Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Thorn

Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation; betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.

Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Read from June 26 to August 24, 2012
It has been a very long time since a book captured me the way this one did. Though it was a bit slow in the beginning, once I got past the first few chapters, I might as well have been shackled to my iPhone. I simply could not tear myself away.

I had my eye on this book for awhile. The idea of a “The Goose Girl” retelling intrigued me. However, I had read another TGG retelling (The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale) and wasn’t sure it would be entirely new. I must now eat my thoughts.

The plot:
I was highly impressed. Remember how I said I was worried about originality? While I could spot elements of the Grimm fairytale, it was a whole new spin. (I know people always say things like that, but I can’t help that it’s true.) The voice and the feel were unusual and I enjoyed the mix of middle-eastern and European customs and styles.

The characters:
Princess Alyrra/Thorn is the most engaging main character I have met in a long time. All she wants is to be left alone and yet, when push comes to shove, she does step up and do the right thing. She is humble and compassionate and brave, though she doesn’t believe it. I greatly enjoyed watching her discover her inner strength to face her enemies and I was rooting for her all the way. One of my favorite things about her character was how, even after Valka had been downright sadistic to Thorn, Thorn still took pity on her and showed mercy. Compassion is a quality that seems to be growing scarce in modern MCs and it was exhilarating to meet one who has it in plenty.

Kestrin was what many would call “swoon worthy.” (While I don’t normally use that term, it seems fitting here.) Young, handsome, gallant, brave…did I mention he’s the prince? While I got a bit mad at him a few times, the greater portion of my reading was spent in agony over what would happen with him and Thorn. Not to give away the ending, but I was quite satisfied with the outcome.

Valka, the maid who betrays Thorn, is an excellent antagonist. Pampered, spoiled, selfish–she’s the kind of character we all love to hate.

Let’s not forget the Lady, the mysterious otherworldly being who starts all the trouble in the first place. As for details about her, you’ll have to read the book.

There were a bevy of other characters (Red Hawk, Falada, Violet, Laurel, Oak, Ash) who were all memorable and lovable in their own way. (I am really hoping to see more of some of them in the companion trilogy the author is working on.)

All in all, this book was awesome. Mind-bogglingly so. In other words, go get it. Right now. That’s an order. =)

YouTube Find: Anna Russell’s summary of Wagner’s Ring Cycle

“Many great experts have dissected Wagner’s Ring Cycle. For the benefit of other great experts…”~Anna Russell

I don’t now if I’ve ever mentioned that I am a fan of opera. No, really, it’s very enjoyable. If you can understand what the heck is going on. There’s repeated times where us mere mortal everyday opera goers find ourselves thinking “wait, who just died?” or “when did they fall in love?” Well, dear Anna Russell understood this problem and so gives us a musical Cliff’s Notes version of Wagner’s 20-hour opera in ten minute intervals. (This opera is, by the way, based off Norse mythology, which is in of itself very cool.)

Review: Song to Wake to (Levels, #1) by JD Field

Song to Wake to (Levels, # 1)

Sixteen-year-old Maddy Bride starts at a new school in the countryside. She knows she’ll have to deal with sports obsessed rich kids, cliques, and pressure. She doesn’t expect myths from the shadowy past to be taking place around her. Not only are the legends unfinished. They’re starting all over again.

Her new classmate, Eddy Moon, is awkward, and shy, and has lived a life of hardship and loneliness. As his strength and sense of purpose become more and more striking, Maddy comes to believe that he may have a place in the stories. At the same time she realises that the place she wants is by his side.

Closeness to Eddy brings Maddy another shocking realisation. Not only is he a mythic hero returned to life in the countryside, but maybe she too has a place in the legends. Torn between normality and her attraction to the magnificent Eddy Moon, Maddy has to decide who she is, who she is going to be, and whether stories must end the same way twice.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

 

Read from August 24 to 25, 2012

 

“Arthur said he’d come back when we needed him. How bad does it have to get?”

Every devotee of Arthurian lore knows about the legend of the Seven Sleepers. Countless writers have ventured to tell their own versions of how Arthur came to rest in a hidden mound where he lies yet. What I have never encountered before, is a story that tells about what happens when The Once And Future King really does wake up. And how amazing it is!

The plot:
This book was disruptive to my sleep patterns on account of the fact I couldn’t pry myself away from it. I stared at my iPhone for hours as if my life depended on it, my eyes racing over the words, aching to know how the story would end.

It follows Maddie, a young girl trying to adjust to having her life completely uprooted and moved from vibrant London to a tiny village in the country. At a posh private school, she meets Eddy Doforni Moon in her history class. Eddy is awkward, mocked, gorgeous, stunning, of unknown origins.

It turns out, Eddy has lived once before and there’s more to Maddie’s amazing talents as a swimmer than just athletic ability. As an illicit attraction between them grows, they learn that another power from Arthur’s day, a power wishing him ill, has also survived. And they must defeat it before it defeats them.

The characters:
Maddie was one of those characters I could get mad at and cheer on at once. While she’s got a bit of a temper and can be a bit over-worried about her social status in the beginning, she does admit when she’s wrong and fights when she has to. I adored her from early on and my heart leapt and plunged as hers did. She was a perfectly crafted heroione!

Eddy. Oh, it’s impossible not to love Eddy! Brave, unassuming, and loyal, he’s the guy every girl’d love to meet. But he wasn’t cookie-cutter perfect, either. No, he has flaws and that makes him all the more adorable because it proves he’s still human. I relished watching how the tale of Arthur’s rise was repeating itself in a 21st-century style, complete with the popular foster-brother and everything.

The next book in this series, Rock Anthem, is way up there on my to-read list. I am very eager to know how Arthur’s second lifetime will work out and I am especially concerned about Guinevere turning up. (No offense, Guin. But you had your shot and you blew it.)

Conclusion? I BLOODY LOVE THIS BOOK!!! If you haven’t read it, you must do so now. =D

Review: Falling Slowly by Gracie Ray

Falling Slowly

After the unexpected death of her parents, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth is left with several mysteries to solve. As if adjusting to her new life wasn’t bad enough, she begins to have nightmares about creatures in the woods and a boy, by the name of Tristan, who comes to her as an angel and saves her from what he calls, the Hounds of Hell. When a new student enrolls at her high school, she is left with more unanswered questions when she discovers the newly enrolled heartthrob is none other than the boy in her dreams. She fights to keep her emotions stable as she watches all the other girls swoon over him, including her best friend. But when mysterious dead bodies start turning up around her school, she is forced to question if Tristan is the boy of her dreams or if he’s the nightmare.

Blurb and cover image from Goodreads

Okay, so it’s common sense that writer=reader. Hence, I feel it is perfectly acceptable for me to publicly gush over books I have read. If anyone disagrees, that means they hate puppies! =)

Read from September 07 to 09, 2012

I read this book as part of the IndieReadAThon hosted by the blog My Pathway To Books and I enjoyed reading it immensely. The romantic elements were not overwhelming like in some stories, but they were there and the impending danger is never forgotten. I thought this book was a delightful mix of mythology and legend, blended together seamlessly in a lovely, whimsical yet gothic tale.

So why only 4 stars? I think this book had a few rough details that could’ve been easily smoothed out. There were some story elements that I thought should’ve been explained or made clear sooner. There were also a couple of typos and formatting issues, but those really didn’t bother me. I think the issues were minor and I still highly recommend this book.

Just a note to you guys, Falling Slowly ends in a tormenting cliffhanger, so if you don’t want that, I suggest you wait for the next book comes out to read it.

The plot:
I thought the plot was very original. The idea of a girl whose blood drives all supernatural creatures mad was something I found to be very fascinating. The plot moves smoothly and swiftly and I never felt that it was lagging or slowly down.

The characters:
I adored Lizzy. She was the right balance of vulnerable and headstrong and I really cared about her. I also found the relationship between her and her sister to be very touching. I did wonder why she kept hanging out with her “best friend” Elle, but at the same time it was good to have a “wild” character in the mix. Lizzy and her sister are considered to be the hottest girls in school by everyone in their high school, but they aren’t sluts and aren’t the stereotypical “popular girls” either.

Dorian, our prevalent baddie, appears mainly in dreams and illusions until the end. But that doesn’t make him any less frightening or downright creepy. He is an evil Nephilim, bent on securing Lizzy’s blood for his family so that they can use it to rule the other supernatural beings. I thought he was a completely sufficient antagonist and I watched for him in the pages as if he were after me! One of Dorian’s brothers, Chase, also becomes quite important to the ending, but I’ll refrain from spoilers.

Since I mentioned the romance, I should probably mention the love interest, right? Tristan is a Grigori or pureblood angel. Lizzy is his soulmate which is probably self-explanatory. If Lizzy were to die, the loss would drive Tristan mad, turn him forever to evil, and would result in him going to Hell. He was a sweet, likable character that, despite how gentle he could be, was completely capable of turning lethal in an instant. I grew quite fond of him and I am now quite concerned as to what will happen with him and Lizzy.

In closing, I enjoyed this book greatly. Even though there were a few rough points, I certainly recommend it to fans of clean paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

To Ms. Ray: I will be watching for that sequel!

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Me Interviews Me

For my very first blog post on my sparkly new blog, I have decided to interview myself to introduce myself to the world. (I do not usually talk to myself like this and, contrary to popular belief, I am not insane. This just seemed a fun format today.)

 

If you could pick one of your characters to take to lunch at your favorite restaurant, who would it be and where would you go?

I’d have to take Karile to Mighty Fine Burgers (I’m a Texas girl, I have a thing for beef). He’s funny, takes everything in stride, would probably love MFB, and so long as I kept my eyes on him, I think we’d have a rollicking good time.

 

You have five minutes with Doctor Who’s TARDIS. What do you do?

Make sure the Emperor of the Daleks isn’t around, dash off to the future, download every scrap about the next twenty years’ stock exchange, and zip back here in time to play the market. That would be so cool…

 

If you had to fight one of your characters in the Thunder Dome, who would you pick?

I think Bricen. I know I could take her and I wouldn’t mind bumping her off because I know how nasty she is.

 

Who is your favorite author?

Well, Madeleine L’Engle wrote my favorite book of all time, so I guess she gets the credit for that title. Though I have lately discovered Sarah J. Maas and several indie author such as JD Field and Intisar Khanani.

 

Indie or Traditional?

Even though I have a publisher, I have to say I’m hardly ever a fan of tradition. I believe that self-pubbed books can be just as good, if not better than, traditional books. So long as they have the right editing. 😉

 

What is your favorite TV show?

Well, Legend of the Seeker got cancelled, so did Monk, and that leaves Grimm and Doctor Who. Doctor Who is awesome, that goes without saying, but I’m kind of partial to Monroe. Hence, I’m going to say that Grimm is my favorite TV show.

 

How often do you write?

Six days a week on average. During the summer and holidays, I spend most of my time cooped up inside with my fingers whirring over the keyboard. Even when I’m not before my computer, I’m usually thinking about my books. (Among others, I have this sometimes annoying habit of acting out dialogue as I walk my dogs.)

So that’s me. =)