2016 Reading Challenge

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

The Wrath and the Dawn

Summary:

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book that took me a while to get into, but since it had such fantastic reviews, I committed to reading both books in the series.  I liked the world building and that Shazi is a spunky heroine willing to face her fears without flinching.  My problem was that I couldn’t get into the story at the beginning.  I found it a very angsty young adult combination which took a while to get through.  Once Shazi and Khalid finally start talking, the story does pick up quite a bit.

Be forewarned though – this almost isn’t a completed book.  The story halts unexpectedly a leaves a major cliffhanger for the next book.  I didn’t mind too much as I had committed to both books and had it ready to go, but don’t expect things to be resolved in this first story.

Warning: Contains sexual references and violence.

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest in fairytale retelling and young adult.

Want to read the whole series?

  • The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2)

Queen of the Tearling (Queen of the Tearling #1)

Queen of the Tearling

Summary:

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I loved this book. It’s fast-paced, it has intrigue, magic and a kickass heroine that is certainly not perfect.  Kelsea is trying so hard to do what is right for the fate of her country, but she seems to be stymied in every direction.  One of the smaller things that she does is support the creation and collection of books, which of course was immediately near and dear to my heart.  Kelsea is forced to quickly try to understand and control the forces contained in the magic of the Sapphire necklaces, but also stay true to herself. 

Be forewarned that I found the escalation of violence in this book quite abrupt.  Not needless per say, but the world of Tearling is quite brutal

My biggest complaint is that the ending leaves off with a cliffhanger.  If you’re going to give this one a shot, you’re going to need to be prepared to pick up the next in the series!

Warning: Contains repeated violence.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Fantasy fans in the vein of “Throne of Glass” and “Game of Thrones”.

Want to read the whole series?

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Summary:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. 

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. 

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. 

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. 

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance. 

Both playful and seductive, “The Night Circus”, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book is a slow simmer.  It takes patience, you should know what you’re going into and suspend disbelief for a while.  Much like the circus’ name, the book is utterly dreamlike, exploring vivid imagery for the sake of the enjoyment, not because it necessarily moves the story along.  I found the story utterly captivating and thought of it constantly when I wasn’t actively reading the book.  I kept wondering what the complexities were going to reveal and how it would be possible to work out.

I agree with some other reviews, this isn’t a book that is character driven, so some readers may find that frustrating.  Instead, a lot of characters are thrust into a cycle that is not of their choosing for ends unknown and the book takes its time revealing the layers.  Although it normally bothers me, the book ends with a lot of things unfinished and unrevealed and somehow that worked for me.  It does, however, make me want to reread it sometime in the future to see if I can catch some of the subtleties I missed.  I would definitely recommend this one for anyone looking for an escape from the real world.

Warning: Contains violence.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone looking for a whimsical escape from the real world and vivid imagery.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Summary:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book that creeped me out just enough I had to put it down and pick it up again later.  I found the book interesting, but not compelling.   There are a lot of very good topics addressed such as feminism, ownership, and the risk of over-reactions to social topics.  Yet despite it being intriguing from those perspectives, if I had thought not been reading the book as part of the challenge I might not have finished it.

I think what makes this book better than some other dystopian with similar themes is the psychological insight.  The internal commentary from Offred is what gets the book under your skin because we get the understanding of just how far she’s willing to go for different things.  The flashbacks to her family “before” everything happened are also quite creepy as they look quite a bit like our current society.  Mixed feelings on this one, but I’d still highly recommend giving it a read.

Warning: Contains violence and sexual content.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? I think it’d be good for everyone to give it a read as it’s becoming more of a classic and a new TV show is coming out based on it!