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Not As Strong As I Hoped: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hi there!

This weekend the Husband and I are spending a little mini break in Savannah for a few days! Yay for cool historic towns that are close by! After that we’ll be headed to Florida to visit family and friends for a week. It’s going to be so hot, but fun!

Today let’s talk about conclusions to trilogies…one trilogy in particular, the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Recently I finished The Shadow Throne, which is the third and final book in this middle grades fantasy series.

One war. Too many deadly battles. Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seemsThe Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does. His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

If you’ve read my reviews for the first two books (The False Prince and The Runaway King) you’ll know that I was a huge fan of the first book, but was disappointed in the second. Well, good news! I liked The Shadow Throne more than book two, but not as much as the first. The only thing that really kept me from loving this third book is the repetitive nature of the storyline. Jaron, the stubborn one, completely ignores everyone’s advice and get’s himself stuck in an impossible situation only to do something over the top to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jaron and I love these characters, but after a while this plot line makes me roll my eyes a little.

Now, there is a major plot point that occurs right at the beginning of the book that had me reeling! I can’t say what it is only that I literally (yes I’m using this word correctly) had to go back and reread those pages more than one time to see if I had read it correctly! Oh! It’s a good twist that will trip you up!

Regarding the characters, Jaron has matured a lot since book one (despite his ever-persisting stubbornness) and we see this primarily in the way he has learned to accept help from his friends…for the most part. Also, we see growth in the supporting characters like Tobias standing up for his gifts and passions, while at the same time Roden realizes that he has strong leadership capabilities and figures out how to harness them for good.

Although The Shadow Throne was not as strong as I had hoped it would be, it was a fine conclusion and fans of the first two books will enjoy finding out what becomes of Carthya and these characters.

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 25, 2014)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 317 pages

Series: Third book in the Ascendance Trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

 

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The Big Finish: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Welcome back friends!

I hope everyone has been having a fun weekend. It’s been pretty rainy all weekend here in South Carolina, but it’s been nice to have an excuse to stay in and work on the blog a little!

This book was so highly anticipated by me and pretty much everyone else out there! After I finished reading it however, I had to take a break before even considering this review. I wasn’t sure how to write a review of Allegiant by Veronica Roth so I decided to just go for it!

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles Allegiant by Veronica Rothand scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

If you’ve read this book, I know what you’re probably thinking. It’s a mixture of disappointment, surprise, betrayal, excitement, and meh. It’s like all those feelings were thrown into the little bowl of your heart and someone turned on the KitchenAid and just started going to town. A lot of people finished this book and just weren’t happy. I understand that. When all is said and done I was entertained by Allegiant. Was it an amazing finale to the trilogy? No. Did I hate it? No. For me, Allegiant just could have been stronger.

Initially, I really liked the relationship between Tris and Tobias but then somewhere in the middle of book two, they stop talking to each other and this silent trend continues into book three. Both characters are making big decisions and keeping them secret from one another. There is talk about how much they love each other and want their relationship to work, but how is that possible if you don’t talk to that person about anything? This silence kind of ruins the relationship between Tris and Tobias for me, which is sad because I want to love them so much!

My favorite thing about Allegiant was probably getting some questions about the society and factions answered, and I feel like there was so much potential to really delve into the history of the factions. When it finally got to the answers, I felt like so much of this part of the storyline was rushed. We only scratched the surface level of the “why” behind the factions. I wanted to know more about how the factions came to be and more about Tris’ mom who had all these crazy secrets.

Let’s talk the ending without giving anything away. I just knew something  big was going to happen. I knew it and then I read it. At this point I was so surprised that Veronica Roth had the guts to do what she did that I had to go back and read this specific “part that shall not be named” again. I read it about four times before I finally comprehended that what I thought had happened had, in fact, happened! And you know what? I wasn’t mad. I didn’t love it either. I rarely get angry at how an author chooses to end a book or series because it’s their creation. How they chose to end it all, is how it was meant to end, in my opinion.

I don’t question Veronica Roth’s choice of ending, but I do question the quality of the final storyline leading up to the big finish. All in all, I felt like Allegiant could have been a stronger story, I kind of wish it had been. However, if you are a fan of this series than I recommend reading Allegiant because it was entertaining and it does wrap up the trilogy in an interesting way. Just know that you’ve been warned. Get ready to be surprised and have all your feelings will be mixed up!

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Oct. 22, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 526 pages

Series: Third book in the Divergent trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Allegiant (Divergent Series)

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Fulfilling Fantasy: The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Hi there!

Have I told you how much I am loving my winter break? Because I totally am loving it! This morning we went to the local SodaCity Market. It was cold (yay!) but fun as usual!

In addition to fun outings my winter break has been full of blogging! I’m finally getting back on track after about two months of letting the blog lag a little. Normally, when I read a trilogy I either review the books as a whole, or each title individually. Well, I already reviewed the first book in Rae Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but to make things a little easier on me, I’m going to combine the last two books, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom together into one review.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old.The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds.

I have to start by saying this fantasy trilogy is wonderful. I adored the first book, and the last two didn’t let me down. Elisa’s world of Joya d’Arena is so full of magic and mystery, I don’t think I could ever get enough of stories set in this world! One of my favorite thing about both The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom is that both books are centered around journeys (both physical and emotional). Because of these journeys we get to see so much more of Joya d’Arena and the surrounding nations. In general, I prefer when stories open up and the author gives us a glimpse of the world our characters live in. Also, journeys, like Elisa’s allow for more adventure and excitement to enter the plot…which of course, is awesome.

Elisa’s, like before, is an inventive character. She has already gone through so much maturation and BitterKingdomgrowth in the first book, that I was afraid Elisa would fall a little flat in the sequels. Elisa, however continues to be as interesting as before: she is strong, vulnerable, afraid of her older sister, wise, frustratingly stubborn, and massively in love with a man who doesn’t always seem to reciprocate her affections. Elisa has a lot going on! And at the start of The Crown of Embers Elisa is forced to stretch herself even further as she now has the weight of a nation on the brink of war on her shoulders.

Also, I have to add that my favorite character by far is Storm, the enemy defector. He is completely sassy, suspect, grumbly, and all around hilarious. His presence adds just the right amount of sarcasm and intrigue to the already strong story.

And we cannot forget that there is some major, major swoon-worthy romantic tension going on in these second and third books! The back and forth between Elisa and her man (you’ll have to read to find out who…although it’s pretty obvious from the get-go) due to some heavy power and gender issues. But all this pent-up passion makes for amazing romance scenes! I think I swooned a thousand times. Yes. It is true.

So, in the end The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom are a fulfilling final two books to Rae Carson’s trilogy. If you’re a lover of fantasy, whether you’re in high school or older, this trilogy is completely recommended to you! You will not be sorry!

Author: Rae Carson

Publisher: Harper Collins, Recorded Books (September 18, 2012 & August 27, 2013)

Format: audiobook

Length: The Crown of Embers (11 hours and 41 minutes), The Bitter Kingdom (12 hours and 58 minutes)

Narrator(s): Jennifer Ikeda, Luis Moreno (The Bitter Kingdom)

Series: Fire and Thorns trilogy, books 2 and 3

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  The Crown of Embers (Girl of Fire and Thorns) The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns)

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YALL Fest Author Interview: Jocelyn Davies

Hi!

I hope everyone had a fab weekend!

GUYS! This year’s YALL Fest is only two weeks away! Two weeks!

I’m getting really pumped to join up with all my fellow book nerds to celebrate reading and the awesomeness that is YA fiction!

Today’s author interview is with one of the 50 great authors who will be at YALL Fest, Jocelyn Davies author Jocelyn Daviesof the A Beautiful Dark trilogy. I haven’t read any of these books yet, but I have to admit the covers of her books intrigue me!

What one thing do you need to have when you write?

COFFEE! And a cocoon of silence.

Describe your book in 5 words

Girl has angel blood, torn.

What is the hardest line to write- the first or the last?

It differs from book to book–really, it’s anyone’s guess! Sometimes, the first line is hardest, because I’m just getting started and I’m not warmed up yet, and by the time I get to the end, I’ve got the momentum of an entire book to propel me into that last line. Then again, sometimes a first line just pops into my head, and the whole idea unfolds from there. Theres usually no way to know what is going to happen until it’s happening, which is often the approach I take to writing.

Best writing tip you ever received?

“Create interesting characters, give them an excuse to meet, and the story will write itself.”

Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.

I’m a dog person–cats kind of freak me out.

I was a theater kid in high school. I used to dream of being an Oscar-winning actress.

I love everything about autumn.

I live a few blocks away from my best friend from high school.

In my day job, I’m also a children’s book editor.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To Read?

I love magical realism—a novel that’s set in the real world, but ever-so-slightly different.

At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?

I usually have a pretty strong sense right from the moment the idea comes to me. I start writing knowing I’m embarking on a novel.

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies A Fractured Ligth by Jocelyn Davies

Like I said I’m intrigued by the covers to Jocelyn Davies books, you know because they feature girls in pretty dresses which is of course a thing of mine! Haha

Well, if you’re a fan of Jocelyn Davies’ books and you’re in the southeast, you should join us at YALL Fest in Charleston on Saturday, November 9th!

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YALL Fest Interview: Lisa McMann

Hello!

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

Have you heard of YALL Fest yet? Well, it’s going to be an exciting YA Book Festival in Charleston, SC on November 9! Also, (and this is the kicker) 50 crazy awesome YA authors will be there! People like Maire Lu, Allie Condie, Libba Bray, Heather Brewer, Rae Carson, Veronica Roth and today’s interviewee Lisa McMann!

Lisa McMannLisa McMann is the author of the Wake trilogy, the Vision series, Dead to You and the Unwanteds series.

What one thing do you need to have when you write?

Silence.

Best writing tip you ever received?

“Think of the one thing your main character would never, ever do. Now make her do it.”

What are you working on now?

We’ll be ramping up the releases of books 5, 6, and 7 in the Unwanteds series, so I’m working on Unwanteds book 5 right now.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To Read?

I really enjoy writing in a variety of genres, from realistic to paranormal to dystopian fantasy. At the moment, fantasy is winning, but that could change at any moment. My favorite genre to read is memoir.

At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?

As soon as I have a one line concept that gives me a little shiver.

Wake by Lisa McMann Crash by Lisa McMann

Well, I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet Lisa McMann, along with my favorite YA authors at this year’s YALL Fest! Who are you most excited to see?

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YALL Fest Author Interview: Michelle Hodkin

Hi there book loving friends!

Does anyone else feel like October has flown by? I swear I blinked and all of a sudden its a week away from Halloween. Weird.

Part of my amazement also relates to the fact that YALL Fest is getting so freaking close! I’ll be there on November 9th and you should be too! But with that said let’s hear from one of the 50 (yes 50!) awesome authors who will be at this year’s YALL Fest: Michelle Hodkin, author of the Mara Dyer books.

Describe your book in 5 wordsMichelle Hodkin
Romeo and Juliet meets Hitchcock

What is the hardest line to write- the first or the last?
I spend a lot of time thinking about my first lines. A lot of time. Too much time. Luckily the last lines usually come to me as I write. 

What is your favorite genre to write in? To Read?
What I love about YA is that I don’t have to choose a genre. I can blend elements and mess with conventions from all of them—horror, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, whatever. I’m not sure I could choose a favorite, if I were ever told that I had to. And my reading is all over the place, but right now I’m reading a lot of old school sci-fi and fantasy, with some literary fiction thrown in. 

What one young adult novel do you wish you had when you were a teen? Why?
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It’s not YA, but it is about a teenager who reminds me of my teen self. And maybe also my adult self. Anyway. I basically push the book into the hands of everyone I meet. It’s just that good.

What are you working on now?
A secret project that is secret. But I’m wildly excited about it, and I think my readers will be too.The Mara Dyer Trilogy

Okay, so I have to admit that I haven’t read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, or any of the books in the series, but I’m super intrigued by Michelle’s description “Romeo and Juliet meets Hitchcock”! What?! I had no idea that I needed to read this, but apparently I totally do!

So, if you’re a fan of Michelle Hodkin’s books or just a YA book lover like me, you should come to YALL Fest in Charleston on November 9!

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Waiting on Wednesday: Allegiant

Hi there!

Allegiant by Veronia RothOkay, so today is my last day with my students at my school…

Yeah…so…

We’re moving to South Carolina this summer and I’ve been at this school for seven years, starting right after college. So, as you can tell, I’m going to be a bit emotional today.

To distract myself from the sadness I’ve decided to think about how much I cannot wait for the conclusion to Veronica Roth’s  dystopian Divergent trilogy, Allegiant

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

Tris! Four! What’s going to happen to the factions?! I need to know now!

If you haven’t yet read Divergent and Insurgent, the first two books in the trilogy, you really need to make them a priority! They’re really awesome reads and the Divergent movie (with Ashley Judd AND Kate Winslet!) is currently filming in Chicago as you read this!

If you’d like to know more about this series, check out my reviews of Divergent and Insurgent.

Allegiant is slated to release in October 2013, so unfortunately I still have a few months to wait.  But you can bet that when this book releases on October 22, I’ll have my copy! :)

What book(s) are you waiting for today?

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She Blinded Me with Science: Reached by Allie Condie

Hello!

Sometimes I read a book, and a few months go by before I realize that I forgot to review it. So here we are with a review for Reached by Ally Condie, which I read in December!

Reached by Ally CondieCassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect façade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter. The wait is over.

One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most—family, love, choice. Her quiet revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion. Cassia, Ky, and Xander return to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long…the power to choose.

Okay. I really, really had great hopes for this book, the final in the Matched trilogy. I loved the first book, and was hoping the third book would make up for a lack-luster second book.  Unfortunately, I was kinda disappointed.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed Reached and this series as a whole, but that’s because Condie did such an amazing job with Matched. The final two books just didn’t match up. I love the main characters, especially Cassia and enjoyed seeing how things turned out for them, but I just wasn’t in love with this book.

First, I had a hard time with the multiple narrators. I’ve read books with multiple narrators that didn’t trip me up, but I found myself getting majorly confused about who was narrating at times. I say this even though the names were on the top of the page! I kept having to look up to find out who was speaking. But, I will say that I did enjoy reading Xander’s side of the story, which was pretty interesting! And there was a new character who I think was a great addition to the story!

Second, the science behind the plague and it’s cure was a little too much for me. I felt a little bored and lost when the characters were discussing the reasons for the mutation and all that. It just seemed to me that all of this explanation was too much and instead of adding to the story in a positive way, the story was bogged down under the weight of it. Actually, I would say, she blinded me with science!

One thing I did enjoy was seeing the way in which once a tiny ounce of freedom had been given people began to create with it. I’ve always loved Condie’s focus on creation (of art and culture) an intriguing part of this story and seeing the urge to create spread to so many more on a larger scale was very cool.

So, all in all, did I love Reached? No. Did I hate it? No. Was I a little disappointed with this series? Yes. Reached and the Matched trilogy was still an interesting read, but it just didn’t resonate me the way others did.  I would, however, still recommend it to high school readers and up who enjoy dystopian fiction.

Author: Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton (November 13, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 512 pages

Series: third book in the Matched trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Reached (Matched Trilogy Book 3)

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Tuesday Top Ten: Popular Middle Grades Series (at my School)

Today has nothing to do with me.  Today’s list is all about what middle schoolers (at least in Central Florida) are reading.

I’m listing ten of the most popular middle grades fiction (not YA) series in my school’s Media Center.

Also, these are actually in no particular order; well okay for real the most popular series at my school is still The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (I mean we have like 6 copies of each book and they’re never on the shelf!) .

Ok here goes:

10. The Kingdom Keeper series by Ridley Pearson

9. The Dork Diaries series: by Rachel Renee Russell

8. The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

7. The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins

6. Maximum Ride by James Patterson

5. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

4. The Warriors series by Erin Hunter

3. The 39 Clues series by various authors

2. The I.Q. series by Roland Smith

1. The Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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If You Hunger for Quality: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Honestly for a few months I saw this book in stores and thought, “That looks too intense.  Not for me.”  Then, when I realized “The Hunger Games” was something I needed to read if I was going to be up-to-date with the world of YA Fiction, I got the audiobook.
OH. MY. GOSH.
Within a few chapters I realized this book was not just some throw away.  My husband and I were riveted to this story!
Katniss, the heroine, lives in District 12,  one of the districts in Panem, a futuristic distopian version of the United States.  To remind the 12 districts of their failed revolt and that the Capitol is in complete control over their lives the Capitol requires each district to send two teenagers to the annual Hunger Games where they will fight to the death.  A fight to the death that is broadcast on national television twenty four hours a day.
This year, Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is selected, and Katniss surprises everyone by volunteering to take Prim’s place, and fight alongside the other District 12 Tribute, Peeta.

I will admit, although the lead up to the Games is interesting, it can also be slow at times. When the Games themselves start, however, this book is completely impossible to put down. Katniss is such a strong female character; tough but vulnerable,clever but unwilling to be used as the Capitol’s toy.  Who are her friends and who are her enemies? Can Katniss possibly win against 23 other competitors, many of whom are better-trained? Will she be forced to let Prim and District 12 down?

This is the first in a trilogy. I have read all three (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) and they’re just as mesmerizing as the first. Katniss, despite her faults, wins you over. As does Peeta, “the boy with the bread”.   It is so refreshing to find such a fiercely loyal, honest, and lovable heroine.  She may even be one of the most well written characters in modern Young Adult literature.

The book is exciting, riveting, and at times scary.  Yes there is quite a bit of violence involving teens.  Suzanne Collins does not include this violence unnecessarily however.  The point of this, at times graphic, violence is to illustrate just how disturbing it is.  Even more so, how disturbing it is when viewed as entertainment on nonstop reality television.

If I’ve frightened you with the talk of violence…wait!!  There is also a love triangle!  YES!! Katniss is caught between her feelings for Peeta, the boy who’s loved Katniss from afar for years, or Gayle, Katniss’ loyal best friend.

In my opinion, this book is for 6th grade and up.  Some of the violence may be too intense for anything younger.  Also, some of the concepts (distopia, critique of reality T.V. etc…) may be to mature for anything younger than 6th grade.