Book Review: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

10429092Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
ISBN: 978-0062026507
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pub. Date:  August 2012
Source: Purchased
Genre: Romance/ Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/ YA
Pages: 448
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  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.

My Reveries and Ramblings:   Sooooo…..I REALLY REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK!  Before reading this, I went on a romance novel binge.  I probably read at least six romance novels.  (I was at the beach…don’t judge :P) After that, I was craving to read a book with a strong kick-ass heroine.  I was so tired of reading about damsel-in-distress-I’m-so-weak women.  So picked this from my goodreads TBR list….and read….and read….and didn’t stop.

Elisa, the protagonist, is a princess who carries the godstone, a gift from God to the people of Earth to defend them against dark magic.  Elisa’s possessing of the godstone has put her in constant danger since she was a little girl.  Of course, she never knew about the danger; her family kept her sheltered.  When her father marries her off to a King from a far away land, everything changes.

      Elisa is a fantastic character.  She starts off incredibly insecure, fat, and depressed.  She is fat because she eats when upset or stressed.  This is partly why she is very insecure.  She is, however, incredibly smart.  Over the course of the book, Elisa changes.  Some of these changes come at a great cost to her.  But she perseveres.  She starts out weak, and by the end of the book, she’s so much stronger.  What I liked most about Elisa was that she was so relatable.  She was nowhere near perfect, but was a character that many teenaged girls can look up to.  Hell, I’d like to be like her.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is really hard to review without giving spoilers.  This book does have romance in it, although you’ll be in for lots of surprises.  Every time I started to predict what would happen next or how the book would end, Ms. Carson would go “Yeaaaah no” and throw in a huge twist.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns was nothing short of gripping and epic.  It did involve religion, but it didn’t feel overwhelming.  

If you like epic stories with a strong, relatable, kick-ass heroine than you will LOVE this awesome historical fantasy book! 

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

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Book Review: Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

9935444Title: Torrent
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Series: River of Time #3
ISBN: 978-1434764294
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pub. Date: September 2011
Source: Publisher/Author
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance/Christian Fiction
Pages: 388
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  When Gabi and Lia finally learn to surf the river of time, they realize they must make hard choices about life and love in the third and final book in the River of Time series. 

Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times. But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever—even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In the suspenseful conclusion of the River of Time series, every decision is about life … and death.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Right now, there are 2 types of people in the world: 1) those who have read The River of Time series and 2) those who have never read it. If you are in that second group, then please do, these books are epic.

(SPOILER ALERT=some spoilers)
Okay, now for those of you in that first group, get ready to feel like you will burst from all of the emotional energy you will have while reading this book. It is pure epicness.
Even though the central goal in the beginning is to get Fortino back. That is just a small battle in the whole war. Actually this book made me realize how big this really was. In Waterfall, we aren’t really aware of just how high the stakes are raised, everything is tense, but life does go on. In Cascade, we are made aware of the waging war, but it still doesn’t hit us. It’s not until book three, Torrent, that we fully acknowledge the scale.
In Waterfall, Gabi is brought into the past, unprepared, and even a bit naive (not much though). Throughout Waterfall and Cascade she learns that in order to survive and protect the ones she loves, she has to make choices and sacrifices. Almost every one of them are not easy. Most are dangerous and life threatening. But through all these experiences she learns that life is short, and is meant to be lived. Gabi is tested, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Torrent, Gabi starts to feel the stress from everything she has done. All the exertion, all the fighting, everything pushes her to her limits.
What I love most about this series is Ms. Bergren’s ability to really pull the reader into the book. Every chapter had me screaming, crying, smiling, and jumping out of my seat. I started this book while on a plane and I think the kid sitting next to me thought I was crazy. I was so into this book that I completely forgot where I was and started tearing up, making exclamations out loud, and moving around in my seat when the energy from all the suspense was too much to take sitting still. There were so many of these moments throughout the book, that it never lags. The pace is perfect!
Another reason why I love this series, is the characters. All the characters grow and change throughout the books. As a reader, we are only keyed into Gabi’s thoughts and feelings. Like every normal teenager, she is constantly questioning everything: her faith, her relationships, her morals, etc. Ms. Bergren takes the reader on the adventure with Gabi, which is so cool!
The Plot: Ms. Bergren doesn’t disappoint at all. After reading Waterfall, I had no clue how Cascade would hold up. Well, it exceeded all my expectations and more. Then, I began to feel the same about Torrent. How would this epic series end? With a bang? Or with disappointment? I was seriously hoping to love the ending. And….I DID! I was constantly left guessing what would happen next; Torrent was completely unpredictable. In fact, when books get too suspenseful, I usually end up sneaking a peak at the end (please don’t yell at me!). It took everything, and I mean everything, I had not to do this. I love this series too much, to ruin it for myself.
The action, was a huge bonus in this book. Seriously, it is action-packed up until the very end. I’m not exaggerating. Just when you think its all over, its not. Which is GREAT!
Now onto our swoon-worthy heroes.
Dear Marcello, ahhh, my love. I love him! I do, but about half-way through, I decided to accept the fact that Marcello and Gabi were made for each other. So my sights moved onto Greco. Oh My Gosh! Lord Greco is now my favorite swoon-worthy Italian man in this series. He completely shocked me with his loyalty. I didn’t really like him in Cascade, but I loved him in Torrent. And now I’m gushing just thinking about him. Ahhh.
Ms. Bergren, you are my hero! I love this series. In fact, the second I finished Torrent, I said “This series is better than Twilight!” (Please Twi-hards, don’t kill me!) I love Twilight, but the writing, plot, characters, and setting of The River of Time series were all so much better. This series is definitely one of my favorite series EVER. I can’t recommend this these books enough! It deserves 5 BILLION Kisses!

BIG Thank-you to Ms. Bergren and David C. Cook for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Torrent (River of Time, #3)

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Book Review: Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren

9368401Title: Cascade
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Series: The River of Time #2
ISBN: 978-1434764317
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pub. Date: June 1, 2011
Source: Author
Genre: YA/ Historical Romance/Time-Travel
Pages: 416
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads: Mom touched my underdress—a gown made six hundred years before—and her eyes widened as she rubbed the raw silk between thumb and forefinger. She turned and touched Lia’s gown. “Where did you get these clothes?”
Gabi knows she’s left her heart in the fourteenth century and she persuades Lia to help her to return, even though they know doing so will risk their very lives. When they arrive, weeks have passed and all of Siena longs to celebrate the heroines who turned the tide in the battle against Florence—while the Florentines will go to great lengths to see them dead.  But Marcello patiently awaits, and Gabi must decide if she’s willing to leave her family behind for good in order to give her heart to him forever.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  If you haven’t read Waterfall, the first book in the River of Time series, then I urge you, nay, kick you to the bookstore to buy, yes, you heard me right; buy Waterfall because it is so worth it! Now, stop reading because this review will spoil the end of Waterfall for you.
When my package (Cascade) came in the mail, I screamed and ripped it open. I beheld a signed copy of Cascade with signed bookmarks (Thank you, Lisa Bergren!) Apparently all the noise I was making alarmed my family. When they walked in the room asking me what was wrong, they found me jumping up and down repeating “yes yes YES! AHHHH, I’m so happy!” They just looked at me shaking their heads, probably flashing back at the last time this happened (during my Twilight phase).
EPIC. That was the first word that came to mind when I finished Cascade. I didn’t think it was possible to love a book more than I loved Waterfall, but Ms. Bergren proved me wrong. This book was even better than Waterfall. The stakes were raised even higher in this installment. Gabi and Marcello are forced to really think about the direction of their relationship. For Gabi to stay in the past, she would have to force her family to stay with her. She would also have to start thinking about marriage-people got married at a much younger age back then (they also died earlier). When the three Betarrini women travel back in time, they find themselves in the middle of a war. No one is safe; especially the “She-wolves of Siena.” Gabi and Lia are confronted with numerous obstacles in this sequel. The enemies of Siena are constantly hunting them. As a source of hope for the people of Siena, Marcello and Luca, the girls must survive. I’m going to stop talking about the plot here, because there is just too much that happens and I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Just know that there are three things the girls are up against: 1) The plague, 2) the war, and 3) the choice to either go back to the present or stay in the past.
Okay, now for my gushing! I. Love. Marcello. I might have said that in my Waterfall review, but I don’t care. It’s true! Ms. Bergren created a hero that is charming, swoon-worthy, and…..Italian! All my favorite scenes involved Marcello. Ahhh, I’m smiling just thinking about him. Ms. Bergren did add a new potential swoon-worthy guy, Lord Greco. His status in the book is a bit complicated, so I’ll just say this: YUM! Yep, he has the whole Ash (from the Iron Fey series) attitude. He’s goal-oriented, sly, and is more than meets the eye. He is charged with capturing the Betarrini women. After accepting the task, he finds out that this is much harder than it seems.
Cascade was exhilarating! The story never stalled. I was constantly turning the page wondering what happened next. Whenever Gabi overcame one obstacle, there were two more waiting for her on the next page. Just when I thought “Thank God they made it!” the suspense comes creeping back. Usually authors have an action scene then a relationship scene. Ms. Bergren effortlessly blends the two together. The reader feels the urgency the characters are feeling, throughout the book. This made me feel like I was a part of the story; like I was right there in the battlefield/forest. This sequel was much more emotional than Waterfall. Ms. Bergren was not afraid to kill off characters. Gabi, as well as Lia and their mother, had to deal with death at a much closer and bloody level. They begin to realize how tragic and dangerous this war is. They have a responsibility towards the people of Siena whether they like it or not. Whatever Gabi felt, I felt. I could feel her pain and sadness over each death. War is so tragic; it was heartbreaking to read it through Gabi’s POV.
I couldn’t put the book down! The only problem was that it ended. Ms. Bergren took me on an exciting adventure that I will never forget! WARNING: Don’t read the book in a public place unless your are fine with being stared at. I read Cascade on the train. Every time something really great happened I wanted to jump up and down. Every time something tragic or sad happened I wanted to scream or cry. Of course stifling my laughter by coughing doesn’t really work because my “coughs” sounded more like cackles. When I finished it (on the train) it took EVERYTHING I had to calmly shut the book. I wanted to dance and run around yelling “THAT WAS AMAZING! WHY DID IT HAVE TO END?!?!?!?!” But instead I fidgeted in my little window-seat replaying my favorite scenes and thinking about how far away the release date for Torrent is.

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Cascade (River of Time, #2)

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Book Review: To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker

493051Title: To Catch A Pirate
Author: Jade Parker / Rachel Hawthorne
ISBN: 978-0439026949
Publisher: Point
Pub. Date: May 2007
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Romance/Adventure/Historical Fiction/Historical Romance
Pages: 320
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Once caught, it’s harder still to let a pirate go.  When Annalisa Townsend’s ship is set upon by pirates in search of her father’s treasure, one of the crew, James Sterling, discovers her in the hold.  When he moves to take her necklace, she begs him not to, as it is all she has left of her mother.  He accepts a kiss in exchange for the necklace.  “A fair trade, m’lady,” he tells her afterward, before disappearing.  A year later, with a forged letter of marque, Annalisa is intent on hunting down the wretched James Sterling and reclaiming her father’s treasure from him.  But now she’s in danger of him stealing something far more vulnerable this time: her heart.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  After the death of her mother, Annalisa Townsend and her father sail to the Caribbean, with a treasure chest filled with some of the King’s gold, to build a new port.  When their ship gets attacked by pirates, the gold is stolen and many lives are lost.  The survivors, including Annalisa and her father, report the attack.  Because they survived, Annalisa’s father is accused of either being a pirate or associating with pirates and is thrown in jail.  Annalisa goes out with her friend, Nathaniel to find the pirate, James Sterling.  He was the very attractive pirate who held her at knifepoint, stole her ring, and kissed her while the pirates were searching the ship.  In fact, he saved her life, by keeping her whereabouts a secret.  Since her father is incarcerated, she wants nothing more than to kill the pirates that forced her into ruin.  Using her dowry, Annalisa finds a ship and crew and begins hunting for the pirate that stole her treasure.
Annalisa was such a strong character.  For a woman in the 1700s to chase pirates and captain a ship-that’s pretty darn incredible.  James Sterling couldn’t believe she (a woman) was commanding a ship.  Of course, she had Nathaniel’s help; but still.  Grrr….Nathaniel.  I did not like him.  Since this book reminded me so much of the Pirates of the Caribbean (without the supernatural aspect), Nathaniel reminded me of Norington.  James Sterling was just Ahhhh *swoon*.  He was like a combination between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.  After stealing Annalisa’s kiss and ring he is marooned on an island along with his friend Ferret for betraying his captain.  When he gets off the island he ends up running for his life from a pirate hunter.  When Annalisa finally catches him, she treats him well, or tries to at least.  Nathaniel can see the growing attraction and does not like it.  He does terrible things to James, like beating him.  James is the better man, even though he is a pirate.  Now partnered with James, Annalisa goes out to find the buried treasure.
This book was so great.   It had romance, sword fighting, pirates, adventure, and suspense.  I would definitely recommend reading this awesome book.
Side note: The author is actually Rachel Hawthorne.  She wrote To Catch a Pirate under “Jade Parker.”

 

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To Catch a Pirate

Book Review: Everlasting by Angie Frazier

Title: Everlasting
Author: Angie Frazier
Series: Everlasting #1
ISBN: 978-0545114738
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pub. Date: June 2010
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Romance/Adventure/Fantasy
Pages: 336
Rating:  3/5

From Goodreads:  Sailing aboard her father’s trade ship is all seventeen-year-old Camille Rowen has ever wanted. But as a girl of society in 1855 San Francisco, her future is set: marry a man she doesn’t love, or condemn herself and her father to poverty.
On her final voyage before the wedding, the stormy arms of the Tasman Sea claim her father, and a terrible family secret is revealed. A secret intertwined with a fabled map, the mother Camille has long believed dead, and an ancient stone that wields a dangerous—and alluring—magic.
The only person Camille can depend on is Oscar, a handsome young sailor whom she is undeniably drawn to. Torn between trusting her instincts and keeping her promises to her father, Camille embarks on a perilous quest into the Australian wilderness to find the enchanted stone. As she and Oscar elude murderous bushrangers and unravel Camille’s father’s lies, they come closer to making the ultimate decision of who—and what—matters most.
Beautifully written and feverishly paced, Everlasting is an unforgettable journey of passion, secrecy, and adventure.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Several months before Camille’s marriage, she goes on one last voyage with her father.  Just before reaching their destination in Australia, Camille discovers a secret her father has kept for 16 years-her mother did not die during childbirth and she is still alive. Before Camille can extract more information from her father, the ship goes down with her father-leaving Camille in the care of Oscar, her father’s first mate.  He agrees to go with Camille to see her mother and get the map to the stone of Umandu.  If Camille can get to the stone before her father’s rival, then she can bring her father back to life.  With the help of Ira, their Australian guide, and Monty, Oscar and Camille travel through the wild Outback.  With each day comes a bunch of near-death experiences and fast paced action scenes.
I wanted to love this book.  The first half of the book was a bit disappointing.  There were a few really juicy scenes that I loved, but overall, I thought it was okay.  The second half blew me away.  I found myself flipping rooting for Oscar and Camille.  I loved their relationship.  Oscar was constantly caring for Camille.  He saves her life many times throughout the book.  It’s so cute.  My absolute favorite part of the whole book was actually in the beginning when they were on the ship and the storm was bringing it down.  Camille ran on deck and was scared.  Oscar embraced her and said “My Camille” calming her and letting her know that he’d keep her safe.  It was just TOO cute.  My heart was melting!  Basically whenever Oscar opened his mouth I was melting.  He just had that effect on me.  I found Camille, while ahead of her time with her independence, quite selfish at times.  I thought choosing to marry Randall instead of pursuing her interest in Oscar, at the beginning of the novel, because her father’s business was failing was honorable of her.  However, there was one scene where I wanted to slap her.  She basically was wondering why she couldn’t marry Randall and still continue her thing with Oscar.  I mean come on!  That is so selfish.  She only decides it wouldn’t work, not because its wrong, but because she thinks Oscar wouldn’t like to be considered second best.  But I other than that I thought she was brave and had a back-bone.  I loved Ira.  He was so funny-kind of like an uncle.  He stuck with them through their journey even though he would get nothing out of it.
While I was disappointed with this book, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a swashbuckling adventure.  Everlasting read like a movie.  I literally could see everything very clearly in my mind, including music!  Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Titanic.  It was great.  I liked Everlasting and will definitely be reading the next book when it comes out.

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Everlasting (Everlasting, #1)
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Book Review: Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Title: Bayou Moon
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: The Edge #2
ISBN: 978-0441019458
Publisher: Ace
Pub. Date: September 2010
Source: Purchased
Genre: Romance/Fantasy/Paranormal
Pages: 447
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Cerise Mar and her clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect. But all is not as it seems.
Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge-and Cerise’s life.

My Reveries and Ramblings: Bayou Moon is the second novel of Ilona Andrews’s The Edge series.  It follows William’s story two years after the events of On the Edge.  William is sent on a mission by The Mirror to find the object that Spider, the villain, is looking for.  On his way to the Mire, a swamp area in the Edge (where Spider is), he is forced to travel with a homeless-looking girl, Cerise.  He later finds out that it was only a disguise.  As soon as he sees what she really looks like, he wants her.  Then, when he sees how she fights, he wants her more.  Cerise’s parents were handed over to Spider by her family’s enemy.  After running into several creatures and hunters looking for her, William decides to stick with her, for the time being anyway.  Nothing is as it seems.  Lies, blood, and death surround Cerise as she tries to find her parents and destroy those that get in her way.
Ilona Andrews floored me with the amazing characterization in this book.  William was so complex!  He is a changeling-both human and wolf.  There are times when he acts and thinks like a human.  However, with every strong emotion, the wolf comes out-maybe not physically, but mentally.  Whenever this happens his thoughts go from normal and rational to “I want….” and “Must have…..”   Very primal.  Cerise notices when he switches to wolf-mode.  She can see it in his eyes, but she doesn’t know that he is a changeling.  Andrews juggles the two mind-frames very well.  Changelings, in their fundamental nature, act on instinct, not thought.  William always has to remind himself that he is also human and he cannot just take what he wants; he has to ask for it and be ready for rejection if it comes.  This was very sad yet admirable.  He really wanted to be with Cerise for most of the book.  He always reminded himself that women didn’t want him; he was a monster that could not be loved.  William had to deal with a ton of inner conflict, besides the wolf/human one.  He was always scared that once Cerise found out who he was, she wouldn’t want him anymore.  Before he can be with Cerise, he has to come to terms with his past and that it does not define him-his actions define him.
I felt so bad for Cerise.  After her parents are kidnapped she has to lead the family in a battle not only against their rival clan, but also Spider.  Meanwhile, her younger sister is slowly going insane-thinking she is a monster who deserves to live in the woods.  Because she is the new head, she has to hold her emotions in so that the family respects her.  The only person she truly lets in is William.  She trusts him, and loves him.  Because he looks like a Blueblood, noble of the Weird, she calls him Lord Bill when she first meets him.  Even though it was just used to mock at first, she continues to call him this as the story progresses.  I love the nickname, its so cute.  It has a teasing/flirty edge to it in the book.
There were a lot of different elements mixed into Bayou Moon.  First, there was a lot of gore, violence, and family feuding going on.  The action is suspenseful and bloody.  The fight scenes were depicted with a great attention to detail.  I felt like I was in the middle of them.  There were times when I was definitely shutting my eyes and muttering “ew.”  Second, there was romance.  William and Cerise’s relationship was intense.  There were a lot of “almost” scenes.  They were both obviously attracted to each other.  Cerise even admits to her family that she loves him, but he can’t take a hint.  William is very straightforward and doesn’t understand flirting.  He also doesn’t believe she wants him so he always pulls himself back when he wants to kiss her (or more).  This leads to many tension filled scenes that had me screaming “Just kiss her already!”
I liked On the Edge a bit better than Bayou Moon.  Not too sure why, but Bayou Moon is still a great book.  It’s emotional, action-packed, and romantic.  The other characters, besides William and Cerise, are for the most part three-dimensional.  There were so many, I thought I’d get confused (especially within Cerise’s big family) but Ilona Andrews did such a great job writing them, that it never was the case.  Rose, Declan, and the boys from On the Edge appear briefly at the end-which was nice.  All in all, I thought Ilona Andrews crafted an excellent book.

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Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2)

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Book Review: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Brightly Woven
Author: Alexandra Bracken
ISBN: 978-1606840382
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pub. Date: March 2010
Source: Library
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance/ Magic/Adventure
Pages:  368
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads:  Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.
In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North.       He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.
Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Wow! This was one exciting adventure.  Sydelle lives in a poor small village where there is currently a drought.  It hasn’t rained in 7 years.  One day a wizard, North Wayland, comes and makes it rain.  At his request the Sydelle’s father gives her to North for this service.  Both begin their journey to warn the queen about the upcoming war and who truly poisoned and killed the King.  Clearly upset at being forced from her home, Sydelle tries to ignore him, but actually ends up yelling at him quite a lot.  North ignores her yelling, especially when he’s drunk.  After several messy encounters with other wizards, Sydelle finds it difficult to be mad at him.  Her hatred turns to compassion.
Sydelle is 16 yr. old weaver who has the ability to repair magical talismans.  I really respected her strength and determination.  She also has a habit of attracting the worst sort of trouble.  However, North doesn’t mind rescuing her and playing the part of hero. I just loved North.  He reminded me of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle (the movie).  On the outside he is strong, stubborn, very good looking, and optimistic.  On the inside, he is cursed and tortured.  Both North and Sydelle are very selfless characters.  Their willingness to do anything to save their country, even sacrifice their lives, was touching.
Magic is a large part of this book.  However, the relationship between Sydelle and North forces the reader to look beyond all the magic, war, and secrets and watch as two people see the good and importance in the other.  Both characters have always felt insignificant and do their best to fight that feeling.  That doesn’t mean the feeling goes away.  Their love and kindness for each other removes their insecurities making them all the more powerful and useful.
Behind this love story, there is a journey involving a war.  The upcoming war is based on rumor, and therefore does not need to be fought, especially since it is a false rumor.  Alexandra Bracken handles the issue of a reason-less war with care.  The threat of many lives lost hangs over the characters giving them a very real consequence if they fail.  It gave the story a sense of urgency.
Alexandra Bracken built a beautiful and very original world.  The countries had their own religions, myths, legends, etc.  She established guilds, abundant resources for the regions as income, and different terrains.  It was all very engaging.  I would love to jump back into the world, even though Bracken currently has no plans to write a sequel.  I adored this book.  The writing flowed easily and Bracken’s word choice and phrasing made Sydelle’s voice clear and relatable to the reader.  Brightly Woven is an enthralling adventure that will leave you eager for more.

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Brightly Woven

Book Review: Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

Title: Tyger Tyger
Author: Kersten Hamilton
Series: Goblin Wars #1
ISBN: 0547330081
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pub. Date: 2010
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Romance/Adventure
Pages:  320
Rating:  3/5

From Goodreads: Teagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures–goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty–are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger. In fact, it’s perfect. She’s on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She’s focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.
     Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too . . . and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby’s right. The goblins are coming.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Tyger Tyger follows the adventure of Teagan, her brother, Aiden, and Finn into Mag Mell to rescue Teagan’s father from Fear Doirich, the goblin king.  That’s basically the gist of the whole story.  Hamilton put together a wonderful story.  The mythology was well crafted/researched.  It really brought the story to life.  However, I felt that there were just so many names and places that I could barely pronounce that I found myself having to reread certain parts to get the back story correct.  I did like how Hamilton incorporated the Gaelic phrases.  Finn’s dialogue was interesting to read.  He was confident in everything he did-from fighting to flirting.  His character was a bit flat though.  I just didn’t get that spark of a three dimensional character from him.  I didn’t feel that he was real.  In fact, most of the characters didn’t seem that three dimensional.  Since this is the first book in a series, I’m really hoping Hamilton explores them more.  Although I really liked Aiden and his singing ability.  It made for some very funny moments, especially in Mag Mell (Kiss the Girl scene-wish he kept singing). Oh, and Ms. Skinner, a very obscure character, made me so angry, she needs to get a life instead of trying to control and judge others’.
I was a bit frustrated at how both Teagan and Finn have the whole love-at-first-sight moment, then Finn goes away for a while, and she’s not upset.  What bothers me is that they barely had a conversation and he’s in love with her.  Also, throughout the book there aren’t any serious romantic moments-there are a few cute ones, though. Also, Abby, Teagan’s best friend, kept warning Teagan about how the goblins are coming for her in the beginning, but then when they finally do show up, Abby doesn’t believe her.
Tyger Tyger is like a modern day fairy tale-without the fey.  It was a good book.  Hamilton included Irish folklore, religion, goblins, and a really cool car chase in her novel.  That car chase was very fun to read- most of the books I read don’t include one so that was interesting.

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Tyger Tyger (Goblin Wars, #1)

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Book Review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

Title: Juliet
Author: Anne Fortier
ISBN:  978-0345516107
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub. Date: 2010
Source: Library
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Mystery/Treasure Hunting/Shakespeare
Pages:  464
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads: Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

My Reveries and Ramblings: I had seen this book on B&N’s coming soon page and had to get it as soon as it was released-which I did at the end of August 2010.  This book brought me into a month long obsession with Italy.  I grilled my parents for days about our family which came from Italy.  I was secretly hoping that there was some sort of cool mystery, death, or curse or something that would allow me to go on the same kind of adventure as the protagonist, Julie, did in Juliet.  I was so disappointed when there was nothing-but I’m not giving my hopes up until I step foot in Italy and find out for myself 😉
      Juliet begins with Julie Jacobs finding out about the death of her great aunt, who raised her and her sister, Janice.  After she is told by Umberto, the butler, and her aunt’s lawyer that the estate was left for Janice, a broke Julie goes to Siena, Italy to find the family treasure that was left for her by their mother.  In college, Julie Jacobs went to Italy with a group of peace activists only to be kicked out of the country and asked to never return.  This time she enters the country as Giulietta Tolomei, her birth name.  On the plane she meets Eva Maria Salimbeni who informs her to be careful about who she tells her name to.  She begins to tell Julie, or Giulietta, about the history between their two families.  What follows is 400 pages filled with a treasure hunt for Juliet’s eyes, a gold statue with very very valuable jewels for eyes.  However, this statue is said to be located at the grave of Romeo and Juliet, which no one has seen since the black plague.  Led by only her dead mother’s notes and a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Julie sets out on a wild treasure hunt.  There is another thing-a powerful curse that all started with the Friar Lorenzo, who was the friar responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s romance all those years ago.  As he was being tortured he cursed the Tolomei (Juliet and Julie’s family) and the Salimbeni (Eva Maria’s family-and the evil man who tore Juliet and Romeo apart’s family) family.

“A plague on both your houses
You shall all perish in fire and gore
Your children forever wail under a mad moon
Till you undo your sins and kneel before the Virgin
And Giulietta wakes to behold her Romeo.”

      Of course Julie doesn’t have an easy time trying to end the curse and find the treasure- what with Alessandro Santini wanting her to stay away from him and his godmother Eva Maria.  Then when he finally befriends Julie, he starts doing some very suspicious things.  Then there’s the issue of someone on a motor cycle who keeps following her everywhere.  And to top it off, the Maestro painter who she befriends and who owns the painting of the original Juliet from all those years ago, tells her that Romeo comes to his studio almost every night to drink a glass of wine and look at the painting.  And no, he is no ghost- for ghosts don’t drink wine.
Take The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, Romeo and Juliet, and Anne Fortier’s imagination and writing and you get Juliet, a beautiful love story spanning centuries and a treasure hunt.  This is one of my favorite books.  I opened it to skim through before writing this review and ended up rereading it completely -I did not expect to stay up until 5 AM.  And now all I want to do is go to Siena.  Having been to Italy once before (about 4 or 5 years ago) I have to say it felt like Italy, I was right there.  Not only that but I remember seeing the places that she describes in the book, which make it all the more real.
The middle chunk of the book alternates between the past and present.  The past being the “real” Romeo and Juliet in 1340.  The story is sad and tragic.  In my opinion, it’s even more tragic than the Shakespeare version.  Now many years later, their decedents are cursed and trying to break it.  But will Romeo and Juliet of today’s world find love or tragedy?
Julie Jacobs, or Giulietta was a great character.  I truly related to her.  I hated her twin sister, Janice, so much.  But eventually grew to like her.  Alessandro Santini is a hot Italian man.  He is the head of security for the local 500 yr old bank, very hot, and a tortured soul.  Who doesn’t love all that?  Plus he’s got some secrets.
I URGE you to read this book.  Juliet is a passionate tale of love, death, secrets, fate/destiny, and finding oneself.  It will have you believing that Romeo and Juliet existed and that this curse is for real-which of course both aren’t true.  You will be transported to Italy and will never want to leave. You will wish/pray/hope/beg that you can find your Romeo.  You will beseech your parents to let you go to Italy to find love and adventure.  You won’t know what to do with yourself when it ends.

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Juliet

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And

Just because I think Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest (albeit tragic) love stories of all time:

Book Playlist: 

[spotify https://open.spotify.com/user/121171848/playlist/3FKQaWKZT88U9kbfaoi3Bq]

Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Title: Fire
Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #2
ISBN: 0575085118
Publisher: Gollancz
Pub. Date: 2008
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure/ YA/ Romance
Pages: 336
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads: Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored– fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green– and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

My Reveries and Ramblings:  Fire is the last human monster-and she intends for it to stay that way.  Fire’s father, also a monster, was the king’s best friend who used his power to get what he wanted.  He did terrible things just because he could.  Fire was the only person her father loved and who was never under the influence of his power.  Over time Fire realized her father was not good.  After her father’s death, she vowed never to have children-that the line of human monsters end with her.

The novel starts with Fire getting shot with an arrow.   The shooter is one of the many men being found around the kingdom who have clouded minds and don’t seem to understand what they are doing.  Fire is asked to help the royal family interrogate prisoners with her ability to reach into people’s minds.  However this proves difficult since Fire refuses to do anything bad with her ability.  On top of that, she also has to deal with Lord Brigan who seems to be set in hating her, King Nash who keeps declaring his love for her at every opportunity, Archer’s (her lover) growing jealousy, and a boy with different colored eyes who gives her the chills.  The story is set during a tension filled time leading up to a huge war which takes place as the story progresses.

I LOVED this book!  I read it twice and still couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Fire is such a strong character and yet ironic character.  Fire’s beauty drives men mad.  Many try and kill her because they know they can’t have her.  Others harass her and then turn to violence.  She is hated by those who hated her father and even worse, is only trusted by her close friends.  Throughout the course of the story she has to overcome all of these difficulties.

Lord Brigan.  I couldn’t imagine a hotter knight in shining armor.  He’s so strong and was forced into the army at a young age by Fire’s father in hopes that he would die. Instead, he emerged a hero.  He grew up distrusting monsters and because of that distrusts and hates Fire.   However over time his heart softens and he sees Fire as a human instead of a monster.

This story was just riveting.  I was engrossed in the novel from the very first page.  It had suspense, adventure, and romance.  It was epic.  I thought it was so much better than Graceling even though it is a prequel or companion novel.  It takes place years before Graceling.  Also, I love reading books that have a redhead protagonist because, well, I am one!  Overall, I highly recommend this book.   I borrowed it from the library, and will probably one day buy it so that I may reread it a million more times.

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Fire (Graceling Realm, #2)

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