Review: REBEL OF THE SANDS by Alwyn Hamilton

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Series: Rebel of the Sands, #1
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via First to Read
Genre(s): Fantasy
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

my rambles

Special thanks to Penguin First to Read for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

I’d been hearing so much about Rebel of the Sands, so when I saw a copy up for grabs from Penguin, I was sure to snatch it up. And I’m so glad that I did! Part middle eastern fantasy, part gunslinging western, this book was all magical badassery!

When I pick up a book set in the middle east, I almost immediately expect the writing to be amazingly rich. Something about the culture of the setting calls for a certain writing style that is detailed and equally as rich as the culture. That’s exactly what Alwyn Hamilton gives us. Her writing was so atmospheric. I could picture each setting and character vividly in my head. I felt like I was there with Amani.

Amani herself was an incredible main character. She brought the badassery to the story. Learning her background and motive for being a sharpshooter made her a character you rooted for. I loved following her through the desert, and seeing where the story took her. Jin, the mysterious foreigner, was another characters I adored. His quick wit was oh so charming! There is a smidge of romance between these two, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Quite the opposite, actually. It was slowly developed, building throughout the book. While the relationship is present, the story never strayed too long from Amani, the Sultan, and the rebellion.

The way that Alwyn Hamilton connected the dots from beginning, middle, to end of the story was very satisfying. The hints at rebellion, lost princes, and magic gave us just enough information to have a chance at putting the puzzle pieces together correctly. One thing that I wasn’t completely expecting: magical “creatures” and abilities! I don’t know why the thought never crossed my mind, but I did enjoy how that element was woven into the story, and eventually became a crucial part. That’s really all I can confidently share without spoiling the excitement of the story!

All in all, Rebel of the Sands did not disappoint! It kept me hooked, turning page after page, and immersed in the desert world. Definitely a new fantasy favorite!

8

xo

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Review: INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Series: Into the Dim, #1
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

my rambles

Special thanks to HMH BYR for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review! All quotes are taken from the ARC and are subject to change with the final printing.

Into the Dim had been so hyped up for me, I was a bit nervous that it wasn’t going to live up to that hype, and in turn my high expectations. But man was everyone singing it praises spot on! It had everything I could ever want in a book, and was written beautifully.

The very first line hooked me:

Everyone in town knew the coffin was empty.
-ARC, page 1

That’s a pretty amazing first line! The beginning did start off a bit slow, but once it picked up, it didn’t stop.

I’ve read very few books centered around the idea of time travel, so this was a refreshing and different storyline for me. There’s lots of interesting theories about ley lines, ancient historical places with strong currents, and other scienc-y stuff that has to do with time travel in the book. Also talk of famous inventors and scientists that all make the possibility of time travel seem convincing and real when you read it. I also loved the way that Janet B. Taylor weaved all the history into the story. The scenes set in the past were my favorites by far. The descriptions were vivid and rich, bringing you right into the past with the characters. Some of the characters in the book were real historical figures, too. I always find them super interesting, and end up researching tons about them after the fact. That happened with me and Eleanor of Aquitaine in this book. I hadn’t learned much about 12th century England prior to this, and I always love it when I can widen my knowledge of history! I also really liked seeing Hope’s reaction to actually meeting the people she’d been studying for so many years. It’s kind of twisty thinking about all of the rules of time, time travel and paradoxes. Hope actually poses the question: Did history play out the way that it did because I went back in time? Or would it have been the same anyway? It’s quite an interesting theory to ponder…

The characters were also a bunch of fun! Hope was a relatable character, although I haven’t been through many of the same things. There was just something about her that made you like her, feel for her, and root for her to succeed. Her actions, and reactions, to the crazy situations she was thrown into made the story seem that much more real. Phoebe and Collum were two others that I absolutely loved! Phoebe was so bubbly and fun, the polar opposite of her brother Collum who was strict, serious, and loyal. The friendship that formed between Phoebe and Hope was sweet, and even Hope’s relationship with Collum was a banter-y, but adorable one. I also loved the historical characters: sweet little Rachel, wise Sister Hectane, and strong Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. There’s also Bran, who I quite liked. He’s cocky and confident, but with a brooding, dark side. What’s not to love?! The one character that I didn’t like was, unfortunately, Sarah, Hope’s mother. Her actions and conversations with Hope didn’t seem natural. I mean, come on Sarah, your daughter just travelled through time to save you and you don’t really help her out that much… But we don’t get to see too much of her in this book, so maybe we’ll get some more mother/daughter love in the next book.

And yes of course, there’s romance. I hate to say it, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The introduction is hinted at very early on, and it’s a common thought in Hope’s head ever after that. I really, really loved how Hope actually rationalizes with herself when she catches herself thinking about a boy instead of her mom after learning about the whole time travel thing. It’s not often you see that in YA. The romance did grow on me throughout the book, though. The more information you learn about Hope’s past, the more it makes sense. I just felt like it developed a bit too fast to seem realistic. She was also a little naive at points, when concerning said love interest. This was the only thing that kept me from giving Into the Dim a full five star rating! But here’s the real reason I couldn’t completely jump on board with the whole romance: I ship Hope with someone else! There will be minor spoilers ahead, highlight to read! I shipped Hope with Collum so hard!! And I thought that maybe there would be a love triangle because I caught some subtle hints that Collum was developing feelings for Hope. But, alas, not in the first book at least. Maybe it was more a brotherly protection vibe I was getting? But the way he is so loyal in protecting her, and warning her about falling for Bran… I don’t know, maybe it was just me. Spoilers are over now!

Romance aside, Into the Dim is a fantastic read. It’s filled with excitement, tons of detail, and a story like none other! Wonderfully written, no small detail is left out. It’s clear tons of research went into crafting this incredible and magical story.

I cannot wait to read the second book! The ending provided some closure, but there is a lot more I want to learn about in this world!

8

xo

Review AKA a List of My Inner-Fangirl Thoughts Immediately After Reading: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: January 12th, 2016
Series: Ever After, #1
Pages: 350
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

my rambles

Special thanks to Spencer Hill Contemporary and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

BEWARE: EXTREME FANGIRLING AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

That gif emoji was me before, during, and after reading Bookishly Ever After:

  • From the moment I read the title I knew this book would be pretty much perfect.
  • Then I read the synopsis…
  • THEN I READ THE BOOK, GUYS!
  • It’s every book-loving, fangirl’s DREAM COME TRUE.
  • Know why? BECAUSE PHOEBE IS YOU. SHE IS ME. SHE IS US.
  • Phoebe reads tons of books and fangirls all the time. She met her favorite author and totally acted just like we do when we meet favorite authors. It’s just so accurate to the life of a real, true, fangirl.
  • Lots of fangirl slang included. I believe OTP was used more than once.
  • She has a crush on a guy that looks like one of her book boyfriends, okay? We all know this is a real problem for us. We must admit it.
  • But then her friend tries to set her up with a non-book-related person, AND IT’S SO CUTE!!!
  • Dev is so sweet and adorable, and their interactions are just CUTENESS OVERLOAD.
  • It’s also kind of a friend to more than a friend thing going on. I love those kinds of romances. Those are the best in my opinion, because they are already close they just have to realize their feelings for each other are romantic! *sighs*
  • So now I’m left pining for a romance like the one in this book therefore becoming MORE like Phoebe yet also less so…???
  • Oh, and speaking of fangirling, it’s a bit like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell in a way in that there are little excerpts of fake books that Phoebe loves to read between the chapters.
  • But what makes that even better is: PHOEBE TAKES NOTES ABOUT THE ROMANCES IN A NOTEBOOK. AND HOW TO ACT LIKE THE MAIN CHARACTERS! TO TRY AND FLIRT BETTER WITH DEV! ❤ ❤ ❤
  • There’s also diversity and LGBT characters which is always great to see.
  • BASICALLY, EVERYTHING IS ADORABLE.
  • Some parts are cheesey, but I was expecting that.

IN MORE OF A COHERENT SUMMARY: If you consider yourself a fangirl in the least, this book is perfect for you. It will make you smile, and you’ll relate to Phoebe on extremely high levels, and it’s just a good feeling kind of book! Of course it has it’s flaws, but I rate books mainly based on enjoyment level, and Bookishly Ever After was VERY enjoyable. I think this a book you can’t help but like, if even you are hyper-aware of some of the problems. I’m sure I’ll read some mediocre reviews, but I think the things people will find problems with are things like predictability, characters, etc. I bet I’ll find in each review though, that they REALLY ENJOYED it, and that’s what matters.

8

xo

Review AKA Fangirling: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Genre(s): Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Synopsis from Goodreads:

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

my rambles

WHY DIDN’T I READ THIS BOOK SOONER, PEOPLE?!? A Court of Thorns and Roses totally lived up to my expectations and the hype surrounding it. After reading and loving Sarah’s first two Throne of Glass books (Throne of Glass & Crown of Midnight), I was SO ready for more by her. I do have Heir of Fire sitting on my shelf, but something about ACOTAR was calling to me. Plus, pretty much everyone I trust when it comes to reviewing said I’d love it.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to focus on pretty much ANYTHING else while I was in the middle of it. For a fairly large book (okay, large for the average reader), I was able to finish it in about a day. I basically became a speed-reader, because I just COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN!

First of all, like Celaena, Feyre is SUCH AN AWESOME MC. Super badass. From the very first page we get to see her hunting and being awesome. She’s confident with herself. I also liked how prior to the main storyline, she was in a simply physical, I’ll say, relationship with Isaac. In YA we get a lot of female MC’s who make sex a really climactic point in the storyline. Whereas with Feyre, it happens, and it’s not a big deal, which was refreshing.

Of course we can’t forget the world and FANTASY! I loved the conflict between the Fae and the mortals. But I also loved how there was an aspect of inner turmoil within Prythian and between Hybern. I like it when fantasy has bits of political intrigue within their rulers, too. The Fae creatures themselves were awesome. I can’t speak to them all (because there’s a lot — this world has lots of depth), but I will say their distinct abilities are COOL. The other creatures are really interesting, too. I liked the idea of their being less-human-like Fae that are dangerous to the other Fae, as well. Does that make sense? It gets hard to talk about specific aspects without spoiling…

There is romance, too. I know that it’s been kind of controversial regarding the idea that it’s an unhealthy relationship between Tamlin and Feyre. But, I didn’t really get that feeling myself. I can see how others would feel like she was being held against her will, and that at one point was almost taken advantage of. But I think Maas wrote their relationship and story well enough to let the reader know that Tamlin wasn’t doing anything bad when it came to keeping Feyre captive. He tells her multiple times she can leave him, just not the Fae Realm. And regarding the hallway scene: he wasn’t himself then, and was overtaken by magic, so…

I quite liked Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship. Especially when you learn more about how it came to be, I found it really sweet, actually. There are a number of steamy scenes, too, if that’s you’re thing. But, while I loved Tamlin, I still felt like there was a little something missing from him. He didn’t seem completely developed. He was a little dry when he wasn’t expressing his great affections for Feyre or filled with passion!

There’s tons of action, too. Those were some of my absolute favorite scenes. BECAUSE UM, MORE FEYRE BADASSERY!!

I liked the ending a lot, and had it not been for Feyre’s final conversation with Rhys (more on him later), I would have called it pretty finite. BUT, SHE HAS A MOMENT WITH HIM THAT MADE ME GO WHATTTT!?!??!?!? And basically, now I need A Court of Mist and Fury ASAP. I can definitely see a setup for a possible love triangle in the next book, which I’m unsure whether I want or not.

I LOVE RHYS. BUT I LOVE FEYRE AND TAMLIN AS A COUPLE. Rhys is the sexy bad boy that I love, but I just wish there had been MORE of him in the book because then I’d definitely be all: GREEN LIGHT ON THE LOVE TRIANGLE. And shipping Feyre and Rhys all the way to the moon. When they did have scenes together, the sexual tension was on OVERLOAD. But, alas he was not very prominent until the last bit of the book. So I think I will continue to ship Feyre and Tamlin, and just keep Rhys for myself. Sounds good to me!

So all in all, I REALLY liked ACOTAR. About just as much as I like the Throne of Glass series so far. I did have my minor problems with Tamlin being sort of lacking in personality when he wasn’t making out with Feyre, but that didn’t affect my love of the book too much, CLEARLY. I STILL LOVE TAMLIN TOO. ❤

8

xo

Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genre(s): Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy – only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace…

…until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn’t exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

my rambles

Special thanks to Little, Brown BYR for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!
*Note: The Dead House is a book that is told in a unique way, through the incorporation of photos, and other types of media. Because I was given an ARC, there were many images that were left out, possibly taking away from the story. Please take that into consideration when reading my review.

When I first got The Dead House in the mail and opened it up, I was really surprised. I hadn’t known that this book would be designed and written the way it was. But when I finally opened to the first page to start reading, I found it to be an incredibly awesome way to format the book and tell this story. Throughout The Dead House you’ll encounter newspaper articles, journal entries, video and audio transcription, post-it notes, images, and more. How cool is that? Add to that that almost everything is dated (which will help you a lot because the book skips around in time), and an unreliable narrator, and The Dead House will blow your mind!

The Dead House is a compilation of all the evidence that the police have found, put in chronological order. Think of it like a notebook filled with outside pages being stapled and taped in, etc. This was awesome because while you read the journal entries from Kaitlyn’s point of view and get to know her, you also get to put the pieces of the puzzle together slowly when you read the transcriptions of the audio and video. It’s a weird feeling, seeing two sides of the same story at once, without having a second narrator.

I’m not sure how to approach talking about the characters, but this is definitely a character-driven story. Kaitlyn is the driving force from the beginning, but I loved getting to see glimpses of Carly and their relationship. It made their story really believable (Hence, unreliable narrator, maybe? I still don’t know. The ending tells you nothing, but I’ll get to that later…). The side characters also had their own interesting things to them — Brett, John, and Ari, in particular. All of them get close to Kaitlyn, which makes their roles pretty interesting

I wasn’t expecting a psychological thriller out of The Dead House, based on the cover and the little that I knew about it, but I loved how it all worked out! It’s a stretch to call it horror, I’d say it’s more eerie and unnerving to think about kinds of people like Kaitlyn and Carly.

As for that ending, as I said before, don’t expect answers and everything to be all cleaned up for you. That’s the exact opposite of what happens! But I loved how it all worked into the story — it was like a real life police investigation that was never solved. And after you read it, you’ll be like all those other conspiracy theorists trying to figure out your own theory about what happened!

All in all, The Dead House is a great choice if you’re looking for a story told in an unconventional way, with amazing characters and an extremely interesting storyline. It’s fast paced and exciting, and the ending will leave you speechless!

8

xo