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Hunted by Meagan Spooner

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Hunted is a neat and vivid fairy tale retelling of a tale-as-old-as-time with a touch of Russian folklore that every readers will surely enjoy immensely.

Being marketed as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Hunted automatically make it to the top of my reading list of 2017. As I have mentioned before from my other review, Beauty and the Beast is part of my childhood, it is my all-time favorite fairy tale, and I love experiencing every interesting version of it available for me. Hunted is no exception.

For a retelling, Hunted felt very much an original. It has its own appeal and surprises that keeps me guessing as I read. Meagan Spooner not only took the Beauty and the Beast plot line but also cleverly stitch Russian tales into it. Weaving a beautiful and new tapestry that makes me adore this retelling even more.

Though I haven’t read most of those Russian tales, the stories still feel familiar to me. Some of them are closely related with our own local tales. Tales that are parts of my bed time stories growing up which somehow transported me to my past. A lovely experience reminding me of my Dad telling stories before bedtime.

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”

Yeva our protagonist is nothing like the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Though both are well read, the similarity ends there. Instead of a sweet young lady, we have Yeva as a Hunter, a would-be assassin for the Beast who she hopes to kill in revenge for her father’s death. She is tough, ambitious and caring.

The Beast like the one om the animated version is not at all menacing. But uniquely portrayed by Meagan Spooner as two different souls trap into one body. Beast constant battle between his human and beast side is well drawn. Making him very much intriguing and pulling readers to sympathize with him. The short narratives from his perspective before each chapters will surely entice readers for more of his thoughts.

Meagan Spooner did a wonderful job in re-imagining the tale of Beauty and the Beast. She took established characters and gave them a new wonderful story without removing the sense of nostalgia to readers like me who grew up with the tale-as-old-as-time.

Overall, Hunted is imaginative, captivating and gorgeousness re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

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Blog Tour: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi (Author Interview)

I am super excited to be part of A Crown of Wishes Blog Tour. This is the second book of The Star-Touched Queen series which is like a companion novel to the first book, The Star-Touched Queen. Both books can be read as stand-alone, so no worries if you haven’t read the first one yet before reading A Crown of Wishes. Though I suggest pick up both, and experience Roshani Chokshi luscious writing and intricate world building.

Following the interview are some information about the author, Roshani Chokshi along with places where to find her online, A Crown of Wishes description, where to get copies of the book, and a short audio clip of an excerpt of A Crown of Wishes. So don’t forget to pre-order your copies now before the book hit shelves in few days.

Have fun reading the interview.

Interview with Roshani Choksi

1. I’m fascinated with the deep and dynamic fantasy settings of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. What were some of the difficulties did you encounter in building such a complex world?

As with any worldbuilding, there’s always the danger of getting caught up in the mechanics and losing sight of the story. I think some of the best worldbuilding feels seamless because there’s so much heavylifting done in the sentence-level details. It also helps leave the world open for more nuances later. I think if I over-explained the TSTQ universe, Gauri’s story would’ve been a lot more difficult.

2. The witty banters between Vikram and Gauri is just adorable. Did you put a lot of thoughts into how to show their intensity, or did this unusual pair just pop straight from your head and flow along with the story?

They were intense right off the bat. In fact, it was hard to get them to stop fighting so we could actually get to the story…but I loved every second I got to spend with them.

3. And If Vikram and Gauri could both ask you one question each about why you wrote their story the way you did, what do you think would they most want to know?

a. I think Gauri would want to know why I put her through the wringer and whether or not I have a death wish.

b. I think Vikram would say “Fox prince? You couldn’t give me a cooler animal? Rude.”

4. If you will be part of the Tournament of Wishes and you can choose your partner either real or fictional character, who will you pick to join you in Alaka? And what will you wish if ever you win the game?

I would wish for no need of wishes, with the condition that I’m not killed or incapacitated. And as for partner, I would choose Agnieska from UPROOTED because she’s powerful, hilarious and would probably not mind taking frequent snack breaks…

5. You clearly do a great deal of research in order to write this Indian-inflected fantasy world of Star-Touched Queen series. I adored every detail of myth and magics with your lush and intricate world building. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve typed into search engine while you’re doing your research? Or share any memorable or interesting thing you’ve discover while writing your books.

Well…The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes have a lot of flesh-eating beings. And so at one point I had to imagine a conversation between a man-eating raksha and Gauri, and so I ended up researching what, exactly, would be considered the most edible and yummy part of a human. (spoiler: parts around the spine)

Thanks so much Roshani for answering all my questions above and for creating the Star-Touched world. I’m looking forward for more books from you in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Find Roshani

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram| Goodreads


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover, paperback, Ebook, Audio

Roshani Chokshi proved herself an author to watch with her young adult fantasy debut last spring, The Star-Touched Queen. Debuting at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list, the novel received rave reviews from fans and critics alike and appeared on the most buzzed about lists of 2016. Chokshi once again writes a beautifully crafted story of adventure, love, and magic set in the Star-Touched world with her sophomore novel A CROWN OF WISHES (St. Martin’s Griffin; 3/28/17). Building on her intricate setting based on ancient India and Greek mythology, her follow-up is a novel spun from enchantment with a strong female heroine and a swoony worthy prince who team up to win back the thrones of their kingdoms.

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of aneighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes – a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels. Every which way they turn new trials will test their witand strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Early reviews have all agreed that Chokshi has improved on her exquisite writing and lush narrative in her sophomore novel. With an ending that will make even the most cynical New Yorker heart believe in true love, A CROWN OF WISHES takes Chokshi’s talent to all new heights.

Book Links:

Amazon | B&NBook Depository | Goodreads

Listen to an excerpt of A CROWN OF WISHES audiobook, read by Priya Ayyar from MacmillanAudio

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The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

the-last-of-august

“Sometimes I wondered if hanging out with Charlotte Holmes had made me into a monster.

At times like this, I knew it for sure.”

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie and Charlotte are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Set during the school break of the lead characters, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, The Last of August pick up where the first book, A Study in Charlotte left off. Now, Charlotte and Jamie are in London trying to figure out how and why Charlotte’s Uncle Leander gone missing. Charlotte and Jamie travel around Europe solving mysteries with August Moriarty – Charlotte’s former tutor and first crush who are now working under Charlotte’s brother, Milo Holmes.

This second installment focus more on Charlotte and Jamie’s relationship. Something I should have expected if I have read the book’s tag-line “Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.” But then, the ever oblivious me, (who usually read books without reading anything about it first not even  the blurb of the back cover) just don’t expect too much “relationship issues”. Sure, I like the constant tension between Charlotte and Jamie from A Study in Charlotte, but in this installment not so much. I think, it took too much space and time which I wish was alloted in solving mysteries and crimes instead.

The mystery was for the most part interesting albeit not thrilling as I want it to be. Leander disappearance concerned me at first but with all the other things that is happening I honestly lost my interest in finding out what really happened to Charlotte’s missing Uncle. So when the answer was revealed near the end I feel like I don’t care anymore what happened to the guy.

The ending is really unexpected and I’m not sure how to feel about it. Thinking more, it feels like, it’s totally unnecessary but then maybe the author is starting to lay out something for the third installment. I just hope that something is big and will justify that awful ending for one character that I grown to like. Or maybe, that’s not really what happened. After-all, we are in a Holmes’ novel. Not everything that’s been told is necessary real.

Overall, The Last of August is intriguing and interesting just like the first installment. If only this wasn’t too much focus on the characters relationship instead of the mystery I probably enjoyed this one more.

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* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Katherine Tegen an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

gem-dixie

“I don’t have the power to be responsible for every single person in the world.”

Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Sara Zarr explores the relationships of two sisters who both grew up in a dysfunctional family in this upcoming contemporary novel, Gem & Dixie.

Gem is three years older than Dixie. And being the older one, her instinct is to take care of her younger sister. She used to be Dixie’s protector until the two steps into their own separate lives. They still live in the same house with their mother but they aren’t exactly close anymore. They don’t even agree with lots of things. They rarely converse at home nor at school. They never bond anymore. When their Dad suddenly return to their lives, Dixie and Gem find themselves together running away from home. How long they can manage to stay together?

Gem as a narrator is easily accessible inspite of being a loner. Her internal monologues and letters about her past shows real struggles of living a life with no adult role in it. As she desperately tries to get out of the her messy life, readers will surely feel and even ache for her.

Sara Zarr successfully shows in this novel how Gem and Dixie navigates their relationship as sisters, as well as the family dynamics that made these two who they are. The absentee parents, poverty and other difficult things that Gem and Dixie has to deal with everyday of their lives push them into different directions and hardened them like no other girls their age.

“When you have a shared experience with someone who showed you some kindness when you needed it most, it sticks with you.”

Ultimately, this novel is about the relationship between two sisters, Gem and Dixie. But what I find more interesting is how Sara Zarr shows the contrast between two individuals. Gem and Dixie have the same home situations. They basically have the same issues and problems, but these two girls cope up with their lives differently. Gem becomes a loner who talk to school psychiatrist while Dixie charms her way to survive everyday.

Sara Zarr reminds us in this novel, how unique and different people are, even those with the same life circumstances. Sometimes we tend to compare our lives with other people but in reality even we have the same position with others we won’t exactly get the same life.

All in all, Gem & Dixie is a quick and heart-rending read. Sara Zarr takes a simple yet emotionally difficult story of two sisters and let the readers brave the reality of their situations.

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* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Balzer + Bray an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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A List of Cages by Robin Roe

a-list-of-cages

“I used to think that if I concentrated, I could make myself disappear. I don’t believe that anymore, but sometimes I still have to try.”

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

A List of Cages is an astounding debut novel that leaves me deeply affected and emotionally invested. It is brave, gripping, if at times uncomfortable read that sometimes makes me wish there’s something I can do for the characters.

Adam and Julian are foster brothers for a time, until Julian is forced to live with his only living relative. Their lives crossed again when Adam is assigned to help the school psychologist as his elective. Part of his task is to track down Julian, making sure Julian won’t skip more of his appointments. As Adam try to do his job, he noticed the difference between the Julian who used to live with them and the present Julian. Concerned with his former foster brother, he tries his best to be part of Julian’s life once again. As Adam unravel the new Julian, Adam not only understand Julian but also see the reality of the situation he was in.

Robin Roe did a wonderful job of writing Julian and Adam’s story. I almost can’t believe that ‘A List of Cages’ is her debut novel given how good and affecting her writing is. The alternating narration between Adam and Julian easily shows the contrast between Adam and Julian’s lives. Not just their personal living condition, but as well as the way they handle their mental health conditions.

Julian’s storyline will undoubtedly linger to readers. My hearts bleeds for him, and constantly lost my breath while reading his parts. He affected me deeply that even I feel uncomfortable reading some of the things that happened to him I still can’t stop reading, if only to prove to Julian that he has someone who won’t leave him.

Julian doesn’t deserve those horrifying things. Sometimes I wonder who’s to blame — his uncle or the foster system that put Julian to his uncle’s care? But as much as I want to point finger, I also know that there’s no use in condemning any of those people. This is fiction after all. I can only hope that no one suffers like Julian in real life. No one deserves that kind of treatment or that kind of life.

“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite is true. Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”

As for Adam, well he is genuinely caring guy. He reminds me that kindness and love goes a long way. Sometimes it’s easy to forget little things like that. I’ve seen many times how hardships change people. How bad experiences can make someone tough by stripping him of kindness and love. It is sad but it is also a reality.

“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

On the whole, A List of Cages touches some difficult issues with sensitivity and reality that will surely make readers think of things and feel every kind of emotions that the characters went through. It’s unflinching, honest, and uncompromising story that shows the power of kindness, friendship and brotherhood.

This new addition to the ya contemporary novels is not to be missed.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley

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The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

the-scourge

“Because they don’t know us, and we don’t know them… It’s easy to hate what you don’t understand.”

When a plague isn’t all that kills…

As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge—and quarantine colony—for the ill. The Scourge’s victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there.

However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn’t know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She’s been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on. But will she and Weevil survive the Scourge—and the gorvernor’s wardens—long enough to make their escape and expose the cruel plan?

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book DepositoryGoodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Jennifer Nielsen’s The Ascendance Trilogy is a favorite middle grade series novel of mine. So every book written by her is a must read for me, with the hope to meet another character to admire and adore like Sage.

In this book, Jennifer Nielsen introduce readers to a female protagonist, Ani Mells. Ani is one of the River People who live far away from Keldan. She is strong-willed and stubborn which often gets her in trouble. When two of the Governor’s warden arrest her to undergo the scourge test, Ani end up positive. Soon after she was sent to an island as prisoner together with other scourge victim.

“They knew the world that came out of books, but we knew the world that went into them.”

Ani Mells as the main character is fun to follow. She is strong-willed, defiant and snarky. Her mischievous personality makes The Scourge so much fun to read. Add the company of her loyal friend, Weevil, these two just don’t know when to stop their misadventures. Even at times when Weevil is actually trying to help Ani, they still end up in more troubles. It’s like Ani is made for disaster, and no one can help it, not even Weevil who only wants what’s best for his best friend.

The only mild complaint with this book is the simplicity/predictability of the plot. Having read Jennifer Nielsen’s other book, especially the The Ascendance Trilogy wherein plot twist and turns are spot on I didn’t expect this new novel to be easily predictable. But considering that the target audience of this book are younger readers, I guess the simplicity of the story won’t be an issue. The story is still entertaining nonetheless.

Overall, Jennifer A Nielsen’s latest novel, The Scourge is an entertaining and quick read. If you like adventure or misadventure, snarky characters or just looking for a short fun read then this one is for you.

* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.

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