OMG The Invasion of the Tearling

So, we’ve finished – one of us more slowly than the other – The Invasion of the Tearling.

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Catch up on our first two posts here and here.

As we resumed reading, our texting returned to the previous pattern.

Amanda: I am scared for the choices Kelsea is making!  But some of them I think I love.

Really glad there is a third book coming!

10% left. I am glad we didn’t stop at each 30% because I wouldn’t have waited for you sister.

Holly: This book is crazy. I am at 65%.

Amanda: [expectantly] Crazy good?

Holly: Crazy crazy. And icky.

[Many many days later]

Amanda: Please tell me you are off today pal.

[This because working has seriously interfered with Holly’s ability to blog/read/be-a-good-sister-pal/enjoy life]

Holly: Yessss! And I finished the Tearling in bed this morning. That is a weird book.

Amanda: But did you like it?

Holly: [Avoiding] You first. Did you?

Amanda: Not as much as #1, but totally. The [removed spoiler] was genius.

Holly: I do not understand why [removed spoiler]. I am so full of confusion.

Amanda: In the end, I really like how much we got about the pre-Crossing world – just wasn’t expecting it to come through flashbacks. [Or fugues]

Holly: [borrowing my niece’s go-to expression] It’s not my favorite.

Amanda: What I like is that Kelsea isn’t all pure bravery and goodness.  She’s clearly really got a dark side. I’m scared at how dark she’s going to go and whether she’ll be able to pull herself back.

Holly: What I didn’t like was the weird cutting phenomenon, the focus on Kelsea’s level of attractiveness and how that changes her, the combination of fantasy/magic and future/dystopia, and any and all romantic impulses and relationships among these people.

Amanda: Yes, clearly the cutting creeped me out. It breaks my heart whenever I read on that topic.  I didn’t like the physical changes at all – until we understand why.  Even then, I got it, but that certainly didn’t do a lot to further the story for me.  I wonder if Kelsea could have made the decisions she did for her personal life without those changes though?  I really hope there is some mutual love in the 3rd book! No loving anyone unattainable! I’m over that.

Amanda’s bottom line: I loved this, though not quite as much as the Queen of the Tearling.  I am kind of dying to see how it ends.  How does Kelsea pull it off?  WILL she pull it off?  She has to right?

Holly’s bottom line: WTF?

Have you read The Invasion of the Tearling?  Tell us what you think!  I know I’m going to be rereading both of these books before the end of the year – and buying the Australian editions because the covers are WAY better – anyone else?

2015 TBR Challenge: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness, Emmuska Orczy

Amanda

First published 1903

Source: Purchased for the 2015 Roofbeam Reader TBR Challenge

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Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

Check another book off my 2015 TBR Challenge list!  When I first stumbled onto The Secret History of the Pink Carnation years ago I was raving to my mom about this new series (everyone does this right?).  Her response was “Just like the Scarlet Pimpernel,” which resulted in a blank stare from me.  She explained the similarity and of course I learned yes, these were Lauren Willig’s inspiration.  There may be spoilers here but the book is over 100 years old, so it’s not my fault if the mystery is ruined for you!

So it took me a few years to get to the The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I am so glad I finally read it!  The Pimpernel is just as full of attitude and daring as his imitator the Pink Carnation!  I loved his determination to beat the French despite the risks.  I really didn’t think the romance would come through between Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney but I was definitely feeling the love in the end.  I liked that the Scarlet Pimpernel has his own band of charming agents – just like those that I’ve fallen for in the Pink Carnation series.  I really enjoyed the adventure!  I might even keep reading the other Scarlet Pimpernel books eventually to see how similar they are.  For being a classic this was a really light and fun read.  I’m definitely in the mood to finish the Pink Carnation series now – just 3 books to go!

They seek him here, they seek him there 

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere 

Is he in heaven or is he in hell? 

That demned elusive Pimpernel.

Bottom line, does it hold up to say a book by Jane Austen?  No.  But Sir Percy was delightful and honestly pretty swoon-worthy for a character over 100 years old! Thanks Mom for telling me to read this!

Next off my TBR Challenge List – Swamplandia!

Review: Uprooted

Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Del Ray Spectra

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Oh Agnieszka.  The Dragon.  The mother-effing WOOD.  I can’t think of any other book I’ve read recently where there was such a malevolent and discomforting presence as the Wood.  

So we have another Beauty and the Beast retelling – and while it could have been hard to follow ACOTAR for a fantasy I fell completely in love with this book.  The Dragon takes one young woman every 10 years from the valley to serve him in his tower.  Let’s be clear, the Dragon is a man, a wizard in fact.  In return for service from these girls the Dragon does whatever he can to keep the Wood from encroaching on the towns beneath him.  He fights the good fight, but he doesn’t always win against the Wood.  Men are lost, livestock, whole villages are swallowed.

I admit I was more than a bit suspicious of the Dragon at first.  Why must he take a girl for 10 years?  On return they all claimed he doesn’t touch them but all the townspeople have their suspicions.  Why is he such a jerk to poor Agnieszka at first?  Agnieszka was trying so hard for a life she never thought she would have! I was actively rooting against a romance in the beginning between these two.

BUT

Then I totally fell for the Dragon.  I loved the slow pace of this book.  It took a while for Agnieszka to even like the Dragon let alone to love him – it was a fantastic slow burn.   And while the romance is there and it was important, this book is about the magic and the evil and not about the romance.  Agnieszka is a loyal friend, daughter, a student and basically all around bad ass.  There were all kinds of twists I wasn’t expecting and most of all the Wood which basically gave me nightmares.

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If you want an awesome standalone fantasy with a kick-ass heroine and some sexy romance read this!  Then come back and tell me what you think.  Definitely one of my favorites I’ve read this year and one I will be rereading.

5 stars!

Thank you Del Ray Spectra and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Also if you like fairy tale retellings as much as I do Kat Kennedy at Cuddlebuggery did this awesome post all about Beauty & the Beast retellings!  I have to say I didn’t love Cruel Beauty as much as she did, but I am definitely adding the rest of these to my TBR!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2015 So Far

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post at the Broke and the Bookish is the best books you’ve read in 2015.  Poor Holly is too busy to read so here is my list in no particular order.

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  1. A Man Called Ove
  2. All the Rage
  3. Made You Up
  4. The Unquiet Dead
  5. The Shore
  6. Uprooted
  7. Dietland
  8. Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant.  I may never go in the ocean again.
  9. Hausfrau
  10. A Court of Thorns and Roses 

What’s on your list?

Still Reading: Invasion of the Tearling

Here we are, halfway through the Invasion of the Tearling.  Queen Kelsea is basically waiting for the evil queen of Mortmesne to invade with her superior and sadistically cruel army.  The Invasion of the Tearling promises to give some history of why people fled what was the United States and crossed to Europe to found the Tearling.

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This pretty much sums up our lives, right now:

Day 1 Reading:

Amanda: I am way too excited about starting this book. I fear disappointment.

Amanda: WTF? Manhattan?  I wanted history, but I didn’t expect flashbacks!  Where is Kelsea’s head?

Amanda: Bad Queen is real bad. She had seriously better get what is coming to her.

Amanda: Stopped at 29%

Holly: Hahah I read like 3 pages. #theworst

People, I mean well, I swear. It’s just that my reading time has been limited lately. My next text to my sister said “I am resuming human work hours next week,” which I’ve been trying to do. Clearly, these books Amanda shouts at me about aren’t going to read themselves! So, back to it.

[4 days after Amanda finished ⅓ of the book]

Holly: Hi. I read to 10%. I am slow. You can start a post about how slow I am. [She did.]

Holly: When Kelsea was talking about her rage, I was waiting for someone to belt out Let It Go! I was pissed that everyone knows rape was a weapon of war in the last invasion, but apparently it’s taboo to mention that men were raped. Because somehow that’s worse? Wtfever.

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Holly: I don’t mean to stomp on your parade. Things in the Tearling just annoy me.

Amanda: Yes, I was totally pissed about the rape conversation as well – but this is why I love Kelsea! She’s full of rage too! She doesn’t want to let things just be the way they always have been.

[Another day later]

Holly: I am at about 20% now

[Another day later]

Holly: I told you there was something in #1 about anti-sodomy squads! 22%

Amanda: Yes, yes you were right – dislike

[3 days later]

Holly: Announcement: I finished to 29% last night so we can discuss and move on.

So, for discussion:

Holly: I don’t think I hate this book, but I do think it’s weird. And I’ll try not to be SO slow through the rest of it.

Amanda: Ok so it is weird.  I so wanted the history of the Tearling, but I think I wanted to be TAUGHT a lesson.  I didn’t want flashbacks to Manhattan and spousal abuse. I am going with it and trusting, but right now this is not my favorite aspect of the book.

And we read on.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Books 7-9

We are a bit late in posting this, but we’ve are still participating in Pink for all Seasons, a yearlong readalong of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. The series is coming to close in August with Book 12, so we’re catching up with books 7-9 here. Click for our posts on 1-3 and 4-6.

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The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (2010)

Synopsis: Lady Frederick Staines, née Penelope Deveraux is off to India with her ill-gotten husband, where she becomes involved in local politics and, of course, French espionage plots, while also dealing with her relationship woes. In modern times, Eloise is confronting her own relationship woes and learning about Colin’s family.

Holly: I would give Penelope’s story a five-star review, but the Eloise and Colin storyline here really brought me down. There is a really hard-hitting passage where Pen realizes that her status as a young woman of the ton, while seemingly limited, affords her countless privileges that are not afforded to women of lesser social status – including the fact that women of the lower class can be assaulted with impunity. Pen is smart, fierce, and independent, and she demonstrates growth in her character throughout. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same in Eloise’s storyline – she gets fixated on Colin’s sister and his family and I found myself getting annoyed with all the Eloise chapters in this book. Pen is fighting snakes, rebels, and the limitations of women in society, and Eloise is fighting troubles of her own making.

Amanda:  I also loved Penelope and her devil-take-society attitude.  I will say I actually felt a bit bogged down in all the spies at the end.  But the end I was happy with how heads rolled (or not) and I actually liked the Eloise and Colin storyline.  As I’ve said, I’ve read all these but I can’t remember all my Colin and Eloise details- I want to see how this relationship works when there is trouble in paradise.

The Orchid Affair (2011)

Synopsis: Laura Gray, a former governess recruited by the Pink Carnation, finds herself as a governess once again while spying on Andre Jaouen, a high-ranking French police official. Of course, It turns out Jaouen is also hiding something, and the two have to learn to trust one another. Eloise spends minimal time researching this story while in Paris for a weekend with Colin and his dysfunctional family.

Amanda: I think this is by far the weakest link of France to Eloise.  She just happens to remember all this while in Paris for the weekend? I know she’s a smart girl, but that pushed things a bit too far for me.  Also, I like that Willig has expanded her cast of characters, but I do miss checking in with Henrietta, Charlotte and the other.  I appreciate Laura for being a woman that can take care of herself- but I like my references to Turnip too!

Holly: Willig has definitely gone off-script here with the way the modern and historical stories usually weave together – though, I suppose she tossed out that script back with The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Laura’s story was another refreshing change of pace – as a 32 year-old used to taking care of herself, the romance that developed was different from those of the young heroines in the first few Pink books.

The Garden Intrigue (2012)

Synopsis: British agent Augustus Whittlesby has been hiding in plain sight in Napoleonic Paris, posing as an insufferable poet. He is commissioned by Emma Delagardie, a widowed American in Paris, to help write a masque for the newly appointed Emperor. Hijinks ensue, sparks fly, and the awful Georges Marston gets what he deserves. Meanwhile, Eloise and Colin negotiate the terms of a relationship when each has commitments on different continents.

*Bonus note: for this book we got to be the moderators for the readalong over at Ashley’s site – so much fun!

Holly: I went into this book expecting to be annoyed by Augustus, but, of course, I was completely won over. I love how Lauren has continued to evolve the series, with each character having different backstories and motivations. And, I always seem to learn something – like this.

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Amanda: I loved that the series got a bit of American spunk thrown in (aside from Eloise obviously) with the delightful Emma.  She is such a smart-ass to poor Augustus that I had to fall for him a bit right away for holding his own against her.  It was also fun to see where our contemporary relationship might lead.  Colin and Eloise are heading into decision time – is a long distance relationship across the Pond in the cards?  And of course because I want to be like my sister, this book left me wanting to learn.  About Napoleon specifically.  I think I have my eye on a book or two for when Non-Fiction November rolls around.

Are you reading along with us?  Or considering giving the Pink books a try?

Review: Made You Up

Made You Up, Francesca Zappia

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Greenwillow Books

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

For a girl that does not read a lot of contemporary YA, what I have been reading in 2015 has been phenomenal! Exhibit 1. All the Rage.  Exhibit 2. The Walls Around Us. Exhibit 3. Made You Up.  This book just went straight to my heart.  Alex herself went straight to my heart and shattered it.

Alex is beginning her senior year at a new high school.  We don’t learn right away what’s caused her to transfer but we know this is her last chance to prove that she doesn’t need to be hospitalized for her schizophrenia.  What a weight to try to live with!  While Alex is trying to balance school, work, and her mental health, she is also trying to just be a teen with a family and to maybe make some friends.  And yet, Alex carries a camera with her so that she can look at printed photographs to see what changes.  Are those armed guards surrounding school real?  What about the snake looking at her from the ceiling tiles?

The ups and downs of this book nearly killed me. Alex’s story was emotional and moving, and yet also funny and so sweet.  I loved the innocent romance.  I loved the rivalry between the smart kids and I loved the friendships between the trouble makers.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read for me was the very, very end.  I just didn’t want it to end that way for Alex – and I thought the details could have been gentler.  But details aside it was the right ending even if it hurt.

4.5 stars!

Have you read Made You Up?  I need someone to discuss this with!  Also, how pretty is that cover?

Thank you Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!