Review: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Buy now from Hicklebee’s!

Grave Mercy has the politics of the Game of Thrones series, the action of Graceling, and the magical qualities of Poison Study. Quite frankly, it is one of the best historical YA mysteries I have ever read.

We meet Ismae on the day of her wedding. Her father sold her for three silver coins to a pig farmer in a nearby village. Ismae hopes that because her new husband paid so high an amount for her that he will be gentle with her and she no longer has to suffer beatings like those her father gave her.

When the wedding is over her new husband bades her upstairs to undress, she stays in her chemise. As he comes toward her Ismae is filled with a sense of dread and runs. He catches her and rips the chemise from her body. It is then he sees that she is marked by Death himself. A long scar runs down her back marking her. A remnant of the poison her mother used to try and expel her from the womb. He becomes angry- beats her within an inch of her life and locks her in a root cellar.

The priest who married her to the abusive man comes and steals her away with the help of an herb witch and Ismae begins her five day trip to the convent where she will learn who she really is. Death’s handmaiden, Death’s daughter, and most importantly Death’s assassin. Here Ismae trains for years until she is given an assignment to go with the Duke’s bastard to court and send word back to the abbey of who is against the duchess- the bastard’s sister Anne.

The abbess informs Ismae via crow who to kill along the way and the saint of death marques the targets. It is this time away from abusive men and the convent that Ismae learns there may be other ways to serve her saint- her father than blindly killing anyone with a black mark upon their soul.

The book dragged a bit in the middle, and I would have liked to have seen Ismae be more assassin-ish at times but all in all it was a very intriguing read about a France so distant in memory that the time period isn’t generally covered in school lessons.

Ismae is a great character and strong role model for girls. I highly suggest being the wolf and reading this book.

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Review: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

From Hicklebee’s In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom….

I was very much looking forward to The Pledge. The idea of a fantasy with dystopic vibes based on an evil monarchy had my geek senses tingling. Derting – whose work I have appreciated in the past – has completely outdone herself with this very different and unique story.

As many of you know, my family is multi cultural, my husband and his family speak Dutch and I do not. So when that side of my family is here I am left out of the conversation quite a bit. It is something you really never get used to and it helped me connect with Charlie. Derting uses language as a caste system. The servants speak one language and that is it. Merchant class – like Charlie and her family – speak the servant language and a merchant language. The privileged speak both those and have their own fancy language as well that no one below them can understand. The problem is, Charlie has a very dangerous gift. She can understand all languages – even those she isn’t allowed to understand.

When Charlie hears, and understands, a language she has never heard spoken before she knows her life is about to change. War is coming, and Charlie may be the key to winning. Will Charlie be a beacon for the resistance or Royals? The crown prince is the most interesting boy she has ever met.

Charlie is pulled in so many different directions, she fears for her family, realizes her baby sister is also gifted and in danger from the crown. The Queen is old and dying slowly – she needs a new heir for only a queen can rule. Boy children are disregarded completely.

I love the feministic views in the book, the writing and heck who doesn’t want to be a queen? I do, and I would go dark side if need be.

The Pledge is a perfect blending of fantasy and dystopia. I can’t wait for book two! The book comes out tomorrow! Go grab it and tell me what you think.

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Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

nightshade cover From Goodreads: Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything–including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Oh Andrea Cremer write me a sequel and do it now! I picked up this book at BEA when every YA reviewer I spoke to asked me if I had a copy yet. It was clear that Nightshade was set to be a huge hit for the fall and was included in Penguin’s big five promotion.

I am happy to report that Nightshade lives up to the drama. Cremer sets the reader up perfectly for a book two. I found myself really invested in Calla as a character. It has been quite a while since a YA paranormal has made me want to do anything besides brutally murder the whiny chick.

Calla is strong, and has a great sense of duty. Although it is hard for her to break traditions to do thing things she needs to do Calla is open minded enough to know she should live for herself and at least try to figure out why the Guardians are working for the Keepers.

The Keepers are magical folk that have been around since before humans existed, they help shape the world and use their magic to take care of everything in it. Calla is an alpha Guardian and it is up to her and the other packs to make sure that the Keeper’s holy lands are safe.

Calla has been promised to Ren (oh le sigh at the literary boi hotness) since they were born on Samhain. All of this is fine with Calla until Shay shows up and threatens to rock her very existence to the core. This is a book begging for the reader to pick a side. Do we choose the strong misunderstood alpha male Ren (oh yes please) or the equally strong mystery boy who has a role to play in Calla’s future as well?

Nightshade kept me guessing to the very end where Andrea Cremer leaves the reader waiting with bated breath for more! I do hope there will be a second book at BEA this year and this time I will know what I am gunning for when I make my way over to the Penguin booth.

If you enjoy L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike or, Annette Curtis Klause you will love Andrea Cremer.

FTC Disclosure: I picked up this book at a conference. I paid to ship it home. Boo to the ya.

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Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Goodreads: The drizzle had broken into patches as they walked. As Drina scooped up the pale sand, Kate found herself standing in the smudge of shadow cast by the deadfall. She had never before noticed the way shadows gave things weight, made them look heavy and real and connected to the ground. Without hers…

She edged into the light.

Her shadow looked strange and thinned. It seemed not cast against the ground, but floating above it, like a fog. What Linay had said was true: No one would notice this, at first. It was just an uneasy little change, like the half-felt movement of a boat that slowly induces a great sickness.

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

Words cannot describe the feelings I have for Plain Kate. Erin Bow gave me a gift, she gave all who read Plain Kate a gift. It’s the gift of a perfectly written story without all of the cliche’s that are hounding young adult literature at the moment. There is no love story for Kate, therefore no epic love triangle. Kate is a self aware heroine, she knows her faults and accepts them. Therefore there is no self depreciating lead character. Plain Kate is a book that you will continue to not only think about but to feel long after you have read it.

It’s hard for me to review Plain Kate. I almost thought about making this a blog post instead. I was afraid that if I praise the book and the author too much that it will read as hype, but I realized Plain Kate is not about hype, it is just about phenomenal story telling and that will show through even my rambling thoughts.

We begin with Kate being fanatically happy with her life. Her father is a Master Carver and has promised to take Kate on as his apprentice when she is old enough. The mother has long since past and Kate never knew her making the relationship with her father all the more important. Kate has strange colored eyes and isn’t much to look at so they dub her Plain Kate in the town. Kate is accepted, even though she is strange by her father’s tremendously positive reputation in the town.

Everyone is afraid of anyone who looks, talks or walks like a witch and when Kate’s father succumbs to witch’s fever, Kate has some growing up to do, and quickly! She is not old enough to take over his position so a new carver is sent to town, she is alone, homeless and missing her father but she does not whine. Kate picks herself up by her bootstraps and simply survives. It is then she meets a set of kittens and raises them. Two abandon her but one stays loyal and on the day the beautiful man in white comes to town, well that is the day Plain Kate’s adventure begins.

We are then taken on a magical journey of Gypsies, new scenery, magic, and heartbreak. Through-out Plain Kate I laughed and cried and was so invested in so many of the characters I became completely conflicted with myself. Erin Bow is simply a masterful story teller. Sometimes it takes a simple fairy tale to show you what you have been missing in your reading for so long. I strongly urge any fairy tale or fantasy lover to pick up a copy of Plain Kate. I assure you that you will immensely enjoy yourself.

You can read what Erin Bow is working on now by heading over to Book Chic Club and you can enter to win your very own copy of Plain Kate at Goodreads.

In which Erin Bow reads Plain Kate and shows off her stripper pole!

I received a copy of Plain Kate from the Publisher. It was an ARC therefore holds no monetary value. So there you have it FTC.

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Review: Graceling by Kristen Cashore

Graceling was a book that had been showing up a lot on Twitter and in my recommendations on Amazon. I hadn’t really wanted to read it and I think it was the cover art that was holding me back. At some point there were so many great things said about the book that I did pick it up, and read it in a couple of days. For me the story line and plot were refreshing.

Graceling follows Katsa through a coming of age story. She find out at an early age she is graced. Gracelings are born with different color eyes, the king takes in all gracelings and when their grace is revealed usually around 9 or 10 the king then decides if the grace is beneficial to him. If not the child is sent home and lives a horrible life. People naturally fear the graced. Katsa is graced with fighting and killing she is unstoppable. Until she meets Po who is a prince of a strange kingdom, his grace is also fighting and while Katsa wins the battles she has to work hard to overcome. Po’s sister and niece Bitterblue live yet again in another kingdom with the kindest king in the realm but when things start going wrong, Po and Katsa set out to learn the truth. Maybe there is a grace out there that can overcome Katsa.

I gave this book three instead of four stars due to the fact that the language at times fit the setting. Other times it was way too modern and broke me from the story and it took a few pages to get back in. Other than that a delightful read.

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