Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Thoughts On: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
by Robin LaFevers
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date:  April 3, 2012
509 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed/NetGalley
Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? 

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. 


Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?  -(summary from Goodreads.com)


Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers 


My Thoughts:  First things first, you guys. I'm pretty sure that this was my first real historical fiction book. And it was amazing. I am certain it will not be my last. But the story! OH! Let's just talk about it. 


You need Grave Mercy on your wish list ASAP. Here's why


1. Ismae. We meet Ismae as she is sold to Guillo the Pig Farmer for 3 silver coins in an arranged marriage. Besides being kind of gross, Guillo is brutal and beats her badly. She's rescued from this marriage and taken to a convent where the Abbess of St. Mortain (the Patron Saint of Death) is waiting for her. At the convent, she is schooled in weaponry, fighting, and all things related to killing people efficiently. After all, Ismae is Death's daughter and her duty is to carry out his wishes...


Ismae started out being scared and shy. She grew up feeling unwanted and unloved. She was feared because of the scars on her skin. Escaping her marriage and village gave her a whole new chance at a meaningful life. Through her training at the convent, she gained courage and confidence and a set of skills which made her a fierce assassin and an awesome character. Her growth from the first page to the last was incredible. 


Sidenote:  Ismae excels in the study and use of poisons because she is immune to their effects. This comes in handy throughout the story more than once. This was very interesting to me as I have never read anything dealing with poisons before. 

2. Duval. The Love Interest. Also brother to the Duchess. Ismae comes to court with him (begrudgingly) because there are some complex political things going on (too many to try and explain here, really). Her job is to help him investigate these things and also she is to keep an eye on him and find out where his loyalties are as he is being suspected of treason...but doggone it she can't help but fall in love with him. And likewise, he falls in love with her. Duval's priorities are to keep his sister and her throne safe, first and foremost. And Ismae never believes that he is committing treason - but are her feelings the truth or is it her heart trying to convince her of this? 


I loved Duval. I loved him, I loved him, I loved him. The whole time, I loved that boy. 

3. The Setting. Late 1400's, Brittany. Admittedly, I know almost nothing about this area and this era. So when the book talked of dukes and duchesses and the high court, I could follow along okay but it did slow me down just a little bit. I DID, however, find it very interesting and I wonder why I've never read anything set in this time period and area before. Why, Asheley, Why? I loved the talk of the clothes of this era, the weaponry, the proper etiquette, and the way everyone lived together at court. The author researched everything well which meant that the book was set well. It was absolutely thrilling and the great setting only served to add to the rest of the story. 

4. The Genre. Historical Fiction, of course. Romance, oh yes. YES. But there's something else too...either paranormal or supernatural or fantasy - and it has to do with Ismae being the daughter of Death and everything that falls under that umbrella. It's not a hugely paranormal-ish book, but it is there and it is really, really cool. 

5. The Romance. Ismae and Duval. Slow-burn. They know they shouldn't really love each other because they both have jobs to do, but sometimes you just can't help falling in love, right? Do they act on it? Not really, no. There is a kiss or two and some stolen glances. But they WANT to act on it and there is definitely tension there and it is so lovely. Just lovely. 

6. The Cover. Crossbow, castle, and a splash of red. I'm in love. 

I don't really know what else to do or say about Grave Mercy but gush mercilessly about it. It very well may be the perfect book - or at least one of the most perfect books in a long time. There are swords, daggers, and crossbows. There are women in corsets. And there is a slow-burn romance. Oh, and a castle. 

Ismae is every bit the butt-kicking heroine that I want to read about, in the form of an assassin trained in a convent. The last time I remember getting this excited about female leading characters was when I read Kristin Cashore's female leads from Graceling and Fire. I promise you guys, you'll probably love this book. In fact, I think readers of all ages will love this one - YA readers up to adult readers. Just go ahead and throw it up on your TBR or wish-list. And then come back and let me know how much you loved it. 


Grave Mercy will appeal to fans of

NUN ASSASSINS
Historical Fiction & Romance 
with Paranormal/Supernatural/Fantasy
Romance: Slow Burn, No Love Triangle
High Court Treason
Plot Twists

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
will be published on April 3, 2012.

*I borrowed this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review.   

Don't you guys LOVE
AWESOME, BUTT-KICKING 
female leading characters? 
Or is it just me? 



My Thoughts On: Partials by Dan Wells

Partials (Partials #1) by Dan Wells
Published by Balzer + Bray
Publish Date:  February 28, 2012
472 Pages
My Source:  ARC from publisher
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out. 

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.   
 -(summary excerpt from Goodreads.com)



Partials by Dan Wells 

My Thoughts:  As soon as I saw Partials and read the blurb on the back, I knew I HAD to read it. 

"When our ancestors were attacked at Pearl Harbor, they called it a day that would live in infamy. The day the Partials attacked us with the RM virus will not live in anything, because there will be none of us left to remember it."
~President David R. Cregan, March 21, 2065, in a press conference at the White House. Three hours later he hanged himself.

Sounds exciting and scary and ominous, right? Exactly. That's what I thought too. Plus I love the genre. Naturally, now that I'm finished with it I have thoughts. So...

Let's talk about Partials, shall we?

1. The Background. Partials are man-made, built to look exactly like humans, only stronger and faster. They were built to help the humans win the Isolation War but they turned on the humans about five years later and released the RM virus, which destroyed about 99% of the population. The surviving humans fled to Long Island to set up a safe, livable society out of the reach of the deadly Partials. The Hope Act was enacted soon after, which mandated that girls age 18 and older must become pregnant yearly in order to try and repopulate the Earth. Since the Hope Act was passed just two years ago, a group of rebels has formed and gained popularity - The Voice of the People (aka The Voice). The Voice is in opposition to the Hope Act and fights against the government as much as they can to resist and object this forced pregnancy law. 

As it stands now, the city of East Meadow faces two major threats: The Voice and The Partials. They haven't been attacked by Partials in many years, but that doesn't mean that they aren't out there. The Voice is the more serious threat, edging closer and closer to the city - eventually attacking periodically from within. As the story progresses, we as readers have to decide who is behind all of the attacks - The Voice, The Partials, or the governing body - and who the people can really trust. OH HOW EXCITING!

2. The Characters. The characters are all either humans that were alive before the Partials attacked and RM was released, "plague babies" (born shortly before or after the RM virus - usually without one or both parents), or Partials. 
  • Kira Walker.  A "plague baby." We meet 16-year-old Kira as she witnesses the loss of her ninth baby as a medic intern in the hospital maternity ward.  She studies each death that results from the RM virus, which attacks the newborns and kills them within the first 56-or-so hours of their lives - without fail, every time. Dismayed and devastated by this, Kira feels an urgency to find a cure for the RM virus now that her best friend has become pregnant and will deliver soon.  She dutifully studies each death in hopes that the research will help find a cure...except that the research keeps turning up the same information again and again - nothing new has been learned in approximately a decade. Kira wonders if finding a cure lies outside of researching newborns and instead possibly *gasp* checking into the genetics of a Partial. After her request for the government to procure a Partial for her study is denied, Kira decides to take matters into her own hands and grab one herself. ~ Kira is an interesting character, very firm in her convictions and ideals. She has a level head, and is fiercely independent and determined. Despite loving Marcus, she never lets her boyfriend influence her decisions and sway her on what she feels is right. Kira is smart and she's not afraid to be smart in front of others - she never dumbs herself down. I love this about her. Excellent female lead.
  • Marcus. Kira's boyfriend, also a hospital medic. Marcus stands out to me the most because he provided comic relief for the rest of the group of friends when tensions and stresses were high. Marcus loves Kira - enough to want to marry her, even though she keeps turning him down because she just isn't ready for marriage yet. What I do not like about him is that he does not support Kira in some of her biggest and most important decisions, even when he feels that she may be right. In this,  I felt like he looked like a coward and also a bit whiny a couple of times in the book. I rarely if ever say this about a main character, but in this book Marcus could have been pretty much left out and I would have been fine with it. I just didn't connect with him, I didn't like him, and I felt him a little bit disposable. (Gosh, I hate sounding so harsh, but I'm just being honest.) I'm hoping that my feelings will change for the better in the next installment, because it breaks my heart to dislike characters, particularly in such a great book.
  • Samm. A Partial. He looks exactly like a human but isn't. He was engineered as a killing machine, a super soldier. Samm happened to be the unlucky Partial that was captured by Kira and her friends when they snuck outside of East Meadow and happened upon a group of them. When the government caught wind of this little operation and had to decide what to do with the Partial in their territory, here's what they decided:  Kira was given five days to study him, learn what she could to find a cure for RM, and then he would be destroyed. ~ During those five days, Kira surprisingly establishes a rapport with Samm and we learn the truth behind why it's Partials vs Humans. ~ Samm demonstrates that he is different than their perception of Partials by wanting peace and actually saving Kira when he could have escaped and easily made it back to safety with the other Partials. But just as quickly as Samm earns the trust of Kira and her friends, he then loses it, but then he gains it back again...or does he? Wait, do we trust Samm or not? Hmmm....
The secondary cast is varied; they range from weak to strong, from low-class to high-ranking government officials, from rebel outlaw-types to law-abiding citizens. Some of them are friends of Kira's and some become enemies. All-in-all, each member of the character cast is colorful and perfect for their part. I enjoyed reading them, whatever their role. 

3.  The Study.  Now this may just be me, but I sort of felt like this book was a "before the study" and an "after the study" because of the information we learned about the Partials during that time. AND because of the bomb that destroyed the lab that Kira was working in, destroying all of her research (basically making her time wasted). Kira was injured and Samm - instead of running back to his people - stuck around to help her, even though he was beaten and tortured. As a result, Kira and her friends decided to sneak him OUT of the city and back to where he belonged so he wouldn't be killed. It's this "after the study" time that changed the story a bit. BECAUSE...
  • we find that some of the people that we thought were good are actually bad. 
  • we find that some of the people that we thought we could trust are actually acting against us. 
  • our heads get completely messed with in terms of the story, and it is brilliant and fun and everything a story like this should be. 
4. Plot Twists. YES. Just, yes. It's a big book, folks. They are all over the place. 

5. Romance. There is some romance in the book in several places. There are several couples, most noteworthy being Kira and Marcus. These relationships are present, although they are always in the back of the story, never overshadowing any other part of the plot. For example, we are aware that Kira has a boyfriend the whole time, but it's just a detail. It's refreshing, really. Not all books have to have a big, heavy romance (even though I love them).  

6. The World-Building.  Great world-building. We see the landscape after the spoils of war, after 99% of the population has been destroyed, and after the population continues to fight. We see the bleak and barren wasteland it has become, and it is described so well. The people and their groups (The Voice, etc.) even are built well into this world. I could visualize this entire book scenario in my head, which (I think) is part of the makings of a great post-apocalyptic book, and very present in Partials

Partials by Dan Wells is a big book, you guys. At 472 pages, it's an investment. But I think it is a good investment because there are a ton of golden things on the inside:  politics, rebellion, governmental control, reproductive rights - stuff like that. None of it is too heavy, of course, but it is very present and it makes for a GREAT post-apocalyptic book with a creepy, discussable government. 

Kira is a great female lead. She is not dumb or stupid. She is nothing less than fierce, in my opinion. She drives the story and the action, and she does it well. I was surprised to find myself so invested in Samm, particularly with everything that develops with him in the second half of the book, but I find him wildly intriguing and entertaining as a character and am thrilled to see what will happen with him in the next book. 

I will say that there is a ton of military-speak and medical jargon and scientific talk. The medical jargon didn't bother me at all, but I did feel a bit bogged down by the military and scientific terminology. There were a couple of times where it just seemed to lag on, and those were the only times in the entire book that I wanted things to HURRY UP!! and get to the real action of the story. Other than that, I enjoyed everything about this book, I think, and would recommend it to lovers of post-apocalyptic science-fiction without hesitation. 

Partials will appeal to fans of

Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian/Science-Fiction Genre
Very Strong Female Protagonist
Strong Characterization with a
Great Secondary Cast of Characters
Excellence in World-Building
Action-Driven Stories
 Stories involving Science or Medicine or Military

Partials by Dan Wells is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Thoughts On: What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas

What Happened to Hannah
by Mary Kay McComas
Published by William Morrow Publishing
Publish Date:  February 7, 2012
352 Pages
My Source:  William Morrow/TLC Book Tours
As a teenager, Hannah Benson ran away from home in order to save herself. Now, twenty years later, the past comes calling and delivers life-changing news: her mother and sister have passed away, leaving Hannah the guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.
Returning home to bitter memories and devastating secrets, Hannah must overcome her painful past to pave a future with her niece, the last best chance at a family for both of them. She begins to create a new, happier life with her niece and rekindles a relationship with Grady Steadman, one of the few people she's ever called a friend.
But she can't forget what she cannot forgive, or lay to rest those ghosts that will not die. Will love and trust--and the truth--give her the strength to stand her ground and fight for what she deserves?  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
What Happened to Hannah 
by Mary Kay McComas
My Thoughts:  What Happened to Hannah is one of those stories that gripped me from the very beginning and didn't let me go until the very last word on the last page. I devoured this book, which is so very interesting to me given the summary and themes in the story. Honestly, though, I just couldn't help it. While there were themes that were a bit dark and depressing, they were sitting inside a story of hope and it fueled my desire to just keep going until I found out exactly what did happen to Hannah
So why should you read this book? 
1. The Characters. They. Are. Fabulous. They're real, heartwarming people that we all know. They live in our towns and go to work with us, to our schools. I connected with them. 
  • Hannah Benson. Abused as a child. Ran away from town when she was around 16 years old, slept in churches and shelters until she found someone who took her in and gave her a job, treated her with respect, dignity, and humanity. It took her years to bury the events of that night. Never looking back, Hannah created a life for herself, building a successful business in the insurance industry in Baltimore. She didn't expect the phonecall from Grady that changed everything for her. ~ Hannah enters the story fiercely independent, but only because she has grown to be that way after a childhood of extreme physical abuse from her father. She spent so many days and nights wondering if she would even make it through the night alive, dreaming of a better life - it only stands to reason that she would keep anyone and everyone at arm's length to keep from getting hurt again. And certainly we can understand why she has never gone back to Clearfield and never wants to return. 
  • Grady Steadman. Sheriff of Clearfield and also Hannah's ex-boyfriend from many years ago. While Grady has since been married and divorced with children of his own, he has never forgotten Hannah, nor has he stopped loving her. But that's not why he called - he is calling her to let her know that her mother died. And her sister died five years earlier. And she has a teenage niece with no other living relatives. Grady needs Hannah to come back to Clearfield to meet her niece, Anna, and assume guardianship. Grady basically flipped Hannah's life upside down. ~  When Hannah fled town, Grady was on a camping trip. He was devastated because he was so in love with that girl. He waited for her to return and wept when she didn't. Eventually he gave up hope that she would come back but he never gave up hope that she was alive out there somewhere. Grady is marvelous, and I fell in love with him immediately. I loved him as a father; his wife left him some time earlier and his ease with his children showed his gentleness, his concern for them, and his unconditional love. His patience with Hannah intermingled with his impatience with her was a delight as it reminded me that adults can have the same feelings of being in love that young people have. While he was a bit stubborn at times, it was always out of concern and love for Hannah, and it is easily forgiven. Such a great character and love interest, even though Hannah didn't want to admit it. Loved him
  • Anna Benson. Sophomore and star track athlete with the potential for scholarships and breaking school and state records. Anna carved out a life for herself with her grandmother after her mother died tragically five years earlier and is devastated that she is now alone. She has great friends and they are a wonderful support system, but she is elated to learn that her Aunt Hannah is coming to meet her - she's always heard stories about her strong, courageous, brave Aunt Hannah from her mother before she died. Anna longs to be wanted and loved and safe, and Hannah can provide that for her if she can just be brave enough to go back to Clearfield, face her past, and open her heart to Anna. ~ And Anna, dear sweet Anna! My arms wanted to reach through the book and hug her when she mourned, cheer for her when she ran her track events, and clap with her when she laughed so hard she cried during her surprise birthday party. A delightful girl, Anna was completely All-American...she just had a rough start. I love the way she adored her friends, but she clung to her family even though Hannah didn't know how to be family. Anna was the one who taught Hannah what family was, and that juxtaposition of niece and aunt navigating those difficult waters was very touching to read. Brilliantly written.
These characters are phenomenal. They are a joy to read. And the secondary cast is colorful, humorous, and just as wonderful. They add so much depth and fun and brilliance. The secondary cast does exactly what they are supposed to do, and that is support the main characters. I really have nothing negative to say about any of them. This is literally one of the best group of characters I've ever read and if they were real-life people, I would honestly want to know them. 

2. The Story. Hannah's story is told with care, gently by the author so as not to break apart the reader. There are many times when the content has the potential to be graphic, but Ms. McComas does a wonderful job of illustrating her point without being over-the-top. In other words, we get the idea without shock value. What is wonderful, and what I loved, is that this book tugged at my heartstrings, which is something that I don't always go for in a book. The author hooked me in from the beginning pages and invested me into the story she wanted to tell - making me love her characters - thereby making me emotionally connected to the story that unfolded before my eyes. 

I have to admit that I was shocked at the horrors that Hannah faced, and also the horrors that her sister and mother faced. Hannah's family went through some tough times. And as a reader, I didn't understand why the community let that happen (McCormas writes this into the story at one point). The way that we, as readers, are privy to these moments of weakness and horror are through flashbacks in adult-Hannah's memory - not first-hand accounts - and I believe that that is what made the story most bearable for me. It was hard to see Hannah re-live these scenes from her life, but it was wonderful to see her emerge victorious after defeating them. 

What actually happened to the character Hannah was awful, but if you read the book and stay invested, there is a payoff in the form of a twist. Trust me, it's good and you'll want to stick around. This - to me - is not a book that we should fear or push aside. There is no shock value here. In fact, What Happened to Hannah almost reads like a memoir, but it is actually an adult contemporary. Or perhaps it could be seen as a little of both. It is beautiful, though, and haunting, and a bit horrifying. But there is an overlying canopy of hope that brightens the entire story, and if you stay focused on that, this story is absolutely amazing. The story is amazing any way you look at it. 

I admittedly was unsure and also a teensy bit hesitant when I picked it up for the first time, but that trepidation disappeared the instant I started reading. I absolutely love this book and it made me feel so good all the way throughout - because of the hope and love on the inside. I will recommend this book to tons of people and am thrilled for the opportunity to have read it. 

What Happened to Hannah will appeal to fans of

Women's Fiction/Adult Contemporary Fiction
Coming-of-Age Stories
Strong Characterization
Character-Driven Stories
 Stories with Strong Familial Ties

What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McCormas
 is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you William Morrow Publishing and TLC Book Tours! 

                                                           TLC Book Tours

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Thoughts On: Bewitching by Alex Flinn

Bewitching (The Kendra Chronicles #1)
by Alex Flinn
Published by HarperTeen 

Publish Date:  February 14, 2012

336 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed
Bewitching can be a beast. . . . 

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn’t. 

I go to a new school now—one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I’m not still here because I’m stupid; I just don’t age. 

You see, I’m immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years—except for when to take my powers and butt out. 

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don’t even want to think about it. 
Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn’t get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl—and it isn’t an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)



Bewitching by Alex Flinn


My Thoughts:  Oh! Alex Flinn is so much fun! She has such a knack for taking stories we've heard bunches of times, throwing them in a pot, mixing in a few of her own details, and pouring out something new and wonderful entirely. And that is exactly what has happened with Bewitching


I first met Kendra Hilferty when I read Beastly and I have to admit that while she wasn't the main character, she held my attention and drew me in...I wanted to know more about her. So when I found out that she was going to be able to tell her story, I think I actually squealed a little...because her story deserves to be told. 


Why should you read Bewitching (aka Kendra's story)?

1.  The Characters. There are bazillion characters in this book because of how it is written. They are not all good guys. They are not all bad guys. They are pretty much all flawed. They are all part of the story. Take them as you will...but it would be best if you just enjoyed them. Seriously. 
  • Kendra. Kendra found out she was a witch during a plague in the 1600-1700's and was the sole survivor of her family (along with her younger brother, which you will read about early in the book). Since then, she has lived lonely and isolated - simply because it is very hard to be friends with people who age and die - over and over and over. I mean, there's nothing one can do about that. Kendra tries her  hardest to be a good witch - to help other people - but it doesn't always come to pass. Sometimes her interference actually makes things worse rather than better. Still, she has a good heart. A very likable character, Kendra tells her story in a most unique way, and I find that the character that I liked a great deal in Beastly grew on me even more in Bewitching
  • EmmaLisette. The stars of Kendra's modern-day Cinderella re-telling. Kendra tells us Emma's story because she wants to show how she tried to help Emma once Lisette came into her life. Emma is just a regular teenage girl - smart, kinda pretty, definitely bookish, and not very cool. Lisette is the exact total opposite - not very bright, absolutely gorgeous, and wildly popular. Lisette harbors a grudge against Emma for something that isn't even Emma's fault, and decides that she'll do anything and everything to ruin Emma's life. And she does a darn good job of it, for the most part. Eventually Emma befriends Kendra, a fellow student who is an outcast just like her, and as luck would have it - or as Kendra might would have it - things start to take a turn for the better again in Emma's life. 
I realize that I'm being a little vague in telling about Emma and Lisette. Their story is long and a little bit complex and a whole lot wonderful. The basic thing you need to know is that they are opposites: one is good and one is pretty much bad, and that Kendra steps in and tries to help out. Does it work? Does it backfire? That, I suppose, is all in how you interpret how everything ends...

2. The Structure. The story starts out telling how Kendra became a witch. Once we have covered that base, Kendra decides to start telling us the story of Emma & Lisette, which jumps us to modern-day times. Weaved into the story of Emma & Lisette, however, are re-tellings of fairy-tales that we know and love. They're thrown in there to not only support Emma's story but also to show examples of some of Kendra's successes and failures at helping others. So...

...this means that we have multiple points-of-view/narrators, multiple settings (place and time), and multiple plots. Some people do not like this, but when done well, I love it. Folks, this is done very well. In fact, I'm not sure that I've ever read a story structured quite in this way. This author built this story so brilliantly it was as much a pleasure to see it built as it was to read it. The flow is easy to follow and seamless, the transitions are smooth, and I can't imagine that most people would have a difficult time with it in part because the language is so easy, beautiful, and simplistic. In short, the structure is marvelous. 

3. The Fairy Tales. This girl loves retellings, be they fairy tales or myths. In this story, I was rewarded with several fairy tale retellings, and their spin was fresh and new and different and very "Alex Flinn." I recognized, of course, the Cinderella plot that was the umbrella of the entire book as well as versions of The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, and Hansel & Gretel

Incorporated into the retellings were nods to real events in history and also bits of classic literature. Alex Flinn did us well this time, you guys. So well. 

4. Romance. As with most fairy tales, there is romance involved. The romance in the Emma & Lisette story is not a roll-your-eyes romance - it is fun to read. It takes twists and turns, and I found myself changing my mind on which guy and girl should end up together more than once. I admittedly didn't see the end coming, and I actually think I may have liked being surprised. In my opinion - this time - the insta-love vs. slow-burn and love triangle questions just don't apply because this is not one of those types of stories. 

There are also small blips of romance in the fairy tale vignettes that occur throughout the breaks in the story of Emma & Lisette. As they are part of fairy tale retellings, they just need to be read as they are. They're different than we're used to, and they're very entertaining, so I don't see anyone hating on them. 

As I said earlier, I loved Kendra's character in Beastly, but I loved her even more in this book. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I cracked this one open, but Bewitching surpassed my expectations and then some. It is crafted well and written beautifully. It doesn't sit like other series-books do - this ending is final. So if you choose to not read the next installment in the Kendra Chronicles, you will not be missing anything but a good time. 

Bewitching is also written to a broad audience. I think that readers of all ages from young YA readers up to adults will enjoy this story and I found nothing objectionable on the inside. It's just a great fairy tale story for everybody. I loved it. 

Bewitching will appeal to fans of

Fairy Tales/Fairy Tale Re-Tellings
Romance: no love triangles, no insta-love, no slow-burn
Stories with nods to Classic Literature & History
Betrayal
Plot Twists
Multiple POV's/Settings/Plots 
(aka Complex but Well-Crafted Story Structure)

Bewitching by Alex Flinn 
is currently available for purchase.

*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review.   

In My Mailbox {12}

Hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren


In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren. She uses this time to tell about the books she receives each week either to review, from the library, or from a purchase. Kristi is kind enough to let us all in on her fun and here is my little piece of that!

**********************************************


MIDDLE GRADE FOREVER. 

Library

Eveybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
Most of these are at the recommendation of 
Adam (@HittingOnBooksby way of his blog

AND OF COURSE, my new obsession:

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1) 
by Patrick Rothfuss
 
Yes, I am listening to this via Audible. 
And Yes I am loving it. So much, in fact. 
And YES, I am the dork that occasionally likes 
to read along with the narrator.

Gifted:  

Fever (The Chemical Garden Trilogy #2)
by Lauren DeStefano
Alright, I kind of acted foolish when this one arrived. 
But if you got it in your mailbox, you did too. Tell the truth....


Have any of you read any of these books? 
Did you love them?
Did you hate them?

I want to know! 
Leave me a comment and tell me all about it! 


Weekly Recap:


~Asheley


Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Thoughts On: Airel by Aaron Patterson & Chris White

Airel (The Airel Saga #1) 
by Aaron Patterson & Chris White
Published by StoneHouse Ink
Publish Date:  May 1, 2011
My Source:  review copy from the author
All Airel ever wanted was to be normal, to disappear into the crowd. But bloodlines can produce surprises, like an incredible ability to heal. Then there’s Michael Alexander, the new guy in school, who is impossibly gorgeous…and captivated by her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she can hear the sound of pages turning, and another, older story being written. It is the story of an ancient family, of great warriors, of the Sword of Light, and the struggle against an evil so terrible, so far-reaching, that it threatens everything. Airel knew change would be an inevitable part of life. But can she hold on when murder and darkness begin to close in and take away everything she loves? Will she have what it takes when the truth is finally revealed?  -(summary excerpt from Goodreads.com)


Airel 
by Aaron Patterson & Chris White

My Thoughts:  I have fallen fast and hard in love with Airel by Aaron Patterson & Chris White. I finished it a good long time ago but have been thinking on it for ages. I always come up to the same conclusion: I love it and that is all. But I want to be able to give you guys some good reasons why you might love it too, and after thinking and thinking and thinking - here's what I've got...


Why I love Airel & why you should read it ASAP:


1. The Setting: Multiple places, mutiple times, multiple genres, multiple points-of-view. You guys, I love a story that is a little bit complex, and what we have here is really two stories in one that moves along almost parallel until they combine into one bigger, even better story toward the end of the book. 
  • Boise, Idaho, present day. This story line is almost like a contemporary coming-of-age story with some paranormal mixed in. This is the story of Airel and Michael Alexander. 
  • Arabia, 1250 B.C. This story is absolute fantasy, complete with the Sword of Light (more on that later). This is the story of Kreios. 
*Do not let all of this "multiple" anything throw you off, scare you, push you away, or confuse you. It might seem by appearances that this would be a rough transition, but it is actually SEAMLESS and FLAWLESS in execution, which is amazing since it is done at the hands of two authors. I'm amazed. 

2. The Characters. Three main characters: 
  • Airel & Michael. Their story takes place initially in the Boise, Idaho setting. Airel is a regular gal - smart, pretty - who begins to notice some changes in herself. She suddenly goes from "pretty" to "beautiful" with flawless skin and pefect hair, and she has crazy bouts of vomiting at random times. Not only that, but she starts to notice that she heals super fast when the opportunity presents itself. Add to all of this the fact that she's hearing voices in her head and the fact that she's being stalked by a killer - and suddenly Airel is a little confused at what exactly is going on in her life. Lucky for her, she meets Michael Alexander right about the time all of these changes start happening. He's the perfect way to take her mind off of all of the weirdness. He's just moved to town and is incredibly handsome in an insanely this-can't-be-real, perfect way. Michael is the absolute epitome of the mysterious guy, and, as luck would have it, Airel and Michael take a liking to each other and have this instant, uncanny connection. They also both get kidnapped by the crazy stalker killer that has been chasing Airel, which throws the story into a whole new level. 
  • Kreios. A warrior/fallen angel from long-ago-Arabia that lost his beloved wife during childbirth. In order to protect his new daughter from the evil grip of the Seer, he will do anything - anything - even if it means breaking some pretty big rules. He's enlisted some of his must trusted friends, family, and allies and I loved these characters. Loved them. This group of people, especially Kreios, is well-thought, well-written, and well-developed. Kreios is a solid character that I connected with deeply, and I found that I flew through the other scenes so I could hurry to the scenes that contained Kreios and his awesome Sword of Light. 
3. RomanceLove
  • Romance. There is an insta-love relationship that develops between Airel and Michael Alexander. No love triangle. It is a little bit cheesy and almost unbelievable, but it is there nonetheless. However, it is necessary to the development of the story so I beg you to give it a chance and just chuckle your way through the cheesy parts. 
  • Love. The love that Kreios had for his newborn daughter - the lengths that he would go to protect her - were amazing and had me from the very beginning. If nothing else speaks to you in this book, it will be the love a father has for his child. 
4. Good vs. Evil. You guys! I love a regular ole' good vs. evil story like whoa. And this is it. It is! Angels vs. Demons, Airel and Michael vs. the stalker-killer guy, Good and evil, all over the place. And the Sword of Light to ensure that GOOD always prevails. There are battle scenes, y'all, and this Sword is amazing. And Kreios and his men...just...wow. 

I've always been one to love the stories of good and evil and free will and who-will-choose-which-side... Some of the scenes had me on the edge of my seat, turning the pages fast, biting my nails. I was making theories about things on my own, forming my own opinions to see if I would be right. Loved it

5. Betrayal. Like being kicked in the gut! It had me reeling, making faces, nearly crying. But I'm thinking I'll be reading more about this in the next book. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be reading more about this in the next book...hint, hint fellas...

6. Sword of Light. Okay, I know I've talked about it already, but it deserves its own number. I love swords, and I wholeheartedly admit this is both dorky and unladylike. But this isn't an ordinary sword. It has tons of power and the one who holds it does too. So some of the struggle and battling is over who gets to be the keeper of the all-powerful Sword. And you guys, I found my heart speeding up every time it was included on the page. I'm not joking. Loved the Sword of Light

Aaron Patterson and Chris White have impressed me so much with Airel because not only have they created a story that I have loved, but they've been able to weave together two seemingly independent plot lines and combine them together and create one that is bigger and more powerful for an ending that just WOW'd me. If that wasn't enough, they were able to write together - as two men - and create a young, female voice for Airel and make her believable. How amazing is that? Two dudes writing a believable gal? 

Airel and Michael - in my opinion - had the lesser of the story lines in the beginning, but by the end - I was very and invested into them because I'm hoping their story has not ended. Airel started out a regular teenage girl and developed well into this smart and sophisticated person...and I'm gonna stop there before I tell you the entire story. I'm just impressed with her growth and development through the book. As far as Michael goes, I need to know what is up with this guy and it is pretty apparent that I will find out with the next book, because it is titled Michael. His mystery and perfection started out being one that I rolled my eyes at a little bit - but as I read I truly became more and more intrigued because there is actually a reason for all of it. Now, with the ending of Airel like it was, I'm honestly having a fit for Michael's book. I'm having suspicions that all of the readers that didn't really connect with Michael in Airel could potentially do so and soon, and it is really exciting to find out if I'm right or not...

Friends, I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to read such a beautiful book. The cover is beautiful, the story is amazing and deep and thrilling, and I loved it. I found such a talented team of writers in Aaron and Chris, and I'm impatient to see what they'll come up with next. (Please hurry, guys!)

Airel will appeal to fans of

Contemporary/Coming-of-Age, Paranormal, Fantasy Genres
 
Battles of Good vs. Evil
Multiple Settings (time & place)
Multiple POV's
Fallen Angels/Warriors (yay Swords!)
Romance - Insta-Love with No Love Triangle
Stories with Strong Familial Ties 
Plot-Driven AND Character-Driven Stories
Betrayal

Airel by Aaron Patterson & Chris White 
is currently available for purchase.


**I received a review copy from the authors in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you SO MUCH Aaron, Chris, and StoneHouse Ink! 
 
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