Stacking The Shelves #28 + MFM Wrap Up!


Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga of Tynga's Reviews.

I finally began to take Netgalley seriously this week! haha



For Review
Breathless by Brigid Kemmerer (Review Here)
Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris
The Collector by Victoria Scott (Thank you Netgalley)
Double Crossed by Ally Carter (Thank you Netgalley)
My Ex From Hell by Tellulah Darling (Thank you Netgalley)

Gifted
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Thank you, Gillian, for this late birthday gift!

~*~March Fantasy Month Wrap Up~*~

So, March Fantasy Month was actually pretty great! I got 8 out of my necessary 10 reviews up, which is actually pretty amazing because I was intensely sick in the beginning of this month. The reviews are as followers:

5 stars: The False Prince
3 stars: The Thief
5 stars: Poison Study 
4 stars: Princess of the Midnight Ball 
4.5 stars: Seraphina
0.5 stars: Kill Me Softly
3.75 stars: The Demon King
4 stars: The Girl of Fire and Thorns 

The book that I was unable to get to? THE TREACHERY OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS + STORMDANCER
The book that I chose to use my mulligan on? UNSPOKEN

This was an amazingly cute month thanks to Gillian. I highly recommend following her, she's absolutely amazing. Check out her blog here.
    

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 423 (Hardcover)
Source: Won
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

It's very hard to get my thoughts in check regarding this one. Because of this, I think I'm going to switch things up and give you a simple yay or nay list. I want to explain the aspects I did like and the aspects I didn't like in the novel so that you can better understand my thoughts. To put it all in the average organized review would be really messy because I loved this book, but despite it's amazingness it has a lot of flaws.

Things I Liked

1. Elisa's Flaws
Elisa was overweight. That's all there is to it. I don't think I've ever come across an overweight main character before, and oddly enough, I loved it. I love flawed characters because it gives them a hint of humanity in an otherwise perfect world. While Elisa's plights didn't gain much sympathy from me because she still had it all despite her obesity, her journey to inadvertently bettering her life and assuming her leadership position when she was previously meek and scared was great.

2. Carson's Brutality
It breaks my heart that Carson was brutal in this one, but she truly was. She killed off a lot of people--some of which we really didn't want killed off. I can't name names, but while I was excited to see some gone I was truly heartbroken to see others. With that being said, I think the mourning of some important characters lasted a single day and then they were nearly forgotten. I did not like that.

3. Hector
Once Elisa follows Alejandro to his country, Hector was the only welcoming one of her. I greatly enjoyed his characterization because he was just a nice guy. He was knowledgeable, he was kind, he was strong and I loved him as a secondary character. As a loyal friend to King Alejandro and Captain of His Guard, he knows a lot about everything. While he is not a love interest in this book, I'm greatly hoping he is in book two. He was such a great character and was very complex. I loved him as a person.

4. The World-Building and Political Intrigue
It's complex and unique, though typically what you would expect of a high fantasy. The world is on the brink of war, there are lots of hide-outs and complicated lands to traverse while others have fortified walls. There are political alliances that are made and then broken and countries doing their best to avoid all of the bloodshed. This led to some really interesting political intrigue that kept me somewhat on my toes, but became really predictable near the end as the battles began to climax.

5. The Hint of Sorcery
While Elisa has not explored it much and there wasn't much sorcery until the end of the novel, I love magic and I'm hoping this plot point is further explored in book two.

Things I Didn't Like

1. Alejandro
Alejandro is the King that is mentioned above in the synopsis--the handsome worldly king whose country is in turmoil. I did not like him and I viewed him not only as a weak ruler and a weak man, but a weak character because there was nothing to like about him. He was very fake. He had a mistress openly despite his marriage. He was almost ashamed of this marriage. He ignored his wonderful little son, Rosario, and didn't know how to properly lead the biggest country in this book into battle. He was shallow and only cared about how someone looked physically and couldn't even recognize his own wife after several months spent apart. Alejandro had no redeeming qualities and fell into the stereotypically handsome-guy-is-stupid role. He redeemed himself somewhat near the end, though. 

2. The Basis of Religion In This Story
Religion is not truly a basis, but considering the fact that Elisa has some type of Godstone gifted to her by God, there's a lot of praying and mention of Him. And I mean a lot. While I adjusted to it, it annoyed me somewhat in the beginning. This isn't a book that is trying to force religion down your throat, but because of the mythology religion is incredibly important. So while I eventually found it fascinating, I can understand how many can find it frustrating just as I did in the very beginning. So, as fascinating as the concept of someone being chosen every 100 years by God and having a stone put into them through a beam of life to fulfill a service to Him was fascinating, I think I would enjoy it more if there was less of a need for religion.

3. Important Characters Being Forgotten
This goes hand in hand with number two on the "things that I liked" list. Some major characters who perished were forgotten after a single day of mourning, but what I found to be even more odd was the lack of importance placed upon Elisa's elder sister and Father. They were a big deal in the beginning and they had all of two letter correspondences for about 95% of the novel. They were mentioned in passing! I don't understand it all. Characters were put on the back-burner and left there often.

4. Carson's Obsessed with Teeth
I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but almost every time we met a new character Carson went out of her way to mention their teeth somehow. Surprise surprise, most people had white teeth. Who would have known?! This is something that grated on my nerves. This world was on the brink of a war and there was a lot of death and all Elisa noticed at times were people's teeth.

All in all, I recommend this book to people who enjoy high fantasy novels with truly unique mythology and a strong main character that undergoes great growth. However, if religion is bothersome to you, this may not be the book for you.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Review: The Demon King

Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Seven Realms #1
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 506 (paperback)
Source: Personal Shelf
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell - the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked - as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.

One day Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history - it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returning to court after three years of freedom in the mountains - riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea - the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her - including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This book had a lot of promise, and while enjoyable, I found that it was unable to reach its true potential. With all of the praise that this book has received, I was expecting something brilliant. It's a bummer for me to admit that it didn't live up to my expectations.

It's hard to describe what hindered this book from greatness in my opinion. Look at the synopsis above. It's so long, it covers so many different details and gives you a very informative summary of many aspects found in the book instead of the book overall. That's sort of how the description in the book was. There was too much uninteresting knowledge. I'm not even going to lie, the first quarter of the book spanned maybe twenty four hours in a book that lasted several weeks. And to make matters worse, I was not truly enraptured until I surpassed page 200. While this is an easy book to get through because the concept is so fascinating, you can somehow simultaneously feel that you are reading 506 pages of words.

I also feel as if too much time was spent on the world-building. It basically breaks down as followers: There's a Queendom in a place called the Fells of the descendants of the Grey Wolf Throne. There are wars all around their territory in the novel. There are people in spiritual clans in the mountains, poor, unsafe, dirty flatlanders in the flatlands, and the wizards who are part of Wizard Council. The clans and the wizards hate each other, so the flatlanders sort of help to prevent a war because they're location is what bridges the gap between the two disagreeing people. The people disagree because, as legend has it, an old and powerful wizard named Alger rose up to destroy the world one thousand years ago. He earned the name The Demon King for his power and wrongdoings. His attempts to destroy the world led to the Breaking because the world was literally breaking from earthquakes of negative power. Then the warrior queen at the time found a way to save the world through the Naeming which established the Wizard Council and banned the wizards from the mountains while the clansmen had to fashion their wizarding tools for them to regulate and control them. Since then, the Queen always had a High Wizard to help aid her in times of war. The legend also states that this wizard could never betray the Queen because he is bound to her. But, what we quickly learn is that not all legends are true. My point being is that it took a solid third of the book for me to firmly grasp the entire world because the detail led me astray at times. It just wasn't necessary.

I also hate to admit that the characters fell into many cliches, which disappointed me. While the plot was incredibly creative, I wish that the characters were equally as original. And while some stood out to me, most had cliche aspects that had me shaking my head. Firstly, there's Princess Raisa, the upcoming heir to the Grey Wolf Throne. She's very impulsive and slightly annoying. She has a rebellious nature because her life is so regulated, so she often goes around kissing boys on whims. Sure, it's mostly the same boy, but at some point in the book she admits to kissing an entire list at least once. She's very thoughtful when it comes to helping out the poor, but very shallow and rude when it comes to giving other people a chance romantically. She won't even look at a potential suitor because his name is Kip, yet she openly admits to kissing his identical twin, Keith. They're the same, but she judges him on his name. I found this shallowness to be annoying, yet it's contrasted with her desire to help the poor in the flatlands. Her desire to rebel also made her ignore all negative aspects of her chosen forbidden romantic love interest. She chooses him above all in private, but is stricken at the idea of actually having to be with him in public several times throughout the book because it's against the law. Oh, and then there are the many times where she just sort of gets the urge to kiss a boy out of nowhere, even if it is her long lest best friend from when they were children, so she just does it because she's the Princess and can do whatever she wants. Not to be rude, but shouldn't she be more conscientious of how people view her? The immaturity and thoughtlessness as well as the hypocrisy and conflicting emotions and actions found in Raisa made some aspects of this book laborious because I just couldn't connect with her.

I did, however, greatly enjoy Amon's characterization and Han's characterization. Amon is a warrior that will do what is right, even if it means tamping down on his feelings. Han is an ex streetlord from the flatlands who was respected and revered for his skills. However, he chose to leave the life behind to protect his mother and younger sister from harm's way. I very much enjoyed his characterization. He was equal parts snarky and thoughtful with a keen intelligence and street sense that snuck up on you all the time. However, even these boys had cliche character flaws.

This book was full cliches that just got to be annoying. There's a weak queens. Obvious villainous people were ignored by everyone until it was too late. The evil kids doing their father's bidding. The evil guy who gets all the girls to go nuts over him despite his obvious evilness. The thug turned good guy. The long lost best friend finally returns home and falls in love with his friend only to have to deny his feelings. A distant father (though he was forced away by trading). A group of people to hate: the wizards. A million unnamed suitors hungry for the crown. Really, any character flaw and cliche you could think of in general, but also specifically for high fantasy novels, can be found in this one. And though this isn't a cliche it is a flaw; it really annoyed me that the Queen was so stupid she acted more like a child than her 16 year old daughter. You are a QUEEN, you cannot avoid conflict!

I have to say that with all of that being said, the political intrigue in this one fascinated me. This novel was written as Raisa's 16th birthday was approaching. This birthday marks the occasion of her ability to be married, so obviously the suitors are flocking and the alliances in times of war were on everyone's minds. Watching the dynamics among both the rich and the poor and the magical and the spiritual were interesting because we were allowed to see all sides of the coin. I greatly looked forward to scenes in the Spirit Mountains the most.

With all of that being said, I enjoyed this one. I just wish I could have formed a more emotional connection with characters since this book has such great length. I am hoping book two has an even better delivery than book one because I know both Amon and Han will play key roles in book two and they were what kept me reading book one.

A very great high fantasy, but not among my favorites. If you liked the war and political intrigue in GRACELING, you will most likely enjoy this one.


3.75 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #27


Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga from Tynga's Reviews.

This was a very decent week for me, the best in a while haha. The books listed under "for review" "gifted" and "bought" are all going to rock my socks off. I know it.

For Review
Dare You To by Katie McGarry (blog tour for Tynga's Reviews) 

Gifted
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
I'm so nervous to read this one because I don't want it to end! But thank you to my Mom and Dad for pre-ordering this for me back on my birthday in February. You both are amazing!

Bought 
Wait For You by J. Lynn (ebook)
Okay, I know I'm on a book buying ban, but I had to test out my new e-reader and this was only $2.99! It doesn't count! haha Plus, I already read it and loved it.


Trade 
The Friday Society by Adirenne Kress
Thank you Montana! I've been dying to read this steampunk!

What did everyone else add to their shelves this week?

DNF: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Author: Sarah Cross
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Reading Level: Young Adult (Mature)
Pages: 336 (ARC)
Source: Gifted
Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own... brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Disclaimer: This is not a review of the entire book. I made it to page 73, so this is a review of a little less than 1/4 of the book.

This review will contain spoilers and my own guesses that may or may not ruin the rest of the book. There's no way around it because I want to exemplify the struggles I had with this main character. If you do not like spoilers, please don't read this review. This is not my normal way of writing reviews, but since my blog is a place to record my thoughts I wanted to be honest with my reasoning. ;)

I knew going into this book that this story was going to be disturbing. Look at the cover with the bloody rose, the thorns, the title itself. But I wasn't expecting it to have such an annoying main character. So I couldn't get far enough to the creepiness that is KILL ME SOFTLY, though I think I can pretty much infer what will happen. As a fairytale re-telling that pretty much takes from the Grimm's versions of fairytales and not the Disney versions, things are bound to get super twisted.

But, in all honesty, the main character Mirabelle (also known as Bella and Mira) frustrated me so immensely that I could not even bother with this one. Main characters can truly make or break a book and it's very rare that I find a character who gets on my nerves as much as Mira managed to 23% into her own story. This girl lacks common sense. That's all there is to it. A lack of common sense made her so frustrating that I just gave up.

 I totally get the entire running away from your Godmother's because they're keeping secrets and you want to know about your deceased parents thing. Makes sense in a way and could equal a really interesting story. But while detailing her planning of the trip and executing it in the first few pages of the book, Mirabelle inadvertently brags of her intelligence. I also want to mention the fact that she is not yet 16. This is a week before her 16th birthday so she is still 15. Just want to get that out there while I explain some things that take place in this book.

Example 1.
 Upon her arrival in Beau Rivage, Mira has no idea what to do. She's too young to check into a hotel, she didn't call ahead to reserve one. Nothing. She decides to either commandeer a table in a cafe for three hours at a time or to sleep under a tree because she has no common sense or preparatory planning skills. Then she gets warned by this kid named Blue who has blue hair and piercings and all that fun stuff not to listen to his older brother who runs the establishment that she's currently trying to hole up in. She ignores him and somehow runs into this older brother (who is a sinister 21 years old) and he puts her in a room free of charge and promises to help her out and help her look for a parents. I don't know about you, but this is all weird to me. This does not happen in real life.

Example 2.
The next morning the Blue kid breaks down her door (literally!) and practically kidnaps her to get her away from his brother (even though his actions are super extreme). She goes because she doesn't have a choice, but runs back into the brother's arms when she has a chance. She's so enraptured by this mesmerizing 21 year old that she suddenly imagines having her first kiss and a bunch of other stuff with him without even knowing him for twenty four hours. Insta-love at its finest.

Example 3.
 The apparent bad-guy older brother allows Mira to stay in his room while he's out doing business and Blue finds her yet again and tries to get her out. She refuses and the older brother comes back and convinces Blue to leave and convinces Mira to stay over night in his own room. Mira, the girl who has common sense. Mira, the young 15 year old girl who has common sense. Mira, the young 15 year old girl who supposedly has common sense says yes! And then she decides to sleep in the same bed as him. No words.

Example 4.
But when she chooses to sleep in the same bed as him, she totally must not think anything is going to happen because she feels uncomfortable all of the sudden. Well, he comes back into the room shirtless and plays with the skin on her hip a little and goes in for the kiss (which is not surprising at all, but is super surprising to her) and she freaks out and says no. When you accept an invitation to sleep in the same bed as a guy who you met the prior day, it sort of communicates the message that you're going to do something other than pass out together. But intelligent Mira can't put two and two together. Eventually, he just cuddles her and they pass out.

Example 5.
When she wakes up she is more concerned that he saw her back and her odd birthmark because her shirt was ridden up slightly than the fact that she just slept in the same bed with a man who was more than 6 years older than her who clearly was sexually attracted to her and was saying such cute things like "I didn't think you liked me this way" because he wanted her. Face it, 16+ year old guys don't even say stuff like that. Obviously, someone wanting someone with such a huge age gap at this stage in their lives is inappropriate and she should hightail it out of there, but she doesn't.

And that's where I left off. I couldn't deal with it. I had an inkling about where this story was going and I didn't want to deal with Mira bragging about her intelligence only to turn around and do stupid things anymore.

All characters we met in this story were reminiscent of famous characters physically and personality-wise. There was a Beast, there was his reluctant Beauty, a Snow White who loved apples and a Prince Charming who attracted the animals. And of course, the guy who had a kick for damsels in distress.

All of these Grimm fairytales were beginning to be weaved in the first fourth of the book. My prediction is that they clash since everyone in Beau Rivage is cursed to live out whatever fairytale is theirs (though I think that has something to do with birthmarks, but I don't care to get far enough to learn more). And with that thought in mind, I quit the book. I don't know many Grimm fairytales, but I happen to know a little about the Grimm's version of Sleeping Beauty. And it was very clear from the first page of this book that Mirabelle was our new Sleeping Beauty. Anyone see the Disney movie where the Godmothers were cleaning the house and they used magic to change the color of her dress? The opening scene was that except the green fairy did not exist and they were fighting over the color of a cake without using magic. So, yes, she is our Sleeping Beauty. And in the Grimm's tale Sleeping Beauty gets raped, not kissed and awoken, by the Prince. After seeing her stupidity explained in the last few examples above, this doesn't surprise me. While such a scene probably doesn't happen until near the end of the book, it's almost like she was asking for it. And I'm not saying I support such terrible torturous actions. I don't. But if you think about this fairytale and assume that this is probably going to happen and you see this naive little girl throw herself in front of a wicked, experienced guy who admittedly has a thing for damsels in distress while deciding to inadvertently play hard to get because she has no common sense, he may get sick of her young little games and take what he wants to be his. It sucks, I hate it, I'm so happy this is not real life, but it's a realistic plot for a twisted fairytale story that takes all plot ideas from the original Grimm fairytales.

Do I know if this really happens in KILL ME SOFTLY? I don't! I didn't read anything past page 73 and for all I know, it doesn't happen at all. But I got the twisted, creepy vibe from the story and I know enough background knowledge to comfortably guess what was going to happen. Having such a naive main character almost set up the plot above that I guessed about. And with that in mind, I didn't have a desire to read anymore. This girl is going to get herself into trouble from naivety and her new peers in Beau Rivage are going to go through some creepy stories alongside her (Cinderella's stepsisters chopping off their toes to fit into the Prince's glass slipper, anyone?) and it didn't catch my interest enough to want to continue when I can logically guess the progression of the book.

Whether this does or does not happen will be something I never learn nor think about again. 

With that being said, I highly suggest this book to people who enjoy the original Grimm's fairytales or creepy stories in general. Face it, all fairytales have weird little aspects that we wouldn't agree with, but this book and I just weren't meant to be. What interested many others was somewhat predictable and laborious for me. While Cross has a very promising writing style and I'm curious to see what else she has in store for us, I didn't care enough to continue this one, though I sincerely hope that many other people and my March Fantasy Month partner do not agree with me. According to Goodreads, 87% of people who read this book enjoyed it. I seem to be the black sheep.

~*~Links~*~

Review: Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 451 (Hardcover)
Source: Personal Shelf
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

 After seeing that beautiful cover above, I knew I had to read this book. And while I very much enjoyed this one, I don't think it lived up to expectations after hearing some of the immense praise my friends have exhibited toward it..

I want to begin by saying that this was one of the deepest fantasy books I have come across in a while. Heck, it was one of the deepest books I have come across in general. There are layers upon layers of thoughts that make you question the truth, what is right and wrong, love, emotions, following your heart, hiding your true self, protecting others, and so much more. It tugged at your heartstrings and got you thinking--two things that I think are essential to a great book. You grow fond of the characters and immediately feel for them.

However, with that being said, I have to admit that I felt somewhat disconnected from Seraphina all the same. As our main character, she tells the story to us. We experience what she experiences, feel what she feels. She's overridden with emotion and unemotional all the same. See, she is half dragon. Her father is a lawyer and her mother was a dragon that betrayed her family and race. Nobody knows what she is out of shame. Dragons have trouble understanding human emotions, so naturally Seraphina does, but she is also human so she is naturally emotional. Conflicting, I know. We'll put it this way. If she was upset, she'd cry without a second thought, but she had to look in the mirror and practice smiling to make it seem real, just like most full dragons do. So, while I commend Hartman for being able to make us seem detached from a person who is supposed to be emotionally detached, I did not enjoy this.

In truth, I felt more attached to the side characters. Take Orma for example. He's a full dragon and irrationally emotional--so much so that the dragons want to remove all emotions from him through a special ritual. I liked him more than I liked Seraphina. Well, I should say I connected with him more than I did Seraphina. The side characters added an insane amount of depth to this book and, in my opinion, is what made it so amazing. Orma, Prince Lucian Kiggs, Lars, I loved them all. And while I greatly enjoyed Seraphina, I didn't love her as much. This is one of those instances where you can't put your finger on what exactly has turned you off, but you know there's something large blocking this wonderful book from being an amazing five star novel. I really know no other way to describe it besides saying that I didn't connect with Seraphina the way I should have, but somehow managed to do so with the side characters.

With all of that being said, this was an amazing debut and truly deserving of all the recognition and awards it has received. Hartman writes with such beautiful detail that everything came to life, the immense love of music and descriptions of sound made the melodies play out in my head. The dragons all seemed real. However, I have to say, that her amazing description made this a very serious story. Sometimes Seraphina spoke in ways that dictated she was wise beyond her years, which I agree with, but than she lies and does something irrational and I question how a girl can be so wise one moment and unwise the next. 

With that being said, Lars was able to provide some comic relief that I greatly enjoyed because the atmosphere was so serious. Just picture this: a very tale and muscular man with a love of music that goes hard on the bagpipes. His preference for fighting? Breaking out the warpipes! And don't forget the lisp that would come with a German-ish accent. I find this picture incredibly hysterical.

I must also admit that the world-building in this one is immense. So much so that it's almost a little too much in the beginning. There were long sequences of detail and while it pulled me in, I can very easily see it turning many people off. However, the unique atmosphere of this novel led to some very unique circumstances, like the necessity of Seraphina to have a mind garden full of grotesques that she must keep in line. While that may sound odd, I think this idea and the connection it has throughout the story is among the most imaginative and unique aspects of a novel I have come across, possibly ever.

With all of that being said, I recommend this to people who love fantasy books and description. If you don't like beautiful description, this book will prove to be hard to get through. This novel will be perfect for those who like to think and question things, analyze shifting plots, and so on. While it is amazing, there's something holding it just short of stupendous. I'm hoping to connect more with Seraphina in book two since she is slowly learning to accept her life for what it is instead of keeping aspects of her past closed off to the rest of the world. An amazing debut, Hartman will certainly be an author whose name will never easily be forgotten.


4.5 stars

~*~Links~*~

This review is part of March Fantasy Month. Gillian of Writer of Wrongs dared me to read this book. You can find her review here. 

Stacking The Shelves #26


Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Not another impressive haul based on my book buying ban to save for college, but I got a great book via trade and a pre-order from my birthday just came in!

 
Trade
The Ward by Jordana Frankel
Thank you to Jodie from Uniquely Moi Books for this trade!

Gifted
Poison By Bridget Zinn
Thank to you to Aunt for the pre-order! I already reviewed this book and loved it so much she bought me a hardcover! Check out the review in my archive!

What did you add to your shelves? 

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball

Author: Jessica Day George
Series: Princess #1
Publication Date: January 20, 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Reading Level: Young Adult (12+)
Pages: 272 (Paperback)
Source: Bought
A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is one of those books that will always put a smile on your face. I really don't know how else to describe this adorable fairytale re-telling.

One of the awesome aspects of this re-telling is that it stayed pretty true to the original tale. I must admit, I have never outright read the original tale, but I know the general gist of it because what young girl doesn't know a little something about the Twelve Dancing Princesses? So what I did know was portrayed beautifully in the story and other aspects of the tale that I didn't know were also rather interesting. All in all, this is an amazing re-telling that those who have enjoyed the story will greatly enjoy, just as much as those who have not read the story.

The main character of this story, Galen, is a nineteen year old boy returning from war. He lost his father to a stray bullet, his mother to lung disease, and his younger sister to a terrible cart accident. Thus, upon his country winning the brutal twelve year war with Analousia, Galen returns to his aunts family, the Orms, in the kingdom of Westfalin. They are the gardeners of the royal family, who is currently under great duress. See, the King has twelve daughters and is widowed, his wife passing a few years after the birth of the youngest six year old daughter. The eldest daughter, Rose, is inconceivably ill and worse, a mystery has arisen about the princesses that is spreading talk of witchcraft all over the kingdom. The princesses wake up every third night with their dancing slippers destroyed. When their father, King Gregor, demands answers, they find themselves tongue-tied. He gives young prince suitors a chance to marry one of his daughters and take over his throne upon his death if they can successfully figure out what is happening to his girls and their nightly excursions, but all return home with no answers and are mysteriously dead within a few days. Only young Galen can find a way to unravel such an intense mystery (and boy, is it a truly enticing little mystery).

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was George's characterization. Galen is becoming a favorite hero of mine. He's strong, determined, intelligent, and has a huge heart. When he begins working under his Uncle in the Queen's Garden as an under-gardener, he quickly becomes enraptured with Princess Rose and decides he must do everything in his power to save her from the unknown wicked curse that is holding her and her sisters prisoner.

Then, there are the sisters. The sisters characterization exemplifies George's eye for detail, especially when it comes to attitudes. All twelve sisters were incredibly different entities. One was obsessed with music, the other prayed most of the day away. The youngest ones just wanted to be children, and the eldest aspired to be proper ladies. But, I must admit, upon my initial meeting with them, it was hard to get their names straight. As the book progresses, George cleared up all possible worries with them and gave them unique personalities that allowed us to differentiate between them. I must admit though, that I found some princesses to be hopelessly unimportant compared to the others. Rose, Lily, and Jonquil were all important because they were the eldest, wisest, and smartest. The younger ones, Daisy, Petunia, and Pansy, were always mentioned because they were the ones breaking down most. Hyacinth was mentioned often for fainting under duress and praying her worries away, etc. But then there's a sister like Iris. She was mentioned in passing often and I felt like she was nothing compared to her sisters. I'd rather have them all serve the same type of part than just a few.

I also found the little quirks in this novel to be slightly entertaining. The number twelve is repetitive throughout this novel. There are twelve princesses, the King Under Stone has twelve ghastly sons, the war waged for twelve years, and many others. It reminded me of the concept of three found in Dante's Inferno. And the importance of flowers because of the late Queen's love of gardening thus her desire to name all her daughters after her beloved flowers were cute as well.

George's creativity also is apparent in her depiction of the country and the surrounding territories. As a history buff and devoted AP World History student, my knowledge of simple European geography allowed me to envision the world that George created. She took our map and revolutionized it in a fairytale way. Even so, with characters that refer to each other as Herr or Frau, you can easily infer that this book takes place in a fairytale Germany. I thought this to be a really interesting concept that I would never have thought to come up with. I encourage anyone reading this to pick out the little details to see if they can have as much fun recreating the map as I did.

All in all, I have to say that this book was very sweet. Though I have never read anything previously written by George, I plan on continuing more novels by her because she is such a great author. With great attention to detail, she was able to both produce the beautiful views found in the Queen's Garden while, in comparison, she could make us feel the creepiness that is the King Under Stone's underworld. She's a very gifted author that I highly encourage checking out. Perfect for readers of all ages, this is a great tale that will never cease to make you smile that can easily be finished in a single sitting. It's captivating in the sweetest of ways.

4 stars

 
~*~Links~*~
|Amazon|Goodreads|Book Depository|Barnes and Noble|Author's Website

Gillian of Writer of Wrong's review can be found here. This was one of her dares to me in honor of March Fantasy Month

Waiting on Wednesday #32


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that spotlights upcoming releases and it is hosted by the fabulous Breaking the Spine.
 
My pick of the week is...

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

It's a freaking beauty and the best re-telling! Oh my gosh! I need it now! 

Share your picks with me! I'm curious!

Books Change Lives Update #6


Hello, everyone! It's been a while since I've been able to do a proper thank you post, so I can't wait to do this! We are now at 772 books!

I also want to point out that book collecting will end in May, so if you can get me any books, please do so ASAP. I would love to break 1000! If you would like to help out, please check out the launch page here!

Also, for all of those who are not in the United States, always remember that I have a list of books to add from the book depository!

Now, without further ado, thank you to...

SARAH FINE
Sarah donated a wide assortment of really popular young adult ARCs and finished copies that are amazing additions to the cause! Thank you so much! <3

EILEEN LI
I was super lucky to meet Eileen from Singing and Reading in the Rain at an event at Books of Wonder and she was kind enough to donate 9 finished YA and MG titles off of her personal shelves. Thank you so much, Eileen!

LENORE APPELHANS
Lenore packed a box so much that it was literally exploding with a little over ten YA books, some of which have been released and some of which haven't yet. Thank you so much, Lenore! <3

JENNIFER DEE/JEN BIGHEART
Jennifer sent another 60+ ARCs my way to help the kids, both MG and YA. She is absolutely amazing <3


LYDIA KANG
Lydia was so awesome she donated the LOOKING GLASS WARS series for young readers and several parenting books for gifted children, which were greatly needed. You are truly great! <3

MARGIE CORTINA
Margie is a super awesome friend that was nice enough to donate the Halo series to the cause!

JUSTINE DELL
Justine donated a signed copy of her indie novel about horses for younger girls!

C.J. REDWINE
CJ was so awesome she donated two signed ARCs of her 2012 debut, DEFIANCE!

NICOLE MUSICH
On top of everything else she's donated, Nicole has given even more childrens books! This is so amazing, thank you! <3

KIRSTEN MILLER 
Kirsten donated an ARC of her book that I greatly enjoyed, HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME! Thank you! <3

ANN AGUIRRE
Ann is so amazing! She donated 8 of her books, completely brand new and never before read! We now have four full series written by her, though book three is currently in the works! Thank you so much for your generosity, Ann!

ASHLEY GAFFORD
Ashley donated a small box full of a few popular YA books for all audiences like the SEVEN DEADLY SINS series! Thanks!

GINA ROSATI
Gina sent even more books my way! She sent another 30, mostly books for middle grade readers with a few amazing young adult books thrown in. You are truly amazing, Gina! <3

VIDA ENGSTRAND
Vida works at Kensington and she was kind enough to send almost 40 books to the charity, including over 20 ARCs of the yet to be released TOUCH OF SCARLET! Thank you so much, Vida! <3

ELLEN OH
Ellen was excited to help out with the cause and sent a signed hardcover of her 2013 debut, PROPHECY, our way! Thank you, Ellen! <3 You are such a sweetheart!

JOSIN L. MCQUEIN
Josin was so amazing that she donated a signed ARC of her upcoming 2013 debut, ARCLIGHT! This book is amazing and I highly encourage checking it out!

NEW LEAF LITERARY 
Two of the girls over at New Leaf Literary sent home 20 books that they represent for all age levels. Thank you so much! <3 And thank you Sarah Fine for putting me in contact with them!

CHRIS RICKERT
Chris works at a used book store, so he was kind enough to send five books that he believed would be loved by all. He specifically donated a few books for boys that were greatly needed!

SARA SLATTERY
 Thank you, Sara, for sending a YA hardcover my way!


LISA SILVERLIGHT
Lisa sent an overflowing box of books our way with titles for all age levels. Thank you so much, Lisa! <3 You are truly amazing.

KRISTA RITCHIE
Krista was amazing enough to donate two new MG books off of the kids wishlists! <3 Thank you!

HELENE OUWEHAND
Helene was awesome enough to donate 2 books off of the kids wishlist as well! Thank you!

Collections will be delivered in May, so if you want to get any donations in, please contact me ASAP at reflectionsbylili@gmail.com. All donations have to come in in April for this to be possible! 

Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold

Author: Jane Nickerson
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Reading Level: Young Adult, 14+
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Source: From Publisher for Review
The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Imagine having an extreme preference for a physical feature. This isn't an uncommon occurrence. I like height. I won't date a guy unless he's taller than me and will remain taller than me if I'm in heels. It's a physical trait I find attractive. Some men will only date shorter, petite women. Some people have a fascination with individuals of a certain nationality. Some people prefer tan skin opposed to pale skin. And some people are suckers for blue and green eyes guilty as charged. Well, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac is fascinated by beautiful red hair--shining strands of bronze and gold. But what if a simple fascination morphs into a sinister obsession? Well, that's what happens in the breathtaking and chilling debut novel, Strands of Bronze and Gold. An amazing debut, this fairytale re-telling will send shivers down your spine as you flip the pages eagerly to see just what will happen next.

One of the things I greatly enjoyed about this novel was that it differentiates from the original tale, but stays true to it in its own form. I have read the original Bluebeard tale prior to reading this debut. It was many years ago and I can't say I remember much of it, just the general gist of it. A serial killer killed a certain type of victim, there was a forbidden room, and a big heaping dose of creepiness that made my skin crawl. So, while this novel is somewhat true to the original tale, this novel can stand on its own. People with no knowledge of the original tale can easily infer things from reading and come up with their own theories to this wonderfully twisted mystery and those who have read the original tale can find certain links between both and be fascinated by this unique betrayal. The setting, for example, is Mississippi in the time of slavery before the Civil War. It differs greatly from the original tale and allows for some very interesting sub-plots. However, those expecting the direct equivalent of the Bluebeard fairy-tale may be disappointed in the creep-factor of this novel. Though admittedly creepy, my skin was not crawling as much as it was during the original tale.

Clearly, I enjoyed the setting. The pre-Civil War south was a time of preaching, of silent rebellions by the slaves, and of prejudice against people of a different skin color. When Sophia went to mysterious Wyndriven Abbey, she gave us a gateway to politics and unique thought that served as a great back-drop to Bernard's creepiness. The free beliefs of the Northern Yankees contrasted greatly with the Southern slave-owners and the mention of the Underground Railroad. That part of the novel as well as the interactions with the slaves will be amazing for history buffs like myself.

But, in all truthfulness, I have to say that the best part of this novel was the characters. Without such amazing characterization, the mystery wouldn't have been as compelling. Sophia was a very strong heroine, willing to sacrifice everything and marry a villainous man to protect her family and their mounting financial issues despite her tender age of seventeen. She was bright and very clever, finding ways to ward of his advances, and he often befriended the proper people, though slightly unexpected. However, I have to admit that she was slightly clueless when it came to the overall scheme of things. While she could sense danger and chose to deal with it in her own ways, she was oblivious to things that the reader could easily infer and only realized certain plot twists once it was too late. It took the leading lady quite some time to figure out happenings that we, as readers, realized about a third into the book. Otherwise, as a girl who is the same age as our heroine, I loved her dearly and valued her characterization immensely. It is rare to happen upon a teenage heroine that is so selfless and willing to protect others at her own expense. She is the type of sister and companion that should be written about more often.

And then there is Monsieur Bernard de Cressac. From their initial meeting, you can immediately tell that this guy is creepy, though his initial interest in Sophia was attributed to foreign customs of over-affection and a desire to get to know his long-lost godaughter. The extent of his creepiness is not truly revealed until the last fourth of the book where the underlying tension of mounting doom explodes into several chilling realizations all at once that will leave you with your mouth agape. It is hard to sort out Bernard's loneliness from the passing of his previous four wives (also red-heads) and his overwhelming need to be in control of everything. This madman's desire for control and cunning intelligence makes the novel and Wyndriven Abbey itself have an air quite sinister that draws a reader in and makes it impossible to let go. Though incredibly vile, he can go down in the history books among the most twisted of young adult villains.

Clearly, the romance and pursuit of a romantic relationship is not the usual experience. However, there was another man in Sophia's life who she had met when he almost fell out of a tree. This boy, who shall remain unnamed since you should experience him yourself, is a preacher with a big heart who loves Sophia for her true self. After her world is shrouded constantly in gray at the Abbey, he provides a bright spot in her life that makes her fall for him after a measly three secret meetings. While I would normally criticize this as a terrible case of insta-love, this bright spot in Sophia's dreary existence (at the time) was welcome and greatly added to the plot. This cute love was another great sub-plot thrown in by Nickerson.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a mysterious tale, an amazingly well done villain, skin-crawling surprises, and historical fiction. With all of these different aspects weaved into a great debut, I can see many enjoying this book. Though not as creepy as the original tale and admittedly slow at times, it will certainly hold your attention. My biggest complaint was Sophia's constant need to remain within Wyndriven Abbey, but then again, this can be attributed to Bernad's desire to confine her for his ultimate control. As annoying as it was, it attributed to the overall plot.

A warning to parents, this novel is marked for those aged 14+ and I highly suggest following these orders. If you are fourteen and easily scared or squeamish, I would even recommend holding off on this book for a short while. With that being said, I'm a big wuss and I really loved the chilling atmosphere that I indulged in, but this book is not for the easily scared.


4 stars

~*~Links~*~

Stacking The Shelves #25

 
Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
 
I just got one book this week, but I'm okay with that, especially with my mission to no longer buy books!
 
For Review
 

Prophecy Girl by Cecily White
Thank you to Jaime at Entangled Publishing!
 
 
What did everyone else add to their shelves this week?