Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I judge books by their cover. I know, I know, I shouldn’t — but it’s the harsh truth that I’m attracted to pretty and shiny things, hence why I never picked up Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo until I heard how amazing it was. I don’t mean to start on a negative note, but I HATE the cover. On one hand, it’s one of the few books with a cover that echoes the story but on the other, it doesn’t attract the reader. It certainly didn’t do it for me.

This book is pretty darn awesome. I wouldn’t put it up there with Divergent, Delirium or Hunger Games but it deserves some recognition.

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

The world in Shadow and Bone reminds me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It had a historic setting — traveling by horseback,  pretty gowns and dashing nobles within the court —with a modern dialogue — not sure because I wasn’t there, but I don’t think people talked and joked back then like we do today.  

I loved Bardugo’s concept of small sciences and the mystery of the Darkling. I LOVED the names of her characters and places. I’m pretty sure I cannot pronounce over half of them but they’re unique and have a pretty composition, like Etherealki. How imaginative one must be to create an entire world, name it all, and then throw in something as mind-boggling as the Fold into the mix. This world was dark and mystical surrounded by barbaric and sometimes fanciful settings.

I loved Alina and I totally understood why she was in love with Mal. However, my biggest issue with the book was it took Mal WAY too long to recognize his feelings for Alina. It frustrated me that she just accepted his blindness and didn’t question him when he saw the light.  However, Mal does a lot to save/help Alina along the way. The drama between them and their unspoken feelings adds a juicy tension within the story that I thoroughly enjoyed, especially with the Darkling thrown into the mix.

This story had a strong, likable heroine and a mini love triangle. It was exciting and unique and Bardugo’s writing sucks the reader in almost immediately. She describes her world so beautifully and the story is well-paced. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Young Adult books with a bit of magic and dark intrigue.

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day of the week that books are released to the world.

I’m anticipating the release of Outpost by Ann Aguire on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. I loved Enclave, the first book in this series. (Review Here) I was so enthralled in Aguire’s world. I cannot wait to see how Deuce reacts to being treated like a child. I LOVE stories about being underestimated and proving doubters wrong. I have a strong feeling this is going to be one of those novels. I’m also really hoping Fade comes around on his “feelings” towards Deuce, but we’ll see. Regardless, I’m excited to see more of Deuce fighting — she’s so kick ass!

Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight. To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out. Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

I love me some Black Dagger Brotherhood, but Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward has to be my least favorite in the entire series.

Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, warrior cloth as her brother: A fighter by nature, and a maverick when it comes to the traditional role of Chosen females, there is no place for her on the Far Side… and no role for her on the front lines of the war, either.

When she suffers a paralyzing injury, human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello is called in to treat her as only he can- and he soon gets sucked into her dangerous, secret world. Although he never before believed in things that go bump in the night- like vampires- he finds himself more than willing to be seduced by the powerful female who marks both his body and his soul.

As the two find so much more than an erotic connection, the human and vampire worlds collide … just as a centuries old score catches up with Payne and puts both her love and her life in deadly jeopardy.

This book has a lot of what’s expected in Ward’s novels. There is violence, romance and a small window into the supporting characters lives. As book nine in the series, it just didn’t measure up.

This book is primarily about Payne, twin sister of Vishous.  I loved all the interweaving of past characters by bringing in Jane’s old boss, it’s like revisiting old friends. However, the love between Payne and Manny went a little too fast for me and it didn’t mesh very well with the other character’s lives and stories. It seemed almost like that insta-love that I absolutely despise. Can I get a little character development?! In Payne’s defense, she was locked away by her mother for centuries. However, I felt like her voice was too much like the many other female protagonists in Ward’s novels. I expected her to be a little more hardcore, like Hhex, but she seemed too feminine and girly for someone who killed her own father with her bare hands. Manny wasn’t my favorite either. His excuses were lame and he seemed almost one-dimensional compared to the other characters. I didn’t believe he could fit in with the rest of the brothers let alone be in “love” with Payne.

However, the shining light in this novel is the concentration on the relationship between Quinn and Blay, or should I say the lack there of. THAT is the connection I’m looking for, their shared history, their hidden and forbidden feelings, and all the shit that goes with being part of Ward’s world. What an emotional whirlwind! I cannot wait to hear their stories. But, alas, I’ll have to be patient.

It wasn’t as exciting as the rest of the novels but I think it’s simply because I didn’t enjoy the main characters in this installment. I’ll still continue to read on. I simply can’t let these characters go, well except for Manny and Payne.

The Battle Sylph by L.J. McDonald

 The Battle Sylph by L.J. McDonald is a hidden gem. Literally. I’ve had this book on my shelf for months hidden between ones I’d already read. This is such an imaginative, creative, heart-warming story.

 He is one of many: a creature of magic, unrelentingly male. He is lured through the portal by pure female beauty, a virgin sacrifice. She is killed, and he is silenced and enslaved.

Such a dark ritual is necessary. Unlike their elemental cousins—those gentler sylphs of wind and fire—battlers find no joy in everyday labor. Their magic can destroy an army or demolish a castle, and each has but one goal: find his queen, then protect and pleasure her at any cost. What would a maiden do if she were given such a servant? What would befall that kingdom foolish enough to allow a battler to escape? Young Solie and the people of Eferem are about to find out.

  I absolutely loved the idea of a battle sylph, a being with vast amounts of power for destruction but also a willing spirit to serve a queen. What a unique world McDonald created! I’d never read or heard anything about sylphs before, let alone knew how to pronounce it. I was immediately drawn into this well-crafted novel. The sacrificial ceremony gone wrong was a nice touch and I loved the main character, Solie. What a realistic young female lead, brave yet unsure and smart enough to realize she doesn’t know everything. I found her to be a very likable character.

 There was a lot of clever lines and wit throughout the book which made it that much more enjoyable, especially the way Heyou got his name. Heyou was adorable. I will say at times he was a little too lusty teen when I wanted sexy battler but I’ll take what I can get. The other notable battlers, Mace and Ril, are the ones to watch. Yummy! I hope to see more of them in the future. The next book in the series, The Shattered Sylph, is on my to-be-read list. I’m hoping for a little more steamy action. There was a lot of fighting, but with only one sex scene, the book was lacking. I want details!

 This book was a treat with very promising characters. I want to see what happens next!

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday!

I love Mercy Thompson. I LOVE Patricia Briggs. I am so looking forward to the release of the 7th Mercy Thompson novel, Frost Burned, on Tuesday, Feburary 7, 2013. (The day after my birthday! Yay!) I love how Briggs creates such wonderfully alive characters without going too far. I love her badass heroine who really cares and her unique supernatural world. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the vampire seethe in this book.

In other words, I’m hopelessly addicted! Bring on more Mercy! 

 

Shapeshifter Mercy Thompson’s life is calming down, at least enough that she can focus on mundane matters like Black Friday sales. But on her return, Mercy is unable to contact her mate, Alpha Adam Hauptman, or the other members of their pack. All she knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related – and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from the most unlikely of allies: the vampire seethe.

Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

Finally! We get to hear John Matthew’s story! Lover Mine is the eighth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward. I absolutely love John Matthew; he’s been my favorite since the beginning and it’s been awesome to watch him grow. Naturally, I was esctatic when I got to read his story where he finally gets to be with Hhex.

John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown to himself and to those around him. After he was taken in by the Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was- or his true identity. Indeed, the fallen Brother Darius has returned, but with a different face and a very different destiny. As a vicious personal vendetta takes John into the heart of the war, he will need to call up on both who he is now and who he once was in order to face off against evil incarnate.

Xhex, a symphath assassin, has long steeled herself against the attraction between her and John Matthew. Having already lost one lover to madness, she will not allow the male of worth to fall prey to the darkness of her twisted life. When fate intervenes, however, the two discover that love, like destiny, is inevitable between soul mates.

This book was a little different from the rest, scattered between the chapters were different storylines. Both ended up relating to Hhex in the end but I was confused the majority of the time. I liked how it all came together, but I thought Ward spent too much time embellishing the individual stories. I wanted to read more of the present not the past!

There was so much in this book outside of John and Hhex’s relationship, there’s a lot of Blay and Qhuinn, Tohrment, and Payne. As I’m a bit behind I know that their books are coming up next so I can see how Ward is setting up their stories. I love that about Ward. She is a master storyteller. She has such a strong set of characters and a complex world and she pulls it off so seamlessly, everytime. It’s what keeps me coming back for more.

John and Hhex were perfect together. I loved that they were both broken and needed each other. I loved that Hhex was still Hhex fighting that fact that she loved and was loved. I loved that John accepted who she was even if it meant letting her go. *sigh* After book after book of build up, I was so excited to see them finally come together in such a great way. It was very fulfilling.  I had minor issues with the story, however. Obviously there is a language barrier since John Matthew can’t talk but in the book Hhex picked up sign language in two pages. It wasn’t very believable. I will forgive the minor discretion on the grounds that their witty banter back and forth made it forgivable. I thoroughly enjoyed them together and the love scenes were so steamy! It had that forbidden, never-going-to-happen-again feel.

I loved the deal with Lash being the bad guy, especially since John Matthew and now Hhex have history with him. I’m not a huge fan of the Lesser storylines in these novels but with Lash I actually enjoyed watching the psycho. It was also so heart-warming to see John Matthew and Tohrment come together again. It’s about time!

This is another fantastic installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. If you like Ward, you’ll love this one too. She hasn’t disappointed me yet!

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Wow, Cynthia Hand blew me away.

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand is the sequel to her debut novel Unearthly, and it’s awesome.

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

I LOVED Unearthly. It was a pleasant surprise I randomly picked up at the library last summer and I was super excited to read the sequel Hallowed. Hand really brought this series to the next level with this one. Her concept of being an angel-blood and finding your purpose is on par with teens today, paranormal and uplifting! We can all relate to figuring out what our purpose in life is even if we don’t have wings.

The thing I love most is her main character, Clara. She’s a real girl with real emotions and internal conflict but she isn’t annoying and whiny. What a refreshing protaganist for Young Adult literature!

I was shocked at the turn this novel took. For most authors it would be dangerous to go into such dark, tragic territory but I loved it! She pulled it off beautifully. There were tons of twists, and man, I didn’t know she’d go full out love triangle! Pick a team ladies, Tucker or Christian? Clara seemed so resolved in her decision to be with Tucker and throughout the book, she has legimate reasons for her change of heart. I love when stories make sense, they are so much more enjoyable. For a story that’s about Angels, Hand really puts a contemporary, down-to-earth spin on it. I feel so comfortable reading her writing like its effortless.

Do not let the mainstream cover fool you, this novel is a unique gem among a rock pile. There is so much depth to the characters and their emotions are breathtakingly real. The next book, Boundless, comes out January 2013. I cannot wait to see what Clara’s future holds and who she ultimately picks.