Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller is such a delight! I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down. It moved quickly, but it was also well-paced, slowly unraveling the secrets of the heroine and the complexities of the Pirate life.

33643994.jpgThere will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

I loved Alosa! She had some serious skill and snark. From the opening scene, when she gambled the lives of her crew for the lives of her crew, I was on board with her badassery. She came off a little overconfident, but once her secret was revealed, it all made sense. The reveal was such a surprise and it made this story that much better. Without that extra element, it may have fallen flat.

The entire time Alosa was on the Nightfarer, her interactions with Riden were so well done. There were times when I wanted more, but since this is the first book in a series, it was just enough of a taste to whet my appetite. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Alosa tore up Riden’s room. I can totally relate to Riden’s exasperation and I applaud Alosa’s balls. She always seemed one step ahead.

Near the end, I liked that we got to see the extent of what Alosa could do, and it acted as a catalyst for her and Riden to open up about their feelings for each other. Plus, the twist on the identity of a certain individual was a nice touch.

We only got to see the pirate king for a brief moment, but I can’t wait to see more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was so much fun to read.

STARS: 5 out of 5

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins is a wonderful conclusion to the Great Hunt Duology.

28370779.jpgLochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

I am a huge fan of The Great Hunt. As my first Higgins novel, I knew I wanted to read more of her stuff, so I was ecstatic when The Great Pursuit released.

Right away, I loved being back into the heart of this special story. The Great Pursuit is a great continuation of Aerity’s story. There is duty and passion, romance and danger. Even though the violence is tame, there is plenty of danger and real-world consequences for these characters. This is definitely YA fantasy.

Paxton and Aerity are such a mature couple for their age and this genre. I was yearning for them to be together the entire time. I also enjoyed the secondary romances sprinkled throughout, specifically Aerity’s cousin, Wyneth, and her sister, Vixie. I’m always down for more than one couple to get a happy ending. Other than Paxton, my next favorite character has to be the guard Harrison. He was the most intriguing of all the men. He is extremely loyal yet restrained. The lengths he would go for the sake of the kingdom was so endearing. I’m happy he got what he deserved. And I can’t help but mention Furball. I don’t want to give anything away, but the animal lover in me loved this aspect of the story.

I read this book like a demon – I couldn’t put it down. I thought I would miss the hunt aspect that was so prevalent in the first book, but the impending war and contention between the lashed and unlashed left me breathlessly turning the pages. Plus, my desperate hope for Aerity and Paxton to be together had me clinging to the storyline. If you like YA Fantasy, this is one of the best examples of it that I’ve read in a while. It left me swooning with a goofy grin in the end. I highly recommend it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft

I freaking LOVED Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft. I devoured it in one sitting.

When Connie Phillips began keeping secrets from her adoptive parents, she was unaware of the darkness she would bring into her world. Discovering she is the daughter of a crime lord had consequences even she could never have predicted. Consequences that put her first real love—Rocks—and her adorable baby sister in mortal danger.

With many lives balanced in her hands, Connie must find a way to save Rocks’ life, while keeping his identity a secret. Navigating the antiquated ways of the Camazotz culture, while trying not to offend the colony’s leaders with her modern technology, is harder than Connie ever imagined.

When Rocks defies certain death using present-day medicine, the Camazotz are torn. If they consider modernizing, they risk discovery and subsequent extermination by the aeronaughts. But hiding away in their mountain roost has left them vulnerable to an unidentified enemy slowly picking them off one bat at a time.

I met this author at a writing conference a few years ago and I’m so glad I did, because I might not have known to pick up this wonderful story. I loved book one in the Camazotz Trilogy, Sanguine Mountain. I was ecstatic to read book two when it finally arrived because these characters have been in my head, and I want more of them.

Bottom line: I love me some Rocks! Rocks is the best kind of love interest. He’s bad boy on the outside, good guy on the inside. Since he’s been isolated from civilization, he’s slightly naive, and with Rocks’ supernatural background as a shape-shifting bat, it’s totally believable. I loved the scenes where Connie had to explain modern technology or common turns of phrase. Rocks and his band of friends were so sweet and endearing. I wanted to squeeze all of them in a big hug, bat-form or no.

Sanguine Moon is the sweetest form of YA lit. The romance between Connie and Rocks was so pure. I loved the slow development of their relationship. It had that sweet high school crush, blush when you see each other feel.

I loved how this book expanded on the bat way of life. The leader of the Camazotz is a bit of a hard ass and I loved peeking into their sacred customs and secret lairs. The danger and tension of protecting the bat colony combined with the forbidden aspect of Connie and Rocks’ relationship was so compelling and had me turning pages as quickly as possible.

I was thoroughly impressed with this book. The writing was excellent and held my interest the entire time. There were only a couple times that I felt the plot slowed a bit, but it always picked right back up until the very end. Just like book one left me reeling, book two left me wanting more — more Connie, more drama, and most definitely more Rocks!

Read this. You won’t regret it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

By Your Side by Kasie West

Trapped in a library…all weekend…with a hot boy? Count me in. By Your Side by Kasie West is every book nerd’s dream come true.

30256248In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

It’s difficult to review Kasie West’s books because they are all so sweet and fun, and they take place over a short period of time so there is only so much you can say without giving anything away. Plus, I think going into Kasie’s books blind is the best way to read.

Bottom line, I enjoyed it very much. It hit all my YA contemporary romance buttons in true Kasie West style. I smiled, I laughed, I swooned. Her characters appear simple, but they have such complexity built underneath that makes them pop up from the page like real people.

I don’t want to give anything away, but a couple heavy topics are discussed in this book, and I loved the somewhat awkward conversations and interactions surrounding them. It is difficult and awkward to talk about serious things in real life and West played true to exactly how most teenagers would react. I wish I could have heard more of Dax’s story by getting his perspective. I felt his painful past was more intriguing than Autumn’s.

If I’m completely honest, this is my least favorite of all West’s books, and I wish she would have played with the library piece more, but it was still good enough to read in one sitting.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood had so much potential, but it didn’t quite deliver.

25463009Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

From the moment I read the synopsis, I was sold. It was Sci-fi. It had an arranged intergalactic marriage and a heroine that risked it all to save her kin! As I began reading, the plot was all there, the writing was decent but the storytelling wasn’t. It felt like being dropped into the middle of the story and missing the very important prologue that explained crucial background. I think there needed to be more world-building. Taking on intergalactic politics is a huge feat, and I wish the author took more time to describe the setting and customs of each planet to fully appreciate the drastic changes for the heroine.  I felt just as lost as the heroine.

I also wish the author would have spent more time developing the relationship between Eagle and Asa. They speak to each other what seems like five times the entire book but are madly in love by the end. I didn’t totally buy their romance. I wish they would have explored their differences and similarities more. The elements were all there. Eagle had a complex with his body image issues and Asa had to deal with her decontamination side effects. I wish they had recognized the common ground and the author had used it as a platform on loving who you are despite what you look like.

I really wanted to like this one, but it missed the mark. It had everything it needed to be an epic sci-fi romance but it wasn’t well executed.

STARS: 2 out of 5

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

 

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