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Six of Crows

Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows (2015). Henry Holt and Co. 479 Pages

First book in the Six of Crows Series
Set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Universe

23437156From Amazon

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

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.

First Lines

Joost had two problems: the moon ans his mustache.

He was supposed to be making his rounds at the Hoede house, but for the last fifteen minutes, he’d been hovering around the southeast wall of the gardens, trying to think of something clever and romantic to say to Anya.

If only Anya’s eyes were blue like the sea or green like an emerald. Instead, her eyes were brown– lovely, dreamy… melted chocolate brown? Rabbit fur brown?

(If you’d like to hear this clip, check out the Read More; Audible has provided a sample of the audiobook which begins with the intro.) 

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Days of Blood & Starlight

Taylor, Laini. Days of Blood & Starlight (2012). Little, Brown books for Young Readers. 516 pages

Daughter of Smoke & Bone | Book Two

Days of Blood & Starlight is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone. This review could very well contain spoilers for Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Please proceed with caution.

12812550Truly, even the synopsis has spoilers… 

From Amazon

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes anoher truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

First Lines

Prague, early may. The sky weighed gray over fairy-tale rooftops, and all the world was watching. Satellites had even been tasked to surveil the Charles Bridge, in case the… visitors… returned. Strange things had happened in this city before, but not this strange. At least, not since video existed to prove it. Or to milk it.

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Spinning Starlight

Lewis, R.C. Spinning Starlight. (2015). Disney-Hyperion. 336 Pages

SpinningStarlightFrom Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’sThe Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

First Lines

After sixteen years, you think I’d be used to the incessant buzz of vid-cams swarming to chronicle every breath I take. I’m not. Good thing, too, or I might not have noticed when one of the tiny airbourne devices slips into the hovercar with me like an errant bumblebee.

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Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi, Teen Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke & Bone (2012). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 448 Pages

Daughter Of Smoke & Bone | Book One

DSB_final_6_1From Goodreads

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

First Lines

Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Kaoru had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark – in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight – but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.

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Under the Never Sky

Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky (January 3, 2012). 384 Pages. HarperCollins. $9.99

From Goodreads

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

First Lines

They called the world beyond the walls of the Pod “the Death Shop.” A million ways to die out there. Aria never thought she’d get so close.

She bit her lip as she stared at the heavy steel door in front of her. A display screen read AGRICULTURE 6–NO ENTRY in flashing red letters.

Ag 6 was just a service dome, Aria told herself. Dozens of domes supplied Reverie with food, water, oxygen– all the things an enclosed city needed. Ag 6 had been damaged in a recent storm, but supposedly the damage was minor. Supposedly.

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Warped

Guibord, Maurissa. Warped (2011). 352 Pages. Delacorte Books. $10.39

From Goodreads

Tessa doesn’t believe in magic. Or Fate. But there’s something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa’s own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa’s life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

First Lines

Cheever’s Fine Auction House was packed on a stormy spring afternoon. The auctioneer’s voice carried over the patter of rain drumming on the high, dark-beamed roof of the former dairy barn. “Number ninety-four. Last lot,” he announced to the crowd.

“Thank God,” said Tessa Brody under her breath. She’d been sitting there so long, she’d probably have an impression of the chair slats engraved on her rear end. Auction butt. Not good.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Historical Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Starcrossed

Bunce, Elizabeth C. Starcrossed (2010). 351 Pages. Scholastic.$17.99

I’ve been eying Starcrossed since I read A Curse Dark as Gold, and an opportunity to read it finally presented itself. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting this book in the evening, and I could not bring myself to put it down. It was 5am when I finally went to sleep. It’s a wonderful adventure story for fans of fantasy and political intrigue.

Synopsis

In a world with seven moons, there are seven gods who each have their roles, and who were once worshiped equally. Eighteen years before the novel starts, everything changed. The followers of Celys– the Great Mother goddess– declared war against the followers of Sar– the patroness of magic– and by extension all other gods. To be a magic user or a Sarist is to be a treasonous heretic, which is punishable by gruesome death. In this dark, unbalanced world, a cruel king rules, aided by Lord High Inquisitor Werne the bloodletter. The only hope for the common people is the hope that King Bardolph will name Prince Wierolf as heir, rather than Prince Astilan (who is known to be as cruel as his uncle.)

Sixteen year-old Digger is not concerned with politics or religion, she is merely concerned with surviving. (Something which was much easier before she and Tegen were ambushed by Greenmen.) Now Digger is on the run, alone, and unable to trust anyone. When a group of drunk nobles offer her a chance to escape Gerse, she takes it. Soon, Digger is disguised as Celyn Contrare, safely hidden in the snow-bound, remote Bryn Shaer, working as lady’s maid to Lady Merista Nemair. What was looking to be a quiet winter in the castle, waiting for spring, is quickly turning into the most dangerous situation Digger has ever been involved in.

First Lines

I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. Tegen had given my directions to a tavern on the river– was this where he’d told me to go, if things went wrong?

It didn’t matter. I had to get off the streets. Behind me, the Oss splashed moonslight over a row or fiverside storefronts, bright enough for me to make out the sign of a blue wine bottle and the short flight of stairs down into the alley. Down was shadows and safety. I took it.

Thoughts

I was entranced from the first, unable to stop reading for fear that I might miss something.* The world is unique, the characters strong and dynamic, the writing effective and descriptive without meandering. All told, it’s a very well-done book which I truly enjoyed reading.

Digger is a fascinating character; a runaway with a mysterious past whose only goal until recently has been to survive. She’s a clever girl who uses her wits and some thieving skills to get by** and until recently has been under the radar. We meet Digger as she realizes that Tegan has died– a death she spends most of the book getting over; he was her lover as well as her partner– and that she must get out of the city. Things don’t ever seem to get easier, but her determination keeps her going. It is perhaps the fact that she keeps going, rather than lapsing into self-pity that makes her so very interesting. She is a strong character, a girl who can (and does) kick butt.

Surrounding Digger is an equally as interesting and important supporting cast; Meri most especially, but also the others stuck at Bryn Shaer. There is a mystery surrounding the place and the people, a mystery which Digger uncovers. There is a lot more going on in this novel than can be resolved in 351 pages; there is at least one more volume (Liar’s Moon) coming.

As a whole, I thought the book was well-done and very, very interesting. It moves along much more quickly than A Curse Dark as Gold did, which makes it more appealing to people who need faster pacing. This story gets a 5/5, and if you like fantasy with political intrigue at all, I would strongly suggest reading it.

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* When I’m reading, I’m not seeing words on the page, rather, it’s like my own mental cinema. I sometimes forget that I can “pause” by closing the book.

** Character-wise, Digger reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s Aliane Cooper. Setting-wise, she reminds me of Beka Cooper. However, Digger’s story is unique enough that the similarities are not a bad thing.

The story continues in Liar’s Moon, release date TBD

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Pegasus

McKinley, Robin. Pegasus (Nov 2, 2010). 404 Pages. Putnam. $18.99

Once upon a time, humans forged an alliance with Pegasi (who are not winged horses), to share a beautiful, fertile land. Generations later, this alliance is still upheld in practice through the binding of the two royal families. Princess Sylviianel is the youngest of her family, and the last to get bound to her pegasus.

Princess Sylvi, who has never enjoyed the spotlight, finds herself at the center of everything, when it turns out that she can speak to Ebon without the aid of a translator. Their bond is deep from the moment they first meet, but there is a chance that it will threaten everything.

First Lines:

Because she was a princess she had a pegasus.

This had been a part of the treaty between the pegasi and the human invaders nearly a thousand years ago, shortly after humans had first struggled through the mountain passes beyond the wild lands and discovered a beautiful green country they knew immediately they wanted to live in.

Thoughts:

I’ve been waiting for Pegasus since it was first mentioned as a story which had grown too long to be part of the Air anthology. I’ve been waiting, and reading snippets, and longing for the day it would come out, and even when I was warned that it would end in a cliffhanger, I knew that I would devour it when it came out, because I have never read a McKinley book I did not love.

The cliffhanger killed me, by the way.

This book was beautiful and brilliant and heartwarming and heartwrenching and everything I had hoped for and more. Sylvi and Ebon’s relationship is so beautiful and perfectly written that I could not put the book down. It is clear from the beginning who the Bad Guy will be, though he is not the only bad thing going on. It is clear from the fact that it is about royalty that there will be political turmoil. There are so many things which are so important which are hinted at, but never quite explained.

I was not surprised when I got to the last page. I had sort of expected its direction from about the middle of the book, and there is this sense of something big looming on the horizon. And then it was the last page, and I just wanted more, but the rest will have to wait, because “Pegasus II” as it is currently called is still a part of the distant future.

This book certainly calls for the same thing most McKinley books call for– patience. She takes the time to build her worlds, so the adventure is that much more thrilling, because it is grounded in a solid world. Her characters never fall flat, because in such a real world, they could not be anything less than real themselves. However, sometimes several chapters may be devoted to the beginning, which can seem slow to many, but man, it’s so worth it.

For being so brilliant, this volume gets a 5/5. (I would give it a 6, but that might set a bad precedent…) Despite the agony of the cliffhanger, it is good that the story was not forced into a single volume, and was rather split, in order to do it proper justice.

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Shiver

Stiefvater, Maggie. Shiver (2009). 390 Pages. Scholastic. $9.99

Despite reading about this book in many blogs, and having several friends recommend it, I didn’t pick this book up for a long time. In fact, it took until I was standing in Borders, staring at it (and Linger) on the shelf before me for me to pick it up. When I flipped through a few pages, and noticed that the text was blue, and the paper a true white, I was sold.

I find unusual bindings, or printings, to be completely fascinating. I love when authors and publishers work outside of the box a little bit, and play with a well-established medium. (Within reason– it still has to be readable.) That is part of why I love Alice in Wonderland— things like the Mouse’s Tail, and other such playful printing.

I was hopeful, especially since I had just read Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Hounds of Ulster” in Kiss Me Deadly and had enjoyed it. She manages to use pretty language without going over the top, and it feels like she does get teenage emotions.

Anyway, Shiver is about Grace and Sam, and what happens when they are finally together. Grace has been obsessed with wolf!Sam since he saved her from a wolf attack. Sam has been obsessed with Grace since the same day. But they could not be together– he was a wolf, and she was a human. When he was human (in the summer) he could not find her because he did not know who she was, and because he could not reveal that he was her wolf. So Grace and Sam love each other from afar.

The story is set in motion by a wolf attack; a local high schooler is killed, and his father has enough money to get the town motivated to exterminate the menace. Grace is distraught, and rushes out to the woods to try to save the wolves she has grown to love. Except that she does not really succeed in doing anything. She is escorted home, which is where she finds Sam, naked, and wounded, curled up on her back porch.

It does not take very long for Grace to figure out that this is her wolf– Sam. His grasp on his humanity is tenuous at best, because the wolf-change is caused by cold, and it is wintertime in Minnesota. Grace and Sam cling to each other, desperate to spend every moment together until he loses his ability to stay human. Sam knows that this is his last winter, that when spring comes, he will not be human again, and he wants to spend as much time as  he can with Grace.

Things cannot be that simple though, and there is a lot more going on. Grace’s parents are self-absorbed and negligent. Grace’s friends and classmates are difficult. And there are two very, very dangerous wolves in the woods. Sam has to deal with feelings of ineffectiveness, because when human, he lacks many of his wolf strengths, and Grace finishes growing up, and even calls her mother on her neglect at one point.

I had some reservations– boy and girl are in love but cannot be together. Boy and Girl are different, girl is human, boy is werewolf. Boy and Girl sleep in the same bed, but do not give in to hormones and have sex… for a while*. Boy and Girl are a little obsessed with each other. I mean, a lot of this sounds like Twilight, and in a weird way, it is similar. The overall obsessive tone was a lot less disturbing here, in part because there was a sort of explanation– he’d saved her life.

In Conclusion:

The writing grabbed me; it was fluid, lovely, poignant. Their love was the center of everything, and it was interesting seeing it grow from a distant love to a real, I’ll do anything for you sort of love. I feel like the emotions in the book could have been too advanced for high schoolers, except that neither of them were truly their age. Grace and Sam had both had to grow up far too fast, and had a lot more maturity than other kids their age, and that worked. It could have been obsessive, and a bit creepy– there was a fine line, and I feel like it managed to stay on the good side. This book scores a 5/5, because it manages to be all about Sam and Grace, without being just Sam and Grace.

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* They give in on P. 294, but it’s one of those quiet “we got naked and then… CUT” sorts of scenes that seems to flourish in Y.A. fiction. I think if I suddenly had a gorgeous guy that I had loved for six years in my bed, we would not wait weeks. But that’s just me.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Scones and Sensibility

Eland, Lindsay. Scones and Sensibility (2009). 309 Pages. Egmont. $15.99

I came across Scones and Sensibility in someone’s blog, though I no longer remember where, exactly. They made it sound good, so I got it through Link+, which was definitely worthwhile. I’ve been cheap and broke recently, so the library has been my friend. Despite it taking over a week for me to finally get around to writing the review, I did really enjoy it.

Twelve year-old Polly Madassa longs for the perfect romance of her favorite novels– Pride & Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables. She longs to be a perfectly polished young lady like those in her novels. However, as a young girl who is expected to help out at her family’s bakery (by making deliveries), Polly cannot do things exactly the way she intended.

Chapter One: In Which My Family Is Introduced and I Contemplate the Less-Than-Desirable Traits of My Dear Sister’s Boyfriend*

It was upon turning the last delicate page of my leather-bound copy of Pride and Prejudice that my transformation into a delicate lady of quality was complete. (1)

Polly’s so-called transformation is the source of the entire plot. She tries hard to be a young lady of quality– she writes with a calligraphy set on old-fashioned stationery, she speaks in an “old fashioned” way, and she indulges in ladylike activities. She’s so blissful that she longs to help other people find her happiness– by setting them up for romance**. Her narration also follows this theme, lending her a lot of personality. Of course, as with all books which feature match-making, things don’t go the way she plans. (Especially not her own romance.) There’s a bit of self-realization, and Polly does seem to grow up a bit before the novel ends.

The biggest issue this book has is that it should probably have been 50 pages or so shorter. It sort of drags toward the middle. However, the story as a whole is cute, our main character is charming and well-meaning, even if she sort of messes things up. Her speech gets a little old sometimes, too. The moments where she breaks character are actually more meaningful than pages and pages of other characters inexplicably accepting her eccentricities.

The Quick Version:

With a cute plot, and endearing characters, this book is a winner– if you can get past the language. It takes a while to get used to Polly’s narration, which (as Jenn from Books at Midnight points out) may be too difficult for its target demographic. The title makes me long for baked goods,*** and the story made me want to curl up with an actual Austen novel and relax. It gets a 3.5 out of 5, because the language is a rather large barrier.

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* I noticed the chapter titles first, and they set the tone for the whole book. However, there was an error I noticed (Chapter 14 refers to events in Chapter 15, and those in 15 refer to 14’s title) which was momentarily distracting, but not really a big deal.

**Despite the title, which is reminiscent of Sense and Sensibility, this particular novel is much more closely related to Emma, as Polly spends far too much time match-making to be any other Austen heroine.

*** I went back to my home-town for the 4th of July, and longed for an orange-chocolate scone from Moody’s. Unfortunately, I never got around to buying one, and this book just compounded the longing.

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