4.27.2015

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows | Book Review

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (The Orphan Queen #1)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover (courtesy of HarperCollins)
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
Publication Date: 10 March, 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.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.
We'd left our disguises outside to accumulate mud and grime ... Melanie and I hadn't bathed since our last trip to Skyvale, either.
     Authenticity was the key to deception.
     Sometimes authenticity was disgusting.
-The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, p. 39
I got a wonderful package in the mail last week that included this book. Looking through the contents, I immediately knew which book I would read first, as I'm a sucker for fantasy. I was not disappointed.

The Orphan Queen opens with Wil and her Ospreys, a group of teenagers who witnessed the slaughter of their parents, and the ruin of their country. That was when they were kids. Now, as teenagers, they steal to survive, live in an abandoned castle, and are plotting to take back the kingdom of Aecor and place Wil--the lost heir--on the throne. Enter Black Knife: the rogue vigilante who might be able to foil all of their careful plans.

The Orphan Queen has some great fantastical elements including some outrageous but fun monsters that make the perfect adversaries. Magic is banned because of the damage its use has done to the world...which makes things hard for our heroine, who happens to be one of those with powers. Regardless, there is a dangerous magical element growing that threatens to wipe out everything in its path. Wil is determined to stop it, even if it means putting a hold on getting her throne back.

I love so many things about this book. What makes it a five-star book for me is the combination of a few things: there is consistency in character traits an abilities, with even the supporting characters having complex personalities. I appreciate the many grey areas the characters come across which help define them and their motives. Not everything is black-and-white, which makes for some interesting twists in story. The characters don't always do what I think they will do. Wil is also a great heroine. As she grows throughout the story we see the effect those grey areas have on her, and also the change in some of her core beliefs. She grows stronger and smarter, and better able to fulfill the role of queen that she works so hard to reclaim.

As far as downsides, there are a few areas that I felt were a bit odd. The story takes place over many weeks, but much of that time is skipped over in favor of focusing on a few interesting days here and there. While the need for skipping so much time is understandable, it does create the feeling that the story takes place over only a week or so, instead of many weeks.

There are also a few things that seem out of place in this medieval-like world, such as a train that is mentioned, or glass mirrors. Magic is used to explain the existence of some of these things (except the mirrors), but it is always mentioned in passing, so we never get a good idea of the exact parameters of the world's advancements and inventions.

I also think it is worth mentioning that one of the biggest secrets of the book is easily guessed in the first chapter alone. However, I still had such a fun time trying to figure out when the truth would come out in the story, and feel that it added somewhat to the already great tension.

Overall, this is a fantastic story. It got this in-a-two-year-reading-rut girl to fall in love with a story and its characters once again. I don't think there's a better recommendation than that.

Temp. Guide
Read this if:
...you like guessing games, espionage, broken characters, and realistic heroines.

Content Warning
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*
Highlight between the brackets to reveal the text.
{Sword and knife fighting, a few quick descriptions of wounds, and some details of how a few people are murdered. Oh, and kissing. :)}



Similar Books (for various reasons):

Purchase The Orphan Queen:
Jodi Meadows:
Website  /  Twitter  /  Facebook

10.13.2014

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst | Book Review

Chasing Power Book Cover
Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: eGalley (courtesy of Bloomsbury & Netgalley)
Genre: YA, SciFi, Supernatural, Paranormal
Publication Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla's life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she's caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel's kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive... or survive.
"Who hides an evil spell, and then leaves a map?"
-The Queen, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst
It took me a chapter or two to get into this book, but it was a great adventure afterward. I really enjoyed the main character, Kayla's, relationship with her mother, and getting to see how it changed over the course of the book. It was great to see Kayla herself change throughout the book as well, and really come into a sense of confidence. She was great at feigning confidence in the beginning, but seemed to grow into her own skin (and power) as the story goes on. There are also some great parallel happenings going on with those around her, which I thought were cool. The characters around the main character aren't stagnant beings in the book--they learn and grow along with her.

Though there is a romance in the story--and yes, it happens a bit too quickly for my taste--it isn't based solely on the romance alone. In fact, a lot of the book has to do with family matters. And the rest is about an adventure that takes Kayla and Daniel to many cool places. Side note: The homeschooler in me was excited at all the history you can pick up from reading this book. :D 

I think the biggest thing I didn't like about the story is how seemingly easily things are resolved towards the end. Yet there are two big reasons I still appreciate the ending:
1.) I didn't see it coming, as I was expecting something much different and thrilling. This is, I suppose, the result of being used to reading things with thrills for the sake of thrills. After contemplating the ending, I appreciate the subtle way in which things unfold.
2.) It didn't end there. The conflict gets resolved, yes, but because of certain events there is still much the characters have to do before returning to their lives--and even then, their lives won't be the same. I appreciate Durst showing the 'after' of things. The cleanup, if you will.

In all, this is a fun book with very cool magic, and characters who change and grow as the story progresses. It is also another great Sarah Beth Durst novel! This is the third standalone of hers that I have read, and while each of them have been as different as night and day, I have enjoyed them all!


Temp. Guide
Read this if:
...you like family drama, and adventure with a touch of history.

Content Warning
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*
Highlight between the brackets to reveal the text.
{Other than a few kissing scenes, and a few swear words, the book is pretty clean! There is also one possibly scary scene in an ancient crypt, but it's only scary if--like me--you don't like bones!}


Also from Sarah Beth Durst:
Drink, Slay, Love   /  Vessell (Don't have a review for this one, but I recommend it!)  /  More here

Purchase Chasing Power:
Sarah Beth Durst:
Website  /  Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Blog

9.30.2014

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak | Review

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak
Publisher:Penguin Audio
Format: Audiobook (courtesy of Penguin Audio)
Genre: Childrens
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any listener into a comedian.

You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here's how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say....BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.

Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)

I was so happy to get a copy of this audiobook for review! I hadn't heard of it until then, but I just knew it was a book my son would love. I played it for him today, and we both sat there laughing through the entire thing.

About the audiobook:
BJ Novak is hilarious! His inflection changes as the words change, and it had even me laughing. The audiobook is great, even if it feels a bit short (be prepared to hit replay to listen to it again...and again, and again). If you aren't feeling up to reading this and sounding silly (oh, come one, what are you afraid of?), or if your child keeps asking you to read the book over and over, the audiobook is the perfect solution. The only downside I can see is that now I want a copy in book form, so I can read it to my son myself. :)

About the book:
In a way, it reminds me of one of my favorite children's books: The Monster At The End of This Book. It calls for the reader to be interactive with the words, meaning that each time it is read, the result can be made new and fresh, creating laughs long after the child has memorized the words--and if my son is any indication, your children will memorize them, only to repeat them back to you.

It was a fun experience for the both of us. This is the perfect book for young children, as they get to hear their parent--(or any other person who reads it to them--speak utter gibberish, and say funny and completely insane things. It's fun to let loose once in a while, and this book facilitates that.

Edit: We have since played this for my nieces and nephews, after my son begged me to let them hear it during a sleepover. It was such a hit! I had to play it three times over, while five children from the ages of 2-9 laughed and giggled, and shook the entire bed.

Some quotes from these kids:
Reader: "Can I please stop reading this book?"
Four children: "No!"
Fifth child: "Never!"

Reader: "Next time, PLEASE choose a book with pictures."
Three children: "Nope!"

Reader: "The end."
2-year-old: "Again! Again!"

Temp. Guide
Read this if:
...you have children, or like to let your own inner child out.

Content Warning
None.







Purchase The Book With No Pictures:
BJ Novak:
Blog  /  Twitter  /  Instagram

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