Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

In what now seems like many, many moons ago, I met Sara Raasch at DragonCon in Atlanta. (Well technically I didn’t meet her exactly, just watched her speak during a panel but we made eye contact at least once.) She seemed so cool, like I wanted to be her friend so I immediately bought her book…aaaaand it sat on my shelf for a few years. But NO MORE! I have read it and it’s as epically awesome as I thought it would be!

17399160.jpgA heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow like Ashes is my favorite kind of YA fantasy. The young heroine grapples with identity as she works her butt off to make a difference in the world. She’s deadly with a Chakram (awesome boomerang-like circle sword) but still struggles with hand-to-hand combat. There is a good ol’ fashioned love triangle that has substantial evidence to cause torn feelings while still moving slow through the relationships. It’s like Raasch preheated the oven perfectly before baking this love triangle to perfection. By the end of the novel, it’s been put in the oven and the batter is still rising! My face is pressed perilously close to the scorching window on the oven door as I salivate in anticipation. (Okay, maybe went a little overboard there. Lol.)

This story follows a very classic YA fantasy plotline but I didn’t mind it. It didn’t feel regurgitated or overdone. Within the first few pages, I took one step into Raasch’s world and I was gone, lost, drinking the Winterian kool-aid. The stakes felt real and the desperation of the Winterians permeated throughout the novel, making the final battle at the end that much sweeter. Even though this is the first book in a trilogy, I liked that there was still a building climax that left the reader satisfied even while wanting more.

Now, about that love triangle. Mather is the King, long-time friend and crush and Theron is the newcomer prince. I loved that each character was introduced in such a way that I felt like I knew them even as Meira is getting to know them. It makes my heart giddy just thinking about it.

I really, really like this one and I can’t wait to finish this trilogy.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

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Blood Vow by J.R. Ward

This is going to be a divided review because I’m split. Blood Vow, the second book in the spinoff Black Dagger Legacy series by J.R. Ward, was a love-hate kind of read. Let me explain.

29496208#1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward returns as her thrilling, original spin-off series set in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood continues! When a brooding vampire warrior-in-training teams up with a quick-witted aristocrat to solve a deadly mystery, the only thing more dangerous than their mission is their undeniable attraction.

I don’t think I need to reiterate this if you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, but I’m a HUGE fan of J.R. Ward and her vicious band of kickass vampires. I love that her books can be so dark and dangerous but still include love and loyalty. Her vamps are kickass and the setting in Caldwell is a place I’d never want to visit but is real to me all the same. Blood Vow was a great representation of this kind of story. It had the right formula with all the sexy times and badassery that only Ward can provide.

However, I feel like Ward has crossed a line by intersecting her two series – the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Legacy series – too deeply. For a spinoff, Blood Vow had too much Rhage and Mary – the same couple that dominated the last BDB book that came out recently. The main characters in Blood Vow – Axe and Elise – had less face time than the various other perspectives, and barely interacted with Rhage, Mary and the rest of the brotherhood. Another issue I had was this book wa sold in hardcover, where the previous debut spinoff was sold paperback. It basically made Blood Vow a Black Dagger Brotherhood book with a few new characters. It made me feel like it was a publishing stunt to gain more revenue for the series and totally diverge from the original purpose of the spinoff – to go back to the paranormal romance formula without the tangled web of storylines.

Now, I’m not exactly complaining because I love these characters and I want to read all about them, but I felt it was inappropriate for a standalone spinoff to include a storyline that has been books in the making from a different series. If I’d never read a Ward book before and I picked up Blood Vow, I’d be very lost since it picks up later on in Rhage and Mary’s progressing plot line.

Perhaps Rhage and Mary were implanted so firmly in the story because Axe and Elise’s story wasn’t the strongest. It felt hurried and quickly put together. I was excited for pages of tension and anticipation knowing that Axe was going to guard the female he was attracted to. However, the tension was cut too soon with a rushed physical connection, and quite honestly, one of the weakest obstacles to being together I’ve seen from this author. I mean, people usually die because there is a murderer on the loose or people have to overcome death to be with the one they love! The obstacle that kept Axe and Elise from one another was a very simple misunderstanding that was easily overcome, making for a quick Happy Ever After.

As you can see, I’m conflicted. As an avid fan, it was the Ward fix that I needed, but as a reader, it wasn’t the best story.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

This beauty of a book appeared on my doorstep as part of the monthly Uppercase Box subscription. Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill has been on my to-read list and I was excited to get started.

28114396Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

This story is not what I expected. In a good way, I think. To be perfectly honest, I was on a reading binge when I read this book, like, I read multiple books from the same genre in the span of 2-3 days. With that said, the details blur together but I’m going to do my best to explain why I liked Ever the Hunted.

I was struck by the discriminatory world of magic v. non-magic that the author created. I enjoyed the tension right of the bat for the female protagonist Britta. (I freaking loved her name and it immediately reminded me of Faerie Queene’s Britomart. Both women went on an adventure looking for their love. I’m not sure if it was intentional but it made my literary heart pitter patter.) The nature of Britta’s birth, as a descendent of one who practiced magic and as a Bounty Hunter’s “illegitimate” daughter, made the romance between her and bounty hunter apprentice Cohen have this forbidden quality. The fact that Cohen was wanted for her father’s murder was another layer of hurt, betrayal and distrust, and I liked the way the story progressed as Britta slowly unraveled the emotional trappings to how she really felt and the truth of the matter. The history between Britta and Cohen made their romance believable, and I was definitely on board with their relationship.

The magic component was probably my favorite part of the story and I’m hoping it expands as the series continues. As much as I liked this story, there wasn’t anything overtly special about it. It wasn’t until the end that I felt the plotlines were weaving into a more complex and intriguing web, specifically when the life-saving magic appears to create a connection that I’m secretly hoping turns into a love triangle in book two. Who knows, though, I might be reaching.

The mystery of who killed her father is slowly unveiled throughout the story but I felt the ending was too quickly – and neatly – wrapped up. It depended too much on a person’s honor. Where was their honor when they wanted to put her out on the street and steal her inheritance earlier in the story?

Bottom line, I liked it. I was entertained. I swooned as Britta and Cohen fought their feelings for each other and I was intrigued by the magic. This first book gave the impression that there is far more to the story and I’m hoping book two is bigger, more vibrant and better than its predecessor.

STARS: 4 out of 5

5 Year Blogoversary and Bookish Resolutions

Today, I’ve been blogging for five. whole. years. Happy Blogoversary to me! If you’re reading this, thank you so much. It means a lot to me. Cheers to you.

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This blog started out as a New Year’s resolution, and I’m a goal-oriented person so I’m really big into creating and sticking with resolutions over the year. Here are my resolutions from last year.

  1. Make it to 100 followers. you-love-me-you-really-love-me-o.gifIf I add both my wordpress followers and those that follow me by email, I have a little more than 200 followers!! This is super exciting. Totally crushed this goal!
  2. Connect with more bloggers. raw.gif I did okay with this goal but I wish I had more time to engage and comment with fellow book lovers.
  3. Utilize Social Media and other review platforms.GIF-agreed-agreee-bummed-Christian-Bale-Kermit-nodding-satisfied-yes-GIF.gifI was fairly consistent with posting on twitter and Facebook. I did well updating Goodreads but I didn’t do that well with uploading my reviews. Overall, I’m satisfied.
  4. Post more discussion posts. 13105235_88aea114.gifI did okay with this goal. I posted a couple discussion posts this year, such as 5 Bookish Things I’m Thankful For and 5 Book Quotes that Help Me with Anxiety. I also started doing a monthly recap that’s a lot of fun because I get to talk about other things that I’m currently obsessed with. *cough* Vampire Diaries *cough*
  5. Start a book club. Fat-Amy-Crushed-it.gifI did it! I started a book club and I’m really enjoying it.

Now for my 2017 Bookish Resolutions.

  1. Stay consistent with my blogging throughout the year. This year, I kinda fell off the face of the earth a few times over the year, especially in November. I want to make blogging a priority this year to create engaging, consistent content.
  2. Focus on quality over quantity for reviews. I read a lot of books and as much as I want to review every single one of them, it’s not realistic. If I try to do all of them, my reviews aren’t as good as I want them to be. I want to focus on reviewing the books that matter and sharing them in a timely manner.
  3. Write more. Last year, I finally finished a novel. I’ve tried many times over the years but I never pushed it over the goal line. This year, I want to get serious about writing and maybe try this whole getting published thing. You never know. It could happen.
  4. Get more ARCs. Last year, I focused a lot on books I wanted to read and books that I already owned because the pressure of reading the new, up-and-coming books was too much. This year, I want to be on the frontlines of the publishing industry and read the new stuff coming out before it hits the streets. Wish me luck!

What about you? Have any bookish resolutions?

 

My Top Books of 2016

 Another year has passed us by, and to 2016 I say good riddance. However, I read a lot of good books over the year. In fact, I read 115 of them, surpassing my Goodreads goal of 100 books.
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 You read 115 out of 100 books. — 115%

In no particular order, here are my top pick books for 2016.

 A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
The Mirror King by Jodi Meodows
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
Play by Kylie Scott
Talon by Carian Cole
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
What about you? What are your favorite books of 2016?