Friday, February 27, 2015

The Friday 56

This is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.  This is a fun and simple meme, just follow the rules! It's a great way to connect with bloggers and share new or favorite books with them.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Add your name to the link up at Freda's Voice 

I'm going to be a bit of a fangirl about this one. I have stalled out on some of the other books I've been reading and I managed to wind my way back to Susanna Kearsley books. She likes kilted men, accents, conflict and finding new ways to explore history.  The Firebird has one of my all-time book boyfriends in it and it is absolutely beautiful. Check out her books and she has a new one coming out soon. It's a completely different way to time travel.

Nicola Marter has the ability to glimpse pieces of the past. She touches an object, and it takes her back to an image and time from former owners. When an unusual carving of bird comes into the gallery, Nicola knows that there is more to it than just a family heirloom.  With the help of an old friend, she seeks to find the history of the beautiful Firebird that takes her back generations to experience the past in a whole new way.

"Go. He nudged me again, and I gathered my focus and pushed through the image itself, and then I was inside it, incredibly, soaring above what I saw, rising wildly and spinning with little control, till I suddenly felt him right there with me, catching me, holding me steady, and bringing me down to the ground again, safely, as Anna passed me by."

Seriously, if you're a fan of time travel paranormal books, go read hers. I can't get enough. Just the right touch of magic and suspense!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

This book is so effing hard to review.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is a wonderful example of a well created fantasy world in which there is conflict, love, battles, plot twists, and castes.

Think of this as a crazy mix up between Divergent, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Graceling. Power is decided by birth and your lot in life is based on the color of your blood. If you are not successful as a Red, you are sent into a decades long battle that you have no investment in.

Ok, let's start with something simple. The cover is stark and perfect for this book. There are only two colors and that reflects the whole theme of what is going on.  Even though the red part of it has a certain disgusting syrupy look to it, the message is effective.

Mare steals to survive and when she is caught by the wrong person, her life gets flipped upside down in an unprecedented way.  She was originally slotted to become part of the military, like her brothers. She was going to live and die by what the Silvers wanted for her. Mare had no purpose to them. She was a pawn. She was part of their game. Until...

“In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don't know if I'll ever smile again."

This book is effing magical. It has everything that a book lover would want. I adored the way that the characters are written and there is no doubt in my mind that some of the characters are truly evil.  Mare is a character with depth and when she is suddenly thrust into the world of court intrigue, what could have once been a romantic story transforms into a story of betrayal, inner strength and looking over your shoulder.

Cal and Mason are foils to each other and they play it well.  Cal is overconfident with his powers but has a heart of gold. He believes in what he does and knows that someday, he has to take control of the entire kingdom. Talk about pressure. Mason has the typical younger brother complex where he feels ignored by not only his parents, but also the kingdom. Who cares about the second in line to the throne when the first is perfectly healthy?
Only exception to the rule
I have one major bone to pick with Red Queen and it may get resolved in later books but it bothers me right now.  It did not feel like a dystopian book until they bring out the motorcycle. It's hard to imagine the world that Mare exists in having motorcycles.  Also, if they have motorized vehicles available, you would think that would be a bigger deal. But no. It isn't. There are no trucks, tanks, or rage machines. Just motorcycles and electric plants. That makes absolutely no sense to me. It seems like a major part of this war that they are in could be fought in a different way instead of just sending Reds out to be slaughtered like the army men we all set on fire when we were kids.

But you know what is the best thing about this book?  There is not one character that is perfect. There isn't somebody that is immune to the struggles and intrigue. Everybody plays a role whether they want to or not.

"Anyone can betray anyone."

"The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind."

"The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain."

I remember when I was starting Game of Thrones, a friend laughed and said "Don't get attached to anyone."  The same goes for this book.  Everybody will break your heart.

But that doesn't mean don't read it. Go get it. Now. Right now. It will make your day.

Sorry this isn't a more in depth review but this is all I can say about it right now.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: Apprentice by Rachel E. Carter (The Black Mage #2)

I usually try to wait a day or so after finishing a book before I start writing a review. I like to let it sink in and process a bit before I start forming distinct opinions.

This one couldn't wait.

I always approach second books in a series with a healthy amount of trepidation. Remember Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest? That's why. It's easy to stall out, delay action and use the second book as a bridge to the third book and it's conclusion. Relationships stagnate and there is usually little to no character development.

Apprentice is not like that at all.  Every single one of the characters grows. It's a flipping miracle. Rachel Carter has broken the trend and written a solid and praiseworthy second book. 

Ryiah has been chosen as the 16th apprentice in a tradition that only chooses 15. The target is on her back to perform and live up to the high expectations of the country and the Black Mage himself. She is tangled in a love triangle that she neither wanted, nor expected. Ryiah also has a jackass for a Master who uses every opportunity available to belittle her.  But Ryiah, while she is not made of stone and immune to all of the hatred and pettiness of Master Byron, she learns to accept it and learn from it.
"I'm not that pitiful little girl you bullied last year."
Ryiah is a strong young woman that we can look up to and say "I want to be like her." She learns how to control her magic and becomes one of the best in her year through sheer determination. Comparing to where she was at the beginning of the first book to the end of this one, I could hardly recognize her. Granted, 4 years had passed, but it was astronomical.

But the author didn't just develop one character. Alex, once a terrific flirt, learns that he must change to be better for the woman he loves. Ella shows just how good of a friend she is to both Ryiah and Alex. Everybody deserves a friend like Ella who isn't scared to tell you when you are being irrational or reckless but support and defend you nonetheless.

Ian was the perfect foil to Darren.  Where Darren is cold and aloof, Ian is more than willing to display his affection.  They are such different characters but the way that they are written shows you how very in love with Ryiah they are. They show off for her and fight for her. Their jealousy over each other is wonderfully played out throughout the book. This is how boys act. It's all posturing and beating their chests.
"I know exactly who you are.” I took a step forward, and another, until I was standing right in front of him. Then my words turned to ice. “You are the selfish, spineless son of a king who is too afraid to be his own man. You would rather hide behind your status than fight for something that could actually mean something.” There, that felt good. “And it’s a shame, really it is, because, according to you, I was the one true friend you had."
I may get slaughtered for saying this, but throughout this book, Darren reminded me of Jericho Barrons. Granted, a younger and much more carefree one, but he was definitely growing up into the strong, silent, menacing type that has everything under control except his own feelings.  Some of the action he takes in the book shows that he has a dominant personality that clashes wonderfully with those around him. He acts selfishly outwardly but I never had any doubt of his goodness.  It's a case of trying to be the anti-hero while endearing himself to the reader.

In this book, we get to see battles and world building. I still wish that there was a map included but it felt like this story line inhabited a world with depth and history.  It's not just about learning magic. It's about fighting a war and surviving it. We learn more about politics of the country and how the other mages work.  There is beautiful prose and the danger becomes very real.

I've figured out why I like these books so much. There's a lot going on for them that are wonderful but I've finally got the reason why this sticks with me so much.

Throughout these books, Ryiah and Ella are never criticized (by someone that matters) for being ambitious and determined women eager to earn their place as mages.

Do you realize how rare that is? Besides Master Byron, nobody ever says that Ryiah or Ella do not deserve to be there because they are women and everybody recognizes that Byron is wrong. They are eager to be judged based on their own merit and do not want to be coddled in any way. I love that. I connect with that and it is my ardent hope that more authors do this. I'm sick and tired of finding books where the girl throws everything away for a guy. That doesn't happen here and that's the reason I am so much of a fan of this series. 

Can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #2)

Every once in a while, you run into a series or a book that dares to be different in this world of homogeneity, How many young adult books are out there where the problem is self inflicted or menial? How many paranormal books are there that only use worn out worked over cliches that rarely feel like there is something unique happening? I'm personally a little bit sick of vampires, werewolves and demon hunters. I've heard it all before.

The Raven Cycle is a series that is entirely unique in its genre and is beautiful to read.

First, let's start with the cover. I'm drooling over it to be honest. I love that this author puts the characters on her cover and uses them in a recognizable and interesting way. Ronan and Chainsaw are the pivotal players in this book and there they are... Ronan looks absolutely unapproachable and the multiple birds suggest later plot elements. It's wonderful. And the colors are perfect. This is how covers should be done. 

I'm a sucker for books written in the South and this series is no real exception for me.  This book is set in some of the most beautiful country out there. 
Can't you see all of this mystic stuff happening here? Can't you see a family of psychics thriving in this beautiful isolation in the mountains? The Dream Thieves and the other books in the Raven Cycle incorporate the setting in a seamless way, such that you truly believe that the characters are interacting with the landscape and that this town could really exist.

But what really drives this book are the characters. And not just Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah but also the supporting characters. Kavinsky has depth. He has motivation and he has reasons for the way he acts. The same applies for The Gray Man. It gives the characters life outside of the plot and that is what makes them believable, at least for me. 
Secrets and cockroaches-that's what will be left at the end of it all.
Ronan is wonderfully tortured throughout this book. You come to understand his desperation and angst over everything. Ronan is not just some stereotypical hard edged rich young man.  I mean, can you imagine the emotional scarring of not only losing your father but also your mother and your home all together? But he is also gentle, if need be. He isn't all glares and tattoos. The character growth that Ronan goes through in this book is monumental and the reader gets to watch him transform. And his little revelation at the end? Perfect. It doesn't change the character in my eyes but it gives another element of explanation.
And Ronan was everything that was left: molten eyes and a smile made for war.
Adam is another character that shows his stripes in this book. He tries so desperately to be independent but he comes off as whiny sometimes. Sometimes, you have to have someone else to lean on but he sees every favor that someone does for him as a handout. Adam broke away from his family and lives alone in a church. He can't take what he perceives as charity from his rich friends. I can understand that but it is overwhelmingly frustrating when just being a little less proud would benefit him a great deal.
Sometimes Ronan thought Adam was so used to the right way being painful that he doubted any path that didn't come with agony.
 The development of the romance between Blue and Gansey is subtle and perfect in this book. It isn't one of those books where the characters fall in love and everything else, including the plot, disappears in the background. Blue is independent, strong and first and foremost, wants to be friends with the boys.
In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys. 
She acknowledges their flaws and accepts them, just like they accept her and her unconventional family without question. They don't treat her like a girl when they are out and about in the fields and helicopters. She is just as much part of their adventure as they are. Adam and Gansey's relationships with her do not affect her quality of character but rather, enhance it.
I wish you could be kissed, Jane,' he said. 'Because I would beg just one off you. Under all this.' He flailed an arm toward the stars.
And finally, Noah. My favorite out of all of them. He wants so much what he cannot and will not ever have. It's so easy to take being alive for granted but he is their ever present reminder that life is fleeting.  That doesn't stop them from doing stupid things but it at least reminds them that they are indeed mortal. I loved his interaction towards the beginning with Ronan and it actually made me laugh out loud because Ronan would do that. And the way Noah pouts afterwards is absolutely perfect. Noah's interaction with Blue nearly had me in tears because it is so sad and yet so liberating for both of them. Both of them gets to experience something that they otherwise wouldn't and that's bittersweet for both of them.

Come here Noah...let me give you a hug!

There is a subtle humor in this book that doesn't have you laughing uproariously but rather chuckling at the play of words or simplicity of it all. There isn't snark and played out one liners. There is beautiful prose with a thoughtful plot line as well as humor and that's important.

The fantasy elements of this series is so unique that is almost impossible to compare it to other books. Has anybody else encountered something like this? I loved how the ley lines are close to being tangible but one little change in the system makes it so they are disrupted. Adam treats the lines like water where one dam or diversion can cause a massive effect downstream.

It's marvelously well planned out. It's unique. It has strong characters. What more could you want?

I can't stop talking about this book.  This review could go on for pages and pages but I still wouldn't be done with it.  So overall, wonderful.

I can nitpick about the Gray Man and his absolute necessity to the plot but it doesn't take away from the book itself. When you can disagree or dislike a major character but still enjoy the book, that means you are reading something great.

Go out and get this series. Right now. I'll be reading the final book right away because I have to know what happens next. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Versatile Blogger Award

Hello everybody! To everyone in the eastern USA, I hope you are surviving our snowpocalypse and to everybody else, the same applies for Tuesday. I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely Rachel over at Rachel's Reading Corner.  I am beyond honored that anyone would ever consider nominating me so much love!  Y'all should check out her blog!


The rules are pretty simple:

1. Nominate 15 other bloggers relatively new to blogging. (I used this somewhat loosely) 

2. Let the bloggers know that you've nominated them.

3. Share 10 random facts about yourself.

4. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your post.


Let's begin with the nominations!

  1. Izzy at The Reading Izzy
  2. Melissa at Ever So Mela
  3. Kitty and Fari at My Little Corner For Books
  4. Rocki at Raquel Gabriel's Blog
  5. Myra at I'm Loving Books
  6. Carole at Carole's Random Life
  7. AJ at Read All The Things!
  8. Kristen at Pretty Little Pages
  9. Paranormal Blogger at Paranormal Books
  10. Jennifer at Asterisk Pearl's Book Blog
  11. Sandee at Book Ramblings of A Whimsical Reader
  12. Jennifer at Heartland Reading
  13. Killian at Leaf on the Breeze
  14. Naomi at The Perks of Being a Bookworm
  15. Courtney at Courtney's Reads 

Everybody needs to go drop by their wonderful blogs :-)

Alright...time for the "Getting to Know You" section of this...

  1. I'm absolutely terrified of spiders, despite being in the environmental world. I moved out of my room for 3 months because I had found what I thought were two brown recluse spiders in my bed.
  2. I won an international award for my photography portfolio in high school. I also used to write short stories and poetry and won some stuff with that but I haven't had the time to pursue any of that recently.
  3. The color scheme for my upcoming nuptials are lavender, plum and steel grey.  Apparently the grey is depressing but it is one of my favorite colors.
  4. I'm a shameless and obsessive Harry Potter fan. I was always pulling for Draco and Hermione to get together. dreams were shattered.
  5. I love shrimp and grits. I will order it from whatever restaurant I go to and have a killer recipe for it myself which leads to my next factoid...
  6. I love to cook! My parents and brother got me a massive wok for Christmas and I'm having fun figuring out different ways to cook with it.
  7. I am terrible at foreign languages. I have tried for years and years and I was nearly fluent in Spanish for a while. I can still communicate but I suck at it.
  8. I'm a Liverpool fan. I tend to use this as self defense in the South where I get asked about my football allegiances. I also tend to look like an asshole doing this.
  9. I use the word "y'all" deliberately. A fair number of people like to think that there is a dearth of well educated people from Alabama and I'm out to prove them wrong and still have a fun accent while doing it. 
  10. I'm getting into anime again so if anybody wants to recommend any, I'm happy to hear it!

Alright y'all, that's it! I'd like to very sincerely thank Rachel for the nomination! It means a lot that other bloggers are nominating people and it's such a cool and respectful thing to do. 

Also, thank you to everybody who follows me and comments, both here and on Goodreads. It's wonderful to be able to discuss books with others and not feel so isolated in the literary world. Y'all make reading more fun than it already is and I look forward to interacting every day. I think people forget really easily what a single small act can do for others but y'all brighten my world and I'd like to think I do the same for a few as you guys as well.

Much Love,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Lovers Questionnaire!

I was tagged by the wonderful Melissa at Ever So Mela to do this book tag. I love doing these. You get to learn so much about other bloggers and get to explore your own reading habits!

1) Do you have a specific place for reading?

Can sort of be an answer here? I read the most in my bed, probably like most people. Sometimes one of the dogs joins me (only Beulah can make it up onto the bed by herself right now) but it's a nice quiet spot most of the time. I also read a lot outside in the yard during spring, summer and fall but right now it is just a tad too chilly for that. I'll read anywhere though. As long as I'm comfortable, I'll curl up with a book and ignore the rest of the world. 

2) Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I'm a bit of a kindle addict so I don't need bookmarks for the most part.  When I do have real books, it is usually a piece of carefully folded paper. I'll write down the page numbers for favorite passages on the piece of paper but it usually goes AWOL at some point. I used to dog ear but I learned my lesson after loving a few books to death.

3) Can you stop anywhere in a book or does you have to finish the chapter?

Can versus will are two completely different things here. Since I tend to read anywhere, I can stop in the middle of a page if necessary (like in a waiting room) but I'd rather not. If I'm about to go to bed, I always finish the chapter...and then the next one...and the next one...

4) Do you eat or drink while reading?

I try to drink while reading but I rarely eat, mostly because if I'm eating, then I'm getting stared at and I can't concentrate. I also hate having sticky or greasy fingers on my kindle, since it is a touchscreen. I compulsively clean it and I am always wiping it down to remove fingerprints. If I had food around it, I'm sure that I would only succeed at getting more neurotic about it. If I get really into a book, I'm known to forget entire fresh pots of tea and let them get cold over the course of a few hours so drinking is only successful part of the time.

5) Music or TV while reading?

I'm incapable of focusing on more than one distraction at once so I can't really read and watch TV at the same time. I can listen to classical music while reading and I have a sound machine next to my bed that is always on when I am in the room.  My windows are a bit too close to a tree in the neighbor's yard and whenever the wind blows, the branches brush up against the screens and make it sound like someone is trying to break in.  The sound machine muffles that so I'm not constantly freaking out.

6) One book at a time or several?

I vastly prefer only one book at a time but I'm capable of having multiple going, as shown by my currently reading list. High school and college sort of ruined me for only reading one book at a time since coursework was always reading. If I'm reading more than one at once, I feel like I'm not giving myself a full experience of the book if that makes any sense.

I mean, wouldn't you want to read here too?
7) Reading at home or elsewhere?

Anywhere and everywhere. The botanical gardens is within walking distance here so I can amble down there and read in the rose garden during the summer. My kindle has its own little pocket in my purse and goes with me whenever I leave the house.

8) Read out loud or silently?

The only time I read out loud is when its a children's book and I'm babysitting.

9) Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Nope. I'll skim but I always read the entire book, cover to cover.

10) Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

Ugh, I hate it when spines are broken on books. It's one of the reasons used book stores freak me out. I have to keep my bindings crisp and new.  One of my friends considers it therapeutic to break the spine and it makes my skin crawl watching her do it.

11) Do you write in your books?

Only textbooks or course books. My copy of The Sound and The Fury is covered in highlights and notes but all of my "fun" books are kept pristine.  The kindle lets me take notes in books without having to mark anything up which is awesome. I can remember what I want to bring up in reviews and why I liked whatever quote I've highlighted.

12) Who are you tagging?

Booknut 101 at 21st Century Once Upon a Times
Olivia and Sarah at Brewing Up Books
Carina and Haley at My Addiction: Books
Samantha at Bookish Serendipity

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Vampire Academy

Sometimes, it amazes me how much a book can influence my mood. Some books are able to drag me out of a funk and get me excited about turning the page. Despite whatever crap has gone on that day, I find myself smiling while reading a good book.  I crave those days where I can fully immerse myself in wonderful prose and deep characters. 

Vampire Academy by Rachel Mead felt...shallow.  There was a world but we've seen it before. Yes, there are vampires out there in paranormal books/series. There's no real connection with anything else in this book. It just felt plopped down in the middle of nowhere where the outside world really can't interact. Which I get...but it felt like a cheap way of doing things.

I'm not a big fan of the cover either. That's not to say that simple covers are bad but this feels like a cop out in some ways. I would have liked it with just the letters. I would have liked it with just the girl in the background. But both feels like the artist couldn't make up her mind. And really? Red cover for a vampire book? It's been done. Do something else. 

Rose and Lissa have been on the run for a long time. Running from their pasts and obligations but also running from danger. Rose is desperate to keep Lissa safe, a Moroi vampire who helps sustain the regular population of vampires. When they are finally caught and brought back to their special vampire school, they are expected to catch up and attend classes like normal students. But the threat seems to follow them wherever they go.  Add in boys, forbidden romances and dead things that randomly crop up and you have a recipe for an interesting school year.

The differences between the different vampires was never fully explained, in my opinion. The why aspect of it seemed to be missing. Like the "why should I care" and "what impact does their own classification have on normal humans aka the vast population of the world". I hate it when authors ignore the fact that their books have to exist in a full world, not just a little bubble.  It makes it so there are very few real world consequences for their actions.

Also, what do they do? How do they make money? How can they afford to keep feeders alive and run a school and purchase expensive gifts?  It this like Vampire Knight where everybody is a model and an actress or whatever? Was this explained but only briefly so I found myself not caring?

Lissa was absolutely helpless in all things. She didn't even flail or freak out. She just turns inwards, hurts herself and expects someone to rescue her.  She is the definition of a helpless main character. Lissa is supposed to be protected in all things but why not have a way to protect yourself, besides relying on other people? I mean, most kings and princes in medieval times trained with a sword, even if it was just for show. Give them a gun! Give them poison darts or tasers or something! The Moroi are the epitome of sitting ducks in this series. I can't stand it when people don't even try to take basic cautionary measures to protect themselves. It's the same as not locking your car doors because one of your neighbors might see the thief and tell them to stop.

Rose was a bit more entertaining to read but I found her mostly unrealistic. It's hard work getting into shape and 4 or 5 hours of training each day would be enough to make it so that you are so tired, you can't even get in the shower. 
There was not any of that. You never get used to working out. If you stop getting sore, then you are doing something wrong and you aren't making yourself any stronger. If you are no longer hurting after combat style training, then somebody is going way too easy on you and you aren't learning anything.  Rose also has a reputation of a town bicycle and she acts like it is somebody else's fault in some ways. She never owns up to her past and confronts it.  She just hopes that she can let it die. No wonder there are rumors about them. You have to tackle your history and prove people wrong, not just ignore it when they trash talk you.  It is really hard for me to get on the side of someone that never seems to own up to her mistakes.  It makes her look more childish than she is. 

Christian was the only character that had depth to him.  He has a history and a reason for being the way he is.  I like the idea of an outcast coming to help people and he is a good character for it. He is strong and has good morals, despite his familial problems. I sympathized with him and I wanted him to have more of a role than the girls. 

Dimitri was basically a big hunk of man flesh that played the role of stoic love interest. It's not that I didn't like him, but I've seen him before. I got sick of the "comrade" jokes pretty quickly and he seems like an underdeveloped character that was there out of convenience. "Oh...I need a male complication to throw in!" *hurls a buff Russian man into the plot*

Also, there was no real threat of danger. The Strigoi are never truly scary in any of it and by leaving a significant portion of your population defenseless, the author is telling me that they aren't scary to her either. It's like being scared of tarantulas. Pretty logical in principle, but never an actual problem. 

Maybe I'm not over being a grump and I'm being ridiculous about this.  Maybe I have seen too many books like this. Maybe this is fallout from the Twilight books but this has definitely set me back a few steps when getting over my thing about vampire books. They have to be unique and if they aren't, I find myself being super critical and not liking them at all.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book Review: The Black Mage: First Year by Rachel E. Carter

I've been a raging bitch a bit grumpy lately.

I recognize and accept that I've been on a warpath and probably been too critical of some things. Studying for standardized testing will do that to even the most well adjusted people. And I'm not claiming to be well adjusted.  However, a good book should be able to get the surliest/most sleep deprived/most strung out reader and get them to relax and enjoy the story.

The Black Mage: First Year by Rachel E. Carter was able to do that.

I love the cover.  The emphasis on red/orange against the black is visually pleasing and this is once again one of those rare covers that actually relates to the book.  It doesn't feel like a photoshopped photo-manipulation that was pieced together just to have a cover.  It is deliberate and well composed.  The negative space is not just empty but has dimension to it. And I really want Ryiah's boots. Just sayin'.

Ryiah and her twin brother, Alex, have decided to not take the easy way out.  The advent of their magic has compelled them on a tortuous road, trying to acquire one of the 15 apprenticeships available to study at the war schools that year.  This is not Harry Potter where nobody drops out and nobody gets held back. (I mean, Crabbe and Goyle made it through.) It is a dangerous journey just getting to the school, nevermind surviving the training and later, the tests.

There is backstabbing, elitism and competition to deal with and that is even before the training begins.  Ryiah struggles, her magic not as strong as her brothers and she only makes it worse for herself when she picks the most challenging faction, Combat.  There is extensive physical training and then hours of meditation and studying on top of that.  Ryiah can barely keep up to begin with but her instructors do not seem to have much faith in her and refuse to help her improve. Then there is the prince...

Darren is the second-in-line to the throne and the first prince to ever attend the Academy to compete for the apprenticeships.  He is snobbery at its finest but he deserves it.  Darren is incredibly strong and powerful, showing both his physical and magical prowess easily. A chance encounter brings Darren and Ryiah together and they forge a tenuous friendships based off of not ratting each other out.  Everybody here is striving for one thing though and it is never a good idea to make friends if you are hoping for their ultimate failure. 

Great things:

1) Loved Ryiah. She was tough as nails but not inhumanly so. She had her weaknesses and thank God, she actually wasn't good at something.  I hate it when characters immediately thrive and are obviously the best at something right away because that's not how life is.  Especially for a lowborn girl who has only just discovered her powers.

2) Alex. Why can't he be my big brother? I'll trade! My brother is absolutely useless when it comes to being protective. Alex is perfect at it.  He lets his sister fight her own battles but when it comes to the point where it is being taken too far, he steps in. 

Brothers, please learn how to do this. Your sisters are strong and can do whatever they want but every once in a while, it is nice for you to show you care by standing up for them.

3) The school.  Let's put this in perspective, shall we?  This is a single school for all the kids in the country.  Anybody can come and try if they have magic and want to attempt it.  Only 122 show up. Out of the entire country. And not everybody succeeds.  This isn't a school where everybody gets a diploma, a job, a trophy and a puppy at the end of the year. If you aren't strong enough, you don't cut it. 

4) The teachers. No sugar coating. No bullshit. You either got it or you don't and they aren't going to pull their punches at all.

5) It's not just a romance. Sure, there is some young love going on but that's not what the goal of this book is at all.  There's character growth and development of skills.  They learn things about themselves and hold themselves accountable for a grueling work schedule.  They work hard and don't necessarily get rewarded for it.  That's how real life is and this book works well with that.

I wish the world building had been a bit...more so. I missed the aspect of knowing what was going on in the outside world.  I wanted to know more about the royal family and the politics of the country.  I wanted a map and a sense of a full world in this book. 

But other than that, I adored this book.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Review: Skeletal by Kathering Hayton

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

What the hell did I just read?

I'm still in shock. This book was a whirlwind of action throughout and I have a lot of conflicting feelings about it.

Skeletal is a story of a girl who was lost. Daina moved from town to town with her mother, changing schools three to four times a year, running from problems and never putting down roots. Daina is heavily independent and tries desperately to maintain control of her hectic life. She tries to prevent her mother from spending all of their money on alcohol and keeps her grades up. She never expected a bully to turn on her and make her life a living hell.

But this is much more than a bullying story. Daina is a fighter and she strives to make the struggles in her life building blocks. She tries to make friends and is happy for a short while. Life has a way of going to hell really quick and despite her best efforts, Daina gets sucked down a road that she never wanted to go down.

Daina is an interesting character but I struggled with her age, among other things. She was 14 in all of this. I understand that she had to grow up quick because of the life that she had but it felt too extreme. She didn't react in a relatable way. Certain things that would drive most teenagers into a panic barely phased her. I can understand rolling with the bullying but she lets everybody take advantage of her. Her mother, her guidance counselor, the bullies, the creepy guy in the bushes...I won't go further. She was a doormat. 

All the rest of the characters were severely twisted. Who does this? Even adults don't do this! It's so messed up. Maybe I am having issues with this because I've never experienced bullying in this extreme but I feel like most people haven't either. 

The administration of this school is unbelievable at best. NO SCHOOL WOULD IGNORE WHAT IS GOING ON. No school. At all. Know why? Lawsuits. The school would be shut down in a hot minute. And then teachers and administration and principals would be fired and possibly go to jail. It's simply not logical.

There were just so many plot holes. 

The paranormal element in this book was understated at best and left me a little underwhelmed. There was really no reason for the way things played out and I can understand having a ghost as a plot device but it didn't feel fully realized.

The end of the book was rushed and the conclusion was never fully explained. There was too much suspense and building on the front end to justify the conclusion.

In the end, I couldn't connect with the characters and there were too many missing parts for me to enjoy this book. Maybe I'm in a bad mood but this book was not for me.