An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir... Absolutely Brilliant

An Ember in The Ashes An Ember in The Ashes Book One
Written by Sabaa Tahir
Fantasy, Romance
Published April 27th 2015
464 Pages
Thank you to Harper Voyager
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RATING ★★★
What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.

For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks' help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.

When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.
Laia lives a humble life living within the Scholar community, where the brutal Martials reign supreme and leave the townsfolk cowering in fear. Living with her grandparents, she and brother Darin work to put food on the table, while Darin is increasingly distancing himself for the favour of his sketches. He's secretive and sneaks out each night, until the Empire are on their doorstep. A night raid ensures no witnesses and with a Mask in attendance, the deadly elite soldier is unlikely to leave anyone alive.

Laia has no option but to run while Darin is being taken captive. Alone and now with Darin her only remaining family member, Laia enlists the aid of the Resistance, an underground group of revolutionaries once affiliated with her late parents. In exchange for freeing Darin, they propose that Laia infiltrate Blackcliff, a school under the order of the Empire, where killers are trained. Posing as a slave, Laia will work as a house slave under the Commandant to gather information about the upcoming Aspirant trials.

But she never expected to run into Elias, the Commandant's son who is on the verge of deserting the Empire. With a need to protect Laia, his peers begin to question his loyalty and Laia will be used against him in the ultimate test of allegiance. Laia believes he cannot be trusted, but it won't be Elias who will betray her. Time is running out to free Darin, but with her own life in the hands of Blackcliff, Laia just may be the one who needs saving.

MY THOUGHTS

My review for An Ember in The Ashes is one of the most difficult I've felt expressing. When you absolutely adore a book so deeply, that you're left lost for words. From the world building, to the characters, even the romance and just when you think you've read it all.

Told in dual points of view, Laia is a Scholar, a girl who lives to make ends meet for her grandparents, since the death of her parents some years ago. Her brother leaves for hours at a time, taking his sketch book in the middle of the night and bringing the Empire raid in his wake. The Legionaries spare no mercy, capturing Darin in the raid and forcing Laia to flee. With a deadly Mask hunting her, she has no choice but to heed the warning of her late parents and seek the aid of the underground Resistance. But their assistance comes at a price.

Elias is an elite soldier in training, expected to fulfill his role as a brutal Mask upon the completion of graduation. But Elias has other plans. He wants to escape, to free himself of his mother's cold and calculating reign over Blackcliff, his internal struggle against needless killing not going unnoticed by his peers. Before Elias can escape, he's chosen as an Aspirant for the trials to determine who will be the next leader. Three tests that decide the victor. But Elias isn't the bloodthirsty monster his mother is, or his grandfather expects him to be.

Two world collide when Laia is brought to Blackcliff, a lowly house slave with fire in her eyes and a determination that Elias sees in himself. It was glorious! The romance takes a backseat to the oppression and darkness of their world as the two form a tentative friendship. It mixes a dystopian society with fantasy and a touch of the brutality of the Roman and Greek empires with the battle of intelligence against arms. The world building was immaculate, from the wary streets of the Scholars, to the darkness that surrounds the Academy, it was so incredibly vivid and set the scene for an enslaved and oppressed society. The intensity was delicious, the characters well developed and although set in a world so far removed from modern day society, they were crafted to be likable and relatable. The secondary characters were distinct and Sabaa Tahir was able to weave in their individuality, where so many young adult books seem to skim over.

It was utterly stunning! It instilled in me a sense of righteousness, I wasn't only immersed, but felt as though I was placed in the action. I loved it. Every. Single. Moment.

THE VERDICT


Read. It. An Ember in The Ashes isn't a book you borrow, it's a book you need to own and read it again and again. This isn't yet another fantasy slash dystopian, it's immaculate. It'll have you completely immersed and torn between wanting to savoir the storyline and flying through the pages demanding to know where Sabaa Tahir will take the reader next. I loved it. I adored it. And now I'm hungry for more.

Laugh Your Ass Off... Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Denton Little's Deathdate Denton Little Book One
Written by Lance Rubin
Contemporary, Science Fiction, Humour
Published March 2015
352 Pages
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
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RATING ★★★★
Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For seventeen year old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle, as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters… Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager's life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and, just maybe, a way to live on.
Denton Little lives in a world dying isn't left to fate, genetic testing is now able to diagnose when you will die. Denton is classed as an Early, his Deathdate strikes before the seventeen year old can experience life... But that is about to change. On the day of his wake, in which Denton is the guest of honour, he wakes up with not only a hangover, but in his best friends sister's bed. He can vaguely remember his girlfriend breaking up with him the night before, or can he?

He may have known since he was only five years old, when his father and step mother decided to tell Denton that he would never become an adult, but nothing could prepare you for your life ending and how. It could be the strange purple rash that is rapidly spreading on his leg, the school dope smoker than insists on trying to plow him down with his car or girlfriend Taryn's former boyfriend, who is clearly crazy enough to take the dying boy out. 

But when a strange man at Denton's funeral warns of government conspiracies and once knowing his deceased mother, Denton needs answers that his gruff father is unable to provide. The clock is ticking and Denton's life could expire at any moment. Who would want to kill an already dying boy... Unless Denton plans on living.

MY THOUGHTS

Denton Little's Deathdate is a hilarious story of dying, living and what you do with the in between. Denton isn't popular, nor is he a ladies man. He's intelligent, conforming and a teen that parents would be proud of. But in a society where at birth your date of death is determined, Denton realises that he's never truly lived his life. He's never had a hangover, he's never felt a wild abandonment and he's certainly never had sex. But when Denton wakes up after a night of drunken sex, he can cross two more achievements off his list and a girlfriend that is none the wiser.

With his best friend and partner in crime Pablo, Denton is in for forty eight hours of fast living and mayhem, all before he kicks the bucket. An elderly police officer who is ready to strike, a gun toting former boyfriend of his current but not for much longer girlfriend, slowly turning purple and now a stranger who claims to have known his late mother, warns him of government conspiracies.

It was a strange of blend of contemporary and science fiction elements, Denton Little's Deathdate is nothing short of incredible. Denton is not only likable, but the cast of secondary characters inject personality and a lightheartedness throughout the storyline. Lance Rubin should be applauded for creating a brilliantly unique debut novel.

THE VERDICT

I laughed, I sniggered and snorted my way through reading Denton's story. It's fun, it's hilarious and never guilty of taking itself too seriously. It's the perfect release for those who enjoy the sillier side of fiction, myself included.

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett... Question Your Life Choices!

Lullaby
Written by Bernard Beckett
Contemporary, Science Fiction
Published May 27th 2015
208 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
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★★★★
Rene’s twin brother Theo lies unconscious in hospital after a freak accident left him with massively disrupted brain function. There is hope, though. An experimental procedure, risky, scientifically exciting and ethically questionable, could allow him to gain a new life.

But what life, and at what cost?

Only Rene can give the required consent. And now he must face that difficult choice. But first there is the question of Rene’s capacity to make that decision. And this is where the real story begins.
Identical twins Rene and Theo have always been inseparable, especially since losing both their parents at the tender age of twelve. Two brothers who shared a bond that no other could understand. But now Theo lies unconscious as a result of a tragic accident, and while his body is still functional, his brain no longer responds. As Rene waits beside his hospital bed, as his only living relative he must decide Theo's fate. 

Psychologist Maggie must decide whether Rene is capable of making that decision, the revolutionary surgery to repair Theo's brain is the first of it's kind and not without controversy. While the media and protestors rally a campaign against the hospital, Rene must prove he is of sound mind to attempt the surgery or to say goodbye to his brother. 

Over the course of mere hours, Rene will recall his life with his brother, their relationship and how Rene would often struggle in Theo's shadow. Rene was the intelligent student but socially awkward, while Theo was the budding athlete, relying on personality and humour to win over friends and girls alike. But the brothers didn't always have the perfect relationship, and begun to drift apart. Theo was experimenting with drugs, and a new group of friends enabling his new found persona. Rene tried to tag along, trying to bridge the gap between the two and found himself falling in love for the first time and Theo destroying any remaining trust the two shared.

With a sibling relationship now based on deceit and lies, Theo is now dying as a result. The surgery may not only save Theo but put Rene's life at risk in the process. How much would you be willing to give up to save a loved one?

Kelly's Thoughts

Wow. I think when most of us read young adult, we rarely expect to stumble across a new read that not only questions our own moral compass, but poses deep psychological questions of the reader by asking what we would do in the same position. It tells the story of identical twins Rene and Theo, both now eighteen and orphans from the age of twelve. Blowing apart the nature verses nurture debate, the two brothers are worlds apart. While Theo has always been popular, Rene is the quiet achiever and struggles socially, Theo having always come to his rescue. But now Theo lays unconscious after a tragic accident, brain damaged and the decision rests upon Rene as to Theo's fate.

Over the course of Lullaby, the reader is taken on a journey through the twin's life, from when their parents were still alive, up until the day prior to Theo's accident. Told from Rene's point of view, their lives are presented in a series of flashbacks while Rene talks to therapist Maggie to determine whether he is of sound mind to make the life changing decision. We experience Rene falling in love, Theo's downward spiral while dabbling in drugs and a new social scene, the guilt Rene feels towards his brother while he's being labelled the intelligent and sensitive twin, and Theo using guilt to his advantage. It's clear that while Rene feels emotions deeply, Theo was impulsive and only cared for his own needs, even at the betrayal of his own brother. Their relationship struggled to find middle ground in their latter years, but it's clear that Rene loves his brother and this is one decision not to be taken lightly.

It was incredible. The complexity of the storyline was nothing short of delicious and encouraged that deep, emotional thinking that is lacking in the majority of young adult novels. Even being a quick read, as the storyline develops it will keep readers on their toes. It left me questioning more than just what if, but the moral complications of Rene's decision should he go ahead and what it would mean for the experimental treatment that could be seen as playing God. Beautifully paced, the storyline builds upon stories of their childhood, while Rene still internally seeks Maggie's approval.

The Final Verdict

It played with my emotions, left me mentally exhausted and I loved every moment. An intelligent read for those who need more than entertainment, but to be challenged and asked the tough questions.

The Catalyst by Helena Coggan... Who's only FIFTEEN!

The Catalyst Untitled Series Book One
Written by Helena Coggan
Dystopian, Fantasy
Published April 14th 2015
448 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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RATING ★★
Rose Elmsworth has a secret. For eighteen years, the world has been divided into the magically Gifted and the non magical Ashkind, but Rose's identity is far more dangerous.

At fifteen, she has earned herself a place alongside her father in the Department, a brutal law enforcement organisation run by the Gifted to control the Ashkind. But now an old enemy is threatening to start a catastrophic war, and Rose faces a challenging test of her loyalties.

How much does she really know about her father's past? How far is the Department willing to go to keep the peace? And, if the time comes, will Rose choose to protect her secret, or the people she loves?
Fifteen year old Rose has always known she was different, found as an infant and taken in by her adoptive father as only a nineteen year old soldier. They both share the same secret, and where better to hide their true identities than under the nose of the Department. Rose's father works to restore the peace between the Gifted and Ashkind, those who are little more than second class citizens in a world divided by magic and eye colour, determined by your second soul. But before Rose can officially take her place beside her father at the Department, she must undergo the Test. Fail, and her magic will be Leeched, but if her secret is discovered Rose will face a fate worse than death.

The Department's latest case sees Rose embroiled in blackmail. A man has escaped custody and threatens to reveal Rose and her father's secret unless she complies. Rose must go against everything her father has taught her to keep him safe, but what she discovers will have her questioning which side of the civil war she falls upon.

MY THOUGHTS

The Catalyst is a brilliantly unique concept. Society is segregated by those who have the ability of magic and those who do not. Humans evolving and now hold two souls, the secondary entity determining whether or not you're one of the lucky ones. This is where the storyline becomes more involved, as you also have separate groups known as the Leeched, citizens that have failed their Testing as teens and have had their abilities stripped. And the Hybrids, dangerous, unpredictable and illegal. It's explained briefly how humans have come to have two souls inhabiting the one body, but not why. I'm hoping this is addressed in the next installment. I really enjoyed seeing the parental bond between Rose and her father David, something we don't often see in young adult of late.

My main issue was that no one character felt defined, they seemed to blend into one another and all shared the same quirks and idiosyncrasies. Adults shared the same dialect as teens, and all spoke with dramatic pauses, repeating words for effect and crisp pronunciation. If we overlook that the author is only fifteen and only thirteen when the first draft was penned, the switch between characters was jarring and the style of writing felt juvenile at times. The main character in Rose pulling a gun in the workplace because their superior insulted her father for one. But being so young, that level of maturity will come with age and Helena Coggan will be a formidable author. Pared back, the storyline would have been far more engaging and allowed for further character development.

THE VERDICT

I loved the premise, but unfortunately the lack of clarity of characters and maturity let the execution down. There's no doubt that Helena Coggan is an incredible young talent, but needs to include more personality not only within her characters, but storyline as well to tame down the clinical feel. In a few years time and with a little more experience, she'll be a force to be reckoned with.

Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson

Liberty's Fire
Written by Lydia Syson
Young Adult, Historical
Published May 2015
226 Pages
Thank you to Five Mile Press and Hot Key Books
RATING ★★★
Paris 1871. Four Young people will rewrite their destinies.

Paris is in revolt. After months of siege at the hands of the Prussians, a wind of change is blowing through the city, bringing with it murmurs of a new revolution. Alone and poverty stricken, sixteen-year old Zephyrine is quickly lured in by the ideals of the city's radical new government, and she finds herself swept away by its promises of freedom, hope, equality and rights for women.

But she is about to be seduced for a second time, following a fateful encounter with a young violinist. Anatole's passion for his music is soon swiftly matched only by his passion for this fierce and magnificent girl. He comes to believe in Zephyrine's new politics, but his friends are not so sure. Opera singer Marie and photographer Jules have desires of their own, and the harsh reality of life under the Commune is not quite as enticing for them as it seems to be for Anatole and Zephyrine. And when the violent reality of revolution comes crashing down at their feet, can they face the danger together, or will they be forced to choose where their hearts really lie?
Zephyrine lives within Paris during the era of a new revolution, a new government is in power and women are determined to be treated as equals, ready to stand and fight for their freedom. Living with her sickly grandmother in poverty has allowed Zephyrine to become her own woman at the tender age of sixteen. But now she finds herself unable to make ends meet, her grandmother passing and not enough to cover the cost of her burial. In Paris, there is only one way for a woman to make money and quickly, selling her body and Zephyrine is desperate.

An altercation on the streets catches Anatole's attention, the young violinist on his way to rehearsals and rescues Zephyrine from the two men feuding for her services. There's something about the girl who is little more than skin and bones, skittish, untrusting and leaves with a handful of coins, riffling through Anatole's jacket and stealing what little the musician has.

The city is plunging into a civil war and as Zephyrine and Anatole reunite, she is lured by his passion and free spirit and he by her instincts to fight for the rights for herself and the Parisian people. Together they will fight for a revolution against the tyrannical government trying to take hold of the capital, and against their friends who see the young lovers as nothing but a passing phase. But when war is brought to their doorstep, each will have their own part to play. Do you fight against freedom, or fight for what could possibly be the love of your life?

MY THOUGHTS

There's something so incredibly magical about reading a historical romance, set in the midst of a civil war. I was swept up by Zephyrine's story, a girl who's family no longer wanted her and a grandmother who raised her to be a strong and independent young woman. But after her grandmother passes, the streets of Paris are unforgiving to a girl who lives below the poverty line. Zephyrine is tough and determined, not to mention opinionated. She believes in women's rights and it isn't long before she's attending meetings with other like minded women who fight for freedom from oppression, matched only by the furiosity of her best friend Rose.

Anatole is a young and passionate violinist, former soldier and living with an budding American photographer in Jules. Jules is wealthy and although Anatole is only one component of an orchestra, he wants for nothing, his friend paying for their loft style apartment and comfortable lifestyle. Anatole too dreams for a Paris owned by the people, where freedom reigns and citizens are treated with respect and equality. The two young revolutionaries are drawn to one another, their shy and tentative relationship blooming to the annoyance of friends Jules and Anatole's performing partner Marie.

Liberty's Fire takes place on the streets of Paris during the Paris Commune, a revolutionary socialist government who took hold of the capital for a four month period and divided the country. With a political charge, it added to an already intense storyline as the two young lovers strive to protect one another while fighting for a freedom just beyond their grasp. Told in several points of view, each character is well developed with their own sense of self and each represent a section of the community during the era. The freedom fighter, the lover and protector, the foreigner who cares little of that outside his own door and the songbird who fears for the safety of her brother. The character that surprised me most was Marie. Renowned opera singer who seemingly thrived off her own sense of self importance, but took the lowly classed Zephyrine under her wing, clothing, feeding and supporting her while she grieved for her grandmother.

THE VERDICT

Liberty's Fire can only be described as lovely. Beautifully written, it tells the story of two young lovers united by a sense of freedom and love for their country. The streets of Paris are painted vividly, bringing life to a city under siege from within. Methodical, passionate and hopeful, I really enjoyed it and found myself emotionally invested in their plight. The ending epilogue that takes place nine years later was stunning. I found myself holding my breath, needing a conclusion that would satisfy my aching heart. And Lydia Syson did not disappoint.

Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp... Laugh Yourself Silly!

Anyone But Ivy Pocket Ivy Pocket Book One
Written by Caleb Krisp
Middle Grade, Fantasy, Humour
Published May 1st 2015
320 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
RATING ★★★
Ivy Pocket is a twelve year old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy's companionship, our young heroine, of sorts, finds herself with no money and no home to go to...Until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity.

For the princely sum of £500, enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey, Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess's most precious possession, the Clock Diamond, to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It's not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.

Illustrated in humorous gothic detail by Iacopo Bruno, Anyone But Ivy Pocket is just the beginning of one girl's deadly comic journey to discover who she really is...
Twelve year old Ivy Pocket is a young lady of worldly proportions. Plucked from an orphanage where she doesn't remember her parents, but is certain they were utterly fabulous and adored her nonetheless. After working as a maid for a horrendous Countess in Paris, who clearly doesn't deserve her expertise, Ivy finds herself homeless, penniless and over qualified for a dreary maid position. So when Ivy is summoned by the dying Duchess of Trinity for an errand, she's promised enough money for a new life and to return to England. On one condition. She must deliver a priceless heirloom in The Clock Diamond, a necklace that is to be presented to a one Miss Matilda Butterfield, a horrible an entitled girl and the granddaughter of The Duchesses estranged friend.

The Clock Diamond isn't what it seems and Ivy will find herself at the center of a vicious hunt to obtain the Diamond, at any cost. But behind the confidence and bravado, Ivy is just a girl who feels abandoned, unloved and is seeking the happily ever after she so desperately deserves.

MY THOUGHTS

Once in a while a book comes along that you utterly fall head over heels in love with. Ivy Pocket, you are incredible. Ivy is a character you're never likely to forget. Only twelve, but she's full of self importance and tall tales about her life. She's brash, arrogant and quite rude... But Ivy sees her meddling and astute observations as a wonderful character trait, often baffled at the overreaction of those she's kind enough to grace her opinions with. But for all of Ivy's flaws, I found her fabulously flamboyant, dramatic and incredibly charming. In her short amount of years, Ivy has had to grow up without parents to guide her, and although she'll boast of her impeccable social skills, Ivy has never had a true friend. Until now. But Ivy is naive and although she'll tell you otherwise, she's easily manipulated and finds herself embroiled in a deceptive scheme to steal the necklace, not leaving the twelve year old knowing who to trust.


THE VERDICT

Ivy's adventure is hilarious, entertaining and wonderfully written. Too often, books intended for middle grade readers tend to force a hidden meaning, educating the reader and forgotten are the core elements of children and middle grade novels, to have fun, to delight, to charm and entertain and author Caleb Krisp has done exactly that, intelligent humour. I absolutely adored Ivy. Her sassy quips, her ability to pay backhanded compliments with so much flare and pizazz had me giggling myself silly.

Without a doubt, Anyone But Ivy Pocket is one of the most hilarious, sassy and entertaining middle grade that you'll ever have the pleasure of reading.

Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking

May contain spoilers for Frostfire
Check out my Frostfire review here
Ice Kissed Kanin Chronicles Book Two
Written by Amanda Hocking
Fantasy, Romance
Published May 1st 2015
300 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
In the majestic halls of a crystal palace lies a secret that could destroy an entire kingdom…

Bryn Aven refuses to give up on her dream of serving the kingdom she loves. It's a dream that brings her to a whole new realm… The glittering palace of the Skojare.

The Skojare people need protection from the same brutal enemy that's been threatening the Kanin, and Bryn is there to help. Being half Skojare herself, it's also a chance for her to learn more about her lost heritage. Her boss Ridley Dresden is overseeing the mission, but as their undeniable attraction heats up, their relationship is about to reach a whole new level, one neither of them is prepared for.

As they delve deeper into the Skojare world, they begin to unravel a long hidden secret. The dark truth about her own beloved Kanin kingdom is about to come to light, and it'll change her place in it forever… And threaten everyone she loves.
Bryn and Ridley have returned home with Bryn still nursing her injuries from Konstanin and his new accomplice escaping the Storvatten dungeon. The Skojare Queen is still missing, now presumed dead and her husband putting an end to the search for his wife. But with Bryn's injuries, King Evert has now declared war on Konstanin and is preparing his Kingdom for battle. Bryn refuses to believe the Skojare Queen has met with foul play and enlists the help of Ridley to find her, against the King's wishes.

But the Queen's disappearance runs much deeper than the castle and Bryn finds her investigation being stonewalled once again, discovering more than politics at play in the Skojare kingdom. She's never felt a sense of belonging, but none more apparent than now. Even with her feelings for Ridley taking a toll on her emotions, he isn't the only one seemingly interested in the affections of the tracker. As Bryn discovers the truth of the Skojare heir, she's betrayed and framed for a crime she didn't commit. There's only one person that can help Bryn and provide the answers she needs, but with the kingdom on lock down, she has no choice but to escape into the human realm.

Accused of a crime she didn't commit and with blood on her hands, Bryn has no choice but to find Konstanin... Or will he find her first...

MY THOUGHTS

In Ice Kissed, we see Bryn still troubled by the investigation of the Skojare Queen's disappearance while still punishing herself for allowing Konstanin and his accomplice to escape. With word of her injuries reaching the King, war has been declared on Konstanin with both high society and guards alike being trained for combat. Bryn blames herself but is beginning to realise that Konstanin isn't the enemy, but a scapegoat of the kingdom where tensions have increased tenfold. Her friendship with Ridley is tense at best, scared to take the emotional risk of telling him how she feels, instead she gives into temptation and settles for a night of passion before journeying to find the missing queen once more.

Where in Frostfire, Bryn was capable, but in Ice Kissed she's fierce, determined and we see her human emotions being torn apart by her kingdom and the man she's hesitant to admit she's fallen in love with. Bryn reminds me of a mild version of Celaena Sardothien, not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and seemingly sees emotion as a form of weakness she no longer wants or needs. The only aspect that I find disappointing with Bryn is her lack of character development. She seems to have two personas, outspoken and brooding. I loved seeing her relinquish control in her moment of weakness with Ridley, but hopefully she finds a greater balance with her emotions, or lack thereof in the finale.

The pacing is more action packed than Frostfire, and I loved being transported to the watery Skojare kingdom, along with the flirtatious, verging on sleazy prince Kennet. But like her own homeland, transparency within the Skojare is non existent. Guards with a hidden agenda and a cold hearted king that is seemingly in the midst of an emotional breakdown. But in a testament to Bryn's character, she refused to give up, possibly due to guilt in blaming herself for Konstanin escaping custody. I needed to know what Konstanin knew, and why he has involved himself with warning others against an unknown enemy. I felt answers weren't provided and the reader is strung along when all will be revealed come the finale. Hopefully the big reveal as the storyline unravels won't disappoint.

THE VERDICT

Ice Kissed is another well written and engaging installment in the Kanin Chronicles, but sadly readers are still left with more questions than answers. I loved the defining point of Bryn and Ridley's relationship and exploring the Skojare kingdom, but it felt like a cleverly disguised sequel that doesn't add much to the overall storyline. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Readers will be expecting a well crafted finale that finally gives us the answers we so desperately seek. A big task, but I'm more than confident that Amanda Hocking will deliver with her trademark style and flare.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
Written by Teresa Toten
Realistic Fiction, Mental Illness
Published May 1st 2015
272 Pages
RATING ★★★
When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He's determined to protect and defend her, to play Batman to her Robyn, whatever the cost. But when you're fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it's hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a 'normal' relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that's not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam's mother has started to receive...
The young adult obsessive compulsive disorder group is a safe haven for teens, including Adam Ross. Then Robyn breezes in. She's the most beautiful girl he's ever seen and for the first time in his almost fifteen years, Adam has goals. To grow taller. To get well and to marry Robyn. In that particular order. Within the group the teens choose their own persona, each adopting an alter ego in a mixture of Marvel Avengers and Justice League characters. So when Robin chooses to become Robin, Adam feels the need to be her hero, her savior, and dubs himself Batman. Her Batman.

While the support group may provide an outlet for teens to share their illness, Adam's home life is anything but calm. His father having walked out seven years ago, now he has his own family and five year old son affectionately named Sweetie. While Adam's mother drowns in a sea of hoarding, their small house cluttered to the point of bursting. Adam is determined to reign in his compulsion, which includes tapping, counting and not being able to enter buildings, including his own. And as Adam and Robyn form a tentative friendship, he knows that she needs him and there's nothing he won't do to save her from her own illness, sacrificing his own in the process.

But by saving Robyn, Adam finds his own illness deteriorating and made worse by the threatening letters his mother hides. His step brother Sweetie is also ill, and the only person who can reason with the intelligent and aware five year old is Adam, expected to calm the boy down whenever he's called upon. Even with the support of his merry band of superheroes, Adam's illness is spiraling out of control. The letters arriving more frequently, his medication no longer working and now he's developing new symptoms, including not being able to access the threshold of his own house at all.

Something has to give. As Adam's friendship with Robyn develops into something more, he sees that Robyn doesn't need him anymore. She's well, and Adam's goal of bringing his illness under control is little more than a pipe dream. He needs to let Robyn go, he needs to now concentrate on his own recovery and to tell someone about the letters that threaten to derail his mother, before his illness swallows him whole.

MY THOUGHTS

Adam Ross. Remember his name, because there is no doubt you'll fall in love with him.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is a beautiful, poignant and an incredibly playful read that's written with a loving hand, dealing with a very serious and very real issue of obsessive compulsive disorder. Almost fifteen year old Adam falls in love the moment Robyn breezes into the room. She also suffers from the same illness, and has just been released from a residential program and has joined the group to increase her chances of recovery. Each member has taken on a different persona of strength, with all but one choosing a superhero alter ego. So naturally Adam has become Batman, fiercely protective of Robyn, putting aside his own recovery in a selfless plight to save her. 

Adam lives between his father's new home, with new wife and son. Wendell is five, affectionately called Sweetie and already displaying symptoms of anxiety and finds comfort in numbers. Sweetie is highly intelligent, but relies heavily upon his big brother for comfort. His mother is a hoarder, their home cluttered which only increases Adam's illness to cross the threshold. Although Adam is determined to battle his own illness, he never puts himself first. He takes on the grievances of those around him, including the disturbing and threatening letters his mother has been receiving. I felt fiercely protective of Adam, his tender personality of selflessness left me on tenterhooks, worried about his loving nature being taken advantage of. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B was written with such care and a respect for those who suffer from this debilitating illness. I was drawn into Adam's world and read the book in it's entirety in almost one sitting. It was not only entertaining, but so incredibly engaging and left me emotionally exhausted.

THE VERDICT

Borrow, buy or beg for a copy. This isn't another young adult novel about teens dealing with illness, it's an experience. Where most novels in the genre usually veer towards showing the debilitating side of mental illness, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B shows obsessive compulsive disorder in a new light. That suffering from a mental illness is more than a feeling of darkness, it's also about learning to ask for help and learning to live in the moment, whether you're Adam, Robyn or even Batman. It was simply perfection.

So... Plagiarism

Dear Miss Plagiarist,

I regret to inform you that yes, I have foiled your plans and I'm sorry that it's come down to this. I'm not writing this open letter lightly, nor am I malicious person who would publicly name and shame you. I've seen what becomes of those caught stealing content, and I don't wish that upon anyone. But stealing is never a victimless crime and I'm afraid that you need to learn the consequences of that.


I chose to contact you privately, asking for the stolen content to be removed, and essentially for you to provide some form of explanation why you would choose to plagiarise not only myself but multiple bloggers and reviewers. Even if they are unaware. But you've removed your Goodreads account without explanation and chose to close any means of communication, hence this open letter.

Contrary to popular belief, I'm a nice person. I love puppies, rainbows and complimenting others on their new haircut, even if it looks awful. So you've not only stolen from me, but put me in a position where I need to decide whether to tell those involved that you've violated their intellectual rights. And yes, I will be showing them even if your details will be obscured. It's a moral dilemma that I won't be taking lightly as I'm not interested in turning this into a witch hunt. Even if you have now removed the stolen reviews from Goodreads, these same stolen reviews are still posted to your blog and Amazon. These reviews do not belong to you, and since you've shut down any communication we may have entered into, you've left me no choice but to publicly urge you to remove any last traces of your theft. 

I'm not angry, but disappointed that you felt the need to claim my work among others as your own. There is no justification for stealing content. My message to you was in good faith, which most would agree that you probably didn't deserve such kindness. Perhaps another blogger wouldn't have been so lenient on you. But yet again, this is something you've brought upon yourself.

So remove what is not rightfully yours. Please. Or regretfully, I'll need to take the matter further.

Sincerely
Diva Booknerd

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

Frostfire Kanin Chronicles Book One
Written by Amanda Hocking
Fantasy, Romance
Published January 5th 2015
336 Pages
Purchased
Add to Goodreads
RATING ★★★
Bryn Aven is determined to gain status amongst the Kanin, the most powerful of the hidden tribes. But as a half blood, winning respect is a huge challenge. Bryn's almost human community distrusts people, and those from other tribes are almost as suspect.

She has just one goal to get ahead, to join the elite guard protecting the Kanin royal family. And Bryn's vowed that nothing will stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss, Ridley Dresden.

But her plans are put on hold when fallen hero Konstantin starts acting dangerously. Bryn loved him once, but now he's kidnapping Kanin children, stealing them from hidden placements within human families. She's sent to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?
Bryn has always fought to make something of her life. Born into a Kingdom with her light hair and eyes has ensured she's always been seen as an outsider. Her father a native of the Kanin, her mother of nobility having given up her title to marry. Her dream has always been to join the Högdragen, the Kanin's own security detail. But for now, Bryn settles for being a Tracker, working to bring in Changlings who are the Kanin royalty who have been living amongst humans since birth. On her latest mission, Bryn runs into trouble when two wanted men try to snatch the young Changling. Konstantin Black is a wanted man, having attempted to kill Bryn's father before fleeing the kingdom.

Believing she should have killed Konstantin when she had the chance, Bryn takes responsibility for bringing him to justice and lies in wait until the rogue is ready to strike again. But when the two entangle once more, she realises that perhaps Konstantin isn't the monster she assumed he was. 

MY THOUGHTS

Having not previously read the original series, the Trylle Trilogy, I was pleasantly surprised by Frostfire, a spin off series focused on another Kingdom within the same world. The Kanin are a kingdom of trolls, ruled by royalty where the offspring of the wealthy are now being brought home. Bryn is a Tracker, having worked her way through adversity to maintain her place within the King's domain, despite her status as an outsider. She's strong willed and sassy, never taking no for an answer and wants nothing more than to earn her place in the King's royal guard. But for now, she works as a Tracker, bringing home the Changelings as they come of age. But when retrieving her latest charge, she comes face to face with Konstantin, a man she once adored from afar. She still remembers the attack, saving her father's life the night Konstantin became a wanted man and fled the Kanin kingdom.

While navigating her newly realised feeling for boss Ridley, she's determined to lure Konstantin to his capture and this time, it's personal. But Konstantin isn't working alone. In a cruel twist of fate, it isn't Konstantin that Bryn should fear, as he toys with her emotions and she finds herself torn between Ridley and the mystery that is Konstantin. I loved the intensity, the banter between Ridley and Bryn and her determination to overcome adversity and become an elite guard. Bryn idled between sassy and fierce, often hiding her emotions and choosing a cold facade.

THE VERDICT

There's aren't your average trolls. The first installment in the Kanin Chronicles is a quick and entertaining read. Not having read the original series, I was able to easily follow the storyline and politics between the different communities that comprise the troll kingdoms. I really enjoyed it. For not only fans of the original series, but those who enjoy a character based fantasy, focused on suspense and politics.

Rogue by Julie Kagawa

May contain spoilers for Talon
Rogue Talon Book Two
Written by Julie Kagawa
See my review for Talon
Expected Publication June 2015
348 Pages
Thank you to Harlequin Teen Australia
Add Talon to Goodreads
RATING ★★★☆
Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her, Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant.

Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.

A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide, should she retreat to fight another day... Or start an all out war?
Ember is now on the run with Riley, both considered rogue dragons in the eyes of Talon. Their escape coming at the cost of Garret being captured, the former soldier now a traitor to his organisation and facing death by trial. He was the perfect soldier until he met Ember, a sleeper dragon in which he was ultimately trained to kill. In a long way from Crescent Beach, Garret is awaiting his fate. But against Riley's protests, Ember won't allow Garret to pay for his humanity and plans to infiltrate the Order's secret base.

But while Ember plans Garrets escape, her twin and clutchmate Dante is working within Talon, brought to task with capturing the rogue dragon in Riley and bringing his sister home. Along with Wes, the three unlikely companions are now on the run with both Talon and the Order hot on their heels. But Riley has more pressing matters to worry about, with the sighting of a runaway dragon seeking solace near his Vegas safehouse.

Neither Talon or The Order play by the rules and with tensions high between the three, something has to give. Ember will need to make the ultimate decision, which side, which boy does she fight for?

MY THOUGHTS

Dragon, wherefore art thou dragon. Unlike it's predecessor, Rogue was an entertaining adventure, rather than a mundane teen drama and finally, finally, the premise finally delivers what readers have been pleading for. Dragons. But in small, sporadic bursts. Now told in several points of view, Ember and Riley are both on the run from both Talon and The Order, both classed as Rogue dragons who are dangerous both to themselves and society. But Ember knows that Garret has been captured for aiding her escape and there is only one punishment for those deemed guilty of treason. Death.

It's a suicide mission, but Riley refuses to let Ember infiltrate The Order compound and free the soldier alone. Riley, who is portrayed as once a fierce hunter, now a revolutionary freedom fighter amongst his kind, is reduced to following a teen girl just hoping for a shred of returned affection. And Ember isn't all that remarkable, never mind being in love with someone else. Comparing the two love interests is akin to being offered chocolate... Or bread and water. Garret's only attraction is that he is classed as the forbidden choice being a former soldier who hunted dragons. He may be seeking redemption, but his character is as exciting as watching paint dry. Riley is clearly the winner here, and fingers crossed that common sense prevails.

But as entertaining and well written as I find the Talon series, there is something lacking that sets it apart from other young adult titles. Although there is a few instances of dragon warfare, sadly not enough to keep me interested. I did enjoy the banter from Riley, but with Garret possibly being made from cardboard, it was mostly one sided.

THE VERDICT

It's actually an entertaining and quick read that builds nicely on Talon. With her dragon obsessed Twitter feed I had thought, who better than to create a fantasy dragon based series than Julie Kagawa. But sadly it doesn't have the same heart and grunt as her previous releases, namely the Blood of Eden series and it appears to be one that has failed to live up to the hype for me.

Smoking Hot... A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Roses Book One
Written by Sarah J. Maas
Fantasy, Retelling, New Adult
Published May 1st 2015
432 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill, the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price.

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Feyre lives below the poverty line, her family having lost their fortune and living in a ramshackle cottage not fit for the family of four. Their father barely has the will to live and her two sisters refuse to earn their keep, relying on Feyre to hunt for their next meal. The forest isn't safe for mortals, a centuries old treaty between the Fae and humans barely enforced, as fae and savage monsters roam the walls outside of Prythian, land of the fae. But when Feyre discovers a wolf hunting her prey, the treaty is broken and Tamlin has come to collect. A life for a life.

Tamlin lives within the Spring court, where his captive is expected to live out her human life. His face hid by an elaborate mask, a curse placed upon his kingdom to which neither Tamlin or his courtier and emissary Lucien will speak of. But beyond the compound wall lies a sickness that masks the fae power and threatens to spill into the human realm. Feyre may have the freedom to roam Prythian, but escape is futile and being assured that her family has been taken care of offers little comfort. But Tamlin isn't the cruel tyrant Feyre assumed he would be, his kindness and hospitality now slowly thawing her cool facade and flaming feelings she never thought possible.

But Tamlin's secrets run deeper than the Blight upon his land, and it's Feyre that will risk her life for the Fae she once thought were monsters. The huntress has now become the hunted, and she will stop at nothing to fight for the man she's come to love.

My Thoughts

Sarah J. Maas, you complete me.


I generally don't have much luck with new adult and in the past, I've never been the biggest advocate of fantasy novels as a whole. A Court of Thorns and Roses not only managed to completely surpass my expectations, but has me considering calling my first born little Maas. It's sexy, it's smouldering and incredibly imaginative. A brilliant world so lovingly created that has me ransacking my shelves for anything to maintain my book high. Yes, I'm drunk on faeries.

Feyre is a brilliant and snarky character that isn't afraid to stand up for herself. Reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen, she's strong willed and a born leader, providing for her family who neither seem to care or support her efforts. When Tamlin breaks down her door and takes her captive, I cheered. Anything would be better than living in poverty with her self centered, asshole of a family. This girl probably would have been better off being raised by wolves. Tamlin. He's fae, mysterious, incredibly masculine, but he is far from perfect. Not only is he socially awkward, but is stuck wearing a masquerade mask due to the curse on his kingdom. He's a man of few words and his bravado coming in the form of beastly roaring and killing anything that dares to infiltrate his land. Emissary Lucien is always on hand to provide snarky commentary, while Feyre and Tamlin begin to navigate their growing feelings for one another.

I absolutely loved it. The sass, the reimagining of a classic fairytale and vivid world building. In much the same vain as her Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas builds upon her storyline in layers, allowing the reader to bond with her characters before introducing us to her imagined world. The building romance between Feyre and Tamlin is intense, smouldering and incredibly sexy. She wants him with every part of her being, but is torn between the situation he's forced upon her and wanting to explore her feelings. The captor slash captive romance isn't unique, but Sarah has taken it to an all new level beyond the point of Stockholm Syndrome.

The Final Verdict


Smoking hot. Hold onto your ovaries ladies, A Court of Thorns and Roses is enough to make you spontaneously combust. Sarah J. Maas has done it again. Creating an incredible fantasy world to lose yourself within. Beautifully imagined, lovingly created and proving yet again why she is the premier fantasy author.

A Double Dose of the Jack Mason Series by Darrell Pitt

The Broken Sun A Jack Mason Adventure Book Three
Written by Darrell Pitt
Middle Grade, Steampunk, Adventure
Published October 22nd 2014
304 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
★★★★
When The Broken Sun, an ancient artefact said to lead to the lost city of Atlantis, is stolen from the British Museum, Jack, Scarlet and Mr Doyle embark on a hunt across Europe to find it.

But just as the artefact is within reach, their beloved secretary is mysteriously poisoned.

In their race against time to find the antidote, the team uncovers a deadly plan, to attack the Houses of Parliament. Though no one has banked on another shocking discovery, that Mr Doyle's long dead son may still be alive...
Fourteen year old Jack Mason continues his training, since plucked from an orphanage by the eccentric detective Ignatius Doyle, a man known for his intellect and abundance of pocket cheese. Along with the feisty Scarlet, the trio are now investigating a case that is close to home, the disappearance of Mr Doyle's son on the battlefield. Presumed dead, Phillip's watch has been mailed to his late wife and mother of the detective's only grandchild.

But when the British Museum becomes the victim thieves, Jack and Scarlet have now become witness to what will be the first of a series of crimes. A priceless artefact has been stolen, one of three pieces that is said to uncover the lost city of Atlantis.

Jack, Scarlet and Mr Doyle are hunting for the remaining pieces, in hope that the lost city is more than another fable. An informant has been poisoned, along with their beloved secretary Gloria and the only remedy is said to derive from Atlantis. But with the Darwinist League now involved, both cases will intercept and the race will be on to find the mythical city, or lose one of their own.



The Monster Within A Jack Mason Adventure Book Four
Written by Darrell Pitt
Middle Grade, Steampunk, Adventure
Published April 22nd 2015
240 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
★★★★
After a series of fatal bombings across London, Jack, Scarlet and Mr Doyle are drawn into another baffling case, the reported sighting of a monster loose in the city’s underground sewers. Before they can investigate, the team must travel to Spain to hunt down a group of terrorists.

But just as they close in, Jack and Scarlet are kidnapped. With their lives in perilous danger, will Mr Doyle find his young assistants in time? 

While back in London, will the monster’s true origins be uncovered before it too wreaks deadly destruction across the city?
Jack is back, and a little older and wiser and still working under the careful eye of Mr Doyle. He and Scarlet have their first official case, the mysterious monster that appears at night, scaring the locals and feasting on cats. Mr Doyle has a bigger case to solve, the terrorist attacks suspected of being caused by The Valkyrie Circle, a nationwide suffragette society that supports women's rights and recently taken over by a woman known as Lady Death. A cause close to Scarlet's heart, recent events have lead to authorities ban all women's rights movement, including the protest in favour for their right to vote. 

The latest bombing brings the total to eight attacks, the injured now numbering in the hundreds and the loss of life cannot be measured. To find out if The Valkyrie Circle is responsible, they must find who created the device. The clues lead them to the Spanish coast... Where not only are Jack and Scarlet kidnapped, but by someone they had least suspected. Mr Doyle has been arrested and back home, the monster still roams the sewers beneath the city. But what do the two cases have in common. With tensions high and Lady Death threatening new attacks, will Jack, Scarlet and Mr Doyle make it through this investigation unscathed?

Kelly's thoughts

The Jack Mason series has incredibly entertaining, a mixture steampunk, adventure, mystery and a healthy dose of girl power. Vividly described, Mr Doyle along with his two assistants in Jack and Scarlet are a formidable team. The series started as middle grade, but akin to the Percy Jackson series, the characters mature and grow with each new installment. I love the eccentric Mr Doyle. He's a cross between a Johnny Deep character and Maxwell Smart, entertaining, lovable and with a seemingly endless supply of lint covered cheese stored in his pockets. As the series progresses, we find out more about the man behind the detective. A man who rescued an orphan in Jack, took in Scarlet while her father is away on business and spends his life solving mysteries, traveling around the world via his steamship.

Told mainly in the narrative, the reader also sees glimpses of Jack's thoughts as he begins to see what a beautiful young woman Scarlet is. She's strong willed and an advocate for women's rights. The banter between the two is adorable, as Jack feel the need to protect her and Scarlet of course will have none of that. The world building is incredible and although based in London, each book ensures the trio need to travel to solve the latest case. With each book, the series matures and I love the inclusion of political references, such as women's rights woven throughout. It look until book three for me to fall in love with this series, now I eagerly await the next installment.

the final verdict

The Jack Mason Adventure is an eccentric and wonderfully written series for the young and young at heart. Vivid world building and incredible characters, that leave the reader with a sense of wonderment. It's absolutely lovely and I can't wait to see where Darrell Pitt not only takes this series, but the budding romance that seems to be brewing between our two young trainee detectives.

Just A Queen by Jane Caro

Just A Queen
Written by Jane Caro
Young Adult, Historical
Published May 1st 2015
320 Pages
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
'The Queen of Scots is dead and they say I killed her. They lie!'

Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal, a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.

Not knowing whom she can trust, Elizabeth is surrounded by men who give her compliments and advice but may be hiding daggers and poison behind their backs. Elizabeth must use her head and ignore her heart to be the queen her people need. But what if that leads to doing the one thing she swore she would never do: betray a fellow queen, her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots?
She leads her country, torn between who she is and how her advisers expect her to become. A woman of the people, a wife, a mother. But Elizabeth is pure of heart and her childhood friend her only love, behind that of her country. But behind the grand women is a group of men who are trying to shape their Grace to do their bidding, comparing her to that of her cousin, the now infamous Queen of Scotland who is also next in line to the throne. In a family surrounded by blood and scandal, Elizabeth must rise above the whispers and dominant men who expect her to rule with an iron fist and become the woman she needs to be. For herself. Wise, honest and a female leader within a man's world.

Kelly's Thoughts

Just a Queen was a surprising and enjoyable read that is a cross between young adult and historical adult fiction. Told from Elizabeth's point of view, we seen a Queen who is nearing middle aged and looking back over her upon the throne, now older but perhaps none the wiser. The fictional insight took quite a few chapters to immerse myself in, but as the reader begins seeing the girl behind the Queen, I felt more endeared to woman that was ultimately indecisive and seemingly unhappy. Thrust into a position of power well beyond her control, she's known as the Virgin Queen, pure and untouched. But she harbors a deep and passionate love for her Horsemaster, a man she cannot marry for fear of reprisal. Many a suitor makes their attentions known from across the seas, Princes and King's alike. But not only does Elizabeth refuse to take a husband, but also to name an heir to her throne should she be ostracised or killed.

Where Elizabeth is seen as a darling of purity, her cousin Mary is not. The now Queen of Scotland has seen multiple marriages and scandal, but her strong religious ties still ensure the defamed Queen may still hold a place on the throne occupied by Elizabeth. The men in her life were deplorable, where Elizabeth wanted little more than to find a friend within the Queen of Scots, the secrets and whispering gossip had forced her hand. But as the storyline drifted back and forth between Elizabeth sharing her younger years as a newly anointed Queen and her older self looking back with much regret, the fictional version of Elizabeth seemed more so the spoilt child who never quite grew beyond her reign and allowed herself to be swayed far too easily.

The Final Verdict

But without a doubt, the historical prose was lovely. I could easily envision what it felt to be a woman in a predominantly male world. Her subtle acts of defiance during that period may have paved the way for equality today, but sadly those were too and far between. It was rich, detailed and a wonderful insight into a formidable woman through her fictional life.
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