Thursday, July 24, 2014

Highlights / Lowlights: DEATH SWORN, ALTERED, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW


DEATH SWORN


Title: Death Sworn
Author: Leah Cypress
Published: March 2014
Series: Death Sworn #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
POV: 1st person
Pages: 352
Publisher: Greenwillow
Format: e-ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Rating: Tea Party
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Highlights: The magic system in Death Sworn is fascinating, and it's nice to see a protagonist who struggles and relies on their wits to get them through tough situations. Ileni used to be impressive and powerful, but now her magic continues to fade away, but she doesn't let that hold her back. Even though the setting is limited to the assassin's cave, Cypress writes the setting in a wonderfully detailed fashion that brings every inch to life. The mystery behind what happened to the previous tutors, and what may happen to Ileni, kept me curious and intrigued until the very bittersweet conclusion. Action, secrets, magic - it was truly a wonderful story. 

Lowlights: I wish the setting had been expanded a bit wider. The romance was weak, and the characters could have been developed a bit more. As much as I enjoyed the story, I was left a bit underwhelmed, but I have a feeling the next novel will be even better. 

Rating: Tea Party (very high 3 out of 5). I enjoyed this story very much, enough that I'd like to have it around for a tea every so often. Yet, while I greatly enjoyed Death Sworn, it hasn't earned a permanent spot in my palace. 


ALTERED


Title: Altered
Author: Gennifer Albin
Published: October 2013
Series: Crewel World #2
Genre: YA sci-fi / dystopia / paranormal
POV: 1st person
Pages: 401
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publicist
Rating: Tea Party
Life. Possibility. Choice.

All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.
Highlights: I found Albin's debut surprising and fascinating, and the sequel to Crewel proved to be more of the same. Adelice finds herself in a new place, where life is very different than the one she knew as a spinster. Earth is such a different place than it used to be, and the horrifying Remnants make it a dangerous place to be. The secrets that are revealed about her past, her parents, and her new "allies" were so fascinating and shocking. This is one of those stories that keeps you glued to the pages, eager for more. 

Lowlights: The romance was so disappointing. The love triangle is in full force, but I couldn't root for either love interest. I probably would have liked this book so much more without the love triangle. 

Rating: Tea Party (high 3 out of 5). I enjoyed this story very much, enough that I'd like to have it around for a tea every so often. Yet, while I greatly enjoyed Altered, it hasn't earned a permanent spot in my palace. 


HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW


Title: House of Ivy & Sorrow
Author: Natalie Whipple
Published: April 2014
Series: ?
Genre: YA paranormal
POV: 1st person
Pages: 360
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Electronic ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Rating: The Royal Library, Bottom Shelf.
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.
Highlights: In Whipple's story, magic is a bit dark and always requires a price of some sort – be it blood, a fingernail, or even something more significant. Jo's fierce love for her friends and family appealed to me (and I especially loved her relationship with her grandmother and other odd relatives). The romance, while I had my doubts, was sweet as it built. But the setting of Jo's house intrigued me the most, and I couldn't get enough of the scenes that took place there. Secrets, magic, and more, House of Ivy & Sorrow entertains in each and every chapter. 

Lowlights: Despite the darker moments, Jo's youthful personality causes this story to feel a bit younger (which isn't necessarily a problem, merely unexpected). I found the self-harm (for the sake of magic) to be a bit disconcerting as well. 

Rating: The Royal Library, Bottom Shelf (very low 4 out of 5). House of Ivy & Sorrow is great and probably worth purchasing (especially if it's on sale). If I do purchase this story, it only earns a spot on the bottom shelves of the royal library. I enjoyed it enough to want to read it more than once, but I do have some issues with the story that I cannot ignore.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (147): AN EMBER IN THE ASHES


WOW is hosted by Breaking the Spine


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
April 28th, 2015 from Razorbill

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

Keep your heart for yourself.

I was sold at "epic fantasy," because I'm a sucker for epic fantasy novels. This book sounds fantastic, and I love the cover. Why can't it be April?!

What are you waiting on this week? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: #SCANDAL by Sarah Ockler

Title: #scandal
Author: Sarah Ockler
Release: June 17th, 2014
Genre: YA contemporary
POV: 1st person
Pages: 368
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: e-ARC
Source: Edelweiss / Publisher
Rating: The Royal Library, Bottom Shelf

Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. Andespecially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.

When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.

By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.

Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate.

There’s just one snag—Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love...learn more on Goodreads

#scandal is an honest look at the harsh realities of cyber-bullying and the torments high school teenagers can create for one another. While this story is no Twenty Boy Summer or The Book of Broken Hearts, it is an entertaining and thoughtful story revolving around family, friends, and our society's love for putting everything on the internet. With a highly relevant subject matter, considering all of the issues and tragedies that arise from social media scandals gone awry with teenagers, Ockler's story raises some interesting questions and ideas.

But, #scandal isn't only a look into cyber-bullying, but a fresh mystery with a few fun moments. Ockler always seems to expertly mix in the humor with the serious, effectively creating a good balance between the two. While I was expecting the mystery to be my favorite aspect, I quickly found the relationship between Lucy and her sister to be the most intriguing aspect of the novel, and wish Ockler had written more about them. Friendships – good and bad, new and old – play a strong role in this story, and a few of them really shine. Regardless, #scandal is timely, amusing, mysterious, and populated with enough wonderful characters to keep readers intrigued. 

Highlights: Ockler excels in characterization, whether it's Lucy or the side characters. They feels realistic, and they're each their own distinctive person. Lucy's sister was an especially favorite character of mine, with her complicated personality. Miss Demeanor's posts were a great inclusion, whether they were stirring up drama or even lending a helping hand. The subject matter is incredibly important, and I loved how Ockler portrayed it, along with Cole's supportive role in the whole mess. 

Lowlights: I wish Cole had been more present – while he was there to help Lucy through everything, he was easy to forget when he was off-page. If you're anything like me, then the mystery is easy to solve from the very first chapter. While I enjoyed this novel, I felt like it was missing a bit of Ockler's usual spark. 

Rating: The Royal Library, Bottom Shelf (low 4 out of 5). I think #scandal is great and probably worth purchasing. If I do purchase this story, it only earns a spot on the bottom shelves of the royal library. I enjoyed #scandal enough to want to read it more than once, but I do have some very minor issues with the story that I cannot ignore.