Monday, February 29, 2016

The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker ARC Review

The King Slayer (The Witch Hunter #2) by Virginia Boecker
Published by Little, Brown and Company
a division of Hachette Book Group
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Pre-Order: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Magic, suspense, and political intrigue collide in this sequel to The Witch Hunter, perfect for fans of Graceling and the Grisha Trilogy.

Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He's readying for a war against those who would resist his rule—namely Elizabeth and the witches, wizards, pirates, and healers she now calls her friends.

Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth's strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she'll go to save those she loves.

In this sequel to The Witch Hunter, Virginia Boecker delivers a powerful story full of action, suspense, and romance.

The King Slayer was just another one of those books that didn't stand out, and was overall disappointing. I suppose that saying it's the perfect book for Grisha fans also creates higher expectations, which didn't help. Though it did have its strengths, such as the gradual and realistic development of friendships and romances, I still had a difficult time immersing myself in the story and truly enjoying it. Thankfully, Elizabeth grew on me as a main character throughout this book, because she was much less annoying and whiny in this one. Instead of relying on others nonstop, she actually trained to become a helpful fighter—while in the last book, it felt as if she was completely undeserving of being widely known as a powerful badass.

However, even this only showcases how inconsistent many of the characters were in their personalities from the first book to this one. Malcolm, the former king of Anglia, had a very sudden personality swap in this sequel. While he had once been intimidating and inconsiderate, he somehow grew into a kinder and more caring person without any explanation. This felt like it was done solely for the author to justify his redemption—which was undeserved, considering the minor issue of... he's still a rapist. I was definitely expecting the rape issue to be a relevant aspect of this book, but it was entirely brushed over, just as it was in the first book. Therefore while the plot was fast-paced and action-packed, this still did not make up for the plethora of other issues I had with this novel.

1) Elizabeth's character really grew on me, and while I found her annoying in the first book, she lost her healing stigma. She actually became stronger as an individual through training, instead of being a special snowflake who is simply magically amazing.

2) The relationships and friendships felt real and well-developed. I loved watching them grow as the story progressed.

3) This plot was action-packed and moved quickly, speeding by and leaving me genuinely frightened for the characters. Nothing was too easy or too convenient, and the ending was bittersweet—which was realistic considering the circumstances (the end of a war).

1) The characters within this book were extremely inconsistent personality-wise. Especially the king, Malcolm, who changed completely between books, seemingly only to support his eventual redemption. That really bothered me.

2) This previous point brings me to the biggest issue I had with this book—the matter of the glossed-over rape. After I finished reading, I was left with this icky feeling... like the author took the issue lightly and only used it as a plot device for the dramatic factor in the first book. In my opinion, if you're not going to take an issue like rape seriously, then it's not something that you should write about.
I want to tell him to be careful. I want to tell him how it goes. That first you kill for a reason, then you kill for an excuse. Then you kill for neither, and bit by bit the lives you take begin to steal from your own.
"Into the breach." John crosses to the door, flinging it open with a flourish. "Sounds like you've got the croup," he announces, stepping into the hall. "That's quite a feat, you know. Croup is almost exclusively a child's illness, and exceedingly rare in old men."

John closes the door then, but I hear Peter's response anyway.

"I'll give you the croup, young man."
"Your leg looks good, though. You should have full use of it within six months. Your days of jousting and hunting and dancing might be limited for the next year, but that's not too bad, all things considered."

"I was thinking of taking up painting," Malcolm says, his face still a grimace. "Or maybe lute playing."

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul ARC Review

My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

My Kind of Crazy made me laugh so hard that I thought my sides were going to split. At the same time, it made me feel sad and got me to really think about all the types of families there are, and all the different walks of life people come from. Robin Reul truly knows how to find humor in a dark place, and her book is a charming and heartbreaking read that depicts a side of high school that is rarely shown. Somehow, Reul managed to highlight important life issues, while also keeping it light enough that I didn't feel at all bogged down or depressed when I finished reading.

My biggest love for this book lies in the characters. Hank is hysterical, relatable and even charming in a doofy kind of way. I'm convinced that in high school, him and I would have been besties. His story is truly compelling and I honestly wish that he was a real person.

My Kind of Crazy is everything I want out of a John Green book minus the melodrama and pretentiousness. You guys know that I'm really picky when it comes to contemporaries, so believe me when I say that this is one of the good ones!

1) This book is hilarious. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I laughed this much while reading. The humor makes the book not feel as heavy during the darkest parts of the plot, but at the same time, it doesn't take away from the seriousness of those aspects.

2) I loved all of the different family dynamics. This book does a wonderful job showcasing different types of family units—dysfunctional and not—and it really makes the book feel real.

3) I looooove Hank. I found him to be so relatable and funny. Everything he thought or said was something I was also thinking while reading, but would never have the guts to say out-loud. He is one of the most real and engaging characters I've ever had the pleasure to come across. He actually reminds me a lot of Stiles from Teen Wolf, so.. *heart eyes*

4) I think Hank and Peyton are adorable. I was rooting for them from the beginning and they have such great chemistry. At times, they are an odd pair but they really bring out the best in one another. They also know how to keep each other in line and they are both extremely supportive.

1) I don't want to get too spoilerly, but I didn't like how some of the family struggles are fixed. The book shows a lot of problems within the characters' families and towards the end of the story, it was like BOOM—not a problem anymore. I wanted to see more details of the road to recovery.

"And then she's running ahead of me and I'm running after her, and my heart is pounding with adrenaline. Even if it's only for a couple of hours, we don't have to answer to anyone except ourselves. For the first time in a long time I feel free. I have no idea where we're going, but it really doesn't matter. Maybe Peyton's dangerous, maybe she's crazy, but whatever she is, I want to follow her and find out."

"It's like a bullshit burrito: bullshit sprinkled with cheese, wrapped in a layer of more bullshit."
"I've never been in such a nice house. Everything is polished and in its place. And there's the most amazing aroma of garlic and herbs, unlike at my house, which always smells musty, like spilled beer and wet dog—and we don't even have a dog. Pack me a bag, I'm ready to move in with Nick's family."  

I'm hosting My Kind of Crazy on my next #BBTC! I hope to see all of you there =)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Blog Tour: Interview with Melissa Gorzelanczyk, author of Arrows

Hello, my lovelies! Today, I have Melissa Gorzelanczyk on our blog today for a quick Q&A and some info about her book. This post is also part of the ARROWS scavenger hunt so be on the look out for the hidden quote so you can enter in the giveaway!

Melissa Gorzelanczyk is a former magazine editor and columnist who loves strong coffee, live music, and arrow jewelry. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband and two teenage children, one of whom is named after a Greek goddess.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB

Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Published by Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
A modern cupid story set in present-day Wisconsin combining the fantastical elements of Greek mythology with the contemporary drama of MTV's Teen Mom.

People don’t understand love. If they did, they’d get why dance prodigy Karma Clark just can’t say goodbye to her boyfriend, Danny. No matter what he says or does or how he hurts her, she can’t stay angry with him . . . and can’t stop loving him. But there’s a reason why Karma is helpless to break things off: she’s been shot with a love arrow.

Aaryn, son of Cupid, was supposed to shoot both Karma and Danny but found out too late that the other arrow in his pack was useless. And with that, Karma’s life changed forever. One pregnancy confirmed. One ballet scholarship lost. And dream after dream tossed to the wind.

A clueless Karma doesn’t know that her toxic relationship is Aaryn’s fault . . . but he’s going to get a chance to make things right. He’s here to convince Danny to man up and be there for Karma. But what if this god from Mount Olympus finds himself falling in love with a beautiful dancer from Wisconsin who can never love him in return?

This fast-paced debut novel explores the internal & external conflicts of a girl who finds herself inexplicably drawn to a boy who seemingly doesn't reciprocate her feelings, touching on the issues of love, sex and responsibility, with a heroine struggling to control her destiny--perfect for fans of Katie McGarry's novels and MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.

How do you deal with outside factors affecting your writing time?

Melissa: The most distracting thing about being a writer is the other half of the job: marketing. To stay in writer-mode, I don't turn on my phone until I've reached a goal like write all morning, or finish a chapter or scene.

What are the the most enjoyable and least enjoyable types of scenes for you to write?

Melissa: I avoid conflict by nature, so the least enjoyable scenes to write are those where I have to "go there" with an emotion--for example, anger that turns to violence. At the same time, those turn out to be the most enjoyable because I feel invigorated and free. It's a safe way to explore extremes.

What was your most memorable moment on your journey to becoming an author?

Melissa: Probably the day my contract arrived in the mail from Random House. I was relaxing on my deck when my stepson walked out with an envelope and said, "This came for you." Having a book in the world is a dream come true, but being paid for something you once only dreamed of doing is a whole other level of validity. That was a proud moment! My hand was shaking when I signed it.
Scavenger Hunt: You know how it feels to be loved 
If you could travel to anywhere in the world (in any time period) where would you go for inspiration?

Melissa: I love the white noise of the ocean. Bring me there! Also, I'm a Pisces.

If you could pick one fictional character to be your Valentine, who would it be and why?

Melissa: Aaryn from Arrows, without a doubt! He has so many qualities of my real-life true love, Shea. And I always pictured his character to look like musician Kosta Martakis. (Will hold while you search that.)

Brittany: Thank you, Melissa, for doing this interview with me and for stopping by the blog today!

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Blog Tour: Burning Glass By Kathryn Purdie Interview & Giveaway

Author: Kathryn Purdie
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 512
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.

But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

BURNING GLASS is debut author Kathryn Purdie’s stunning tale of dangerous magic, heart-rending romance, and the hard-won courage it takes to let go.

Kathryn’s love of storytelling began as a young girl when her dad told her about someone named Boo Radley while they listened to the film score of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. In high school and college, Kathryn focused on acting, poetry, guitar, and extensive journal writing. Years later, when she was in recovery from donating a kidney to her brother, inspiration for her first novel struck. She’s been writing darkly fantastical stories ever since. Her debut novel, BURNING GLASS, releases winter 2016 from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books.
Connect with Kathryn: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Tumblr

What inspired you to incorporate Russian elements into BURNING GLASS?

Kathryn: I’ve been fascinated by Imperial Russia for many years and felt connected to it after learning that the last Tsarevich, Alexei, the only son of Nicholas and Alexandra, had hemophilia, like my three brothers and my son. The repercussions of Alexei’s hemophilia were largely blamed for the fall of the Russian Empire. My sparked interest led me to fall in love with Russian or Russian-inspired stories like WAR AND PEACE, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRIA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, and SHADOW AND BONE. The heady Russian blend of epic, sweeping, romantic, and sometimes tragic was the perfect tone for BURNING GLASS, and I knew I would set it in world like Imperial Russia within the first moments of conceiving the idea.

What kind of research did you have to do before writing BURNING GLASS?

Kathryn: I did lots of reading and made a binder filled with articles and copied pages of library books. A key resource I came across was a 17th century account of Russia, written from a visiting Frenchman’s perspective. That outsider’s look on a different culture really helped me imagine how Sonya would view the court and court life for the first time and inspired some cool subplots in the book. I also did a lot of “imagination research.” In addition to making a Pinterest board, I printed out pictures of actors who remind me of my characters, and I made a playlist of music that helped set the mood for scenes or described a character’s yearning emotions. I also studied Mirror-Touch Synesthesia, which is a real condition and works similarly to Sonya’s ability as an empath.

Which of your characters do you identify with most and why?

Kathryn: Sonya! This book was largely inspired by my experience in recovering from donating a kidney to my older brother. For a few months, I felt extra sensitive to everyone else’s emotions, and they really affected my own. Feeling anyone else suffer for any reason was unbearable. So what Sonya goes through as an empath, on an emotional and physical scale, is like what happened to me—but, of course, MUCH more exaggerated and dramatic! :-)

What are your favorite type of scenes to write and why?

Kathryn: Anything romantic, humorous, or involving death. Ha! That combination sounds so twisted. I love the romance scenes because, at least in a slow-burn romance (my favorite), they’re the triumphant moments that show two complicated characters finally coming together after a difficult journey of figuring out if they’re right or wrong for one other. Scenes involving the threat of death are awesome because you’re dealing with the ultimate stake and high conflict. And humorous scenes are such a wonderful release because they’re a break from all the heavy drama!

What has been your most memorable moment on your journey to becoming a published author?

Kathryn: Probably the moment my agent told me he’d sold my book. Up until then, I’d gone through two agents and four books on submission to publishers, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to sign with such an amazing imprint at HarperCollins, Katherine Tegen Books, and for all three books in my trilogy. After speaking with my agent, I ran around my house screaming and twirling and hugging my children. It felt like a huge victory for the whole family after so many years.

What are some things that would make you DNF a book? (Example: Animal death)

Kathryn: I’m pretty selective before I even pick up a book these days, so I very rarely DNF anything. The times I do are when the plot or trope of the genre feels overdone and not fresh anymore. That’s when I can’t force myself to turn pages.

If you could time travel to any place and time period, where would you go for inspiration?

Kathryn: I’d love to visit Russia at the height of its empire and France just before the French Revolution—those turning points when the excess and grandeur for the rich was so out of balance with the poor. I’d love to see exactly how it all fell apart. But I would NOT like to live in those places then or be a part of the downfall. In my time travel scenario, I’d be an invisible observer who can return to my warm bed at night and still use my indoor-plumbing. ;-)

A lot of aspiring authors, myself included, deal with outside factors interrupting our writing time. Such as family and/or friends saying things like, "Oh, you can write any time" Have you dealt with that? If so, how do you protect your writing time?

Kathryn: For my kids, I promise them a reward for after I meet my deadline (a little trip or a fun-filled family day), or I’ll say we can watch SUPERGIRL or THE FLASH together if they let me write uninterrupted for a few hours. My husband gets the deadline push (he’s a high school drama teacher), so he’s supportive and we trade off being incredibly busy and helping one other. My extended family also understands when I have to say no to things. My dad is an author, so my siblings get how much time writing takes. The hardest people to explain it to are my non-writer friends and neighbors. I don’t answer my door or my phone or reply to texts while I’m writing, so that helps. Eventually, they just realize I’m a little crazy (which is the truth!) and learn to accept the limits on my time. If you’re an aspiring writer, it’s important to just own who you are (“I’m a writer”) and declare it to people, along with its realities. You may lose a few friendships over it, but your true friends will stick with you.

When did you know you that wanted to be an author?

Kathryn: This goes back to my recovery from donating a kidney. After a few difficult months, I stumbled upon my old journals, poetry, and collection of short stories from my teenage years. At that moment I realized, “I’m a writer.” I’d never thought of myself as a writer before then (even though I’d done plenty of writing) because most of my focus had been on studying acting. So I turned back to writing for healing, and I wrote my first story (also about an empath-type character). Over the next few years, I wrote two more stories, then came back to writing another empath story, which became BURNING GLASS.

Which authors and/or books have inspired you?

Kathryn: Growing up, I read a lot of mythology and classic literature. I also love Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and have reread PRIDE AND PREJUDICE many times. In junior high and high school, THE OUTSIDERS and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE had a big influence on me. I fell in love with young adult novels about ten or so years ago when that genre started gaining a lot of attention. Some of my favorite YA novels are THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan, GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers, DEFY by Sara B. Larson, and AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir.

Brittany: Thank you, Kathryn for stopping by our blog today! Guys, be sure to check out the rest of the tour schedule and the giveaway below!

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Week One:
2/22/2016- Brittany's Book RamblesInterview
2/23/2016- Ex Libris- Review
2/24/2016- Two Chicks on BooksGuest Post
2/25/2016- A Perfection Called BooksReview
2/26/2016- The YA Book Traveler- Interview

Week Two:
2/29/2016- Jessabella ReadsReview
3/1/2016- Once Upon a TwilightGuest Post
3/2/2016- Seeing Double In NeverlandReview
3/3/2016- The Young Folks- Interview                                                                       
3/4/2016-Addicted ReadersReview

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana ARC Review

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Published by Razorbill
Pre-Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara's life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth—and for Tara—will ever be the same again.

How I wish I DNFed this book. It was so boring and didn't hold my interest in the slightest. I kept waiting for it to pick up, and to learn more about Terra Nova—the mirror planet to Earth—but the plot had little to do with it. The mirror planet's purpose in the book is basically to get everyone in the book to toss aside their morals, responsibilities, and families to chase after their lost dreams at any cost. This book actually reminded me of Mean Girls, except if Regina George was actually nice.

Mirror in the Sky focuses around Tara, the main character, and how she becomes a member of the "in-crowd." Tara has a constant chip on her shoulder and seems to hate everything and everyone around her for no obvious reason. Until she becomes part of the "in-crowd" and then her hate for everything calms down a bit, but it didn't make her likable. I also didn't like the writing. There was a lot of info-dumping, mixed in with long explanations of scientific theory that made me wonder if the reason for the long explanations was that the author didn't fully understand it, so she took textbook information and pasted it into her book. It's sad, because the concept of this book sounded really amazing but unfortunately, there aren't any positive things I can say about it.

1) The idea that there is a mirror planet with mirror versions of ourselves is really cool. I've never read any book with anything like this. Too bad this book didn't focus on that aspect at all.

1) I really hate the main character Tara. She is really hateful towards everyone and everything—even the people she seems to care about. When she does like someone, she becomes obsessed with them but you're not sure why and it's not long before she goes back to disliking that person again. Yet, she is supposed to be the likable character and the victim of Halle (the Queen Bee) and of the book, but to me it felt like the opposite.

2) The dialogue. If you know me, then you know I loooove dialogue. The conversation between characters is usually my favorite part in books. In Mirror in the Sky there is a lot of one-sided dialogue, meaning other characters will say something to Tara but most of the time she doesn't respond outwardly.

3) The characters all say "like" constantly. I assume this is the author's way to make her characters sound like they are in high school, but it was extremely annoying to read. Also, all of the characters sound exactly the same. There are no distinctive voices or personalities.

4) The relationships are created in a blink of an eye, and torn apart in the same fashion. This makes it impossible to take any of the relationships seriously.

5) I can't stand it when books have long scientific explanations. They're boring and usually don't add anything substantial to the understanding of the plot. This is exactly the case in Mirror in the Sky.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

My TBR list is always growing and I thought it would be fun to share my anticipation for those books with all of you. This is not my own original meme; it belongs to Breaking the Spine. It specifically spotlights upcoming releases. As it implies in the title, I'll be posting this meme on Wednesdays. Please feel free to comment and let me know what books you guys are waiting on as well!

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Pre-Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yaga, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.

I have always thought that there was something special about Brooklyn. I may be a little biased since it's my hometown ^_^' Combine my hometown with a book inspired by a Russian folktale, and basically you have a book about my home in more ways than one. I'm really excited about this book and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

I'm a writer, artist, and freelance teacher. I teach creative writing workshops in the New York public schools via Teachers and Writers Collaborative; I've worked with kids in grades K-10, but I've focused on junior high and high school for the last several years. I don't think I would have written a YA novel if it weren't for that experience! Reading my students' intense, passionate poetry and stories recalled my own emotions at that age. Lost Voices was my attempt to write the book I most needed as a twelve-year-old struggling with what it means to be human: a book I never really found.

As for why I became a writer, well, I grew up moving around a lot. I was shy and didn’t have a lot of friends, and I read all the time. Books sustained me and gave me a sense of belonging when I was young. All the voices of all the writers I’ve loved throughout my life seemed to flow together into something like a speaking whirlwind. Literature for me has always been a force greater than the individuals who create it. And because that force meant (and means) so much to me, I wanted to be a part of it, to give it what I could and contribute to its power.

I live in Brooklyn with my wonderful husband Todd, an artist and fabricator of electronic art, and our cats Jub Jub and Delphine. I have an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from City College.
Connect with Sarah: Website | Twitter 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton ARC Review

Paperback ARC, 314 pages
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
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.

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings when it comes to Rebel of the Sands. There were sections that I really enjoyed, and other parts that I didn't. The aspects that I liked the most were the overall plot, Hamilton's writing style, and the characters. However, the mash-up of Western meets Arabian Nights didn't work for me and made the book feel awkward to read. At times, I felt emotionally disconnected from the characters and I couldn't always understand their motives or empathize with their feelings.

That being said, there were a few select characters that I adored, but they just didn't get enough page time. I'm a big lover of fantasy, and the fantasy elements in Rebel of the Sands were interesting, but I wish they had a more obvious presence at an earlier point in the novel. Overall, I'm interested to see what Alwyn has in store for her readers in the future, but I can't say that I would be desperate for the next installment in this series in particular.

1) Jin was a great character! He's sarcastic, cunning, and I found myself laughing during a lot of his scenes. Also, I have to admit that I was fond of how often he was without a shirt throughout this novel. Alwyn clearly knows what the people want to see xD

2) I really loved the side couple—Bahi and Shazad. They were adorable and had obvious chemistry. I wanted to know everything about these two—how they met, their entire history, everything—I GOTS TO KNOW!!

3) Alywn's writing is funny and witty, just like she is. She knows how to describe the lay of the land in a way that makes it easy to picture. Her dialogue is hilarious and infectious. You wish that you were sitting alongside the characters as the conversations are happening.

1) The fantasy elements in Rebel of the Sands were introduced very late in the novel. For the majority of the plot, you get a small taste of the magic, but it makes a big appearance at the end of the book. I wanted more magic throughout the novel, because the way it was fully introduced at the end felt more like an afterthought. There is an explanation in the last pages of Rebel of the Sands as to why magic shows up later, and I simply wasn't satisfied with it. It was just a little too convenient for me. Though I do go back and forth on whether or not I'm splitting hairs on this one, because on one hand, it could make sense, and other the other hand, I'm like..

2) I didn't feel the chemistry between the main couple. I didn't ship them and I'm not against them, but their relationship was lacking something for me. They just seemed like unlikely friends throughout their entire journey. It's true, they had great banter between them, but I simply didn't feel the spark.

3) The book ends at a really odd place. It's not a cliffhanger, but it just kind of drops off. This left me unsure of what to think or feel. I actually flipped the pages back and forth a couple times before I realized that what I saw was actually the end of the book.

"And you're still here?" Jin squinted at me, then started to laugh halfheartedly. "Either I'm dreaming or I'm dead."

I had to keep him talking. "Dream about me often?"

"Dreams. Nightmares. Not sure."
"Shazad Al'Hamad?"

Shazad battered her eyes at him like we really were guests at a party. "You'll forgive me, have we met?"

His expression curdled. "Of course. I wouldn't expect the great general's only daughter to notice one of the Sultan's many sons. Though many of us noticed you."

"I noticed the sons that mattered." Shazad replied cooly.

"I was locked away in the Holy Order at the time," Bahi said with his mouth full. "Or I would have talked some sense into her."

"Would you like to tell her what you actually did when you got kicked out , or shall I?" Shazad said.

Bahi was suddenly very intent on his food. " I don't recall."

Shazad didn't miss a beat. "He got very drunk and turned up to serenade me outside my father's house."

I snorted a laugh. "What song?" I couldn't help but ask.

"I don't remember," Bahi muttered again.
"'Rumi and the Princess,' I think?" Shazad said.

"No." Bahi looked up defensively. "It was 'The Djinni and the Dev' and it was beautiful." He puffed out his chest as Shazad doubled over laughing.