The kingdom of of Orleans is obsessed with beauty because their people were cursed with grey skin and brittle straw hair. The Belles are the blessed few who were born with color and the ability to make others beautiful too. They can change a person’s skin color, bone structure, hair and make-up and because of this they have a privileged place in the kingdom. Camille is one of six new Belles and she wants to be the Favorite. The Favorite lives in the Palace with the Queen and the Royal family. She gets to help create the laws of beauty and sets the standard. She will do anything to be the favorite even if it means getting it over her best friend. However Palace life isn’t what she imagined. For one thing, the Princess is a nightmare and a psycho. She’s the technically the second in line for the throne but her older sister has been in a coma so she’s about to named regent. Camille is smart and ambitions but at times she is so slow I want to scream at her to pay more attention to wants going on! She at times is so wrapped up in being the best Belle and impressing others that she fails to see that she is falling right into their trap. It was a good set up to an intriguing series. It had a lot of world building in the this one so now that is out of the way, I think the rest of series will move at a better pace.
This novel had a lot of hype around it and I’m glad to say it was justified. From the very beginning I was hooked. With the exception of one section, it was fast paced and gripping. I immediately liked Zelie and was rooting for her to succeed. I was drawn to Amari and struggle to right the wrongs of her family and battling her own fears. Both of these women are strong and brave. They have their own flaws but when it came to helping those in need they didn’t hesitate to step in. It’s beautifully written and full of lush imagery that I felt I was taken to an Orisha just as I was taken to Wakanda in Black Panther. There is so much potential in how this series will unfold that I really can not wait to read the next book. Like I want it right now!
That being said, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly like and leave that under the cut. Continue reading
The final book in the Front Lines trilogy was fitting ending for all three of our heroines. The alternate history re-imagined World War Two if women had been allowed to serve and be drafted into the Military. Rio, Frangie and Rainey all enlisted as the US was on the brink of joining the war. Throughout the trilogy we have followed Frangie, Rio and Rainey through basic training, northern Africa and Italy all while trying to figure out who they are how they fit in in this new world. Does being a soldier make them any less feminine? And what future do they have to look forward to after the war is over. At the end of the last book, they were all awarded Silver Stars for their bravery in Italy. If they thought winning a Silver Star would make their lives as soldiers, they were mistaken. In some cases it only made their mostly male soldiers resent them even more. Rio’s hometown sweetheart, struggles to deal with the fact he had to be rescued by his girl and she gets rewarded for it. The gender roles have been reversed and he can’t deal with it. Our Soldier Girls are preparing for the D-Day invasion to open the final book. With it comes all the blood and carnage that we come to expect from years of seeing this battle depicted on the big screen. As the girls progress from Normandy to Paris to Battle of the Bulge in Belgium to finally Germany. They are faced with hardships and hard decisions as they continue to face the cruel reality of war. They are fighting a war against the Nazis about also about the sexism and racism in the Military. It truly speaks to what women face today. I have to wonder what our country would be like if women had been able to serve in World War Two. How would our world be different and how much would it be the same? It sort of get the sense that Michael Grant doesn’t seem to think that history would have changed all that much but also could be my own cynicism. Anyway, it was a good series full of great characters and an interesting ideas. I’m glad I read it but I can’t help but wonder what if there were stories of real soldier girls that could be told.
So ends the Falling Kingdoms series. It’s been quite a ride. What started as a power struggle to verb who rules all of Mytica turned out to be an all out fight against magic itself. With the Kindred powers of Fire, Earth, Water and Wind have manifested themselves into real bodies and threatened to recreate the world to their liking and forcing former enemies into allies. Magnus, Cleo, Lucia and Jonas must find away to work together to defeat the kind reds and save the world. First they all have to reunite. Not as easy as it sounds in this series that often sends its characters all over the place for seemingly no reason. It’s also seems like everyone gets a redemption story even if they don’t deserve it. King Gauis who is no longer under the spell of his mother finally comes to his sense and realizes what a terrible father he has been and we are so to forget all the things he did to get us into this position in the first place. He was the one who set everything in motion by kidnapping Lucia in the first place. Amara killed her entire family to gain power but she grows a conscience the last minute so she isn’t so bad? This kinda drives me crazy about these kind of novels. Why can’t they let bad guys be bad guys? Also while I always root for happy endings but that doesn’t mean that all the main characters have to survive to make that happen. How many near death experience does one character or multiple characters deserve before it loses its impact? This is a series that has a high body count but still was too afraid to go there when it could have made a real impact on the story. All in all it was an enjoyable series. I just wish at times it was braver than it was.
So this book wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It was more meh. I wanted to get into it but I just couldn’t. The pacing felt a little off to me. It started fast a little too fast for me. Ella’s mother has invented technology that allows people to relive their best memories and Ella has the ability to go into people’s minds and memories and look around their minds. She does this once and all of a sudden she’s an expert. She all of a sudden knows how to manipulate minds and search around strangers memories to find what she needs. Then pacing slows as we try to find out why she can’t remember the hot rebel, Jack and if he’s the terrorist or is it the government? After it moved too fast and then moved to slowly and then we finally got to the climax and was dragged out and then it was over. I was a little disappointed because I really loved Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series. This had so much potential to be a cool book that just never really got going.
Stevie Bell is starting at a new school. The mysterious and illustrious Ellingham Academy. Started by the infamous and rich Albert Ellingham the for the brightest students. Ellingham opened his school because he believed education was a game, a game that should be open to everyone so he made it tuition free. However, the history of Ellingham is tragic. Albert’s wife and Daughter are kidnapped and another student goes missing. While there was a confession and trial many things about the case have been left unsolved. Stevie is determined to solve the case. What Stevie didn’t count on was another student dying and a new mystery develops. Maureen does an excellent job setting up the past mystery with flashbacks and FBI transcripts and interweaving it with the present. At first it seemed that they cases were related and then they didn’t and then it did again. She always able to keep you on your toes. Stevie is ambitious. She knows that her interest are a bit unusual and it makes it hard for her to make friends. An issue that makes her anxious. As she tries to solve the mysterious before her she also must contend with school work, friendships and other relationships and forging your own path and not necessarily the path expected of you. I don’t think I have read a book depict anxiety in such a realistic way before. It really gets to the heart of how anxiety can paralyze a person but also shows how one can overcome those thoughts. Stevie is a great role model in that respect. The cast of characters around Stevie are interesting and I’m sure we will get more of them as the series progresses but I have to give a shout out to my boy Nate. He is the friend that everyone needs because he was willing to put himself in uncomfortable position because he saw Stevie was in a bad place and it was the push that Stevie needed. That’s a true friendship.
I feel like singing “Hello Dolly” except it is “Hello Holly” because she is back to where she belongs. No one writes about Fairies the way that Holly does. From the Spiderwick Chronicles to Modern Faerie Tales to Darkest Part of the Forest, her stories are a mixture of faerie lore with modern twists and not one is the same. The Cruel Prince is a new spin on the changeling story. Instead of a fairy leaving one of their off spring with humans to replace their own babies, we have twins Jude and Taryn who are stolen from their home after Madoc kills their parents. You see, Madoc is the general to the High King in Faerie and has an odd sense of honor. He married their mother and well she escaped, taking their baby, Vivi, with her to the Human world. Ten years later he finds her married to another and in a fit of rage kills both of them and then out of duty he takes all the kids back to Faerie and raises them as his own. Jude and Taryn were seven when they come to live and Faerie and have come to think about it as home despite living with their parents murderer. There are only two ways humans can join the court. They can either marry their way in or earn their way by becoming a knight. Taryn wants to the former and Jude the latter. In Jude’s quest to become a Knight she battles against the cruel and spoiled Prince Cardan and his viscous friends. Like any kid who has ever been bullied, you come to a point where you can no longer just sit by and let things happen and start fighting back. Jude is given the opportunity to prove herself to Cardan’s brother, Dain, who is expected to be named King by becoming one of his spies but this is Faerie and things don’t go the way you expect. The coronation didn’t go as planned, people revealed themselves to be not to who she thought them to be. Despite all the betrayals and double crosses, Jude takes the opportunity to make her own power play. I love Jude. She is smart and brave. Being a human growing up in Faerie is fraught with challenges but she has found ways to turn those disadvantages to her advantage and outsmarts them all. That being said, the real conflict as the series is going to be if she able to deliver on all the the promises she’s made. Will her allies continue to support her? And will Cardan and her ever hook up? Fans of Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy will love the surprise cameos from Roiben and Kaye. This is a great start to another classic Holly black faerie tale.
I’ve seen the Star Wars movies but I have never read or watched or played any of the other things set in the Star Wars universe. So, aside from the fact that I was stepping into this world not knowing exactly where I was, I was pretty excited to start it.
Ahsoka is set just after the end of episode 3, while the rebellion is at its beginning. Ahsoka Tano is the former padawan of Anakin Skywalker and a general from the Clone Wars. As a Jedi, she was supposed to die following Order 66, but she escaped. Now, she’s hiding out in the Outer Rim and trying to decide who she is now that there are no jedi. She finds herself on a moon that is occupied by the Empire. Of course, the Empire wants the moon for nefarious purposes. Will Ahsoka help? Will she make things worse? Will she connect with the Rebellion?
I really enjoyed reading this novel. It’s geared towards the 12-18 reader, so it wasn’t as dark or as violent as I would have expected an empire novel to be. But, I liked the characters and the story. I liked Ahsoka’s development as she worked through her feelings on how to exist in a post-Jedi world.
So, if you want an easy read that’s an introduction to the rest of the Star Wars universe, or if you have a child who is super excited about Star Wars after seeing the new movies, Grab this novel!
The Shades of Magic trilogy is quite a ride and A Conjuring of Light is no exception. For a book that has to do with multiple Londons, magic and power this is book isn’t really about any of those things. It’s about where do people really belong. Kell is an Antari, a very powerful magician that can travel between worlds. He is raised as a Prince, treated as the brother and son of the Royal family in Red London but never truly feeling that he is one of them because he knows he can’t leave. Rhy is the crown prince of Arnes in Red London and for all his privilege and charm he has no magic. There are no rules or reason as to why some people have magic and while others don’t. Rhy is the heir to the throne but feels unworthy because he doesn’t have any magic and in this world is seen as a weakness. Lila is talented thief from Grey London struggling to get by. She ran away from home when she was young and has been running ever since. She had no friends as she sees any kind of attachments as a weakness she cannot afford because she has big dreams of seeing the world. Holland grew up an White London, a hard world that Magic has been slowly going away thanks to it’s nearness to Black London. In his London magic is a gift and curse those who have it have power and those who don’t will do anything to get it. Holland is an Antari like Kell and for that reason he is both feared and targeted. He grew up with stories of a King that will bring back magic to his world and he dreams of being that King but he suffers greatly from those who loved and cared for. Alucard was born to the aristocracy but was cast out of his family because of who he loved and now travels the seas a Privateer for the Crown. All of them are powerful in their own rights and all of them are searching for their place in their world or worlds. Their stories is what makes this series so compelling. As they all struggle to overcome a power far greater then them individually it was their discovering of themselves and overcoming their own fears that allowed them to overcome the darkness and save their world and themselves. One of the themes throughout the book is that magic needs a balance. Just like the Force for there to be peace the Light must balance the Dark. Magic needs to be balanced with non-magic because even Magic has it’s limits. Black London was destroyed before the action of the trilogy because Magic had no counterbalance and burned it down. For Kell, Lila, Rhy, Holland and Alucard, they are all looking for that counterbalance in their lives and until they found it they couldn’t defeat Osaron who was pure magic. I feel like I’m getting real deep here but I think this is true in all of our lives. The Shades of Magic is truly entertaining series. It did have few bumps along the way. I said of the second book about how it started off slow and a little harder to get into and this book I felt had a little unnecessary side trip to a mysterious black market, in the end these are minor missteps to a enjoyable trilogy. A trilogy that I wonder if may become more one day because I think she left things open to a return to Grey London in the future. I kinda hope so because I would love to visit Kell, Rhy, Lila and Alucard again.
I’ll admit that I had a little trouble getting into this one. I get the feeling that V.E. didn’t plan on this being a trilogy originally because while there were a few loose ends it was wrapped up pretty nicely and could have ended where it did. That meant that she sort of had to start all over again setting up the world and the characters. Lila had left Red London to seek adventures and find herself on a privateer’s boat. Kell and Rhy are left dealing with the new bond between them and the knowledge that their lives are tied to each other. If one dies so does the other. All three are restless in their new realities so of course it’s a good time to put on an international tournament of magic. The Essen Tasch, a competition with neighboring nations Faron and Vesk. A good way to expand the universe but it also meant it took a lot of pages building up the games that by the time we finally do and we get all of characters in one place again, the book is more then two thirds over and you blink and the games are over. I just felt it needed a little less setup and more action. Especially since the real story was going on in White London and we only get a glimpse of. The one saving grace is it has one hell of cliffhanger, with not just one or two but at least three characters lives in peril at the final page. It’s a good thing, I went ahead and bought the last book because I have to know what happens next.