Monday, September 19, 2016

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Summary: The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?
 (Via Goodreads.com)

Pages: 689

Release Date: September 6th, 2016

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review:

Empire of Storms was a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, I cried, and I am pretty sure my heart died. I was not initially connected to the story; however, after a few chapters I was sold on every character's point of view. I have always had mixed emotions about the multiple points of view used throughout the series because I have always favored some characters over others. However, within the first 100 pages I loved every character's journey and I could not wait for everyone's upcoming chapter(s).

I have very little to say that is not a spoiler so I will be keeping this non-spoiler section rather brief. I thoroughly loved Empire of Storms. I could not have asked for a more epic fifth book in this phenomenal series. If you had yet to start the Throne of Glass series or catch up to Empire of Storms, I highly recommend waiting for the sixth book in the series to be released before reading onward. While Empire of Storms was a fantastic addition to the series, the ending was rather brutal and I would recommend reading it when you are able to read the sixth book immediately afterwards. It is hard coming to terms with how it ended and how to survive until the release of the sixth and final book in the series. If you do take my advice and wait until the release of the sixth book, I wish you good luck on avoiding spoilers. I just finished the book two days ago, thankfully without getting spoiled, and when I woke up the following morning, my twitter feed was full of spoilers.

If you would like to read my reviews of the other books in the series, I have a review of The Assassin's Blade, Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnightand Heir of Fire

Empire of Storms, and the series as a whole, has the perfect combination of romance, action, and adventure that calls to any fantasy reader. It also contains enough heartbreak and devastation that leaves its fans emotionally drained and depressed. Empire of Storms also brings back some familiar faces that leave you fangirling. I apologize for this review being a hot mess. Like I mentioned previously, I only finished Empire of Storms two days ago, so my emotions and thoughts are jumbled. Nonetheless, I absolutely loved Empire of Storms and I am so glad I am able to add it to my continuously growing Sarah J. Maas collection. 

For those of you who have yet to buy your copy of Empire of Storms, I recommend buying the Target Special Edition. It has a beautiful poster of Rowan and Celaena on the back of the dust jacket and the bonus story is a deleted scene from Heir of Fire following Rowan and Celaena. As a huge Rowan and Celaena shipper, the extra $17 I spent on it was totally worth it. I preordered the Barnes and Noble Special Edition, which is now only available in select stores and it has sold out online. While I did enjoy the fan art and short story, my heart belongs to the Target Edition. I will forever ship Rowan and Celaena. 





I have no idea where to even begin with this review. The ending has forever shattered my poor little heart. I would like to refrain from beginning this review with the most devastating part of the end, so lets talk about Lorcan and Elide instead. I had never expected either of them to ever meet. While I might have imagined them meeting when Lorcan finally confronted Aelin about giving him the fake amulet and Wyrdstone, I never imagined them to be thrown together. While Rowan and Aelin will forever be my favorite relationship of the series, Lorcan and Elide are quickly moving up the list. I fell in love with their relationship and when Elide wrote him off at the end, the remaining pieces of my heart shattered. All Lorcan wanted to do was protect Elide and he ended up loosing her instead. From what I have heard on Twitter and Tumblr, his actions at the end have caused a divide in the fandom. Many people dislike him because he led Maeve to them. While I cannot argue with their logic, I disagree that it was completely his fault. Aelin knew that he sent out a wave of power to summon Maeve and she never confronted him about it. In addition, Aelin's arrogance was what caused Lorcan to send out his signal for help in the first place. If Aelin had simply told her court and the rest of them that the armada was hers, he would have never sent out his surge of power. It is rather ironic that when Aelin arrived at Skull's Bay as Celaena and talked to Rolfe, he mentions how her arrogance led to her enslavement in the mines. Then, later in the book, her arrogance leads her to be enslaved by Maeve.

Even if Aelin had told them about the armada being on their side, the ending still could have been the same. Maeve knew their general location; however, Lorcan allowed her to precisely pin-point them. Maeve could have found them in a matter of days with or without Lorcan's help. The ending could have potentially ended the same either way. Or, the gang could have easily gotten away. Whether the ending was avoidable or not, Lorcan is not entirely to blame for the Aelin's capture. She is also at fault for her capture.

I think it is rather odd that Aelin assumed that her court would simply leave her with Maeve and move on. I understand that she might have wanted to believe that they would leave her due to the risks they would have to take to free her. She could have also been concerned about them not concentrating all their efforts on the war. However, she should have known Rowan would at least come after her. He is her mate and I am pretty sure that even the worst mate in the entire world could not abandon their mate. It goes against the DNA of the Fae. Aelin always mentions about how territorial Fae males are. I do not understand why she would think either Rowan or Aedion would leave her. It goes against who they are and the love they share for her. She should know by now that they would follow her anywhere in either life or death. The reveal of Rowan and Aelin being mates was expected; however, when she discovered they were mates was rather unexpected. Not only did that scene in Queen of Shadows warmed and broke my heart, the fact that she realized they were mates then made the moment even more special. The fact that they got secretly married was totally unexpected. It made her capture even more heartbreaking. I appreciate that she wanted to secure the safety of her kingdom by making Rowan king. It breaks my heart that he does not seem himself as a king though. He simply sees himself as her consort, when he is her mate, husband, king, and the love of her life.


"Timeshe was grateful Elena had given her that stolen time. 
Grateful she had met them all, that she had seen some small part of the world, had heard such lovely music, had danced and laughed and known true friendship. 
Grateful that she had found Rowan. 
She was grateful" 
(Page 665).


Returning to Lorcan and Elide, I loved the progression of their relationship. I was feeling so many different emotions when she told him that he would always have a home with her in Perranth, no matter the time or reason. It broke my heart when he shrugged the idea off because, while the ability for it to actually happen was impossible, the fact she offered it was so moving. When Elide jumped in front of Lorcan to save him, my heart broke. As she bled out and Lorcan told her that he had wanted to go to Perranth with her, my heart continued to break. The interactions throughout their journey left me feeling countless emotions. I am excited to eventually re-read Empire of Storms because I want to relive their happy moments. I am so thankful that they are both physically fine, but the remaining shred of my heart broke when she Elide wrote Lorcan off for causing Aelin's capture. I am interested to see how Lorcan and Elide's relationship develops in the next book since they will be working together to get Aelin back. I hope they can get over the past and look towards the future. They both deserve a happy ending.

I am still curious about what Maeve meant when she said that Lorcan claimed Elide. It is understandable why both Manon and Aelin would have claimed her; however, Lorcan's claim surprised me. I know he has feelings for her, but the term "claim", when referring to Fae males, typically refer to mates. I am curious to see if they are mates because it would explain why they were both drawn to each other. However, Manon had referred to Rowan and Aelin as one another's mate before Aelin revealed that they were. So, I am assuming Manon would have referred to Elide or Lorcan as one another's mate if they truly were. But, Manon could have simply been referring to Aelin and Rowan as mates as a generic term, not as actual mates.

I would like to note that on Tumblr, a theory has been going around that Lorcan might sacrifice himself in the next book. His last name literally translates to "save Earth." While the world in the Throne of Glass series is not considered Earth, I have read enough Sarah J. Maas books to understand that nothing is a coincidence. I do not know how he would sacrifice himself since Dorian and Aelin seem like the only options, but I am curious to see if this prediction is right. 

Another broken relationship is Aedion and Lysandra. While they have not technically become a couple, it was oblivious that they would eventually become one. I hate that Aedion is holding Aelin's plan against Lysandra. She was willing to throw away her remaining life and happiness to pretend to be Aelin to save Terrasen. I can understand that Aedion would be angry for being in the dark; however, he needs to get over it. I know that he would have done the exact same thing if Aelin had asked him to do it. Not only that, but they are currently at war. With the others on the hunt for Aelin or the other Wyrdkey, Aedion and Lysandra cannot be divided. They are the only ones who know exactly what is going on. They must be a united front. He cannot be mad at Lysandra for carrying out his queen's wishes. Like Lorcan and Elide, I hope they can get past their differences and finally get together. Since I also love reliving painful moments, I would also love to mention when Aedion said he wanted to marry Lysandra. She was struggling to stay human and heal after the attack on Skull's Bay and those words were a punch in my heart. It was such an adorable and heartbreaking moment. All of my favorite scenes from Empire of Storms caused me both pain and happiness. What has Sarah done to me?

I love the fact that Manon and Dorian's relationship is the only "relationship" that is still currently together. Although you could argue about them actually being in a relationship, they are the only pair that is in the same location and do not hate each other. When the possibility of Manon and Dorian getting together arose in Queen of Shadows, I was somewhat skeptical of their potential relationship. That was mainly due to the fact that I kind of liked Elide and Manon together; however, I jumped off that ship when Lorcan came around. Manon and Dorian's relationship is probably the most toxic relationship out of the main characters; however, I do like them together. I have nothing against them, but I find it depressing that they could both find strength in one another, yet they just used each other to forget their past. Nonetheless, I am excited to see how their relationship develops in the next book. 

Before the release of the sixth and final book in the series, I am planning on dedicating the entire month prior of its release to re-reading the entire series. While I loved the arrival of characters from The Assassins Blade, I could not remember everything about them and their relationship with Aelin since I read the book over two years ago. I also was not as emotionally impacted when they were on Skull's Bay and Aelin would remember her and Sam being there. In order to have proper closure on the series and its characters, I want to take the time to re-read all of the books. One thing that I was anticipating in Empire of Storms was the arrival of Nox, one of Aelin's opponents in Throne of Glass. I was under the impression from an interview with Sarah that he was returning in book five. I do not know if I confused that with book six or somehow made it up or simply missed his arrival (the ending was rather crazy). Please comment below if you know anything about his possible return, I would love to know!

While Aelin's capture was rather insane, the arrival of everyone that she called in favors from was insane as well. Not only did they just miss the possibility of saving her, but there were just so many armies and navies rallied to fight. As the different people began arriving, I was assuming Chaol would also arrive with help from the southern continent. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually enjoyed his absence from Empire of Storms. I have never been the biggest fan of Chaol and after his attitude change towards Aelin in the beginning of Queen of Shadows, I was happy for his absence. While I did grow slightly fonder of him as Queen of Shadows progressed, his absence was appreciated. However, I am excited for his return and what assistance he will bring. I am also glad he was absent because it allowed Dorian to grow on his own. Dorian suffered a lot in Queen of Shadows and while he deserved to have friends to show him the way back into the light, he was able to find his own way back. I understand that Dorian and Chaol are supposed to be best friends, but he has relied on Chaol too much. Chaol is not a magic user and did not have a Valg inside him. If anyone, Manon is better for Dorian to have around because she has been around the Valg and understands magic more then Chaol does.

One of the questions I still have is whether or not Rowan and Lyria were mates. Maeve said that she manipulated them together in order to break Rowan enough to get him to accept her blood oath. But she broke him enough that he was unable to register Aelin as his mate. After re-reading the passage, I am still under the assumption that Rowan and Lyria were never actually mates. No matter the case, Maeve is such a horrible person. Rowan was not even there to hear her entire story of manipulation. I pity that he suffered for so long because Maeve wanted Aelin. He did not live the life he should have. In addition, Lyria did not deserve the life and death she got either. I hope they are able to give Maeve what she deserves when they finally rescue Aelin.

If I am not mistaken, in Heir of Fire, Aelin showed Maeve a clip from the future that showed Aelin as the Queen of Terrasen in front of a crowd of her subjects and Rowan was among her court. If I am remembering that correctly and it stands true, they must make it out alive. I do not want Dorian to sacrifice himself to revive the lock, but I do not want Aelin to do it either. I am assuming she will be the one to do it, but she will manage to survive. Throughout the series, it is mentioned that immortal Fae frequently bind their immortality to their human/mortal mates. We learned in Maeve's speech that Aelin would turn immortal in about five years and she would live for at least a thousand more. Since Aelin's Settling has yet to take place, she is still technically mortal. Although she is not a human, I wonder if Aelin could sacrifice herself and Rowan could bind his immortality to her currently mortal self and save her. I have no idea if binding his immortality could revive her/not kill her, but it seems like it could work since he is giving up however many years he would have left as an immortal. His remaining lifespan would exceed a typical human one, therefore giving her life and allowing them to live out their remaining mortal lives together. Comment below your predictions or what you think of mine. I am interested to read what you guys think.

Every character has struggled and grown so much throughout the course of the Throne of Glass series. While I know that some of the characters will more than likely die in the final book, I hope the deaths will be of the lesser known characters. None of the characters truly deserve to die, but I really want to see the main characters live their remaining life spans in peace. I would love to see other books written about these characters, but I would not want to read them. I want my babies to be safe and out of harms way. More books following them would only lead them into more danger. However, I would love to read a spin-off series following new characters that would feature the original Throne of Glass characters, but not put them in harms way. All good things must come to an end and while I am sad for this series to come to an end next year, I am very excited to finally learn their fates.


(Sarah J. Maas and Me at San Diego Comic-Con 2016)



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blog Tour: The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill + Cat Video



Summary: Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!

At least that’s the plan.

It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.

Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges.
 


Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks





At its core, The Cat King of Havana is a novel that follows a teenage boy who is discovering his heritage and his mother's past in Cuba. He just so happens to be a computer wizard that posts popular cat videos. The Cat King of Havana had so many layers to its story and I highly recommend reading it (You can enter to win a copy at the bottom of this post). Its inclusion of Cuban heritage and Cuba itself was extremely fascinating. In the United States we acknowledge Cuba; however, with our rocky relations, it seems rather taboo. This really opened my eyes to Cuba and its current state. You can read my full length review of The Cat King of Havana here.

For my contribution to The Cat King of Havana blog tour, I have created a cat video. By no means is my cat video the same quality or content as one featured in The Cat King of Havana; however, my household of seven cats inspired me to finally capture at least of one their odd habits on film. Featured in the video is my cat, Holly, playing fetch with her favorite toy in the world: a sugar packet. I know, she is a rather strange cat; however, as my favorite cat, (Shhh, do not tell my other cats that I said that...) I will defend her until the end. I hope you enjoy video and comment below if you have any cats and their weird habits. Also, do not forget to check out the other amazing posts that are a part of this blog tour! You can find the other tour stops listed at the end of this post.







3 Finished Copies of The Cat King of Havana (US Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway





Tom Crosshill's fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award (thrice) as well as the Latvian Annual Literature Award. His stories have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers of the Future contest. After some years spent in Oregon and New York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and worked in a zinc mine, among other things. 

Tom's young adult novel "The Cat King of Havana" is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in 2016.




Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2:



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ARC Review: The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill

Summary: Rick Gutierrez is . . . the Cat King of Havana! A cat-video tycoon turned salsa-dancer extraordinaire, he’ll take Cuba by storm, romance the girl of his dreams, and ignite a lolcat revolution!

At least that’s the plan.

It all starts when his girlfriend dumps Rick on his sixteenth birthday for uploading cat videos from his bedroom when he should be out experiencing the real world. Known as “That Cat Guy” at school, Rick isn’t cool and he knows it. He realizes it’s time for a change.

Rick decides joining a salsa class is the answer . . . because of a girl, of course. Ana Cabrera is smart, friendly, and smooth on the dance floor. Rick might be half-Cuban, but he dances like a drunk hippo. Desperate to impress Ana, he invites her to spend the summer in Havana. The official reason: learning to dance. The hidden agenda: romance under the palm trees.

Except Cuba isn’t all sun, salsa, and music. There’s a darker side to the island. As Rick and Ana meet his family and investigate the reason why his mother left Cuba decades ago, they learn that politics isn’t just something that happens to other people. And when they find romance, it’s got sharp edges (Via Goodreads.com)


Pages: 368

Release Date: September 6th, 2016

Rating: 4/5 Stars


Review:


Aside from the fact that the main character ran a successful website full of cat videos, I had no idea what The Cat King of Havana was about. I was a part of The Cat King of Havana Blog Tour, so I was given an eARC to read and review. If you would like to read my post for the blog tour you can read it here. It touches on a number of deep topics, such as heritage and international relations. In the United States, Cuba seems like such a taboo place because of our rocky relations. It was not only refreshing to visit a different country, it was refreshing to visit a country that I know so little about. The setting of Cuba was both the same and different from New York. The Cuba described in The Cat King of Havana may have seen more poverty and government issues than other countries that are explored in YA novels, but it had so many similarities to our home countries.

I loved Crosshill's voice in The Cat King of Havana. It is hard to say writing style instead of voice because I felt as though I was being read The Cat King of Havana. His style and tone perfectly fits the personality and thoughts of any teenager. I found myself constantly laughing at off-handed comments he would say. Not only was his writing extremely hysterical, it was also relatable. As a sixteen year old I am the same age as the main characters and a majority of the time I felt as though I was narrating the story. Crosshill completely embodied the struggles and tribulations faced by every single teenager.

While I loved Crosshill's writing, the story dragged on at points. Due to the lengthy period of time the story takes place, it was hard to see the end of the story. In the middle of The Cat King of Havana, I began to suffer a reading slump because all I wanted to read was Sarah J. Maas' Empire of Storms. I would have probably enjoyed the novel more if I had not been anxiously awaiting news on the arrival of my copy of Empire of Storms, which has still not arrived. The pace of The Cat King of Havana was great and I became attached to the characters; however, I was still left with a few questions. The book shifted in a different direction about halfway through and it was a territory in which I was not comfortable approaching. It had nothing to do with sexual assault or anything, it dealt with the government and I had myself questioning how realistic it was. 

The Cat King of Havana was a quick and refreshing read that I really enjoyed. The writing and characters were excellent and I found myself relating to both aspects throughout the course of the story. More than likely, I will never visit Cuba so this journey was a great taste of the country, its people, and their culture. I may never walk down the streets of Cuba; however, I felt as though I was walking down the streets of Cuba along side Rick and Ana. I am interested to see what Tom Crosshill writes in the future, his writing is rather addicting. The Cat King of Havana mixes a taboo culture, cat videos, and a love-struck teen in an unforgettable novel that will have leave you questioning your morals. How far are you willing to go to seek justice? 


Monday, August 29, 2016

Day Zero (Arcana Chronicles #3.5) & Arcana Rising (Arcana Chronicles #4) by Kresley Cole

Summary: Arcana means secrets, and these Arcana Chronicles short stories from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole are filled with them. Experience firsthand the beginning of the end and behold the apocalypse through the eyes of characters you onlythought you knew. 

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams. 

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . . (Via Goodreads.com)

Pages: 168

Release Date: August 1st, 2016

Rating: 4/5 Stars





Summary: Losses mount and deadly new threats converge in this next action-packed tale of the Arcana Chronicles by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole.

When the battle is done . . . 
The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind--but Circe strikes back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . . 
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter's reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future--and her chilling past--will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter's ashes, stronger than ever before?
 

Pages: 259

Release Date: August 15th, 2016

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Reviews:

Arcana Rising and Day Zero were two of my most highly anticipated releases of this year. I had been craving anything in the Arcana world after the devastating cliffhanger of the third book of the Arcana Chronicles, Dead of Winter. While I mainly read books that are popular or somewhat well-know in the YA/NA book world, the Arcana Chronicles is one of the few underrated series I have read. Only more recently have I discovered fellow lovers of the series. The Arcana Chronicles deserves more hype surrounding it. I have a review of the second book, Endless Knight, and the third book, Dead of Winter, if you would like to read those.

Overall, I loved both Arcana Rising and Day Zero. Although I waited a year and eight months for the fourth installment of the series, Arcana Rising, the wait was totally worth it. While Arcana Rising was not my favorite in the series, I prefer Endless Knight and Dead of Winter more, I still enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing old faces and meeting several new ones. Arcana Rising with the aid of Day Zero opened up a new world of characters and conflict that I never imaged. The ending of Arcana Rising was quite shocking; however, it was not as brutal as Dead of Winter. I have my fingers crossed that Kresley Cole will never deliver a cliffhanger that devastating again.

The entire series is compiled of rather short books which make them extremely easy to binge and become addicted to. The Arcana Chronicles is one of my favorite series, each book is extremely enjoyable and fast paced. The story and characters are also unique and compelling. If you have yet to start or continue on in the series, I highly recommend doing so.

I have no idea how many books are left in the series, but I am here for the ride. I am excited to see what Kresely has in store; however, I hope the trauma she creates is not too hard to handle. The fifth installment in the series, The Dark Calling, is set to be released in spring of 2017. While The Dark Calling will be one of my most anticipated releases of next year and I plan to start it the day it is released, I do not know if I am mentally prepared for what the next book could bring. By the way, I am currently giving away a copy of Poison Princess, Endless Knight, or Dead of Winter on Twitter if you would like to enter to win a copy.







Aric is one of my absolute favorite characters and one of my book boyfriends. Throughout the series we understand how much he has suffered without human contact and interactions. He shows how horrible immortality can be, especially to someone who can kill with a single touch. I was devastated when Evie chose Jack in Dead of Winter. While I did enjoy Jack in the first book, Poison Princess, I stared to dislike him after the end of Poison Princess. His repulsion of Evie at the end of book one seemed so unlike his character and it really angered me. Nonetheless, I began to fall in love with Aric's character when he was introduced in Endless Knight and I have been rooting for him since then. 

Although I was ecstatic that Evie finally choose Aric in Arcana Rising, I have always wanted them to be together, I had a couple problems with her choosing him. First of all, she did not choose him. She thought Jack was dead, therefore, he was not competition. She simply agreed to be with him. Secondly, I hated that she got with him because she thought he "deserved" happiness. While I completely agree that Aric did deserve to be happy, I disliked that she chose his happiness over hers. She did seem rather happy with him; however she always mentioned that one of her two goals was to keep him happy. Not keeping herself happy. She agreed to be his wife because she thought it was what he "deserved," it was not because she necessarily loved him or wanted to be with him. I am not saying that she does not love him, because I believe she does, but I dislike that she "chose" him because of what she thought he "deserved." Not what she thought she "deserved." Nonetheless, I am happy that they finally got together. Everyone could tell that he was so much happier and alive. 

I had a couple mixed feelings about Day Zero. I thought the idea of seeing all the Arcana on Day Zero, the day of the apocalypse, was fantastic. The execution of the stories were also great, but I hated that a majority of the book was focused on Evie, Aric, and Jack. This was a great opportunity for Kresley to explore a new cast of characters, yet she stuck to her main crew. Evie's story was literally taken out of Poison Princess word-for-word. Instead of skipping the story of other Arcanas, like the twins or Ogen, we could have skipped hers since we have already read it in Poison Princess. I understand that it helps set up Jack's story, but Calanthe and Joules' shared a story because they were together on Day Zero, Evie and Jack's story should have been done the same way. 

I did enjoy Day Zero for what it was. It was interesting meeting some of the new characters in Day Zero and then finally meeting them through Evie in Arcana Rising. I feel as though Day Zero was particularly used against the readers to manipulate their perspectives of the new characters. I am not saying that is a bad thing. I was sold on Sol in Arcana Rising because his story broke my heart in Day Zero. I never thought he would betray Evie. I am glad that he seems to be working with the crew though, I really love his character and how far he would go for his loved ones. It was devastating to see who everyone lost in Day Zero. Everyone suffered, no one really had it better or worse than anyone else. It was also interesting to meet some of the characters who died before we had the chance to meet them. It was also bittersweet to read about Tess and Selena, who we have lost over the course of the last two books.

There was no doubt in my mind that Jack was alive. Surprising, Evie's suffering did not annoy me at all. I liked that she was finally able to come to terms with him being "died," I was worried she would stay in the past for too long. I am really interested to see how Matthew's character progresses in the remainder of the series. He has always been one of my favorite characters and the gang is starting to realize that he does pose a threat. He has a lot of power over a majority of the characters. I am really interested to see why he let Evie initially believe Jack was dead and only now let her know that he is very much alive. He said he wanted to "break her" and making her think she is crazy by hearing Jack might be the direction he is going. 

The only explanation I can conjure about why Evie is not able to access her powers is because she is pregnant. The baby must be taking some of her powers as well as the nutrients it needs from her. The baby could also be blocking or limiting her powers. If Evie does end up having the baby, I wonder if it would have powers since its father, Aric, is also an Arcana? While a pregnant Evie made an interesting cliffhanger, the reason why she is left me confused. As far as I can remember, Evie has suffered no memory gaps except for time with her Grandmother at an early age. While she connects her memory gaps with her Grandmother, it is odd that she is suffering them now. I understand that since she was just with her Grandmother for a period of time that could have caused her into thinking she got a birth control shot, but it is too far of a stretch. It would make sense if she forgot a conversation she had with her Grandmother, but it is odd that she conjured a memory in her mind when her Grandmother was not even involved. Comment below with what you thought about the memory gap, I am curious to hear what others have to say about it.

I very much enjoyed both Day Zero and Arcana Rising. They were both stunning continuations to a brilliant series. I am extremely excited to see what Kresley Cole has in store for her readers in the next installment of the series, The Dark Calling. I cannot wait to see what happens to our cast of characters.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

ARC Review: And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White

Summary: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
 (Via Goodreads.com)

Pages: 475

Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review:

I went into And I Darken only knowing that it was a gender-bender retelling of Vlad the Impaler. I am a huge history nerd and the Ottoman Empire is my second favorite empire, the first being the Mongols, so I was extremely excited to see the lesser know empire have its turn in the spotlight. 

If you have yet to start And I Darken, I not only highly recommend doing so, but I also recommend starting it with only knowing the briefest knowledge of its plot. The story is so much richer and deeper if you go into it knowing little to nothing about the plot. I despise the summary of And I Darken because it alludes to/acknowledges plot points that occur halfway through the book. I do understand why they had to summarize the story that way, but I still dislike that it spoils a majority of the book. 

I was fortunate enough to receive this book in advanced thanks to a trade with the lovely Ava from Bookishness and Tea. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to read And I Darken before a majority of its readers. I know I am being rather withholding about And I Darken, but I just need you to pick it up for yourself and enjoy it. This was my first Kiersten White book, but it certainly will not be my last. With White's memorable characters and a world and plot that deserves to be on HBO or Starz, And I Darken is easily one of the best books of this year.






Going into the story, I had assumed that there would be some sort of a fantastical element due to my knowledge of White's other books. The cover also gave me a vibe of a magical element, but it must have been referring to her writing. I was glad that the book was strictly historical fiction with a gender-bender twist because other elements might have overshadowed the amazing characters and world she created. I absolutely loved the fact that And I Darken begins with Lada's birth and continues until her late teens. It allowed me to really grasp all the characters because their upbringing had such a great impact on why the characters are the way they are.

While I enjoyed Lada and Mehmed, Radu has to be my favorite character. Although he seems to be cute and innocent, he has such a deceitfulness that I love. I do not know what that says about my character, but I enjoy that his sister would stab someone in the front while he would stab someone in the back. Each of them has a bravery for doing what they do, but while they grew up in the same place with the same parents, their personalities have created who they are. A close second is Nicolae. 


"I think of you like a sister. Like a brilliant, violent, occasionally terrifying sister that I would follow to the ends of the earth, in part because I respected her so much and in part because I feared what she would do to me if I refused (Nicolae, page #349).

While the book contains some deep and dark pages, Nicolae also provides the comic relief. If Radu and Lada had similar personalities, they might have grown up to have the relationship Nicolae and Lada do. I am glad that Nicolae's character was not used as a love interest. Although Lada did ask him to kiss her once, it was mainly to prove a point to herself pertaining to Mehmed, they have such a great friendship. I cannot wait to see what their friendship brings in the next book of this trilogy.

And I Darken is full of sass, romance, and action; a pairing that would speak to any audience. While their story has already been told in history books, I am excited to see White's take on it, especially the fall of Constantinople, as the trilogy continues.


Kiersten White and I at San Diego Comic-Con 2016



An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabba Tahir + Giveaway

Summary: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself (Via Goodreads.com).


Pages: 446

Release Date: April 28th 2015

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Review:

I had no idea what to expect with An Ember in the Ashes. While I had heard countless individuals rave about it, I was always hesitant to start it. I am not a huge fan of fantasy books so I was worried I would not enjoy it as much as everyone else. I finally decided to start An Ember in the Ashes because, not only did I get an exclusive San Diego Comic-Con edition at Comic-Con last month, I also got an ARC of its sequel, A Torch Against the Night. I also met the charismatic Sabaa Tahir again at Comic-Con which prompted me to pick up An Ember in the Ashes. I met her several times during the course of Comic-Con and she was so sincerely nice every time I saw her.

Nonetheless, I absolutely loved An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir's writing and storytelling was so addicting and rich that it was nearly impossible to put down. The story was enchanting and its characters easily found a way into my heart. An Ember in the Ashes had me questioning the true definition of loyalty and love. I see a big future for these books, I would highly recommend jumping on this band-wagon. There is no doubt in my mind that this book will be on my favorite book list of this year. If A Torch Against the Night is as good or somehow better than An Ember in the Ashes, this series and Sabaa will be added to my favorite series and author list. 

One of the reasons I preferred An Ember in the Ashes over other fantasy novels is due to Sabaa's world building. She gradually immerses her audience into the world. She tells her readers what they need to know when it is appropriate to the story. She is not trying to speak another language to us, she is teaching it to us. You are not entering a new world, it is being constructed before your eyes.

I have a giveaway for a signed San Diego Comic-Con exclusive copy of An Ember in the Ashes and a signed ARC of A Torch Against the Night that you can enter below. My spoiler section of this review will begin below the giveaway section.




To Celebrate San Diego Comic-Con 2016, 
Enter to win:
A Signed SDCC Exclusive Copy of An Ember in the Ashes &
A Signed ARC of A Torch Against the Night
(More SDCC Giveaways here)



Rules:
  • You must be 18 years or older, unless you have a parent's permission
  • This giveaway is only open to those with a U.S. mailing address (Sorry INT followers)
  • Once contacted, the winner will have 72 hours to respond with their address, or a new winner will be chosen
  • STARTS August 23rd, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. EST 
  • ENDS September 24th, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. EST

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any lost or damaged packages


Good Luck!


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At the moment, my favorite character is Helene. I admire that she is the under-dog of Blackcliff. No one expects her to be a fierce warrior, everyone underestimates her. While that fact has driven Helene mad throughout her career at Blackcliff, it has given her an advantage over her opponents because they do not expect her fighting ability. I also admire her loyalty to Elias, she would do anything to protect her best friend. In addition, I love Helene's trust in the supernatural. Although Elias did not believe in Augurs, Helene wholeheartedly trusted them and put Elias' life in danger because she trusted their visions. She trusted that her oath to them would keep him alive.

While Helene is my favorite character, she is also one of the main problems I had with the story. I disliked that she seems to be the damsel-in-distress. She is hyped as being the third in their graduating class, yet she is constantly being injured and showing weakness in the first couple trials. While Elias' fear does slow him down, and it does not stop him at the end, her fears petrify her so much that that she stops fighting and gives in. I liked that Elias eventually suffered an injury during the second trial. He needed Helene's aid and that became the point in which she seemed to be claiming her spot and became an equal to the guys. While I love Helene's character, Sabaa could have used Helene's character throughout the entire novel as an inspiration and empowerment to other women. Instead she let Helene become dictated by her fears. Helene is a great role model, but I wish she could have been empowering throughout the the entire book. I am interested to explore her power of healing as the series progresses. I want to learn her limits and how the drain of life it causes her impacts her health.

Although Elias told us what he and Laia will try to do, go north and rescue her brother, I am interested to see what A Torch Against the Night brings. I am assuming we will have chapters from Helene's perspective since Sabaa said that there are three narrator voices: one for Laia, Elias, and Helene. In the audio book of Ember, each narrator had their own chapters so I am assuming that means Helene will have her own. If that is the case, I am excited to be in Helene's head and hear her thought process. I hope that Laia and Elias will eventually defeat Marcus so Helene can join forces with them. I am curious, if Marcus dies, can she join her friends? Will she be expected to continue serving as Blood Shrike or will she be forced to take the throne? I am assuming if they take out Marcus they will destroy the Empire; however, their goal is not crushing the Empire at the moment, so I hate that Helene will have to serve under Marcus and hunt them down.

I am not really sure who I ship at the moment. While I really want Helene and Elias to be together, I would settle for their old friendship, but I am not sure if they can ever return to that state after everything that has happened and what is yet to come. I would be fine with Elias and Laia being together, but I just do not ship Keenan and Laia. I felt as though their relationship was too rushed. It felt like instant love, but Elias and Laia's relationship is not perfect either, they had instant-lust. I also did not enjoy Keenan as a character, there is just something off about him. It might have to do with the fact that his character was so flippant with the instant love. One minute he hated Laia and the next he loved her. I like love-hate relationships but this was too rushed. Typically, I am bias and absolutely love ginger characters, but I could not make myself like Keenan. But, we still have at least three more books in the series so I could change my mind. Please comment below with your ships, I am interested to see who ships who.

I am curious if we will ever discover who is the Commandant's spy within the Resistance. When Laia went to tell Mazen about the secret entrance she discovered, I had cursed her because, if the Commandant's spy was in the room, he/she would have reported back to the Commandant about Laia still being alive. However, it just occurred to me that Keenan pretended to kill her so the spy would have also reported that to his/her employee. Unless the spy was Kennan, then he would have reported back to her that Laia was alive and had sent her to Silas to trap her. Which would seem like a lot of work, but I am not quite buying the instant love, so who knows. I wonder what will happen to Cook? Since Izzi mysteriously disappeared, the Commandant will interrogate her, which could lead to her death. I am rather surprised that Cook let Izzy leave because Izzy has now put her life in the hands of Keenan, Resistance fighter. We all know how much Cook hates the Resistance. Maybe she realized Izzy would go without her blessing or she thought it would be better for Izzy than slavery.

Although I found some things in An Ember in the Ashes to be problematic, I really loved the story. It was a perfectly paced thrill ride that had the perfect balance of action and romantic tension. I am so excited to dive back into the world in A Torch Against the Night. Sabaa has created such an expansive world and cast of characters that I am excited to explore in the upcoming books.