Review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner

huntedcoverHunted
By: Meagan Spooner
Release Date: March 14th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: E-ARC
Source: Edelweiss

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My Thoughts:
Beauty and the Beast has always been  my favorite fairy tale so I’m excited each time I see a retelling being published. Meagan Spooner is such a talented writer I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do with this classic. I wasn’t disappointed at all! It was fast paced, original and yet really pulled in the feeling of the original story.

This go around our Beauty was an accomplished hunter as well as being very good in the woods. Yeva (her nickname was Beauty) had two older sisters that she was very close to (not like the original tale where the sisters are cruel to her) and she was the closest to their widowed merchant father. As you read it all feels so familiar and comforting but the little differences are enough to keep the story unique and interesting. I had a vague knowledge of where the story would go but Spooner added in so many aspects that were original to this story it kept me completely captivated.

Yeva’s world had a very original magical element. As we read on more and more of the magic becomes clearer and Beauty’s role as well. This was the type of story that had layers to it- we have our direct storyline but also a smaller, internal story about the Beast that was revealed as well as the larger story arc. I really loved this element.

The Beast in this book was easy to like and he even had little chapters from his point of view. They were very short but I liked seeing a little bit of what was going on inside his mind. He was a complex character and I loved the chemistry he had with Beauty. I loved his dual nature and there were times I actually didn’t know how he’d react which upped the tension considerably.

I have to say my favorite character though was Doe Eyes- Beauty’s dog. I absolutely adored this pup and she brought so much charm to the story. I loved the bond she had to Beauty. I recently got my own dog so I was especially able to relate to the emotional connection these two had.

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Final Thoughts:
Hunted was exactly the type of retelling I’ve been wanting! It had the original tale’s vibe, and most of al,l great characters that had real chemistry.

Review for Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

LikeaRiverGloriusLike a River Glorious
By: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:
After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

My Thoughts:
I am really loving Carson’s newest series and her foray into westerns. I think she has captured the harshness and tension that had to have been present during this time period in California. My take-away from this novel- the gold rush was not fun. I’m not sure I’d have made it due to the hardships but reading Lee’s journey was incredibly riveting.

This book was very dark at times and the tension was hard to get through. I had to read this one slowly because all the struggles Lee had to endure really took a toll on me. I am really emotionally connected to these characters so their journey was my own. It was hard reading about them coming upon one bad thing after another. And Hiram- ack what a sadistic jerk. Carson has given his character incredible depth but my dislike for him runs deep. I wanted to throttle him throughout his scenes. His treatment of Lee and the people working his mine…grr.

There was a romance that started in the first novel and grows some in this one. It wasn’t a focus of the novel although it does push along the plot and Lee’s motivations at times. I really love this couple and I hope that at the end of the series there ends up being a HEA. I need it. This novel wasn’t at all filler to me, the plot points of the storyline were done wonderfully and this didn’t end on a cliff-hanger which I appreciated. I’m not all that sure where the last book of the series will go but I’m excited to find out.

The historical aspects of the novel were well done though I don’t have much to base them on. I’ve not done much study into this time period or the treatment of the Native Americans or Chinese workers but this depiction seemed incredibly realistic and makes me want to further my education and learn more about what it was like for them. It wasn’t easy to read but I think necessary for all of us to remember. I think it’s so easy for our historical knowledge to gloss over these nasty bits and that really needs to change.

I love that this series is so based in history and reality and the magical elements are incorporated seamlessly. Lee’s magical ability was such a blessing yet curse for her. I love how she struggles throughout both novels to really grasp the extent of her skill and its impact on others around her.

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Final Thoughts:
Like a River Glorious was such a beautifully done novel though certain aspects were really hard for me to read. I had to take it slow and read another novel in between because the struggle Lee goes through as well as the treatment of people in this book could be really depressing. I was always riveted to the storyline and feel it was a strong follow up to the first book.

 

Review of Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

IvoryandBoneIvory and Bone
By: Julie Eshbaugh
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

My Thoughts:
What a unique book Ivory and Bone was! The writing style and techniques Eshbaugh utilizes to bring the reader closer to her characters and story was a major aspect that sets this book apart as well as it taking place during the Ice Age. I do believe this was my first read that took place during that time period.

Because of the time period our characters deal with issues I don’t typically think about- freezing, hunting mammoths and other frightening, toothed creatures. I loved how the book handled the hunting and survival of the characters. Yes, if you are very sensitive to animal violence there was a little but it honestly didn’t bother me since it was how these characters lived and survived.

You probably read that this book mirrors Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and it does but in very unexpected ways! It did not feel like Pride and Prejudice meets the Ice Age to me. It felt deeper than that and the characters might have allusions to those in Austen’s book but they stand on their own as real feeling characters.

Speaking of the characters- I really enjoyed the approach Eshbaugh took to really introduce the reader to their stories-I’ll let you read the book to find out how exactly she went off the beaten path to do this. I really found Kol an interesting character (though he veered on naive at times) and I enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery behind why Mya’s issues with his tribe derived. The characters relationships were frustrating at times due to miscommunications but it did feel realistic and true to the story.

The setting was so unique and it made me feel the cold though I was reading this in the heat of summer. That was incredibly impressive for the descriptions to be vivid enough to transport me to cold during a Texas summer-but Eshbaugh did it! The cold was palpable and the struggle for the characters to live in this setting was so well done and yet not boring. I mean, really, the Ice Age could make for a rather dull book in the wrong hands.

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Final Thoughts:
Ivory and Bone was incredibly unique because of the setting, gender swapped allusions to Pride and Prejudice as well as the Ice Age setting. I felt that this book was beautifully developed with character growth, a slow burn romance as well as vivid descriptions of the time period.

DNF Review for Ruined By Amy Tintera

RuinedRuined
By: Amy Tintera
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

DNFed at half way point.

Summary:
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed Reboot by Tintera and I was so excited to see her venture into the fantasy realm with Ruined. I didn’t know what to expect but happily dove right into reading this book. I noticed pretty quickly that this might not be for me but I really wanted to love it so I continued to the half-way point. I finally just decided that I’d stop there and maybe come back to it at a later point according to how other reviews are.

I felt that for the most part the writing felt simplistic which stood between my connection with the characters and storyline. I felt virtually nothing for any of the characters. I wanted to be at the edge of my seat. I wanted to feel the chemistry between characters but alas, I did not. I didn’t feel a whole lot of anything.

The world was interesting though I didn’t feel I got a lot about it but I’m positive it’ll be further explained as this book continued as well as the series. I think my biggest problem with this book was that it didn’t feel much different from many books I’ve read before. The plot wasn’t all that original- girl hides identity to avenge the murder of her family. Girl is set to marry Prince and he’s not nearly as bad as she expected and she even might have feelings for him. There’s nothing wrong with these plot points and honestly they can be twisted and reshaped to create a unique storyline. I really wished the writing or characters could have grabbed me and kept me invested.

Have you read Ruined yet? If so, did you enjoy it and should I go back and finish it?

Review for Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

ReignofShadowsReign of Shadows
By: Sophie Jordan
Release Date: February 9th 2016
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

My Thoughts:
Though I enjoyed a few aspects of Reign of Shadows; overall neither the story or characters worked out for me.

Things started out strongly- I enjoyed the fairy tale vibe the writing had and the eerie atmosphere Jordan created. I felt that darkness cloaking almost all hours of the day and night to be a very original idea and really wonderfully described. This world was really a great backdrop and had a lot of potential. We meet our cast of characters and our lead, Luna. She’s been living in a tower and hiding not only from the evil things that lurk in the darkness but also the new king of the kingdom that was once her family’s. This was all a wonderful set up and I was ready to read a very original reworking of Rapunzel but as I got further into the story the less and less I found myself enjoying this book.

The more Luna was described the more I began rolling my eyes at her character. She was nearly perfect in every way and just ugh. She easily got under my skin and I had trouble wanting her to succeed. She constantly didn’t think through her actions and this led to some frustrating moments in the story.

She did have one disadvantage View Spoiler » that wasn’t alluded to in the summary so I put it in a spoiler tag but I don’t feel it was worked in as well as it could have been.

The heroine was exceedingly good at everything which veered more towards annoying that awesome, bad ass girl power. Somehow, she smells great even though she’s in a rotting world, she’s able to throw daggers, shoot arrows, climb trees, bake bread…the list goes on. Not that I mind her being amazing at these things but it never felt believable to me. There are moments where her lack of beauty was commented on but it felt thrown in there to make her more realistic….I think, just for me, her character wasn’t developed or approached in a way I could connect to.

The romance was ok- a bit insta-love but I honestly could understand Luna falling head over heels for a boy of her age since he’s the FIRST she’d ever come across- can’t really blame her there. Fowler’s character was pretty typical in that he had been hurt and wanted to only look out for himself. Luna finds him helping a brother and sister duo and it’s pretty obvious early on that this rough on the outside guy really is loveable on the inside. The romance took up a good portion of the story and there were lots of pages devoted to Fowler and Luna getting to know each other…slowly. I wished I’d felt more chemistry between the two but it worked on some level.

The scary monsters that plagued the Black Forest were underground dwellers, with tentacle faces. Being virtually blind they used these ‘feeler’s’ and their sense of hearing to find prey to feed on. I never got a full grasp of how potent their ‘poisonous’ venom/toxin was. I felt that at times it was described to be incredibly toxic but other times I wasn’t sure how much damage it would actually cause. Overall, small things, like that,  never connected or worked for me. The potential was there but sadly not the characters, romance or even storyline could grab me.

Final Thoughts:
I really appreciated the setting Jordan created for Reign of Shadows and felt that the story had potential. Sadly, I wasn’t ever able to really connect with any aspect of the book and don’t’ think I’ll be reading further into this series.