrum. Lynn trusts no one, and Lucy trusts everyone. Our world is seeing a rise in crime. This book really asks a question relevant to our world.

I really enjoyed this one, and I hope there will be a third book. I would love to see more Lynn in the next one. She is one of my favorite characters.

Content - No sex, but there is a fair amount of language.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens

This is an adult book and contains mature themes and sexual situations.

Blurb from Goodreads
The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love
French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

4.5 stars
Three tales woven as expertly as I have ever seen and one of them true as well. I couldn't make up my mind which one I wanted to follow most. I think I enjoyed the story of Margherita the most though. I am a sucker for a good fairy tale retelling. The amount of research that must have went into this book is astounding. There were so many elements at play - Venice, the Sun King, Huguenots, Rapunzel, Titian. This is the way I like history - told in stories - much like Charlotte-Rose herself. I could have done without all of the sex in the book. I am used to YA books with their less informative sex or none at all. And yes, I realize this was a grown up book, but my preference would have been for less sex.

Charlotte-Rose must have been a fascinating woman especially considering the hardships she must have suffered due to her gender. I know women still are not treated equally in the workplace, but we have made progress. Some of the scenes were hard to read imagining what it must have been like to be a woman in the Sun King's court. A pretty face would attract the wrong and unwanted attention of a king who showed no regard for the plight of the women he used. Every woman who ever bore a child must have hoped fervently for a son. I could not imagine wishing a girl child into that kind of oppression.

This was beautifully written and the three cords of stories woven together were as well done as the witch's job on Margherita's hair. I waited for so long for this book to become available in the US. I am glad to know that it was worth the wait.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Caller by Juliet Marillier

The Caller (Shadowfell, #3)

Blurb from Goodreads:
Neryn has made a long journey to perfect her skills as a Caller. She has learned the wisdom of water and of earth; she has journeyed to the remote isles of the west and the forbidding mountains of the north. Now, Neryn must travel in Alban's freezing winter to seek the mysterious White Lady, Guardian of Air. For only when Neryn has been trained by all four Guardians will she be ready to play her role in toppling the tyrannical King Keldec.

But the White Lady is not what she seems. Trapped with Whisper, her fey protector, Neryn is unable to send word to her beloved Flint, who is in danger of being exposed as a double agent. When a new threat looms and the rebellion is in jeopardy, Neryn must enter Keldec's court, where one false move could see her culled. She must stand up against forces more powerful than any she has confronted before, and face losses that could break her heart.

The Caller is the thrilling conclusion to the Shadowfell trilogy.

5 stars
Bravo, bravo! This has been excellent from start to finish. I am so sad that it is finished. I now want to go and re-read some Juliet Marillier favorites - Daughter of the Forest and Heart's Blood. Alas, I have fallen behind in my review books while reading this trilogy so I cannot. I know I have remarked before on Marillier's ability to create such a complex and intricate world. When I finished the last page, I was absolutely convinced that callers existed, and a secret part of me was hoping I could become one. She weaves a spell that enthralls just as much as the Enforcers did. She has such a gift with words being able to evoke powerful emotions with a few letters on a page. And that is true magic.

I'm not going to tell even one detail about the book. I do not want to rob anyone of the true pleasure it is reading this series. Suffice it to say I think this book had it all - plotting, characterization and beautiful language. If you are a fan of Marillier's already, then you know what amazing books she can write. If you have not read anything by her, I urge you to pick one of her books up. I guarantee it will not be your last.

Content:  There is no objectionable material. It is alluded that two characters have sex, but it is off page. No language either.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

Raven Flight (Shadowfell, #2)

Blurb from Goodreads:
Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn's love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows.

This is an incredible book. I have no words but those to say. Juliet Marillier always entertains, evokes emotion and delights her readers. There is no second book woes here. In fact, I think I like this one better than the first one. The first one built a perfectly wonderful world, but Raven Flight added so much more to the world. I have been raving to anyone who will listen about this author since I picked up Daughter of the Forest by accident at the library. I very rarely make purchases of books on the release day, but Marillier's books are one of the exceptions. She continually works her magic with her amazing world building and incredible characters. My only complaint is that there is too much of the journey motif in both books. I was glad when (view spoiler).

And she makes you think. What are the consequences in war? How responsible are the leaders when sending troops into battle? Neryn wrestles with this. I love how Marillier has depicted her journey as she tries to answer these questions.

I am starting right away on the next book. Love this series!

Content - there is nothing objectionable in this series so far.  Characters spend a chaste night together.  No language.  Some violence.