Flame in the Mist
by Renée Ahdieh Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
on May 16th 2017 Genres: Action & Adventure
, Ancient Civilizations
, Young Adult Fiction Pages:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass. The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place--she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort--a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace. Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she's within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she's appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love--a love that will force her to question everything she's ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
I don’t know if I’m having the worst reading slump of my life or if I’m really just not enjoying reading as much anymore.
Flame in the Mist was another anticipated release I was dying to get my hands on. And yet it was also another book I didn’t love.
What was the problem? First of all, despite being completely different from The Wrath and the Dawn, it all sounded just like that book. That’s not necessary a bad thing—since I enjoyed it—but the sequel not as much. Ahdieh’s writing style is beautiful as always, but it gets a little tedious at times reading a paragraph of flowery description of the most mundane things imaginable.
As usual, I seem to have low patience for romance. However, and I’m shocked, I actually do like the love interest (a rarity these days). Just…not them together. Maybe if it would have been a slower burn instead of them being all over each other once he knew she was a person with breasts. Not convinced they love each other that much despite what the story implies.
Mariko was interesting, but it’s so annoying when the little rich girls are all, “I don’t have real friends because I’m rich and odd…did I say odd? Because I’m really odd.” It just screams I’m not like other girls without outright saying it. You mean to tell me no other girls in Mariko’s social class were “odd”?? As for her inventing shuriken and smoke bombs, I mean…sure, okay. I’m a little iffy on that—though it’s not a problem.
As for her brother, it feels like Kenshin has taken a similar role as that of the loser (forgot his name) of the love triangle in The Wrath and the Dawn. Feels very very similar. (As in, “I will save her from the person she loves–despite what she wants while being confused on why she wants to stay with the bad people” kinda thing.) I didn’t care for the other characters, especially for the love triangle drama the emperor had going on there. Look where it got him. Haha.
All in all, my major disappointment is the direction of the plot. I think it’s apparent that this one isn’t for me. I’m not interested in the next book or at least eager for it like I was with this one. I feel it will likely be predictable. Though I might stick around long enough to read spoilers.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence
by Alyssa Palombo Published by St. Martin's Press
on April 25th 2017 Genres: Ancient World
, Romance Pages:
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence follows Simonetta Vespucci through her life’s triumphs, trials, and associations with the Medici family. Simonetta, a famed beauty of her time, arrives in Florence—a citadel of learning and art—with great hopes pertaining to her marriage and future. What she finds there, instead, was more than she had ever expected. Upon meeting Sandro Botticelli, an artist, she makes a simple choice which later becomes her most famous legacy.
I’m fairly certain most of us have seen the painting, The Birth of Venus, but I’ve never heard of the woman who might have been the muse. Though much is not known of her life, Simonetta was a great beauty of her time and is depicted as an intelligent woman in this story. Strong, capable, and in love with a man she can’t have because she is both married and not his equal. The best parts of the story were when she wasn’t pining over Botticelli. I didn’t care for them as a couple. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m in a really unromantic mood and didn’t care about Simonetta and Sandro for that reason. I loved Simonetta and Clarice’s friendship though. I wish there were more scenes of them.
(+) Good storytelling.
(+) Interesting setting.
(+) Well-rounded characters
(-) Romance I couldn’t get behind.
Milk and Honey
by Rupi Kaur Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
on October 6th 2015 Genres: Body, Mind & Spirit
, Romance Pages:
The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
When it comes to Milk and Honey, I’m clearly in the minority of not really feeling anything special towards this collection of tumblr poetry. I felt like the poems were not very original or even well-written. I’ve heard and seen these messages all before. I’ve seen better unpublished work on tumblr and in bathroom stalls that have moved me more.
You’re probably thinking, ‘well, you probably never experienced pain before so you can’t understand…’ But let me tell you that’s not true. I just felt meh overall about this collection. I can understand why people love Milk and Honey. It’s simplistic and has the aesthetic appeal many love.
The style was something I didn’t care for. You could take any kind of slogan and make it into a deep or fake deep poem just by breaking up the words.
One poem I felt was recycled from everything already out there:
salt for sugar
if he wants to
be with you
it’s that simple
Seriously, I’ve heard this all my life. It’s just…duh.
There were a few that I thought were okay, but nothing I really care to share.
Maid of the King's Court
I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion or the content of my review.
by Lucy Worsley Published by Candlewick Press
on March 14th 2017 Genres: Europe
, Young Adult Fiction Pages:
In the vibrant, volatile court of Henry VIII, can even the most willful young woman direct her own fate and follow her heart in a world ruled by powerful men? Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title — it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing. But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe. Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore. British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court.
Elizabeth Camperdowne couldn’t wait to leave her bland, old home and become a grand lady with an equally grand husband. But as far as hopes and dreams are concerned, Elizabeth finds that the matters of the heart and the whims of royalty aren’t what she wanted or expected it to be. She witnesses the rise and fall of not one but two queens, one considerable lucky and the other executed before her very eyes. Duty is a troublesome weight.
I love anything related the Tudors and the Tudor court. There’s so much drama and heartbreak that it makes for an interesting tale no matter how it’s told or from what perspective. I actually have not read too many books about Katherine Howard or at least books which have a bigger focus on her, so that also caught my attention. I’m torn about how I feel about Katherine, but I loved Elizabeth and admired most of her choices. The ending was not quite what I was expecting, however, I liked it because often times Tudor books don’t have a happy ending. I feel like Elizabeth deserved an ending like that (though I’d imagine there would be some consequences). Overall, Maid at the King’s Court is a fun and fast paced book.
Long May She Reign
by Rhiannon Thomas
on February 21st 2017 Genres: Fantasy
, Young Adult Fiction Pages:
The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power. Freya was never meant to be queen. Twenty-third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of the court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne. She may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, she knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom—and her life. Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisers. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her but also wanted more power for himself. As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.
Freya, a science-loving girl, had never enjoyed the lavishness of court life and its scheming politics, but most importantly she had also never imagined herself as Queen. The Queen of a land where many were killed by the hands of an unknown suspect. With limited time and uncertain loyalties, Freya must find the killer and secure her position on the throne she still hasn’t accepted as truly her own.
The beautiful cover promised so much more than what the story really offered, and as did the synopsis. Thrilling fantasy? No. Exciting mystery? I wouldn’t use the word exciting to describe this book. It was so obvious who the person behind the deaths was, so eye-rollingly obvious. And it certainly did not help that the story followed the same pattern in the middle of the book.
Look at my very lame example:
It was an endless cycle in the middle and I’m not even going to discuss that kiss thing which nearly took a chapter of Freya wondering what it meant. Sure, there wasn’t that much romance but what was there didn’t interest me. I wasn’t even that interested in who did it, but I pushed through the book anyway. I don’t know what to think of the ending, I kind of liked it–but I had issues.
A Flight of Arrows
by Lori Benton Published by WATERBROOK Press
on April 19th 2016 Genres: Christian
, Romance Pages:
Hearts are Divided Loyalties Will Be Tested The Fates of Two Families Hang in the Balance Twenty years past, in 1757, a young Redcoat, Reginald Aubrey stole a newborn boy—the lighter-skinned of Oneida twins— during the devastating fall of Fort William Henry and raised him as his own. No one connected to Reginald escaped unscathed from this crime. Not his adopted daughter Anna. Not Stone Thrower, the Native American father determined to get his son back. Not Two Hawks, William’s twin brother separated since birth, living in the shadow of his absence and hoping to build a future with Anna. Nor Lydia, who longs for Reginald to be free from his self-imposed emotional prison and embrace God’s forgiveness— and her love. Now William, whose identity has been shattered after discovering the truth of his birth, hides in the ranks of an increasingly aggressive British army. The Redcoats prepare to attack frontier New York and the Continentals, aided by Oneida warriors including Two Hawks, rally to defend it. As the Revolutionary War penetrates the Mohawk Valley, two families separated by culture, united by love and faith, must find a way to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.
Check out my review of book one The Wood’s Edge.
A Flight of Arrows is no less emotional and no less heartbreaking than the first book The Wood’s Edge. Told in a troubling time period of Americans vs the British and the Native Peoples between the struggle, the saga of a lost son, a longing brother, and two fathers wanting to make things right continues. Bonds will be formed and others will be tested. The fight for a country is nothing like the fight for a family.
I enjoyed The Wood’s Edge and of course the sequel is no exception, but my favorite of the two remains The Wood’s Edge. I felt like A Flight of Arrows dragged in some places (the pacing in no hurry at all), and I took a really long time to finish reading it. Despite that, I’m mostly satisfied with how the story wrapped up. At least if I ignored how I got a little teary-eyed about something in particular.
Aubrey, Lydia, Two Hawks, William, Good Voice, Stone Thrower, and a great number of other characters were just as interesting this time around and I’m a little sad to let them go. The only character that got on my nerves, a few times, was Anna. I kept thinking, “I get it, Anna, you miss Two Hawks. You don’t have to keep saying it and you don’t need to obsess over him all the time.” She did work on her selfishness, so I suppose that’s all fine.
by C. S. Pacat Published by Penguin Publishing Group
on July 7th 2015 Genres: Fantasy
, Romance Pages:
The second novel in the critically acclaimed trilogy from global phenomenon C. S. Pacat?with an all-new chapter exclusive to the print edition. With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot. Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow? Includes a bonus chapter (print edition only)!
After the events of Captive Prince, things become much more cutthroat for Damen and Prince Laurent. Battles, betrayals, losses, and heartache are hard realities they must face together. Nothing will be easy and everything comes with a price.
I’m not sure where to begin with Prince’s Gambit. It’s a difficult book to sit down and talk (or type) about while making sense. The story feels different than compared to Captive Prince and it’s a good thing. I enjoyed reading about the various battles and strategies, and so forth. The characters, especially Damen and Laurent, grew into more than what they were in book one. They really opened their eyes to things they were blind to before and took it upon themselves to change. That said, I’m impressed with Laurent’s character growth. He, while not completely, redeems himself a little for what he’s done and had been like prior to these events. To put that plainly, he’s more likeable this time around.
The content is a lot less shocking (that kind of stuff is toned down) than it was in book one. And things are still very slow burn when it comes to Damen and Laurent. The ending was exciting, but I am so upset with something, two somethings, that happened. I almost cried. Moving on to book three.
Dawn at Emberwilde
by Sarah E. Ladd Published by Thomas Nelson
on May 10th 2016 Genres: Christian
, Romance Pages:
Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty. For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death. The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives. At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart. At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.
Sent away to Fellsworth School, Isabel has lived and worked intending to be an independent woman to provide for herself and for her young half-sister. Thinking herself destined to become a governess, she is soon shocked to learn of relatives she has never heard of and later the conflicting accounts of her mother’s past. At first, Emberwilde is like a dream come true, but that changes with the growing demands of her Aunt and the affections of two very different men.
Sarah E. Ladd is one of my favorite authors, but I couldn’t really fall in love with this particular story. The writing was, as always, very good. However, things in the story itself weren’t as captivating. The heroine, Isabel, was all right herself. The same could be said about Lizzie and Mr. Galloway. The conflict didn’t feel all that dangerous or imminent. I didn’t feel all that swoony over the romance because it was really predictable. The bad guy was just the typical bad guy type. The mystery of Isabel’s mother and her death didn’t get a full explanation or a good enough one for me. The ending was nice. And that’s probably the word to describe this book as just nice.
by C. S. Pacat Published by Berkley
on April 7th 2015 Genres: Fantasy
, Romance Pages:
Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else . . .
Even princes can be reduced to nothing. Damen goes from being the heir to the throne of Akielos to a slave in a foreign enemy land. All he wants to do is escape and return home, to take his rightful place. However, in the kingdom of Vere, Damen finds more trouble than he bargained for and going home remaining seemingly out of his reach. The Prince of Vere is just one of his troubles.
This book is certainly not for everyone. Heavy trigger warnings include rape, pedophilia, and abuse. I wasn’t going to read this at first because of those things. This book has received many glowing reviews and many not so glowing ones, so I decided to go ahead and take a chance to see what I thought. Despite the sometimes hard to read happenings (the ring scene, the thing with Ancel, and Nicaise in general), I still enjoyed the story and how easily it hooked me into reading to figure out what would happen next. I loved the court intrigue, plus the banter between Damen and Laurent. I’ve heard that the second book is better, so I will be checking that one out.
The Beautiful Pretender
by Melanie Dickerson Published by Thomas Nelson Inc
on May 17th 2016 Genres: Christian
, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
, Romance Pages:
After inheriting his title from his brother, the margrave has two weeks to find a noble bride. What will happen when he learns he has fallen for a lovely servant girl in disguise? The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride, fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king’s approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character. Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn’t select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea. Despite Avelina’s best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can’t deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse—far deadlier—consequences
Avelina is a young woman with romantic dreams which she weaves into her own private stories, but in reality she serves dutifully to provide for her family as a maidservant for the Earl of Plimmwald’s daughter. Soon Avelina is given a potentially dangerous task too important to fail, not only for her own sake but for the sake of the very lives around her. Posing as Lady Dorothea wouldn’t be so difficult if the Margrave of Thornbeck wasn’t so drawn to the very girl he’s not supposed to love.
Melanie Dickerson never fails to write cute, heartwarming fairytales. She also never fails to bring to life swoon worthy and mysterious men like the Margrave of Thornbeck. Avelina was an enjoyable, quirky young woman with a reasonably good head on her shoulders. I adored these two together and that last chapter was fluffy enough to melt ice. With that said, there aren’t many plot twists and some things were really predictable, but I feel like this book was satisfying enough for me because the cuteness was all I needed.