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Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Friday, May 8, 2015

Review: Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph DelaneyNight of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney
Series: The Last Apprentice,
Also in this series: Revenge of the Witch, Curse of the Bane
Published by Greenwillow Books on 28 August 2007
Genres: Abduction, Adolescence, Epic Fantasy, Friendship, Ghosts & the Undead, Magic, Middle Grade, Mystery & Detective, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
Pages: 489
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars
Also by this author: Revenge of the Witch, Curse of the Bane

Place(s) Traveled To: Chipenden // Anglezarke // Adlington // Blackrod

First line(s): It was a cold, dark November night, and Alice and I were sitting by the kitchen fire with my master, the Spook.

I had high hopes for Night of the Soul Stealer after reading the previous installment in the series, Curse of the Bane (my review) and was filled with action and suspense. Sadly though, Night of the Soul Stealer, did not live up to my expectations and felt more like a second novel while Curse of the Bane felt like it should have been later in the series. Night of the Soul Stealer sees Tom, Alice and the Spook retiring to the Spook’s winter house in Anglezarke. Which is a cold and desolate place and also where the Spook keeps Meg, a witch and also his love. Theirs is a complex relationship and one that made me really uncomfortable since the Spook keeps Meg drugged and when he’s not in Anglezarke he keeps her in an induced sleep until he returns. That is just no ok on so many levels and it really squicked me out.

Meg may be a witch but the Spook has ways of dealing with witches and he should have used one of those methods. So I couldn’t feel too bad for the Spook when certain events happened as they did. I also got frustrated with Tom, a lot. There where times when he was crazy and over the top smart and then there were many other moments when he just seemed to be deliberately obtuse. This makes for a frustrating read since he never seems to learn from his mistakes. Granted, Night of the Soul Stealer, is set only a few months after the series starts but still when you make the same mistakes over and over you should start to learn from them.

Night of the Soul Stealer Quote

Plot wise, Night of the Soul Stealer, was well paced and it was a fairly quick and easy read. The mystery wasn’t a huge mystery and the suspense really wasn’t as great as that in the previous book but overall it wasn’t a bad story. I like Alice and how her character continues to develop as she struggles with being a witch and all that it entails. I like her friendship with Tom and think that they could work well together if only the Spook didn’t keep getting in the way. The Spook is sometimes his own worst enemy and he does himself and Tom no favors by letting his prejudices get in the way. Especially when the Spook is a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to his actions.

As I said above, the things with Meg really bothered me and as a result I’ve stalled in this series. I’m not sure if I want to continue as there are just things about the Spook that I do not like. He tries to come across as morally above everyone else but what he thinks is right isn’t always the case. I’m also not entirely sure if Tom will ever grow up and change. While I expect to suspend a certain level of belief when it comes to a fantasy novel this series just has moments that it can be hard to wrap my head around. Tom can’t be both a wunderkind as well as a clumsy apprentice. He can’t always be the one to save the day while his mentor is incapacitated in some way. Its a formula that has seen itself play out over the course of three books. While it happening once, I can believe it as a fluke or beginners luck or something but not in every book. It just strains belief too much. So I think I’m going to put this series on hold for a bit and reevaluate at a later date.

 

irishdarkblue

IR - Revenge of the Witch

Add Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda to Goodreads. (Click here to read my review.)

Add The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan to Goodreads. (Click here to read my review.)

three-stars
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Middle Grade, Review0 Comments

Review: Curse of the Bane by Joseph DelaneyCurse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
Series: The Last Apprentice, Book 2
Also in this series: Revenge of the Witch, Night of the Soul Stealer
Published by Greenwillow Books on 29 August 2006
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adolescence, Demons, Fairy Tales, Folklore, & Legends, Friendship, Middle Grade, Paranormal, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Survival Stories
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars
Also by this author: Revenge of the Witch, Night of the Soul Stealer

Place(s) Traveled to: Horshaw // Chipenden // Priestown // Heysham – The County

First Line(s): When I heard the first scream, I turned away and covered my ears with my hands, pressing hard until my head hurt.

Curse of the Bane is the second book in Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series and its one that is filled with crazy non-stop action that really sucked me into the story. In this book, Tom and the Spook head to Priestown to attend a funeral and also to deal with a big bad that has been trapped beneath a cathedral there for many years. Its a big enough baddie that it made me wonder why its the feature for the second book in a series and not used later on when Tom is farther into his training so I do do fear that that it will be hard for other books in the series to live up. Or if the big bads continue to get bigger and badder then the series has the potential to dip into the ridiculous. Which I hope doesn’t happen because I do like this world and these characters.

Although, I do find it a bit hard to believe that newly apprenticed Tom is the one who is always managing to save the day because something happens to the Spook. Its not a very good Spook that is easily taken out and his apprentice of mere weeks is the one to do all the heavy lifting. While I can see how this might be empowering to a middle grade reader, as an adult it just rings as untrue. It also doesn’t allow Tom to grow and change all that much as he never has many consequences from his actions since everything seems to work out. Even though he doesn’t listen or just blately goes against the advice of those older and wiser than him.

IR - Curse of the Bane

Overall though, I really did enjoy Curse of the Bane so much more than the first book, Revenge of the Witch (my review). I liked that it was a little darker and that it was filled with action. Yes, Tom was a bit of an idiot most of the time but I still hold out hope for him as he is still young and he is still a very new apprentice. I enjoy the appearance of Alice, his witch friend, and do tend to like what she adds to the story. Even if she does annoy me at times with her smugness and standoffish behavior.

I found that Curse of the Bane was a quick read and I read it in a single sitting. Its a book that had me turning the pages as fast as I could in order to see what happened. And even though I found the ending to be a bit implausible, this book was enough to make me continue reading this series. After Revenge of the Witch I was just so-so on this series but if the books to come are anything like this one then I think that I am in for a treat.

irishdarkblue

IR - Revenge of the Witch

Add Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda to Goodreads. (Click here to read my review.)

Add The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan to Goodreads. (Click here to read my review.)

four-stars
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Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen TurnerA Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief,
Also in this series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia
Published by Greenwillow Books on 23 March 2010
Genres: Abduction, Action & Adventure, Emotions & Feelings, Espionage, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythology, Politics & Intrigue, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 316
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars
Also by this author: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia

Place(s) Traveled To: Letnos, Sounis // Elias, Sounis// Bremmis, Sounis // Attolia // Eddis

First Line(s): My father sacked another tutor.

 

Many moons ago I received an ARC of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner and I meant to read the first books in the series right there and then. But as so often does life and other books got in the way and I didn’t think about this series again until late last year when I finally picked up The Thief (my review.) While I haven’t loved the series as much as others I know I did really enjoy The King of Attolia (my review) and was really looking forward to diving into A Conspiracy of Kings. Unfortunately, I didn’t like A Conspiracy of Kings as much as The King of Attolia but I did find it to be a quick read.

 

A Conspiracy of Kings follows Sophos, who we first meet in The Thief and his journey from when we last saw/heard about him in previous books. A lot has changed in Sophos’s life and he’s had to grow up fast and has been thrust into the political shenanigans and turmoil that Sounis has become. But Sophos remembers traveling with his friend Gen over the mountain pass in Eddis and he’s learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to deception and survival and so he’s often able to make the best of a bad situation.

 

Conspiracy of Kings Quote

 

As with the previous books, the events in A Conspiracy of Kings are pretty nonstop which makes it hard to stop turning the pages. I just didn’t connect with Sophos as much as I ended up connecting with Gen or Costis. Costis’s story in The King of Attolia really intrigued me and got under my skin and I was really hoping that A Conspiracy of Kings would be further tales of him but alas that was not to be. I think, that disappointment is partially to blame on why I didn’t enjoy this book as much.

 

Overall though, The Queen’s Thief is a well plotted and well written fantasy series. I am glad that I finally made the time to read it and am joining ranks with all the other Megan Whalen Turner fans who want more stories from her. Goodreads lists that there will be a fifth and a sixth book in The Queen’s Thief series but its been five years since A Conspiracy of Kings came out that who knows when or if these books. Though, looking at the time span between previous releases perhaps all hope isn’t lost. If you are looking for a “new” fantasy series and you haven’t picked this one up yet then you may want to give it a try.

 

irishdarkblue

 

 

Irish Recommends - Thief

 

Add The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.)

Add Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.)

three-stars
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen TurnerThe King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief,
Also in this series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings
Published by Greenwillow Books on 24 January 2006
Genres: Action & Adventure, Assassins, Emotions & Feelings, Epic Fantasy, Friendship, Mythology, Politics & Intrigue, Royalty, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars
Also by this author: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings

Place(s) Traveled To: Attolia

First Line(s): The queen waited. Sitting at the window, she watched the lights of the town glow in the last of the long twilight.

I have been late to the party with the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner but while an older series of books its definitely one that holds up over time. The third book in the series, The King of Attolia, is by far my most favorite one yet. This is a series that just keeps getting better and also a good reason why I don’t always judge a series by its first book (unless it was well and truly terrible.) Unlike the previous two book, The Thief (my review) and The Queen of Attolia (my review), this one was primarily told from the point of view of Clovis a guard in the Queen of Attolia’s army. The King of Attolia does switch POVs like the previous ones but it didn’t seem to happen as often and the transitions were smoother.

There also seemed to be a bit more dialogue and I’m becoming more and more aware that I am a dialogue girl so this made me happy. Although as the book was less choppy this could just be a bit of a perceived notion on my part as things did go a little more smoother. I did find that The King of Attolia had a bit of a slow start and part of this was because it was hard to get used to Clovis as the primary character. It was almost like starting a new series as I had to get to know a whole new character and yet the world was an old friend which made things a little jarring at first. But it wasn’t long before I was falling well into like with Clovis and welcomed him as a new old friend. I just loved seeing Gen through a new set of eyes as it gave a whole new appreciation of the character and all of his quirks.

king of attolia quote

 

In The King of Attolia, Gen is settling in to his new role as king and dealing with power mad barons who do not like a foreigner on the throne. At first his character is very un-Gen like but then you see hints and glimpses of the Gen we grew to know and love from the first two books. It also seems like Gen is training a new thief and that is something that I would like to see explored a bit further. I was a bit wary of this world and its characters when I first entered it but now I am really enjoying the time I spend here that I just want more and more stories to appear. As the internet meme says, a good book is always too short, and that is certainly true with The King of Attolia because it seems that not long after I started it that I was closing the last page.

This has been a quick read series and while it isn’t always perfect it has been a fun ride. Finishing The King of Attolia makes me excited to read the final book, A Conspiracy of KingsThe King of Attolia was a fun book and I am glad that I read it. I’m glad that I finally decided to give this one a shot and if like a good fantasy then you might want to consider checking this one out.

irishdarkblue

 

Irish Recommends - Thief
four-stars
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Posted by Irish in 3.5 Stars, Review, Young Adult1 Comment

Review: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen TurnerThe Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief, Book 2
Also in this series: The Thief, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings
Published by Greenwillow Books on 01 January 2000
Genres: Abduction, Action & Adventure, Emotions & Feelings, Espionage, Family, Love & Romance, People & Places, Politics & Intrigue, Royalty, Social Issues, War & Military, Young Adult
Pages: 362
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Also by this author: The Thief, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings

Place(s) Traveled To: Attolia // Eddis

First Line(s): He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner is the second book in her Queen’s Thief series and picks up not long after the first book ends. While I didn’t love The Thief I was intrigued enough to pick up this book and found it to be a quick and engrossing read. The Queen of Attolia starts off in the middle of the action and it made me gasp aloud within just a few chapters. The start of this one was just so much darker than the first book and I liked the grittiness of it. I also liked the Gen in this book better than the Gen in The Thief as he just seemed have more personality and quirks to him. Though there were still things that just seemed to come out of nowhere like when he declared his love for the Queen.

The Queen of Attolia is set up in a similar manner to The Thief in that there is very little dialogue so it just makes what little dialogue there is seem choppy and out of place. There is also no rhyme or reason to the changing POVs and one paragragh you can be in Gen’s head, the next Attolia’s and then the one after that in Eddis’s head. I have never been a fan of random head jumping and that doesn’t change with this book. I like my change in POV to be a bit more structured and obvious as it could take a few sentences to realize that you were no longer in the head you thought that you were in.

Queen of Attolia Quote

As I said above, I found The Queen of Attolia  to be a bit of a darker story but it also was a bit more humorous as well. I liked what little dialogue scenes there were and think if there was more talking and less description/telling then I would have liked this one so much more. But despite the things about this one that irked me a bit I was still engaged in this story. Once I started reading it I didn’t put it down unless I absolutely had to. So I managed to read this in just a couple of sittings. And at the end of this one I had a strong and burning desire to pick up the third book, The King of Attolia, which is something that didn’t happen when I finished the first book. I liked the political intrigue of this story and how fast paced it was. It was a gripping story and I am looking forward to seeing where things go as the series progresses.

irishdarkblue

Irish Recommends - Thief

three-half-stars
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Posted by Irish in 3 Stars, Review, Young Adult0 Comments

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen TurnerThe Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief,
Also in this series: The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings
Published by Greenwillow Books on 01 January 1996
Genres: Action & Adventure, Emotions & Feelings, Epic Fantasy, Espionage, Politics & Intrigue, Road Trip, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 280
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars
Also by this author: The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings

Place(s) Traveled To: Souis: Methana, Matinaea, Evisa // Hephestial Mountains // Eddis: Profactia, Pirrhea, Kahlia // Attolia

First Line(s): I didn’t know how long I had been in the king’s prison.

 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner is one of those books that has been recommended to me so many times that I’ve lost count. Its a book that’s been hyped up but not in an over the top way that I was wary of it but just enough to peak my curiosity and add it to my ‘books to read list.’ I finally got around to reading it was I stumbled across it while doing a search on my libraries digital catalog and so put in the request. I found The Thief to be a quick read and entertaining enough but it wasn’t a book that I feel head over heels in love with either. For one, its a book with lots of random head jumping and I’ve never been a fan of that. There were times when it wasn’t always easy to determine whose head I was in at the time and that was off putting. Though, overall, the head we ‘lived’ in most was that of Gen’s, the thief of the title.

The Thief Quote

The journey taken is Gen’s and the mystery is in trying to figure out why he stole the item he did and what his end game really was. The Thief is at its base a story of political intrigue and tense relations between neighboring lands while set in a fantastical world where the gods may still play an active role in the lives of those who believe in them. Its an interesting story and one that I read in a single sitting. Its an easy read and did hold my attention as I wanted to see what the love all my fantasy friends had for this book. When I finished I wondered what was it about The Thief that captured them so. For some, I think it may have been nostalgia since this book was first released in 1996 and I think that if I’d read this when I was younger I would have liked it more.

As it was, the way it was written never allowed for me to become fully attached to any one character. There was a lot of descriptive telling of what was happening and very little dialogue between the characters. It was like there was a glass wall between me as a reader and what was going on in the pages of the story. There wasn’t a lot of emotion and it just came across as this matter of fact telling that lacked feeling. Despite this though I am curious to see where the rest of the series goes now that the base of this world and these characters have been established. I did enjoy Gen’s snark and his relationship with those around him. I liked the various twists that this story took and am looking forward to seeing what new adventures await. So while it wasn’t love at first sight for me it was still a worthwhile read and one that I will recommend to others looking to read fantasy, especially younger teens who are too old for middle grade but too young for likes of George RR Martin. lol

 

irishdarkblue

Irish Recommends - Thief

 

 

three-stars
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Nightspell by Leah Cypess (Blog Tour)

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Blog Tour, Contest, Review, Young Adult11 Comments

Review: Nightspell by Leah Cypess (Blog Tour)Nightspell by Leah Cypess
Series: Mistwood, Book 2
Published by Greenwillow Books on 31 May 2011
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Espionage, Family, Fantasy, Mystery & Detective, People & Places, Politics & Intrigue, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 326
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars
Also by this author: Death Sworn

Place(s) Traveled to: Ghostland

First Line: Darri didn’t see the ghost until he was upon her, a solid weight that dropped from the branches above and threw her sideways off the saddle.

The first moment I saw the cover of Nightspell by Leah Cypess I fell in love. Its totally gorgeous and romantic and just utterly breath taking. But as I’d become more friendly with Leah Cypess on twitter I was a bit wary of reading and reviewing her book. What if I didn’t like it? Would I be able to be my usual honest self and say what I really think of the book? So I waited and when Leah asked people to be part of a blog tour I found that I couldn’t say no. I also couldn’t go without reading the book. So its with a happy heart that I found that I really enjoyed this one.

I admit the beginning was a little slow for me. I was thrust into this fantasy world where I knew none of the history. I knew that Nightspell was a companion to Mistwood but as I have yet to read that I had nothing to compare it to. So the start was a bit slow as I learned to navigate the twists and turns of Ghostland. Much as one of the narrators, Darri, had to do as she approached this new kingdom that is to be her future home. And what a strange place Ghostland is. A world where the dead don’t always die and move on. No, instead if one is murdered than their ghost comes back so they can get revenge on the one who did them wrong. Failing that they tend to live on attempting to regain all that they had in life – including being more solid than you would think a ghost should be.

As this was a story with multiple points of view I was instantly in love. I adore seeing the action of things through multiple eyes. Though at times this head jumping seemed like it was a bit contrived, an easy out in order to move the plot forward. But its ok, I was able to overlook that as I found the further I read the more engrossed in the story I became. I loved the political intrigue and the mystery. I loved all the little twists and turns that Leah tosses into the mix (most I figured out before, a few not so much.) I also found it so very refreshing to have a story where there was no real romantic storyline.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good romance. But there are times when I like to see a story stand for the story alone and not have all these grand plot points made a little less because the story hinges on if the boy and girl will make googly eyes at each other in the end. Romantic plot points can be an easy plot device to play and I am glad to see that Leah Cypess chose not to play that hand. Though I am sure that wasn’t an easy task either as there was potential for one throughout the story.

As for political intrigue, Game of Thrones this book was not (but really not many books are) but that isn’t a slight against Nightspell. I feel that those who may not be ready for the full heaviness that can be an epic tale like GoT could really like Nightspell…its kind of GoT Lite. And if you recall I loved beyond loved GoT so that is high praise indeed from me.

There is much to love about Nightspell but as I wasn’t completely surprised by the twists and there was a time or two when I rolled my eyes at some of the action going on. Its that and that alone that keep this from being a 5 star read. I do know that after reading this one I must move Mistwood up Mt TBR so that I can see how that story ties into this one.

Have you read Mistwood or Nightspell? Which did you like better? Or what are your thoughts on either book. Leave a comment below and fill out the form for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Nightspell. Thanks Leah for letting me be a part of this tour and for giving me the book to give away. Contest will close at midnight EST on 03 January and a winner chosen randomly. This contest is open internationally….and as will all my contests books will be sent out some time after the winner is announced….it all depends on when I can find time to visit the post office. Good luck to all who enter and thanks for visiting!

ENTRY FORM

Have you visited the other stops on the tour? Leave comments at them all for a chance to win an annotated copy of Mistwood.

November 28: Guest post at Fiction State of Mind
November 29: Review at The Book Cellar
November 30:  Interview at Library Mosaic
December 1: Guest post at YA Bibliophile
December 2: Review at Scattered Pages
December 4: Guest post at Haunted Orchid
December 6: Interview at A Thousand Little Pages
December 7: Review at Ashley Suzanne
December 8: Review at Hobbitsies
December 9: Review at A Backwards Story
December 10: Nightspell Excerpt at Arianne Cruz
December 11: Review at Penguin Girl
December 12: Interview at WhatchYAReading
December 15: Review at Word Lust
December 16: Nightspell Excerpt at A Tale of Many Reviews
December 18: Guest Post at Bodacious Bookaholic
December 19: Deleted Scene from Mistwood at A Good Addiction

four-stars
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult6 Comments

Review: Entwined by Heather DixonEntwined by Heather Dixon
Published by Greenwillow Books on 29 March 2011
Genres: Abduction, Action & Adventure, Adaptation, Adolescence, Emotions & Feelings, Fairy Tales, Folklore, & Legends, Family, Fantasy, Friendship, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Magic, Romance, Royalty, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Entwined<img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=ticktoanyw-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B004CFA9X2" target="_blank">Buy on Amazon|Buy on Audible|Buy on Barnes & Noble|Buy on Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

Place(s) Traveled to: Eathesbury

First Line: An hour before Azalea’s first ball began, she paced the ballroom floor, tracing her toes in a waltz.

What first attracted me to Entwined by Heather Dixon was its cover, I am such a sucker for a pretty cover, but I became sold on it when I learned that it was a fairy tale retelling. From a young age I have adored fairy tales. I love the magic and possibility of them all. I usually enjoy it when an author adapts one to make it more modern and accessible although there have been a few retellings that never quite hit the right note. Sometimes an author can make too many changes that the magic of the original is lost. This isn’t the case with Entwined where  Heather Dixon does a beautiful job with breathing new life into the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.

In the beginning the story dragged a bit for me although the writing throughout it all was beautiful. I loved the descriptions of the music and the dancing as well as the interactions between the sisters. But in the beginning, after the sisters first found the Pavilion, I was a little bored as the same events just seemed to repeat. It was when the girls’ father returned to the palace that I became fully entranced by this story and became incapable of putting it down. Entwined sucked me slowly, seduced me and wouldn’t let me go until I read it in its entirety in  a single sitting.

The story had me laughing and bits of it gave me that heart-achy feeling that I love so much in a book. And yes there were moments that near broke my heart as well. There was a true sense of family, friendship and love contained in Entwined’s pages and its a world that I dreamed of after turning the final page. The Keeper was at once friendly and spooky and I enjoyed his character. Although I do think that bits of the climax were a bit rushed especially considering all the time spent on the build up. But in the end I found the entire story to be believable and complete. The ending was satisfying and I gave a happy sigh after I read the final words. This is a book that I am glad to have read, one that I will re-read at some point and feel good about recommending it to everyone. As a fairy tale, Entwined is suitable for people of all ages and I think there is something for everyone in this story. This was a first book for Dixon and I know that I am already eager to see what she comes up with next.

irishdarkblue

four-stars
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Posted by Irish in 5 Stars, Review, Young Adult5 Comments

Review: Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy PonFury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Series: The Kingdom of Xia, Book 2
Also in this series: Silver Phoenix
Published by Greenwillow Books on 29 April 2011
Genres: Asian Mythology, Fantasy, Girls & Women, Mystery & Detective, People & Places, People of Color, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Gift
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
Also by this author: Silver Phoenix, Blue Skies, Serpentine

Place(s) Traveled to: The Kingdom of Xia (based on ancient China) // Jian

First Line: Chen Yong was already on board the ship.

If I had only one word to describe Cindy Pon’s Fury of the Phoenix it would be love. I loved this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it initially as Cindy kept saying how different it was from Silver Phoenix. I was a little worried at this at first because I really loved how Silver Phoenix was told. But from the moment I started Fury of the Phoenix I knew my fears where unfounded as this book not only met my expectations but exceeded them. Fury is different as it has two central stories to it there is the present journey of Chen Yong and Ai Ling to country Jian and there is the story that takes place in the past with Zhong Ye and Silver Phoenix.That’s right the villain of the first book is back and OMG so very different then he was before. In Silver Phoenix, Zhong Ye is this evil magician who believes that Ai Ling is his lost love – the reincarnated Silver Phoenix. In Fury, you get to learn the origins of the love between Zhong Ye and Silver Phoenix and let me tell you its a beautiful story. When Fury first started to travel into the past I thought Zhong Ye? He is evil there is no way that I could like him. There’s no way that I could like these bits of the book that are about him. How dare Cindy take time away from Chen Yong and Ai Ling for him!

But readers…I was wrong. So very wrong. I loved every moment with Zhong Ye and Silver Phoenix as I did with Chen Yong and Ai Ling. In fact I became so engrossed in each segment that I hated hated hated when Cindy would move back to the other couple. There was several times when I literally asked my book…”we’re moving on already? But…but….no!!” Each story is so engrossing that I could live in them forever and be quite content.

The tension between Chen Young and Ai Ling is palpable and they remain two of my favorite book characters. Ai Ling is a strong, intelligent heroine and Chen Yong accepts that she’ll never be a traditional girl. While sometimes her independents does go against his protective grain he still supports her and helps her become more than she was before. Just as Ai Ling does with Chen Yong. With Zhong Ye and Silver Phoenix’s story there really isn’t much tension. Their story is slower and more like Spring breeze in that its gentle and all about beginnings and growth. Chen Yong and Ai Ling try to deny their attraction, but necessity’s sake they have to pretend they are brother and sister and so they are each like polar ends of a magnet that are pushing against each other. So their story isn’t as calm but it still has the sense of expectation to it.

And now I’ve reached the part in the review where I am just a rambling babbling mess trying so hard to find all the right words to convey my love for this book. To try to find the right phrase that will make you want to rush out and buy this book. But there really are no words as there are just so many thoughts running amuck in my head. Just know that Cindy Pon is an amazing writer with a real gift for prose. She has a way of weaving a world around you that you think that you are in the Kingdom of Xia as the real world just fades away as you read her words. There is action and adventure and fantasy and romance and just a little bit of everything that I love to see in a book. My brain was engaged and there were plenty of heart achy moments to keep me turning pages. This is one that I highly recommend…so go get it, read it and then come back here and tell me what you thought.

Related Posts: Cindy’s Top 10 YA Fantasy List

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Posted by Irish in 4 Stars, Review, Young Adult9 Comments

Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy PonSilver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Series: The Kingdom of Xia,
Also in this series: Fury of the Phoenix
Published by Greenwillow Books on 28 April 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Asian Mythology, Emotions & Feelings, Fantasy, Girls & Women, People & Places, People of Color, Young Adult
Pages: 338
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars
Also by this author: Fury of the Phoenix, Blue Skies, Serpentine

Place(s) Traveled to: The Kingdom of Xia (based on ancient China)

First Line: The eunuchs said the windows were ceiling height to allow the concubines their privacy, but Jin Lian knew it was also a way to keep them trapped.

I first heard about Silver Phoenix on Twitter right before it was released but even if I hadn’t I’d have instantly been drawn to the cover in stores. The cover on the hardcover is absolutely GORGEOUS and I bought it the day it was released. I had every intention of reading it shortly thereafter as well but fates conspired against me and it sat on my shelf, neglected, along with so many others. Then recently on Twitter I was struggling through a book and saying how I’d need something really good to read afterwards. I don’t recall the exact way things feel out but in the end PoseySessions was betting me $5 if I could finish Silver Phoenix up by the end of the weekend. (This all happened on a Thursday I believe.) Not one to walk away from a challenge I accepted. I then despaired that I would do it as it took until Saturday to finish the book I was reading and I had a family even more of that day.

I despaired about being able to finish as the beginning of Silver Phoenix was a little slow. The prologue had me a bit confused (I’m slow sometimes) as I was immediately thrust into this foreign world. From there we jump forward 19 years (or so) and I have to readjust on what I think I know. In Chapter 1, we meet Ai Ling the heroine who is being sent off to potential betrothal meetings as all good Chinese girls in this time are destined for marriage and a life behind walls. But Ai Ling’s family is tainted with a bit of scandal and she is a bit too tall and she struggles to fulfill her duty and remains unwed. When her father disappears, Ai Ling does a very brave and unusual thing and decides to set off in search of him. It helps that Ai Ling isn’t your ordinary girl but she has special gifts that she’s only just begun to understand.

From the moment Ai Ling leaves the sheltered walls of her home the book really pick up in pace. It becomes this action packed roller coaster and I found it hard to catch my breath. Around every corner there is peril and beasties that are trying to kill Ai Ling. Some of who might have succeeded if it wasn’t for Chen Yong and his brother Li Rong. I LOVED the interaction between Chen Yong and Li Rong as well as that between Li Rong and Ai Ling. Li Rong is witty and fun and just makes a person laugh. Which is great because Chen Yong is just way to serious for his own good. Granted he has his reasons for holding himself aloof from the world but there is just this naturalness about Li Rong that makes you instantly like him. Based on characters alone Silver Phoenix was a win.

But even great characters need a good plot and Silver Phoenix has that in spades. Its a bit supernatural and a bit mystery with wonderful undertones of friendship mixed with a dash of romantic tension. I became so invested in this story that I lost track of the world around me and essentially devoured this book in just a few hours. This is such a rarity for me these days as I’m easily distracted by modern technology and the telly. Ai Ling is such a strong character and she kept facing all these creatures that I couldn’t stop turning pages to learn why it all was. Throughout the book Pon leaves little breadcrumbs and hints as to what is to come but never enough to make the story predictable. Can you guess the outcome of the book, yes, or at least I could for the most part. But Silver Phoenix isn’t really about the how it ends but the journey to get there.

I have to admit my readings of books based in China (even loosely as this one is) so I don’t know a ton about the rituals and culture. Cindy Pon does a great job of weaving in all the histories and expectations of the time without bogging the story down in details. So you can learn without realizing that you are learning something. I loved the history and how Pon wove in the various myths and legends from the east in a really seamless way. While reading the book it all felt real and I was able to push reality aside and imagine myself in Ai Ling’s world. Although one tradition I’m glad Pon didn’t explore was footbinding….ouch! I read one book (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) a few years back that had long descriptions of the process and my feet STILL ache.

My one regret is that it took me so long to read Silver Phoenix. Although a small part of me is glad because now I have only a short time to wait until its sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, is available. I am DYING to get my hands on this book. I need more of Ai Ling and Chen Yong as I did not like how Pon left things at the end of Silver Phoenix. Not that it was a bad ending, because it wasn’t. It was a very good ending and perfect for the story. But for me it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t ready to leave their story so I am glad that it will be continuing on in another book. You can be sure that as soon as I get my hands on a copy that I will be reading it! Just as I strongly suggest for all of you to run out and grab a copy of Silver Phoenix and read it. Its well worth the time especially for all of you out there who love mythological based stories. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this one. I know I wasn’t.

Related Posts: Fragment Friday // Book Trailer Monday

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four-stars
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