#WeekofReviews My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

Published June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen

Kindle Edition, 512 pages

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

I’m so torn about what to say about My Lady Jane.  I loved this concept – I loved how these authors turned history on its head and gave Lady Jane Grey a happier story.  I actually liked Jane mostly – I always love a heroine bookworm!  But at the same time this book made me a bit crazy as I was reading.  I wasn’t expecting magic!  The magic was fun, it just threw me for a loop!  This book was really funny at times and yet so silly I couldn’t take it at others.  The romance between Jane and Gifford was just too cheesy for me, too fast and I wanted to slap Gifford every time I read “Call me G.”  

Bottom line, this book was crazy inventive and a really fun idea.  The snark, the feminism – all great!  I am very curious to see if the Lady Janies put their heads together again and if so, what chapter of history will they revise?  I’d definitely read another book from them, but My Lady Jane I don’t need to read again.  Again, I’m finding myself a black sheep on this book so if you like the concept definitely give My Lady Jane a try.  While it is a long book at 500 pgs it flew to read.  I have to say as a teen I think I’d have loved this – maybe I’m getting too old for YA?  Don’t answer that! 

Have you read My Lady Jane?  Did you swoon over G?  Is there a time we get too old for YA?  I weep at the thought! 

Thank you HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Hangovers and YA Reviews

Basically I’m still book hungover from reading Sweetbitter last week – I’m trying to find the words to review it soon.  In the meantime I’m trying to get over feeling I was lost in New York in Sweetbitter by throwing myself into Celtic lore in The Last Days of Magic and maybe imperial Russia in The Crown’s Game.  I’m also going between smutty romance in Washington DC in Sustained and even Charlotte Bronte’s Fiery Heart.  While I’m trying to do justice to my new obsession here are quick reviews of two new YA series I enjoyed.   

Tell the Wind and Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan

Published April 5th 2016 by Clarion Books

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

In the interest of full disclosure I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities – but I was so intrigued by the idea of a Dickensian retelling I had to request this book.  Lucie is a child of the two cities – one light magic and one dark. She’s in love with a boy – both light and dark.  I’m all for young love but the way this relationship was treated was a bit much for me.  I know teen relationships are intense and have real feelings – but really they are teen relationships and I just don’t get it when they’re treated as adults by adults.  That being said Lucie and Ethan were sweet – but his dark side is where the promise was!  

This felt like a mash-up of urban fantasy and dystopian and I am very curious about whether it will stick more in one genre in the future.  I was really impressed with the depth of the emotion I felt in the end of this book.  I was nearly in tears as things played out between light and dark.  I will definitely continue with this series – I just have to make sure I read some Dickens before this sequel comes out!  

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The Shadow Queen, C.J. Redwine (Ravenspire #1)

Published February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray

Hardcover, 387 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Dragons and ogres and witches – Oh my!   When you see that cover you know this is going to be a creepy version of Snow White.  This evil queen and her apples were deliciously rotten.  I would have enjoyed some deeper world building – when did magic become such an issue in Ravenspire?  Why are the ogres attacking Eldr?  But my curiosity was piqued and I stuck with the book.  I really liked Lorelai.  She was brave and loyal and definitely kicked some booty.  Kol grows up quickly from a party boy to a king and I loved his dragon side!  I want more dragon books!  Again, the evil queen was just fantastically evil.  I think she could have been deeper – but overall this was a great light read.  I flew through the Shadow Queen.  I hope the next Ravenspire book follows the story to Eldr for this dragon – ogre business to be resolved.  Basically all the dragons for me!

Thank you Clarion Books and NetGalley and Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: Down With The Shine

Down With The Shine, Kate Karyus Quinn

Hardcover, 355 pages

Publication: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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There’s a reason they say “be careful what you wish for.” Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for “balls of steel” and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it’s too late-after she brings some of her uncles’ moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn’t mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles’ moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their “important family legacy,” she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Magic moonshine?  Who could pass that drink up?  Ok, I might now after reading this strange little book.  But given the chance at a magical drink as a teen?  What a premise this book gives!  I read Down With the Shine in a day – I had to fly through it to see how this mixture of YA, grit lit, and magical realism could turn out.  I have to say that I was surprised and entertained all throughout.  Lennie knows that her uncles brew moonshine.  She knows there is a family ritual that offers a wish to go with drinking the first sip, but she doesn’t know that her uncles are really granting wishes.  So when she takes jars of shine and crashes the party of year and makes a wish for everyone who asks – let’s just say she wakes up to all kinds of messes the next day.  

I liked Lennie.  She started out pretty sad and morose, but she grew quite a spine in the end.  She has a pretty rough awakening to the wish granting business and I liked how she owned up to her mistakes.  I really was amused by her uncles and I wish there had been more time with them.  I would have liked to have learned the secrets to a successful moonshine/wish granting lifestyle!  

The description of the book should make it clear that Down With The Shine isn’t a book to take too seriously – with literal balls of steel and all – but it seemed to take things a little too lightly at times.  This started like it was going to be a very dark  – Lennie is a social pariah after the murder of her best friend.  But then after the party the feeling changed pretty rapidly which took me a minute to get used to.  I think the elements of darkness in Lennie’s life just didn’t balance with the silliness for me.  It was hard to go from feeling sorry for Lennie due to her murderous father, spaced out mother, and overall loneliness  to laughing at those balls of steel or teenage boys with working wings.  I like dark humor – I just needed the darkness and humor to meld more overall.   Had there been more depth all around I think this could have gone from a fun and fast book to a really great book. 

However, I thought the ending was clever and tied things up just right.  Not at all what I expected!  Definitely one to try when you want to laugh and are ok with some gross along with it.  

Thank you HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: The Serpent King

The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner

Published: March 8th 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House

Kindle Edition, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

I’m soon going to have to revise my feelings on reading YA contemporaries if I continue to get so lucky with my reading choices.  Generally if I’m reading something contemporary I want adult but I kept seeing buzz about The Serpent King on Twitter – thanks to Eric Smith in particular – I was convinced to request a copy.  The Serpent King joins some other excellent YA reads like All the Rage, Made You Up and Dumplin’.  This book had me smiling and then crying within pages.  

Dill, Lydia and Travis stand out from the other kids in their small Tennessee town, and though they are none too alike themselves they are the best of friends.  Lydia has a popular fashion blog and supportive family that have her ready to head to New York for college, Travis has a Game of Thrones-like fantasy world to escape to and an online community for friendship. Then there’s Dill; Dill has to visit his father in prison and a plan to go full time at the local grocery store after graduation.  Dill’s father was a snake handling preacher before he was sent to prison on the worst of charges and he and Dill’s mom- along with nearly everyone else- blames Dill for his sentencing.

The Serpent King begins as these friends are starting their senior year of high school both with dread and an eagerness to be done.  Zentner’s excellent storytelling put me right into a cruel high school experience in rural Tennessee.  I cringed as Dill and Lydia approached the parking lot each day.  But he wrote this beautiful friendship as well so the terrible was balanced with humor.  I loved how Zentner took the story right up to the edge of hopelessness and then showed how brave you have to be to move forward.  These three friends made me cry and they made me hope.

As a side note, absent or terrible parents are par for the course in YA, which made Lydia’s amazing parents stand out all the more.  I loved them!  Even if they were a bit over the top, it felt good to read about a real and loving parent-child relationship; especially to hold up against the other parents in this book.   

If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave and beautiful things

This book was all of those things – painful, brave and beautiful.  Read it!

5 stars!

Thank you Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance edition in exchange for an honest opinion!

Quotes taken from unedited copy in advance of publication.

 

 

Review: Into the Dim

Into the Dim, Janet B. Taylor (Into the Dim #1)

Published March 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 432 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.

I’m so sad to say that Into the Dim was, well in a word, dim.  When I first read that this book involved a secret society in Scotland and time travel I was ready to eager to dive in.  A book about a smart girl going back eight centuries to find her mom – awesome. Unfortunately I found Into the Dim to be pretty flat and predictable rather than the romantic adventure it was supposed to be.

Hope could have been amazing!  Instead she was really pretty disappointing.  For all that she was supposed to be so smart with her photographic memory she surely missed all the clues I saw dropping.  Honestly, I love a good plot twist as much as the next girl – but don’t give me a genius main character who can’t see a setup as it’s happening.  

None of the characters had much depth to them unfortunately so Hope had nothing to be propped up with besides the time travel.  I liked the idea of the travelers moving throughout history and preventing others from messing with treasures that might otherwise be lost to history – but again the execution was just off.  I think if Taylor had kept the time travel simpler rather than adding complicated machinery to lay lines it would have been better.  Don’t make the reader think too hard about the implausibility of your story – just go with it and I will follow you!

Where Taylor’s work shone through was in the research.  You can tell she really loves the time period and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  When Hope lands in the past Taylor really brought the scene to life. The smells and the dress, the class distinctions and the royal pageantry were all so well done.   But still, Hope and her companions felt too wrong footed for all the research and experience they were supposed to have.  The research just wasn’t enough to carry the book.  

2 stars

Thank you HMH Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Reign of Shadows

Reign of Shadows, Sophie Jordan (Reign of Shadows #1)

Kindle Edition, 304 pages

Published February 9th 2016 by Harper Teen

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Clearly I have a thing for fairy tale retellings so when this Rapunzel story crossed my path I had to read it.  Luna is no Disney princess.  She can handle a frying pan, but is definitely more a sword kind of girl.

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Luna lives in a world that has gone dark.  There are just a few hours of light in the day and there are some seriously creepy nasty things called dwellers that come out in night.  I want to know more about the dwellers! They were scary – but where did they come from?  They’re a threat throughout the book but I never felt like I had enough explanation.  I really hope that Jordan gives some more explanation in the series.  

Luna lives safely in a tower with her guardians.  Her royal parents were murdered at the time the darkness began and no one knows she survived.  When Luna leaves her safe haven to rescue Fowler and her friends life as she knows it is changed forever.  The eventual romance moved maybe a bit fast, but I still liked Fowler!  He’s grumpy and he’s haunted by his own past, but he really at heart is a better person than he lets on.  I really liked them as a couple and I thought they were balancing for each other as the story went on.  

Was it a tad predictable in some places – yes.  But this was still a really fun and fast read.  Jordan left off with a killer cliffhanger ending and I will be really looking forward to the sequel!  I hope Luna turns into an amazing queen!

3.5 stars

Thank you Harper Teen and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

My YA DNF Round-Up

I’ve been harsh on my young adult reading so far this year!

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Born Wicked, Jessica Spotswood

Published February 7th 2012 by Putnam Juvenile

Source: Library

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Well this was the first bust for my 2016 TBR Challenge.  I am not 100% sure how I ended up with Born Wicked on my list to read – I must have been in a witchy phase and I had heard good things about this series.  I read about 100 pages about Cate and her worries about hiding the magic she shares with her sister and I realized – I just wasn’t going to care what happened.  Cate learns she and her sisters might be the witches in an ominous prophecy – that had potential.  But then another trio of sisters begins to be arrested.  Why did it take 16 years for that to happen?  When I start nitpicking at plot details I know its time to just stop.  I’m replacing this book on my TBR Challenge List with The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (not at all alike but oh well!).

The Orphan Queen, Jodi Meadows

Published March 10th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: ARC from ALA Midwinter Meeting 2015

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

I had so much hope for Wilhemina!  An orphaned teenage queen trying claim her land and save her people from treacherous conquerors?  Sign me up.  But when Wil and her faithful friend sneak into the palace and she maneuvers herself into a meeting with the evil king – where he so conveniently gives her all kinds of important details?  No thank you.  Things were starting to feel a bit too predictable of where a knife might end up right in Wil’s back. Another series off the list!  

Becoming Jinn, Lori Goldstein

Published April 21st 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Source: ALA MW Meeting 2015

Harry Potter meets Twilight in debut novelist Lori Goldstein’s magical tale of sixteen-year-old Azra, a teenage girl whose Jinn ancestry transforms her into a modern-day genie. With the power to grant anyone’s wish but her own, Azra pretends to be human, spending her days at the beach, enjoying a budding romance, and evading her Jinn destiny. But when she discovers she may not be like the rest of her circle of Jinn, will her powers save or endanger them all?

Azra wakes up on her 16th birthday in an entirely new beautiful body – give me my first eyeroll.  Why can’t Azra save the world in her shorter body without perfect curves?  Azra doesn’t want to be a jinn, but knows she can’t change anything. That doesn’t stop her from doing a lot of whining to her mother and to herself about the path ahead of her.  As her mother has been Azra is part of a circle of Jinn all coming of age together.  So we have a group of mean girls basically with Azra as the odd one out who doesn’t want her powers.  It felt like all Azra was doing was taking her new powers for granted, not learning what she could be doing and then whining some more.  I’m out.

Champion, Marie Lu – (Legend #3)

Published November 5th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

Source: Giveaway from Cuddlebuggery

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

I hated to give up at the end of a trilogy!  I enjoyed the first two books in this series enough, but I think in part I’m just at the end of my dystopian rope.   I wanted to know what happened to Day and June but I also found the language to be a bit ridiculous.  I couldn’t picture Day talking the way he was written and I couldn’t keep reading.  I am still eager to pick up Lu’s new series and start The Young Elites!

Thankfully I’ve read two recent YA books that I LOVED and have to review soon so be on the lookout for those!