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Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

This week I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews again posting about Like a River Glorious, the second installment in the Gold Seer Trilogy. Click the cover to follow (or click here) and enjoy the quotes!

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Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

23719270Vengeance Road

After her father is murdered for gold by an outlaw gang known as the Rose Riders, Kate Thompson sets off on a quest to avenge his death. Astride her horse Silver and pretending to be a boy for her protection, Kate journeys to Wickenburg in search of Abe, her father’s old friend. There she meets brothers Jesse and Will Colton and their family after learning of their father Abe’s death. The brothers seem to think Kate (using the name Nate) will stay at the ranch, but she heads out following the Rose Riders route, thanks to information from the Coltons. To her dismay, Jesse and Will catch up to her and want to ride with her. She and Jesse in particular do not seem to get along, but in a lengthy adventure filled with shootouts, fires, Apaches, and death, Kate finds something more than she bargained for in Jesse. Facing her father’s horde of secrets, Kate must examine what she truly believes and make a hard choice or risk a lifetime of guilt and blood on her hands.

A delightful YA Western, made more believable with dialogue in vernacular (that never ceased to have me adopting different accents aloud), with an admirably fierce heroine whose stubborn determination and loyalty is irresistible.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2016 in Action/Adventure, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Pretty Crooked trilogy by Elisa Ludwig

9780062066077 Pretty Crooked

Willa Fox has just moved to a dream town and sent to a fantastically rich school. There, she manages to befriend the Glitterati, a trio of very rich girls who dictate the highest social status. To even some of the score when a few of the scholarship girls are mercilessly targeted by the Glitterati, Willa recruits Tre, a reformed juvenile delinquent, to teach her a few criminal skills and begins stealing from the rich to give a little more back to those less fortunate, a more junior and modern day Robin Hood. When she gets caught, though, she finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew because not only is she facing social ostracism, but her mom is behaving weirdly too and suddenly disappears.

13146824 Pretty Sly

Willa must face the consequences of her actions despite having a missing mother. However, she can’t just abandon her mom. Breaking her parole, she and her friend, Aidan, set off to find Willa’s mom. With the help of the social media Sly Fox fan club, currently trending, led by their friends Tre and Cherise, Willa and Aidan have cash and make sympathetic young friends everywhere. They also add more crimes to their already long list, and discover just why Willa’s mom is running and who is out to get her. In finding her mom, Willa comes to discover many truths about herself and her past, and this is just enough to put her in a lot of danger.

22584503 Pretty Wanted

Willa is now on the run from the police and the FBI, having eluded capture after making a deal for her (former “mother” now revealed to be) sister’s faked death and her new life in Mexico. After finding out her real mom was murdered and that her murderers are still after her and her sister, Leslie, Willa is determined to find out more about her real mom’s life, especially since Willa’s got a one way ticket to juvie if she’s captured. She and Aidan have made it to St. Louis, the last place her family lived and where her real mom was murdered. There she and Aiden, eventually joined by Tre, must follow a trail long cold: discovering a diary, a covered up accident, a robbery, and the secret to her own paternity. But discovering the truth doesn’t mean much when she and Aiden are confronted with death. What will become of the Sly Fox and her friends with determined killers on their tail?

This series was a fairly enjoyable wild ride (read?) born out of desiring justice and exposing the truth that transformed into a heart-stopping race to discover Willa’s real past as her life falls about her ears. From the original premise of a modern girl Robin Hood, it veered way off into a Veronica Mars-esque murder mystery, albeit not as addicting. Many of the background characters are very trope, and Willa seems more like 17 than her 15 years, especially once you consider her relationship with her “mom” and Aiden. My favorite character was Tre, who was both resourceful, funny, and a true friend. He really made the whole thing possible. I can’t say I much enjoyed how the book ended, that’s not to say it ended badly, but there was just a lot to process and a very short time to do so. I also really hated that Aidan ran off, while Willa took responsibility for her actions. Aidan never struck me as that guy who would run off looking like an escaped criminal but more like he would just continue flaunting his reputation as a rich man’s party boy son who does whatever he pleases. Not going to say much about how the mystery is solved, not to ruin this with any spoilers! I would give this series a 3 out of 5, and perfect for mystery-loving middle grades or high school freshmen. It’s likeable but doesn’t have the wow factor to appeal to older teen readers or adults. Finally, this is unimportant, but I still thought Corbin and Leslie should end up together, especially considering Leslie’s past and how that experience must have scarred her. I did really like the covers. The black and white photography is appealing.

 

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The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

A really fantastic fantasy series, one you won’t want to miss (like I did for a while)!

shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024 Shadow and Bone

As the nation of Ravka is burdened from wars on all borders and a magical blight known as the Shadow Fold scars the center of the country from its western half, a hope emerges in an unlikely heroine. Orphaned as a child, Alina Starkov has only counted on one thing in her hard life, her best friend Malyen “Mal” Oretsev. When he joins the Ravkan First Army, she goes with him and is apprenticed as a mapmaker. As part of the First Army, including Mal and Alina, crosses the Fold, a magic-created hellhole of darkness populated by winged man-eating beasts called volcra, they are attacked. Mal is about to be killed by a volcra when Alina attempts to save him. Her strikes are feeble and don’t stop the horde amassing against them. As she is about to be ripped away and killed with Mal, a hidden power unleashes from her to save them all just as Alina goes unconscious. Upon waking, she is named one of the Grisha, an elite group of magic wielders, and she is the lone Sun Summoner among hundreds. The leader of the Grisha, the Darkling, who powers her elemental opposite, that of darkness, orders her sent to the capital, and Alina is torn from everything familiar, having just learned her entire identity is a lie and that she will be hunted down by ruthless assassins from other nations. Once at the capital, she struggles to make friends, since her strong, rare gift and the abnormal discovery of her powers set her apart from the other Grisha. Her only friend is Genya, a solitary Grisha servant who is in service to the Queen, but Genya is also holding on to her own secrets. With the Darkling trying to seduce her, the old crone Baghra trying to teach Alina to use her powers, and the armsmaster trying to beat some sword skills into her, Alina is overwhelmed and homesick. She’s tried to reach Mal but to no avail. With Alina’s gift miserably not working or maybe only the slightest, her only hope to try and make her gift powerful enough to save Ravka and its people from the horror of the Fold is to try and capture an elusive mystical stag whose antlers magnify a Grisha’s gift. Just when Alina thinks everything is falling into place, Mal comes and her world turns upside down. Alina must choose who is telling her lies, Mal or the Darkling, and just whose purpose does she truly serve?

14061955 Seige and Storm

As Alina and Mal try to escape the Darkling’s reach on Ravka’s western coast, Alina is haunted by her actions in the Fold, allowing people to be attacked and killed just so she could save herself and Mal. Posing as common folk, Alina tries to keep her identity a secret, but their past catches up with them eventually. The Darkling comes for them, sporting a new power from the events at the Fold where he can create corporeal unstoppable shadow beings. Being captured by the Darkling and his loyal Grisha this time takes them onboard a ship bound for a sea north of Ravka to find a magical leviathan whose scales will further amplify Alina’s powers. Just when they are about to lose hope that Alina will be enslaved to the Darkling and Ravka will fall entirely under his thumb, their notorious privateer captain, Sturmhond, outwits the Darkling and his army, saving Alina, Mal, and the leviathan’s amplifier with a secret ship and Grisha crew. For their rescue, Alina and Mal are bound to Sturmhond to listen to his bargain to save Ravka but then they’re free to choose their way. Despite wanting her freedom, Alina feels her duty lies in helping her country and her fellow man, and she allies herself with Sturmhond. In enlisting her help, Alina has requested to find the third Morozova’s amplifier, a firebird, and be leader of the Second Army of Grisha, or what’s left of it. Together, Sturmhond and Alina’s influence inspires the people of Ravka, for they have been worshiping the Sun Summoner since the events of the Fold, against the Darkling. Mal is left to be Alina’s strong and trustworthy right hand and captain of her guard. As Alina learns to become a leader and tries to fortify the Second Army for their inevitable fight ahead, she faces a choice with a double-edged sword. Her power is growing and so it seems is a sort of connection to the Darkling, but this drives her away from Mal. Either way, she is losing, but what is worth the greater cost in the battle against the Darkling’s evil and all-encompassing destruction?

14061957 Ruin and Rising

Alina has failed and the Darkling has risen to ultimate power in the capital. He now rules all of Ravka from his shadow throne as Alina, much weakened and practically deathly ill, is in hiding underground with the overzealous Apparat (high priest of Ravka) as her power-mad puppeteer. His followers are all enthralled to the Sun Summoner cult, and Alina’s friends are beaten down and practically destroyed. Only a mere remnant of the former formidable Second Army remains. Desperate to escape the moldy, incense-laden tunnels controlled by the Apparat, Alina, who is slowly–slowly recovering, and her loyal few manage a surprising coup to blackmail the Apparat and escape to the northwest, taking a grueling journey to eventually make contact with their ally, Prince Nikolai. There, in the high reaches of a snowy mountain pass officially on enemy territory, Alina finally learns the true extent of her power but is still determined to find the firebird and stop the Darkling once and for all. Just when you think the tide will really turn, the Darkling’s forces attack and many are killed while Prince Nikolai is turned into a volcra. Alina, Mal, and a few favorite characters travel to find the firebird and stop the Darkling, for what other choice do they have but let Nikolai and the others have died and suffered in vain. Mal’s unique tracker abilities have known no match and they do not fail now. Upon finding the firebird, Alina learns one final lesson, that to find and embrace the last amplifier will mean a great sacrifice. Will Alina bend and take the third amplifier and defeat the Darkling once and for all despite the great personal risks or are they always doomed to fail?

91v7vX+P9SLFrom world-building to character creation to plot twists, I was blown away by this series! Just when I was terrified to read on and sure to meet tragedy, I was breathless with excitement at finding them reasonably (and believably) unscathed and rescued from danger. I don’t know how she did it (almost) every time! Just for your sake, I kept out many of the key spoilers (though I could have easily revealed a few of them). One of the biggest debates in this series is which male to root for! Many first readers fall into the trap of loving the Darkling and being seduced by him just as much as Alina is in Shadow & Bone. Careful with this one! The Darkling is oh-so-temptingly evil for a reason! So, in case you’re looking for a weekend series read, definitely try this one as it is a satisfying and inventive fantasy.

So excited to read her new book, Six of Crows, coming out September 2015 set in the same world. Strikes me as very Stiefvater-esque ala The Raven Boys in the title, certainly.

P.S. Team Nikolai!

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

untitled The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides

A fantastical tale that will especially delight mature elementary and middle grade readers, but also charm any older teens (or adults) who might like a clean adventure fantasy. Definitely a possible read-along but with some mention of romantic attractions.

Former circus trick rider, young Kit Bristol has served as the lone manservant, or only servant really, to a mysterious country gentleman for the last two years, and has gotten used to the quiet simplicity of his new life, even if he still yearns for adventure. In all that time, he’s never once noticed the notorious highwayman Whistling Jack that has everyone in the nearby village upset. When Kit wakes up one night and finds his master lying gravely injured geared up as a highwayman, he knows Whistling Jack’s real identity. As ruffians attempt to break in, Kit dons his master’s clothes to save him and escapes when he finds his master has died, instructed to find a witch and perform one last duty. As he rides his master’s brilliant horse, Midnight, Kit is chased by soldiers and attacked by goblings. After some surprising magic from an unknown source, Kit finds himself safe with the witch and given a quest, to rescue a faerie princess who is being forced to marry King George II. For Kit, who’s only an accidental highwayman, a quest to rescue the princess turns into a lively journey: a dunk in a river, gobling and monster pursuers sent by the princess’s father and the evil Duchess, a soldier captain who’s intent on revenge, a traveling circus complete with senile old man, a monkey and a woman who’s very unlucky in love, two tiny faeries, and one persnickety princess. Though the quest was his master’s, Kit comes to find he cares for the princess and will do anything to help her, even battle a soul-stealing flying Duchess and a tyrannical old father.

I found this a delightful read, if more suited for younger readers. I especially enjoyed the older literary trick of pretending the narrator (Kit) is a real person and has really experienced those things (see much of 18th/17th century literature) and is writing from a historical point-of-view. It blends a little bit of historical fiction and fantasy. Our hero Kit is very likeable and funny but easygoing, while the princess and Lily are moody females, which lends a bit of gender humor to the story though not overdone. Possibly the hardest to understand is the dimensions of Faerie and this world, which contains odd creatures and odd rules that Kit does not bother to describe or make full sense of, lending to his own credibility as our “real” author.

Will be a series, but no forthcoming dates as of yet.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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