Review of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Synopsis:
Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth have grown up in enemy countries locked in a long-standing fight for dominance over their shared planet. When Akos and his brother are kidnapped by the ruling Noavek family, Akos is forced to serve Cyra, the sister of a dictator who governs with violence and fear. Cyra is known for her deadly power of transferring extraordinary pain unto others with simple touch, and her tyrant brother uses her as a weapon against those who challenge him. But as Akos fights for his own survival, he recognizes that Cyra is also fighting for hers, and that her true gift—resilience—might be what saves them both.

When Akos and Cyra are caught in the middle of a raging rebellion, everything they’ve been led to believe about their world and themselves must be called into question. But fighting for what’s right might mean betraying their countries, their families, and each other.

When the time comes, will they choose loyalty or love?

Review:
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book but from the beginning I was pulled in. The story flowed well, and I quite enjoyed learning about all of the different characters and nuances between the different countries. It was neat having a heroine who didn’t need to be saved, at least, not physically. The way Cyra and Akos counterbalance each other is unique and refreshing. The way that grief and guilt is dealt with is realistic and heart wrenching; in a word, perfect. I quite enjoyed reading and I cannot wait to read on, so much so that I made sure to buy the sequel (since I had the first in paperback) before finishing this one!

An interesting note here is how Cyra’s situation mirrored rather similarly that of Katsa in Graceling, and yet the stories are not at all the same.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm Book 1) by [Kristin Cashore]

Synopsis:
Kristin Cashore’s bestselling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace… and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.

Review:
I picked this up by chance at a local game shop’s sale table. This book is deceptively deep and introspective. Everyone, graced or not, has things they are good at and things they could work to get better at, and Katsa was never given the chance to think that, or even consider herself beyond the label that was given to her. The relationships are real, and Katsa is very much the type of girl you’d expect if only allowed one thing and never taught about the more beyond killing. Though some reviews say she is a Mary Sue, I would argue that having a lot of mental anguish and uncertainty in one’s

self is just as much, if not more, of a hinderance than many other typical problems presented. There are some that would argue that Katsa’s take on marriage suggests the wrong things to the audience, but I would say that they need to consider the time period in the book more thoroughly, as well as the implications that a wife was only meant to stay home, produce heirs, manage the estate, and see to visitors. That was never going to be Katsa. There were a few instances and suggestions in the book that really made me personally feel it was more New Adult than Young Adult. I found the ending frustrating, unexpected, but ultimately uplifting that Katsa remains true to herself.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯

Unrelated to plot gripe: My main issue is that this book had many spots where it seemed that the ink in the printing press ran out, and you had to guess what some spots would say, usually just a word or two, but that can really jar you from a book, yet it was a good book nonetheless. I hope that others do not experience this and get turned off from the book because of that.

Review of Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

Synopsis:
Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky. Book 1 of a three book series.

Review:
This book is spellbinding. From the moment I started I found it hard to set down. The chapters are all the perfect length. It flows well. There are lots of little word games and word connections for readers to find, which is quite fun. I loved all the aspects of this novel, and there were no parts I glanced over or was annoyed at having to read to get to the juicy parts.

I absolutely loved the characterization; everyone had such solid personalities and attitudes, especially for the teenagers. There wasn’t as much forward knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of the adults, but that was understandable. The knowledge and love of different hobbies and activities shown by the main characters in their daily lives was refreshing, even if they might not like their overall jobs.

I loved this book, and am only sad I didn’t realize it was a three book series based on the blurb on the back when I purchased it at the store. I will, of course, continue on to finish this series- hopefully sooner than later! I do believe this was written for a younger audience, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome!

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Synopsis:
Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

Review:
This book had everything; treachery, slow burn romance, betrayal. There was a lot of psychological problems worked through, and I quite enjoyed it. The ending was a bit lackluster, but then, that is likely because this book just didn’t have as much pizzazz as the first.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯

Review of Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Synopsis:
A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling young adult tale.

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map―the key to a legendary treasure trove―seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Review:
This book was quite easy to fall into, pleasant, and I really enjoyed it. Given the title of the second book in the series, a major plot point is already spoiled to anyone that knows there is a sequel, however, that didn’t change how enjoyable the book is. I loved how dastardly some of the pirates were shown as, as well as the redeeming qualities of others. Riden I absolutely love, and I love that one never truly knows who has the upper hand. It was quite interesting seeing Alosa struggle with her duality, something most people can relate to at least sometimes in their life. I quite loved this book, and look forward to seeing what happens in the sequel!

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Enchantment by Camille Peters

Enchantment (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 5) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
When Maren runs away from the threat of a forced marriage, the last place she expects to end up is the Malvagarian Palace, home to the enchanted gardens, a cursed prince, and a magical rose that traps her there. Crown Prince Briar isn’t pleased to be stuck with a troublesome guest, especially one as mischievous and curious as Maren. She, on the other hand, is determined to escape, but instead finds herself inconveniently falling in love with him. Despite her lack of beauty, feelings steadily blossom between her and the prince.

Their budding romance is soon threatened when sinister magic begins to eclipse the enchanted gardens, a darkness which quickly spreads not only to the kingdom, but to the king himself. In order to stop it, Briar and Maren will both be forced to make a heart-wrenching sacrifice, only to realize that the gardens’ requirements may prove too high a price.

Inspired by Beauty and the Beast

Review:
So as we all know, I’m a sucker for enchanted roses. I’d been wondering and wondering where Briar would fall in this series, torn between the Beast and some odd hybrid of Sleeping Beauty, but my first inclination was correct. I was so glad to see that back home Briar has a slightly different demeanor and personality, as he was rather drained and unpleasant in Reflection. Maren, however, I wasn’t sure I would like. From the beginning, her self esteem issues were a bit annoying, though understandable given her father never showed her love. It was frustrating that despite constantly saying that she was used to it her actions proved that she cared far too much about other’s opinions on her “beauty” or lack thereof. Despite this, I quite enjoyed her quips and how prepared she always was to get into both mischief and not let others tell her falsehoods. I could resonate quite soundly with doing all sorts of things like Maren, however, my interests were always nourished and encouraged by family, and when others would make me doubt myself, it generally made me even more determined to become better at whatever it was.

I love the personification of the garden, and quite enjoy how Maren and Briar dance around each other. While originally hard to really understand Briar, Maren’s good nature prevails and his character is revealed in how he deals with tragedy as well as his own issues with self doubt. I also loved the background characters of Maren’s childhood, and how completely dastardly the men in her life reveal themselves to be.

I was so glad to see Prince Drake and Prince Rhea again but we were left with a lot of baggage regarding them that was never resolved. I do hope to see them and a resolution in a future book, though I’m not sure we’d see them in the next book about Seren (Aiden’s sister from the first book in the series, Pathways). Seren was almost as nasty as Lavena in this book, so while I originally thought the next book would be about Princess Lavena (featured in Identity) it is unsurprising to know that the King Thrushbeard story will fall to Seren.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis:
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm―and even the monster within―to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Review:
This book gave us a chance to see some old faces from previous novels in the Grishaverse as well as a deeper understanding of both Nikolai’s desires and intentions for the future and Zoya’s past, and how that influenced the demeanor she’s known for. Both Nikolai and Zoya have to fight who they are to get to who they want and need to become to help both their country and themselves.

Nina’s story truly begins in this book, and I absolutely adored the journey she takes. While there are some things I was left a bit sad about, overall, it is perfect and like nothing I ever would have imagined. There were many times that I had hoped, expected, wanted her to do the rash thing she was known for, but somehow, she managed to be a bit more cautious and the end result was glorious. I can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever get to be truly herself again, or at least tailored to be a bit more like what she had been naturally.

While the ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, by now I somewhat expect these books to continue, and I look forward to what I imagine will be a continuation of the Grishaverse.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis:
A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.


Review:
Definitely more enjoyable than the original Grisha trilogy, but still found it somewhat hard to get into. Once all the main characters were established it was easier to care about them, but it was quite deep into the novel before you really got any insight into the characters and their backstories. I’ll take Kaz Brekker over Mal in the Grisha trilogy any day, but I also have a special love for Nina and Matthias. All in all, there were stakes, and everyone really grew by the end. I look forward to reading Crooked Kingdom and seeing what mischief the crew manage to get into (or out of).

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯

Review of Pearl of Magic: A Little Mermaid Romance by Emily Deady

Pearl of Magic: A Little Mermaid Romance (Fairy Tale Royals Book 3) by [Emily Deady]

Synopsis:
Life in captivity is horrible.

But pretending to be a prisoner is worse. 

Aizel is a Majis and, against her will, a spy. She is supposed to be uncovering secrets for a cruel king, but spends most of her time listening to the haughty, self-absorbed musings of her captor, Prince Erich. 

It would be much less frustrating if she could at least complain about it, but the king has silenced her, taking away her voice so that she cannot wield her magic. 

If she fails to gather information from Erich, her family will be killed. But if she reports back to the king, her people’s only hope for freedom will be exterminated. Can she find a way to communicate with her captor and convince him of the truth about the Majis?

Review:
My goodness does this story have depth! Erich is the last born son, and as such, he finds himself not thought of and respected as his older brothers, and although he does have to act the part of a prince, he doesn’t enjoy having to squelch his self to be prim and proper. Aizel is the opposite, with lots of responsibility and guilt at not being more capable than she is. Both are good protagonists with a lot of depth and growth throughout the story. Both have to overcome obstacles and learn to see beyond the information they’ve had propagated throughout their lives.

I quite enjoyed all of the time alone that we got to witness, and how Erich and Aizel interact with their horses, and the mention of how one is with their horse tends to give an insight to how they are as a person. This may be my favourite in the series so far, though I truly loved A Shard of Glass. I absolutely adore how all of these stories are woven together within one family, but how each story gives more insights on parts of the story we read in previous novels in the series.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Thorn of Rose: A Beauty and the Beast Romance by Emily Deady

Thorn of Rose: A Beauty and the Beast Romance (Fairy Tale Royals Book 2) by [Emily Deady]

Synopsis:
Beauty is a curse.

It attracts the basest sort of men, even a beast.

With her father deathly ill, Isabel Bielsa throws herself into their mutual passion: bookbinding. Hiding in the library also allows her to avoid the unwanted attentions of the local self-absorbed noblemen. But, there is only so many times one can read the same book. When the governing council demands her father’s skills she happily goes in his stead. 

However, her new library assignment is far from private. Prince Aden of Iseldis, cursed into the form of a beast, keeps interrupting her work. With his idealistic standards and comfortable self-righteousness, she sees him as just another man besotted by her beauty. That is, until Isabel discovers that his curse has also affected his eyesight. 

As her feelings for him grow, Isabel nears the end of her assignment. Can she break Aden’s curse before the magical attacker comes back to finish him off for good?

Thorn of Rose is a fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It is a sequel to Shard of Glass, but can be read out of order. If you love sweet romance, a little bit of magic, and a self-assured heroine, than this story was written for you.

Review:
Both Isabel and Aden have strong ideals and personalities, which make them clash and have to actually work to get to know each other–something that likely could have and would have happened even without his curse. Isabel is very opinionated and used to dealing with people thinking she is stupid (something any reasonably attractive female is unfortunately well acquainted with, I fear) and perhaps because of that can be rather brash and cruel, assuming all men are the same because most she has come to know have been. Aden is both brash but quite emotional and carrying, and his relationship with Warrior and dedication to keeping people safe is sweet.

I absolutely love this take on Beauty and the Beast, because while some versions (Disney) claim she’s a beauty but don’t necessarily show it beyond one annoying suitor, this not only shows why she would be so annoyed with men in general, but also gave her a depth and level of intelligence other versions lack. There were always high stakes, and the story flowed very well, and was hard to put down. I absolutely loved the integration of her love of books and how connected she is to her father through her love of reading and the written word.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯