What’s Ashley Reading?: King of Scars

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

First line: Dima heard the barn doors slam before anyone else did.

Summary: Nikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, has spent the first several years of his reign trying to hold his country together. With the help of his Triumvirate he hopes to strengthen the borders, improve diplomatic relations and rebuild the Second Army. However, as miracles continue to happen around the country and a darkness still infects his land, he is met with more than he imagined.

My Thoughts: Nikolai was one of my favorite characters from Bardugo’s original trilogy. He has a sharp wit and charisma that lets him steal every scene. I was so happy when I learned that he was getting his own duology. Authors do answer prayers! Ha! And Nina from The Dregs Duology has a starring role as well. I loved every one of her chapters. She is daring and smart. And she does not mind causing a little trouble along the way.

“But it’s a very arduous path,” Nikolai said. “Who will carry my snacks?”

In addition to past characters we meet several new ones. I did not know how I was going to feel about them when they first entered the storyline but they surprised me. It was a fun plot twist. I am excited to see where these new characters take us.

The first half of the book was a little slower, a trait which I have noticed in the other books. But when the action picks up the story flies by. Trust me and stick with this. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.

And finally that ending! Wow! It was shocking. It literally gave me goosebumps as I was reading it. I will be highly anticipating the next book. I hope I do not have to wait too long.

FYI: I would highly recommend you read The Shadow and Bone Trilogy and The Dregs Duology before picking this one up. There are lots of characters and storylines that carry on into this latest addition to the Grishaverse.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Language of Thorns

It’s that time of year again!  Time to set a new reading goal for the year.  The last several years I have set a goal of 75 books.  I nearly doubled it with 145 books in 2018.  Do you have reading goals?  How do you track them?  I love Goodreads because I can create shelves, lists and make notes on what I read.  The Language of Thorns is my first completed book of the year and it definitely started the year off well!

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

First line: In the year that summer stayed too long, the heat lay upon the prairie with the weight of a corpse.

Summary: A collection of five fairy tales and legends told by the best-selling author, Leigh Bardugo, brings the reader into a mystical world filled with enchanted nutcrackers, mermaids and witches.

Highlights: I absolutely loved these short stories. Bardugo is a master of world building and atmosphere. I have read several of her novels and enjoyed each one. She can do so much in just a few pages.

By far my favorite of the stories was the story of Clara and the nutcracker. It seems like we know this story but Bardugo puts her own twist on it making it darker and more intriguing.

The pages are stunning with their artwork at the borders. Each page adds more imagery that enhances the story. Plus, if you have read her books (Grisha Trilogy and Dregs Duology) you will find little Easter eggs embedded in the tales. I highly recommend this collection to anyone who loves fantasy and Russian style fairy tales.

FYI: If you enjoyed this then try the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. I read the third book in December and was once again blown away by Arden’s story telling abilities.

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

First line: I try not to think of her.

Summary: Magic once flowed through the land of Orisha. Maji’s controlled the magic. However, the king led a raid on the Maji of the land, killing them all. Zelie had to watch her mother die because of her magic and she has never forgotten. When Zelie stumbles upon the escaping Princess Amari she starts a quest to bring back magic to the land and revive the Maji. On their tail is Amari’s brother, the prince of Orisha, Inan who is determined to stop the return of magic but he is also hiding a dark secret.

Highlights: That cover! Skies! It is amazing. The author, Tomi Adeyemi, is a born storyteller. In her debut novel, she develops a fantasy world with great cast of characters and rich history. Tomi builds a world that resembles West Africa. The beasts and landscape are easily comparable but also very different. She weaves magic and heart into the whole story. While I was reading, I could easily picture it all happening right before my eyes. I loved all the action sequences. Zelie is badass! She has to hide her skills but she can whoop anyone. Also secretly, Amari is skilled as well. I love seeing amazing female characters that can kick butt and do!
The story is told from three different perspectives. Zelie, Amari and Inan each play an important part in the narrative. Zelie, a Diviner, is the child who had everything taken away from her when the Raid killed her mother. Amari is the princess who grew up sheltered but sees her friend, a Diviner like Zelie, killed by her father. And Inan, the crown prince, who has been taught to fear magic and fight to eradicate it. From each character, we get a look into the prejudices and history of Orisha and its people. All three have to learn from the events of the story and overcome their challenges in order to find peace and equality.

“You crushed us to build you monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back!”

This book is a powerful story that was written in a time of unrest. In the author’s note, she describes turning on the TV and feeling afraid. It is important that we have more books that show that just because we look different we are really all the same no matter what.

Lowlights: The only fault I found was the quick progression of the love story. At least to the reader very little time had passed and they were already talking love. This is one of the biggest troubles with YA fiction but it can easily be overlooked when there is a great story line like this.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the movie, Black Panther!

Late March new releases

Happy first day of spring! OK, so it’s kind of gloomy and gray and cool outside today, but still. Spring! It’s officially here even if it doesn’t much look or feel like it. That means temperatures will eventually be warming and it will be easier (and more comfortable!) to spend time outside.

When the weather warms up, where’s your favorite outdoor location to read? Tell us in the comments. In the meantime, since spring is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, here is a list of great new books for spring reading.

March 20: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
If you are a fan of creepy gothic novels, Simone St. James serves up just the right flavor. In Vermont in 1950, Idlewild Hall was a boarding school for girls—the girls no one knew what to do with. Four of these girls bond over their shared fear, and then one of them disappears. In Vermont in 2014, Idlewild Hall is an abandoned ruin, where 20 years earlier, the body of journalist Fiona Sheridan’s murdered sister was found. Despite a trial and conviction in the case, Fiona can’t shake the idea that something more is going on.

March 20: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
From the author of Still Alice comes this story of Richard, an accomplished concert pianist who now suffers from ALS, and his ex-wife, Karina, who reluctantly agrees to become his caretaker. As Richard’s disease and paralysis progress, and Karina struggles with her own past including her divorce from Richard, the couple works to reconcile their past and find peace before it’s too late.

March 27: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
A new take on a favorite Russian mystery: Did Anastasia survive the executions of her family in 1918 by Bolshevik police? And was Anna Anderson actually Anastasia? In Lawhon’s story, a young woman is pulled from a freezing canal in Berlin. She bears an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov. Her body is covered with horrible scars. When she finally speaks, she claims to be the duchess. Told from both Anastasia’s point of view before the executions, and Anna’s point of view in reverse chronology, the story spans more than 50 years.

March 27: The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Hamel
Do you still love reading novels about WWII? There have been so many good ones recently, and this one is one more to add to your list. Meet American newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit who has come to France with her French husband; Charlotte Dacher, who is 11 when German forces roll into the French capital; and Thomas Clarke, who joins the British Royal Air Force out of a sense of patriotism. The paths of these three cross in Paris, where they will work together against the Nazi forces that have invaded the city.

March 27: Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter (young adult)
Maddie’s dad used to be head of the Secret Service. But now they live in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness with no phone and no internet. Then Logan, Maddie’s former best friend, and son of the president, suddenly shows up—six years later. And when he does, so does an unknown assailant who pushes Maddie off a cliff and kidnaps Logan. Maddie really wants to kill Logan after everything he’s put her through, but she has to rescue him first.

March 27: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
A king drains his island kingdom of nearly all its magic leaving it vulnerable to enemy nations, which now surround it, waiting for the time to strike and gain a valuable trading port. The king’s three daughters know that a new sovereign must be chosen to save the kingdom and restore its magic, but the king won’t choose an heir until the longest night of the year. So the daughters prepare for battle.

Book Review: Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue

Wires and Nerve: Volume 2: Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

First line: Almost a year has passes since we overthrew the wicked tyrant, Queen Levana, and crowned my best friend, Cinder—AKA Princess Selene Blackburn—as the true queen of Luna.

Summary: In the second installment of the Wires and Nerve graphic novels by Marissa Meyer we see Iko and Steele continue to hunt the blood thirsty genetically altered soldiers of Queen Levana. The soldiers have refused to return to Luna and accept that the war is over. With the planned trip to Earth, Cinder and her friends are worried about being attacked while celebrating the new peace treaty between the two nations. It is up to Iko and Steele to prevent this from happening.

Highlights: I loved the Lunar Chronicles. The fairytales intermixed with science fiction/fantasy were fun and exciting. I was happy to see that Meyer was going to continue and expand her universe with the Wires and Nerve stories. I am not much of a graphic novel reader but these were fun. The drawings were simple and monotone but still fit perfectly into the Lunar universe.

Lowlights: With graphic novels, the stories are usually short and very basic. I wanted more. I wanted to see more of my favorite characters. This is why I cannot read too many graphic novels. I like a fuller story.

FYI: Second in the series. However, you need to read the Lunar Chronicles before reading these!

Book Review: Everless

Everless by Sara Holland

First line: Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.

Summary: In a world where blood is time and time is currency, resides Jules Ember. She is a young girl determined to save her father’s life by returning to the Everless estate in order to earn more blood irons (the currency that can add days to years onto a persons life). However, when her father dies at the gates of Everless Jules becomes entangled in a mystery about her past and the family she has been serving.

Highlights: The idea of blood being transformed into currency but can also be consumed to add more time to a person’s lifespan is very intriguing. I never would have considered this premise but it is fascinating to think about. I liked the twist at the end. I figured out several pieces but many of them were great details that added to the mystery. This is a typical dystopian YA novel but it still feels fresh and new.

Lowlights: Being a reader of YA I could easily predict several plot points.  There are similarities to books such as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

FYI: Book 1 in a series!

Late February new releases

Feb. 20: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Six close friends from Oxford spend what they hope will be the perfect summer getaway together in a farm house in France. And it is, until they meet the girl next door — Severine. For Kate, Severine is an unwelcome presence, who undermine’s the groups loyalties. Kate knows that after a huge blow-up on the last night of the the holiday, that things are not ever going to be the same. Some actions are unforgivable and some people are unforgettable, even if they are never seen again. But a decade later, Severine’s body is found. Suspicion begins to swirl around Kate, who finds herself buried in deception and has no one to help her get free.

Feb. 20: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch
The latest in Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox mystery series takes the reader back to Lenox’s first case in 1850. Lenox is struggling to make a name for himself as a private detective, and Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously. An anonymous letter sent to the newspaper is from a person who claims to have committed the perfect crime, and in the letter they promise to kill again. Lenox believes this is his chance to prove himself. The killer’s sights end up set on those closest to Lenox, and he ends up in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Feb. 27: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta
Kiranmala is just a normal New Jersey sixth grader when she wakes up on her 12th birthday. Then her parents disappear and a demon blasts through her kitchen trying to eat her alive. Her parents had often told Kiranmala fantastical stories — like that she was really an Indian princess. Then, two swoon-worthy Indian princes show up at her door trying to rescue her. Now she’s sucked into another dimension: one full of magic and mythical creatures and magical maps. She has to solve riddles and avoid demons and try to avoid the things that want to kill her, while trying to find her parents and basically save New Jersey.

Feb. 27: The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Typically, the movie comes after the book, but in this case it’s the other way around. The highly rated movie, which is still out in theaters, was released a couple of months ago. Critics have said that director Guillermo del Toro was “at his visually distinctive best” with this film. He has joined forces with author Daniel Kraus to tell this love story in novel form. Elisa Esposito is mute, and works as a janitor in a research center in 1962. One night she sees a creature she isn’t supposed to, and it eventually becomes her sole reason for living. io9 says in its review that the movie and the book tell this spectacular story in two very different ways.

Feb. 27: The Hush by John Hart
This book takes the reader back to the world Hart introduced in The Last Child. But you don’t have to read that book before you read this one. Johnny lives alone, 10 years after the events that changed his life. Books have been written about his exploits, and people are curious, but Johnny works hard to maintain his privacy. His one connection to his past is with his childhood friend, Jack. Jack senses danger in the lands Johnny lives on, but Johnny doesn’t want to discuss it.

Late January new releases (a little late!)

Hey there! There have been so many good books already released in 2018 and so many more to come, but here are just a few that were released last Tuesday and today. I’m not very often one of the first people to read a new book, but occasionally one comes along that I just can’t resist. Maybe one of these will be that book for you.

Do you love to read the newest books? Or do you wait to see what people think of them? Or do you wait until you don’t have to be on a long hold list anymore?! Tell us how you like to read in the comments. And here are four new books that we think are worth of checking out. Click on the title to go to our catalog where you can see if the title is available or put it on hold.

Jan. 23: Markswoman (Asiana #1) by Rati Mehrotra
Looking for a strong female protagonist? Here’s a book that will satisfy you. Kyra is the youngest of an order of highly trained elite warriors. The orders are guided by a strict code of conduct and pledge to protect Asiana. Kyra has taken the pledge to live by these guidelines, but she also feels an overwhelming desire to avenge her murdered family. After Tamsyn takes control of the order, Kyra is forced on the run.

Jan. 23: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
James is a charismatic public figure who is also a loving father and husband. He is also accused of a horrific crime. Sophie is his wife. She is convinced he is innocent and desperately wants to protect her family. Kate is the prosecutor in the case. She seeks truth at all times, but is also convinced that James is guilty. Who is right?

Jan. 30: Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes
If you are ready for Louisa Clark’s new adventure, it’s out today! Louisa has gone to New York City to start her new life and hopes to keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive despite the thousands of miles that separate them. However, when she steps into New York’s high society, she runs into Joshua Ryan, a man who brings a whisper of Louisa’s past to her. Will Louisa be able to learn who she really is?

Jan. 30: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
From Goodreads: “Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness. At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America.”

Early January new releases

It’s a shiny, brand new year and oh, the reading possibilities that brings! With the advent of a new year, we are getting into the seasons of many more new books being released! With that in mind, here are a few titles we are looking forward to in the first half of January. Click on the title of the book to go to our catalog to check availability.

Tell us in the comments what your reading goal is for 2018.

Jan. 2: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black—young adult
At 7, Jude lost her parents when they were murdered. At the same time her sisters were spirited away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now 17, Jude desperately wants to join them, but to do so, she’ll have to defy Price Cardan, the youngest and most wicked of the sons of the High King.

Jan. 2: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox hasn’t left her home in 10 months. Over those months, she has sat at her window day after day watching her neighbors. When a new family moves in, she feels particularly drawn to what looks like a picture-perfect family living what used to be her life. Then she hears a scream rip the silence and sees something no one should ever have seen, but what should she do?  She’s not certain anyone will believe her, but she must get to the bottom of what happened.

Jan. 9: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
In 1986, Eddie and his friends spend their time biking around their English village, sharing information with each other via little chalk figures. One day, a figure leads them to a dismembered body and everything changes. Now, it’s 30 years later, and each of them gets a letter in the mail that contains a chalk stick figure. Then one of them turns up dead. Eddy figures it’s time he learns what really happened all those years ago.

Jan. 9: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A traveling psychic shows up in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1969, a woman who claims to be able to foretell the day a person will die. Four teenagers, the Gold children, sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they hear guide their stories for the next 50 years.

Jan. 16: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
From Goodreads: “In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.”

Jan. 16: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars are at the center of this book, which explores the friendship and creative partnership shared by Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. In 1914, Frances meets Mary, who is already making a name for herself. But together, these two women will hold much power in the movie industry and in Hollywood itself. Mary Pickford was knows as “Queen of the Movies” and Frances Marion is considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century.

 

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

First line: A girl rode a bay horse through a forest late at night.

Summary: Vasya has been cast out of her village as a witch. She does not want to spend her life behind a convent walls or trapped in a marriage. She wants freedom and adventure. With the help of the frost demon, Morozko, and her loyal horse, Solovey, she sets out on her own dressed as a boy. When she wanders into a burned village and discovers that bandits are raiding the countryside and stealing young girls she sets out to save the missing children. After her rescue mission, she gains the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow. With the help of her elder siblings, she keeps her gender hidden from the elite of Moscow. However, with the mysterious arrival of an unknown lord, Vasya starts to worry that the danger has worked its way into the courts of Grand Prince.

Highlights: Atmospheric. I can feel the cold of a Russian winter while reading the adventures of Vasya. Vasya is a wonderful heroine. She is not beautiful. She wants more out of life than the traditional trappings of her gender. I love the frost demon, Morozko. He is complicated and intriguing. I am glad that we got to see more of his relationship with Vasya. The writing is poetic and beautiful. I love that the author provides a glossary at the end to help the reader understand the terminology and characters. This one was filled with action and danger. I loved the first book and the second did not disappoint.

Lowlights: Nothing.

FYI: The second book in The Winternight Trilogy.