Friday, January 25, 2019

The Collar and the Cavvarach - ABB Review

I was flipping through my kindle, trying to decide what to read and considering the amount of books I have THAT is never an easy decision. Now I definitely have my "things" when it comes to what covers attract me.

The Collar and the Cavvarach is not the kind of cover that attracts me. But I read Annie's Prince of Malorn a few years back and loved it so much I recommended it to my husband and bought the paperback. So while the cover wasn't doing anything for me, I know I like Annie's writing. At last, I took the plunge and opened it.

Here is my review:
25454725Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

The story starts off with Bensin, a teenage slave who has one mission in life--to save his five year old sister from a life of slavery. Following up on a promise to his mother on her deathbed that he would protect his baby sister, Bensin is willing to take any risks or punishments for himself if it means his sister will be free.

How can you NOT root for this kid right from the start? He's so nice and patient to Ellie as he's sneaking her across the city in hopes to get her freedom before their owners put a slave collar on her.

Things go awry and I quickly realized this world is no joke. They have no qualms about punishing slaves, no matter their age. 

It's right at the start and I was already mad. Oh, I just wanted to storm the entire book and rant against the system. LIKE FOR REAL!?

And then this cop guy comes and he's all nice but he's like, "Yeah, man. I can see why you tried this, but it's illegal and you shouldn't have done it. How about you do it the legal way."

I was like WHAT!!! LEGAL WAY! So on his one day off he can get odd jobs(which seems to earn about $50). And he has to save THAT up to buy freedom! So yeah, sure, he's going to buy her freedom in 30 years!!!

Bensin gets a break though when he gets sold off and ends up the property of Steene. Steene's always been against slavery, but finds himself doing something he's morally against when his life is turned upside down by a divorce from his rabid ex-wife.

I mean, that woman is seriously evil. She's a rich snob who managed to roll around in a messy divorce and come out with every hair in place and everything in her pocket. Meanwhile Steene is struggling to pay rent on his crummy apartment!

AND SHE DOESN'T EVEN WANT ALL OF IT! She just wanted to make his life miserable and prove she could take everything. Complete witch and I hope she falls in a mud puddle somewhere. Special space mud that never washes off.

Steene is a coach at a local training academy that teaches kids and adults sports they can enter competitions with. The only one that's really focused on in the book though is the cavvarach and shil sport. Which as far as I could tell was a sword with a backwards hook halfway up the blade and a plastic-like arm shield. 

Anyway, Bensin is actually pretty good at this so they make a great pair. As far as slavery in this world goes, Bensin's got himself the ultimate position.

This is a great story about the grey areas in life. Bensin's got his faults along with his good attributes. Ellie, while adorable, has some of annoying traits that little kids have. She's real. 

Shigo, the Watch officer that talks to Bensin after they're caught hires Bensin to do some work for him and is generally kind to him and supportive. While he's a nice person, he never says he's against slavery or seems to have any issue with it. His comment to Bensin early on about just save up money to buy freedom sums up his views on it. There's a legal way to get out of it and regardless of the practicality of it, go that route. 

While that makes it hard for me to like him, I also see the value in having a character that's not just all bad or all good.

Steene believes slavery is wrong, yet he owns a slave. One of my favorite parts of the book is his struggle with the choice he makes. It doesn't matter how much time passes, his conscience is still bugging him.

He knows his choice is wrong and he tries to validate it. He tells himself why it's different, but the little voice in his head tells him that his reasoning is flawed. 

This is a tale of one boy's love for his sister. It's a tale of friendship and courage. It's a tale full of trying and failing, and picking yourself up and trying again. A story that talks about how a person's value isn't any less than someone of a different status. It's got black and white and shades of grey. It'll make your stomach churn with the reality of slavery and its ugliness and how easily people accept it. And it'll make you cheer for one slave boy who never stops fighting.

Another 5 star book by Annie Douglass Lima. I was cheering for Bensin, railing against the system, lecturing Shigo, and ready to storm the universe chanting freedom!!! This is Bensin, the little Braveheart, who will risk it all for his sister.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Book-A-Month Sister Challenge

For 2019 my sister and I will be reading a book together each month. It sounded like fun to be able to talk about the same book and be reading at least one book a month. I've also invited some friends to join in as well throughout the year if they see anything interesting.

We spent the first week of January gathering recommendations from readers and authors, plus doing a little browsing of our own. Then we had to take that sizeable list and each of us made a list from that of the ones that we were interested in, which then we compared her interests with mine and took the choices that made it on both lists.

Lastly was the step of narrowing it down even further to have 12 books and then putting them into some semblance of order. Here's the final results!


15812184KYLA HAS BEEN SLATED - her memory erased, her personality wiped blank. This is the government's way of dealing with teen terrorists: give them a fresh start as a new person. They teach Kyla how to walk and talk again, give her a new identity and a new family, and tell her to be grateful for this second chance.

It's also her last chance, and to ensure that she plays by their rules, Kyla is fitted with a Levo, a bracelet that monitors her mood and will stun - or even kill - her if her levels of anger or violence rise too high.

As she adjusts to her new life, Kyla can see she is different from the other Slateds. She asks too many questions and is plagued by nightmares that feel like memories - even though she shouldn't have memories. Who is she, really? Has her Slating gone wrong? And if only criminals are Slated, why are innocent people disappearing? Torn between the need to understand more and her instinct for self-peservation, Kyla knows a dangerous game is being played with her life, and she's determined not to let anyone see her make the wrong move...

Reasons we picked it: I have a love/hate relationship with dystopian novels. While I love the idea of them, I rarely see them executed well from start to finish. But I can never resist trying another one. My sister is new to the genre and picked this out of the 12 for us to read first, so I'm guessing it looked interesting. (I'm totally writing these segments without putting her on the spot and grilling her for details on her choices!)


27181052The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.
Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a 'humans only' high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

When Dakota’s human friend is kidnapped, she takes on the mission to find her. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

Reasons we picked it: My family likes to joke about the "ninja chick" trope. You know, the girl who's somehow beautiful and completely tough and ruthless at the same time. The one who we're told is able to take out 20 guys at one time, blind-folded, and injured. But we never see her do that. We just see her get in the way and screw things up with only the occasional super awesome move that's totally eye-rolling in its utter lack of believability.

Well this cover looks like that and it both intrigues me and makes me smile. I mean, come on, the girl is standing there in the typical "ninja chick" attire with her hair all perfect and flowing down. Spotless white shirt. Plus she has a gun AND a fireball. Because one just isn't enough . . .

Personally, I just want to know what the story behind this cover is. The story sounds cool, but the cover makes me laugh. I really hope it's good though.

This is also an Indie book and I love reading and supporting talented indie authors.


24763621The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride....

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They've enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel can't help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds--and the mysterious man who rules it--she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Reasons we picked it: Uh, because the cover is gorgeous? And yes, it sounds interesting. I'm stupid about covers that have clear objects with random items inside them. I don't know why. My number one cover hook is definitely people. If I see an interesting person on a cover it makes me want to know their story. The see-through object with stuff inside is the runner up though.

I also find the blurb super intriguing, so I have high hopes for this one.

42974536When an unstable and determined sorceress kidnaps their parents and hides them in a book, longtime friends Jenny Fletcher and Josh Park find themselves deep in the world of the Compass. It's been their ticket to unprecedented adventure and is now their only hope for finding their families. The Compass can take them into any book, but it cannot protect them from the dangers lurking within the pages. That is up to them. 

The Sorceress has left a ransom note demanding items from five familiar but dark fairy tales in exchange for information on their parents whereabouts. Jenny and Josh must rely on quirky but highly skilled new friends who know all about the Compass for training and support to survive the fairy tales, obtain the required items, and face the Sorceress herself.

While dealing with the loss of their families and the dangerous tasks set before them, they press toward independence and adulthood but also battle inner doubt and fear. It's a constant struggle, wondering if they have what it takes to finish what they've started, maintain their friendship, and stay alive in the process.

Reasons we picked it: This was one of the indie books that was recommended to us specifically for this challenge. This made it high up on both of our lists, so it was an easy choice to make for the final cut. It sounds interesting to for the unique plot. I can't say I've read many stories where the character in the book travel through other stories/books. I can recall a kid's series and then a young adult one, but that's it.

Set in Georgian England, fifteen-year-old Sophia is trapped by the limitations of living in a man's world. Forced by her father to give up everything she loves, Sophia is ordered to make a new life in Bath. By day, she is trapped in the social whirl of balls and masquerades. By night, she secretly swaps her ball gowns for breeches, and turns to highway robbery to get her revenge ...When one man begins to take a keen interest in her, Sophia must keep her distance, or risk unmasking her secret life.

Reasons we picked it: We both enjoy historical fiction, so there was no way we weren't going to pick at least one from that genre for the list. This author's work has come across my radar a few times and I've really wanted to try her. I've been stalling based on the lack of availability of her material. (no ebooks and no copies within my state's library system) But now I'm going to track down a hard copy and buy it so IT BETTER BE GOOD! Hopefully we picked a good one to start with.

The Green Ember

23754884Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

Reasons we picked it: My sister has heard a bit about this book and was intrigued. She suggested it and I've enjoyed a few animal character books over the years (anything from Watership Down to the Redwall series) so I was like yes, let's do this.

Selkie's Song

41748503 A selkie’s song can enchant a man and tame the sea . . .

Naia’s unusual love for human things led her to become the sole artisan in her clan. But when this passion leads to her abduction, she loses more than contact with the sea when her pelt is taken. Unable to shift forms or return to the sea without it, she knows she will die if she cannot recover the pelt soon. Cut off from her family, Naia must appease the human king while persuading his lovesick son to honor past arrangements.

Malik has loved and lost before, an experience leading him to shy away from love. When Naia is stranded, however, he risks everything to find her. Together they uncover a plot that would sweep up humans and selkies alike in a war that would destroy the Five Kingdoms and possibly all of Sonera.
When the enemy acts, can they save sea and land . . . and each other? 

Reasons we picked it: We've both read previous work by Rogers and when we were scrambling to finish this list and needed one more, I went, how about this one? I love retellings and thought it means I'll now have to wait to read this *eye twitches* it'll be worth it to drag my sister along with me. I was going to read it sometime January, but I guess I'll stare longingly at it on my Kindle until then.

And of the other last minute choices I threw out there, this was the one my sister liked best. Fingers crossed. We picked this one off the list of suggestions for indie authors as well.


Kitrin always assumed her overprotective parents were just paranoid—until the trees started talking to her.

For sixteen years, Kitrin has longed for freedom from her parents' secluded manor. However, one day her emotions trigger flowers to bloom, roots to grasp, and trees to bend. Unable to control her unexplained abilities, she finds an anchor in a young man with sad eyes and his own secrets. A man who sends sparks through her, but who might be tied to her destruction.

Palace outcast and nephew of the king, Prince Bryce lives under the shadow of his father's execution for treason. To escape the toxic court, he takes comfort in the company of the kindhearted Kitrin. However, as the mysteries in both their pasts are revealed, he realizes the girl he loves is someone his family wants dead.

Reasons we picked it: This was another one that was at the top of my sister's list. I'm going to hazard a guess and say this is one of the ones she is the most excited about. (Just a hunch). I already had it on my Kindle so that worked out perfectly. I was like yep, you know I'm interested. It's sitting right here in my epic pile. And this makes #3 for a selection taken from the indie recommendation list.


42854173What if the job you took to stay alive might be what kills you?

Kade knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it's like to lose everything and everyone around him.

His job in a Stormer Unit guarantees not just his survival in the decimated country of Azetaria, but his sister Meg's. Even if it means facing the Numachi warriors baying for his blood, he'll do what it takes to keep her safe.

Hadley is alone and surviving the only way she knows how. By hiding where predators won't find her and scavenging enough just to keep her alive.

When desperation drives Hadley to search for her missing brother, she mistakenly accepts the offer of recruitment into the Stormer's camp, only to be partnered with Kade and sent as a scout into Numachi territory.

The intimidating young Stormer may just know where her brother has gone. But can they stay alive long enough to find him?

Reasons we picked it: I just love this cover, and the blurb. This was another one that ended up at the top of both of our lists when we put them together. Also one of the indie books recommended to us for the challenge.


The Mermaid Summer

About a hundred years ago, they say, a mermaid ruled the cold sea that washed around northern lands. She was beautiful and dangerous, and the fishermen of those parts were careful to speak well of her. All but Eric Anderson, who scorned her very existence - until the day the mermaid smashed his fishing boat against the rocks, nearly killing him and his crew. Eric bid his family good-bye, for after that, no one would sail with him. His grandchildren, Jon and Anna, never stopped missing him; so from the moment they saw the mermaid for themselves, they knew it was up to them to tame her and bring their grandfather home again...

Reasons we picked it: My friend Heather Hayden mentioned how much she loved this book a few years back and it's been lingering on my to-read list since then. This was our other last minute addition and I'm like, now's the time to finally get around to reading that!

Dragon Kin: Sapphire and Lotus

32858696The ancient prophecy speaks of the five, those who will come to save all of dragonkind. Like most prophecies, it leaves out a lot of the important details…

The very ordinary elf girl who runs for the hills—and gets lost in a forest instead. The dragon egg, precariously perched high in a tree on a dark winter’s night.

And what happens when egg meets girl.

Reasons we picked it: Dragons? Do we really need more reasons? I didn't think so. 


Battle for the Throne

26138751The sword quivers in Alaina's hand. With one final stroke she can slay the gladiator, win back her freedom ... and lose the trust of her people forever. 

The Kingdom of Falyncia is caught in a war between a guardian spirit and a powerful demon. Alaina barely escapes with her life, yet she vows to one day claim the throne. When she finally returns home, the enemy has her in his grasp. Now she must choose between freedom and staying true to her people. If she fails to kill the gladiator, torture awaits. Can she find the courage to face it? Or will the demon triumph again?

Reasons we picked it: This was our final choice from the list of indie books we had recommended to us. I found the blurb interesting and it sounds like it's going to be a nice medieval fantasy/adventure romp. 

And that's our 12 for the year! 

Friday, January 4, 2019

2018/2019 Reading Challenge(s)

Welcome to 2019!

Image result for 2019 reading

I'm going to start by wrapping up how my 2018 reading challenges went.

I had two challenges for 2018. One was a challenge of 50 books overall. I surpassed that with 63! Last weeks post highlighted my favorites from that group.

The other was my classic challenge. This marked the first year where I did not finish that. Originally I had 8 books. Around July my life got way busier(something I knew ahead of time and should've planned for), that combined with the density of some of my choices made me realize it wasn't going to happen and I ended up moving some of them to the next year.

Here's how those panned out.

    Image result for persuasion jane austen
  • Persuasion - A pleasant read. I gave it 4 stars and enjoyed it. I found it different from the other works I've read by Austen, and yet it held the same charm that draws me to her writing. I love her characters and this held up to that standard of intriguing and three dimensional characters.

  • Diary of Anne Frank - This is the only book I dropped after much consideration and strongly believing(as I stared at it on my dresser) that I wouldn't find it to my taste.
  • Related imageA Christmas Carol - This was the only book on my list that I've read the full, unabridged version of before. It definitely has held up since my childhood and gave me all the warm fuzzies. Was the perfect Christmas time read. 5 stars for this.

  • David Copperfield - Though I started this one early in the year, I put it aside and left it unfinished. Well-written, but I'd made the stupid choice of watching the movie shortly beforehand and the story was too fresh in my mind to launch right back into it. The movie is extremely close to the book, making it like re-reading the same thing back to back. This is one I've moved to my 2019 classic challenge.
  • The Secret Garden - As a child I loved this book. The thought of a secret garden, a life with no school, no adults, and friends was like . . . the best. I thought that'd be so much fun. All the animals and the garden that was beautiful and hidden away.

    As an adult, reading the unabridged version, I was bogged down with the rather lackluster story. I found myself frustrated with the stupid accent. It wasn't easy to read and then the kids thought it was "So cool" that they used it in addition to the characters who actually had a moors accent.
     Related image
    It's also not a very exciting book and there's not much for characters outside of the three kids. Reading about three little kids playing outside does not intrigue me as an adult. I already knew what was going to happen which didn't help either.

    I gave this 3 stars because I do feel it's a good book (the abridged version where the accent is gone) for little kids who'd love to dream of their own special garden, but for adults it was very, very dull.
  • A Tale of Two Cities - Another one I didn't get to in 2018 and will now be on my 2019 list.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Soooo, I basically hated this book. This netted one star and if it wasn't for the fact that I try to finish my classic challenge books and I was reading it at the same time as Elise over at I would've put it in my did-not-finish pile.

    The extremely short version is that the book is boring as rock watching and full of inaccuracies regarding marine life and other ocean-based facts.

    The long version can be found in my ABB post.
  • War and Peace - I also didn't have time for this one and it's now on my list of 3 for 2019.
So there you are! For 2019 my classic challenge will be A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, and David Copperfield.

Added to that will again be my usual 50 book general challenge through Goodreads! And also my Book-a-Month Challenge with my sister(more on that next week!).

I'd love to hear what you're hoping to read this year and if you have any book challenges!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Top Ten Books of 2018

It's my favorite post of the year! I'm going to be covering my ten favorite reads of the year. There's a mix and match of indie and traditionally published as usual since I read both and hold them to the same standards. New this year I'm going to be lumping together any series books I read. ie. Books 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the same series if well-liked won't take up four of my 10 spots.

#10 - The Alabaster Throne

Prince Taldirun demands the glory and honor that a commander for his father's royal army deserves, but an attempt on his life and a plot to destroy all he holds dear sends him on a secret journey to uncover the truth. 

When he returns, his father's enemies have taken control of the kingdom and Tal must use all of his skill, wits, and courage to save his father's throne from falling into the hands of the foul and evil traitors.

Breath-taking adventures and heart-wrenching betrayals drive the young prince to a final confrontation he never wanted. He must either win the Alabaster Throne or perish.

A new adult fantasy with a prince who has to outsmart not only his army's general, but his own mother. Death lurks around the corner for Prince Tal as he goes on a quest to find out the truth. There's plenty of action and some great character that make this book the perfect fit for my top 10 list.

#9 - Wish of Glass 

Deep in a forest glade, the fey folk dance with Isidore, a young human child. Their kinship is the very fabric of her childhood. When her mother dies and her world darkens with sorrow, Isidore finds her belief in the fey folk wavering.

The love of her new step-sister, Blessing, proves an unexpected gift in her time of need. Yet even as their friendship blooms, Isidore begins to see that Blessing is everything she herself has always wanted to be, but is not. Jealousy grips Isidore as she watches this beautiful new sister steal away all she holds dear.

Driven to desperation, Isidore turns to the fey folk once more. She has only one wish to claim from them, one chance to make things right. But she must tread carefully. For wishes, like hearts, are easily broken. And obtaining the one thing she desires could mean destroying the one thing she truly needs.

I'm not a huge fan of first person present tense. I almost didn't go past page one of Wish of Glass based purely on that, but I did and I'm glad. This takes the story of Cinderella in a very new direction. Isidore is the "ugly step-sister" and this is her story. Only unlike most retellings that, if told from the step-sister's point of view, would flip it so Cinderella was evil and the sister nice, this one keeps the roles the same.

The "romance" was very poorly handled in this, but all other aspects were very well-done. We get some great insight into Isidore's life and understand how she became the person she was. She felt very real and though I kept wanting to learn her lesson, I know plenty of people don't "get it" the first time, or the second time, or the tenth time! And people sometimes take years to figure it out.

Isidore was a character that showed more depth than I usually see in fiction.

Amazon (Free on KU)

#8 - The Green-Eyed Prince

An enchantress is murdering Queen Kartek's soldiers and threatening her kingdom. Kartek's healing jewel has been lost. Her only hope of saving her kingdom seems to lie in the hands of the green-eyed stranger who claims he can save her jewel and her people...but the price is steep, and the young queen doesn't have much time.

I rarely get to see retellings of the Frog Prince and I believe it's a hard story to tell. So how crazy is it that in the past two years I've found three retellings of this tale that I really like?

This is so original, it's amazing. The story takes place in an Egyptian-esque setting rather than a medieval European one. Kartek is not a princess, but a queen. She's got a lot of responsibility, a lot going on, and when she tries to take one moment to herself . . . she loses the most important trinket in the kingdom. Kartek was an amazing character and I loved the relationship between her and the stranger that developed.

Amazon (Free on KU)

#7 - The Dark Unwinding

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. 

This was my favorite historical fiction read of the year. I actually did not think that was the genre(based on the cover and such). It started off a bit slow, but quickly grew into an interesting tale of mystery and intrigue. A village that's off the grid, and a story of what might have been happening on the estate of an eccentric member of the gentry.

#6 - The Princess and the Pea (and the Frog Prince)

Only a true princess can save the kingdom.

Alaric wants to be king. He wants to continue the peace and prosperity his father created in Aeonia. But with enemies questioning his bloodline, he’ll have to put his heart on the line and marry a stranger to secure his right to rule. Only a match with a true princess will silence his critics and protect his future.

Lina’s lineage is shocking at best and deadly at worst. Over a century ago, she put herself into an enchanted sleep to seal away a horde of dark creatures. Now both Lina and the goblins are awake. Without friends or resources, Lina must seek the help of the Council of Kings. To get close enough to them to ask for aid, she’ll need to convince everyone she’s a true princess.

As Alaric searches for a true princess to marry, Lina tries to convince the world she is one. But while they try to save the kingdom on their own, they may find what they need is each other.

I really, really, really enjoyed this story. It's now tied for first place in terms of my favorite retelling of the Princess and the Pea. I was a little meh when I first saw this. The cover was pretty, but generic and the titles are the same name as the original. It made me wonder if the author had put much work into the story.

This is a don't judge a book by the cover circumstance! Why not the 5th star? Because it was a stingy year for me. A lot of good books, but I was being picky about that 5th star and I think this would've been better without the romance.

A great set-up from the start. It hooked me. There was great scenes, great writing, great description, etc. A nice bit of world building, and the characters were amazing. Lina especially was awesome.

Lina was a shadow warrior, the last of her kind. Her powers were amazing, her story was gripping. I loved so much about this book. But I truly felt that there wasn't a real romantic connection between Lina and Alaric, and that the romance was only in there because it was a retelling of a romance fairy tale and it "had" to be in there. I thought it would've been great if Lina and Alaric would've become friends and allies. There was so much potential for Lina to be the leader for the rebirth of the shadow/light warriors, etc. I think being queen will limit that as well.

The Frog Prince continues the series, only following Alaric's brother Stefan and one of the other princesses--Carina--from the first book.

Carina was a great character, and on I was eager to follow. Though her story was different than I imagined, I loved another great twist on the Frog Prince tale.

Amazon (Free on KU)

#5 -  A Tale of Beauty and Beast

Princess Sophia has helped her twin sister Lily save the duchy of Marin. But now Sophie faces an even greater threat when she sets out to free the cursed kingdom of Palinar from its beastly prince. Alone, and with danger on every side, Sophie must navigate a magical castle and its even more mysterious master to discover the secret to breaking the curse.

Last year the first book of a new series set in the world of the Four Kingdoms(or rather outside of it) made it on my top 10 list. I spent this year catching up by reading book 2(this one!) and then reading the first series set in the Four Kingdoms world. I definitely feel like the second series is off to a better start. I'm enjoying it more overall.

Sophia's a fun, strong character and the situation in Palinar is intriguing. The ending felt a bit rushed, but overall another great Beauty and the Beast retelling. I'm hoping to read the next few books in 2019.

Amazon (Free on KU)

#4 - The Scarecrow King

Princess Rinda of Balinore knows of only one way to get her cold father’s attention – to be an obnoxious, spoiled princess. When she finds out that the king plan to marrying her off to a far-flung nobleman, she puts on her best bratty show in front of the entire court. But Rinda’s plan backfires, and she soon finds herself married to the most ineligible man ever. Her new husband is monastery raised, poor as dirt, and a traveling minstrel.
A very, very bad traveling minstrel.

But Alek isn’t what he seems like on the surface, and neither is Rinda. She won’t take this marriage lying down, and schemes to find herself a new husband – a king. But as she and Alek travel together, they learn that not only are appearances deceiving, but goals can change in the blink of an eye, and love can get in the way of the strongest plans…

This was one of my first reads this year, but one I couldn't forget! I've never read a retelling of King Thrushbeard that I can recall and yet it's a fairy tale that I think is loaded with potential. There's definitely a challenge to somehow create likable characters and a believable romance.

This does both. The characters grow and change. I didn't start out liking them, but I understood at least some of the motivations behind Rinda's actions. I understood why she was causing problems and maybe why she was so upset to be foisted off. Instead of having Alek be the perfect one and Rinda the one who needs fixed, the story took a twist and gave both characters flaws and positive attributes.

I loved the entire journey and this was closely tied with the next few books on my list.

Amazon (Free on KU)

#3 - Call of Kythshire

The existence of the fairies of Kythshire is a secret kept for over a century... 

Azaeli has trained from a young age in order to follow in her parents' footsteps and become a Knight of His Majesty's Elite. When she finally becomes a Squire, her name is mysteriously left off of the list for the King's Quest. Her parents set off without her, but the simple quest goes awry leaving tragedy in its wake. 

With the help of her lifelong friend, Rian, a Mage apprentice, Azaeli must unravel a sinister plot that threatens both the existence of Kythshire and the peace that her people have celebrated for generations.

Another great surprise this year. Call of Kythshire is the first book in a series that promises magic and adventure.

Great characters. I loved Azi and Rian. The story line was super interesting. I loved that the characters felt more like adults in terms of their thinking, dialogue, actions, and that they weren't really answering much to parents (It felt more like they had to answer to rulers, higher ranking guild members, etc.).

I'm not a huge romance person because I'm very picky about it. That being said, when romance is done the way I like it, I love it. This was one of those romances. It wasn't the biggest thing happening, no love triangle, the characters started out as best friends, and overall it had a lot of characteristics that I really enjoy.

Great layers to so many of the other characters as well. The villains, the secondary characters, they were three dimensional. The world was simple in a sense, but intriguing in that simplicity. You have a pretty ordinary medieval fantasy type world and then a fairy realm. The story didn't get lost in trying to build a confusing world and the connections between the ordinary and extraordinary were unique.
Amazon (Free on KU)

#2 and #1 - The Red Winter Trilogy

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. 

Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can't match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. 

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope... and hope is all she has left.

Because I have the trilogy I'm claiming two spots(plus I really didn't have any other stand out books that screamed they had to be on this list).

The first book, Red Winter, netted 4 stars for me. I found it a bit slow at times and the hint of a love triangle had my hackles up. But I still really enjoyed it and grabbed the second book later in the year.

I binge read the second book. It was so engaging, so good, I couldn't set it down. I immediately picked up the third book(which is really rare for me to start the next book in a series right away).

By the time I finished the third book I was hunched over my Kindle in the middle of the night with toothpicks propping my eyes open and going, "HOLY CRAP WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!?? NO, YOU CAN'T END!"

I don't normally like stuff like this!!! Which makes it all the more impressive. I don't like love triangles and there was a shade of one throughout the trilogy that gradually faded out. I don't really like FMC's like Emi(a bit girly, soft-spoken, etc.). Or MMC's like Shiro(smooth talking, womanizer's who think they're God's gift to women). But they were so well-written that despite not normally enjoying those character traits they had, I really REALLY liked this. I was absolutely fascinated by the plot, the characters, the world, everything. 

If you just ewwed at all those things, try this anyway. This was a case of a book being amazing despite some normally negative traits.

And that ending was THE BEST! I was so hoping it wouldn't be all . . . oh, I can't say. But in short I'm super glad it ended the way it did on all aspects. And Yumei is so cool too. Really well-written characters and an amazing story line. I'm sad it's over.

This was the one series I recommended to my sister this year that I REALLY wanted her to read. I was going, "If you ignore all my other suggestions, read this."

To my sister's boss . . . I'm sorry she won't make it into work, I've got her hooked. She's currently on book 2 and is going, "I'm reading so fast I have to stop myself and slow down and go back."

The links below are for the first book.

Amazon (Free on KU)

I hope you had an amazing year of reading in 2018! Looking forward to next year!

Curious to see other best of 2018 lists? Check out Elise over at Magic Writer's top choices of the year!

Lots of Fantasy/sci-fi suggestions from M.T. Wilson's favorite 2018 reads!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Chataine's Guardian - ABB Review

I've been busy for most of the year and haven't blogged in some time. I have managed to get some reading done this year, despite the insanity.

My sister and I have recently started discussing books we like. She was like, "You have to read this book. Chataine's Guardian. Read it!"

I was curious to see what she likes in a book and when she sent me a copy, I was like, okay, let's do this.

I finished and she was all excited, "So what do you think?!"

Without further ado, Chataine's Guardian.

18912441"I am assigning a Guardian to ward you. His name is Roman. . .."
Thus begins Surchatain Karel's explanation to his daughter, ten-year-old Chataine Deirdre, as to why her life is about to change dramatically. Karel's small country, Lystra, possesses the only navigable river on the southern coast of the Continent. The provinces that surround Lystra want its river trade, and will do anything to gain it--even kill the heir to the throne. So Karel places her life in the keeping of the most capable and trustworthy soldier he can find.

Willful and spoiled, Deirdre sees this guradian only as another servant to be mastered. She teases and abuses him as he places his life on the line for her day after day, year after year. Deirdre does not know at what point she beings to love him. But Roman knows from the very beginning that to love her will mean his death.

I will say that this blurb is at least better than the original that I saw.

On the tenth birthday of Chataine Dierdre, her father, Karel, appoints a guardian for her--Roman, a captain of the guard. Karel is aware of the Lystran law that, at age 17, Chataine must choose the man she will marry. But he never dreams her choice might be Roman, the homely soldier who calls himself a "Christian".\

Welp, now if you wonder what the story is about . . . you know! Considering it's at like 70% that Dierdre falls in love with Roman and then later that she chooses him, it's like they gave away the entire story!

Enter the only two characters that we really see much of. In one corner we have Dierdre, the spoiled brat princess who doesn't have any redeeming qualities. And in the other we have Roman, the poster child for perfect soldier.

The book starts when Dierdre is ten and Roman is twenty-two. Roman's life is completely taken up in protecting Dierdre and he seems to have nothing else going on. And on the odd day where he does something else like, train, or talk to another human being, Dierdre gets all butthurt.

Now this book didn't have much going on plot wise. We're basically waiting for Dierdre to grow up and though there's a thread of danger that winds throughout the tale, it's overshadowed for the most part.

Here's what got me in the end.

1. Dierdre is horrible! She gets sick at the 70% mark and wakes up magically a better person. There's no character growth for her entire freaking life to make us like her. I was like, wow, if we're going to root for her than we have to LIKE her. But she doesn't change, doesn't improve. And then she gets sick. Gets better and wow, she's now a new person. No explanation, nothing. Even if it was explained as "rewriting my personality because of a near death experience" that's such a cop out. 

And even then she's still not that great of a person. It's really hard to be stuck in one character's pov the whole book when that character is a pain in the rear.

2. The age gap. I'm sorry. Age is not just a number. Maybe when I was a kid it would've been all romantical and stuff to have an older guy be interested in a teenager. Like maybe 14 year old me would've been all, "Oh, older men are so mature and boys my age are totally juvenile. It'd be so flattering to have an older guy like me." blah blah blah. But at 29, the same age as Roman when he starts his relationship with Diedre . . .

Can I just say eww? EWWWWW. I'm sorry, but the thought of being romantically involved with a 17 year old is NASTY. I can't imagine looking at a kid(and yes, 17 looks like a kid to me) and being like, oh yeah, I could totally go for that.

So gross. While this may work out for some people, it didn't work for me. Especially when it's revealed that Roman has "loved" her for longer than that. Um, at what point did this adult look at this kid he's been protecting and think, "Mmm, she's pretty dang fine. I want to marry her."

When she was 10? 11? I mean ANY point in that seven years between 10 and 17 is disturbing! And this isn't historical fiction, so don't try and tell me that it's historically accurate to have this kind of thing going on. And even if it was, still nasty.

Now I get why Diedre is like, mhmm, let's go. Roman is nice, doggedly devoted, and one of like two people who is actually involved in her life. It's natural that a kid who isn't matured enough yet to be able to sort through emotions would look at the one guy in her life who's nice to her and be like, "I love him!"

But Roman . . . he's got some sort of stockholm syndrome going on. This girl's pretty much owned all his time for the past 7 years and she gets insanely jealous when he spends time with anyone else. He's taken all sorts of abuse for her. Other than that . . . I don't get it.

She's not anywhere near his maturity level. She's not nice. She's actually been a complete pain for their entire history together. She's A CHILD. And here's where we lead into part 3.

3. The relationship. They finally decide they love each other and in like a few days of that hey have a speedy "wedding" involving running up to whoever does the marriage licenses and asking for a speedy recital and the signing of paperwork. Then they run off to this garrison and uh, don't waste any time.

Yes, it was light on detail, but I REALLY didn't want to think about some guy my age banging a kid. Blech. And for real. There's so much going on and yet they couldn't wait to jump in the sack. Which is basically the only thing that happens once they get married because the next day she gets shuffled back to someone's house to avoid conflict. 

Months go by with zero contact between them and of course, Diedre is pregnant.

Now, I know that can happen, but for story purposes I don't know what the author was thinking besides, "Hey, let's make this even more insane by having Diedre need to hide a secret pregnancy!"

Having them be like, Day 1: We love each other. Day 7: Let's get married in 5 seconds. Day 7 continued: Bammedy Bam. Day 8: Cya Diedre, sending you away. Later . . . Oh no, I'm pregnant and the people I'm with can't know I'm married!!!

I just can't even . . . 

Any other thing happening was neatly tied up. All the leaders and stuff died so the new blood could come in. Deus ex machina comes in at the end to make sure the impossible odds are overcome with ease. 

I gave this 2 stars because I did finish it and the writing itself was decent. I just couldn't get past the personality of Diedre, the stomach churning "romance", and failing to like even Roman.

Which is really too bad because I wanted to like this. Especially since my sister was a fan. Now her challenge is to recommend a book I can do a 5 star ABB on!