Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books of 2014

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (Click the image to visit them). This week the topic is Top Ten Books I’m looking forward to in 2014.

This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I haven’t really had a lot of time to look forward to new releases, and I also haven’t read that many books that are part of series this year so don’t have many sequels on my radar. Well there are a few…

These are in order for a change (most anticipated first), and it just so happens the first five (bar one)are part of the only series that I’ve been fangirling over this year. May as well get them out of the way first, eh!?

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  • After the End by Amy Plum (May 6th): Again, I haven’t read any Amy Plum yet but love the look of her books. This one is no exception, the cover is stunning. Synopsis below.
  • Untitled (Warm Bodies #2) by Issac Marion (2014): Marion recently made this statement…

    I love that world. I love those people, and I want to show you what happens to them. So I’m writing another book about them. Another book-and-a-half, actually…but I’ll explain that later. For now, just trust that I have a story to tell and a reason to tell it, and I’ll try my best not to ruin everything.”

  • Half Bad by Sally Green (March 4th): I recently spotted this on the Waterstones website and thought it sounded awesome. It is Sally Green’s debut novel. Synopsis below.
  • Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (Jan 28th): This looks like the very best kind of trash. AND the series is called Castles Ever After…SOLD!
  • Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas (Feb 4th): The first book in an original mystery series featuring twenty-eight-year-old Veronica Mars, back in action after the events of Veronica Mars: The Movie. I didn’t know this was in the pipeline either until now. I heart VM!

After The End – Amy Plum

She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They’ve survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she’s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Half Bad by Sally Green

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

What made your list?

Fantasy & Foliage: Words Once Spoken by Carly Drake

YA meets high fantasy in this lush series debut about a girl who never quite fit in — and the reason why…

Evelyn might not love the confines of her village life, but she takes her small freedoms where she can get them. But everything changes when her parents decide it’s time for her to wed. Suddenly she loses her tunic and breeches, her bow, her horse, and gains rigid gowns, restrictive manners, and carriage rides.

The best way to escape is through her dreams, but as they become more and more real, Evelyn begins to worry that she is losing her grasp on reality. It is only when she makes two new friends that the truth is revealed: she is destined for far, far more than even she could imagine.

Words Once Spoken was a book of two halves for me. I was so blown away by the cover and loved the synopsis so I was really looking forward to it. And from the off I was delighted.

The story of a girl frustrated by the restrictions and expectations placed on her growing up in medieval England isn’t a new one to me, but I loved the simplicity of the writing which flowed like a fairy tale and what made it for me was the characterisation of Evelyn herself.

She was different in that she needed freedom with a capital N! She hates confined spaces and even being inside with the windows shut is a big no-no for her. Evelyn also can’t stomach regular food and instead nibbles on flowers and other foliage. I found it quite cute, especially her mother’s exasperation of her daughter’s odd habits (including sleeping on a pallet of moss rather than a bed). This was a great way to introduce magic into the story and I could tell from the beginning that Evelyn clearly wasn’t going to turn out to be human. I was banking on a nymph or the like.

Evelyn arrives at court (where she’s forced to go to be married off, of course) leaving behind her horse because she can’t side-saddle, and her mother has burnt all of her ‘boys’ clothes and packed only dresses. Which she rebels against, obviously. Her ‘odd habits’ can be seen as yet another portrayal of female oppression if you want to go down that route, which I don’t. Moving on.

It’s not long before Evelyn has caught the eyes of both Lord Devon and the Prince and a pseudo-not quite- love triangle ensues. Unfortunately this is where Words Once Spoken started to lose me.

This book is ridiculously fast-paced. A little bit too fast-paced, which I don’t think I’ve ever used as a criticism before. The second half of this book was just too simple. At some point it turned into thishappens, thishappens, this,this,this, boom, the end. I felt a bit shell-shocked by the end of it.

Not only do we found out what Evelyn really is, all of a sudden there are vampires and werewolves, good faeries, bad faeries and everything in between all thrown together for i’m not really sure what reason. You can’t just tell me that that guy is a vampire when he has shown NO SIGNS of being anything but human.

Alas, Words Once Spoken is still a nice, uber quick read that is definitely enjoyable; it’s lots of fun. I’m hoping this is just the introduction to Evelyn’s new world that will grow into something great. The ending certainly makes it seem possible.

Disclosure: I received a copy from the Author/Publisher for an HONEST review. Thanks!
Details: ebook, published October 2013 by Escape Publishing
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
If you liked this try: Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely

Chastity & Chainmail: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1) by Glynis Cooney

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Filled with terrific suspense and budding romance, Daughter of Camelot is a fast paced adventure set against the turmoil at the end of the Arthurian era.

Raised in the shadow of a fort dedicated to training Knights of the Round Table, Deirdre thirsts for adventure.

Instead, at 14, she is sent to court to learn the etiquette and talents of a young woman.

Court life, however, is more fraught with danger than she expected, and Deirdre finds herself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that stretches deep into the very heart of Camelot.

All Deirdre thought she knew and believed in—loyalty, love, bravery—is challenged when she embarks on a quest to defy Fate and save the King.

I’d actually say that Daughter of Camelot is quite a gentle-paced book but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I was never bored. I read most of this on Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect read for a lazy day. I loved it.

Deirdre is everything I like in a protagonist. She’s bored and down-right aggravated by the limitations of being a girl in those times. She has little interest in being just a wife or mother and her ambition knows no bounds. She seeks a life of excitement and meaning and growing up surrounded by boys in training to be knights at a nearby fort only makes her desire for adventure stronger.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the darker elements of the story. For one, I wasn’t expecting Deirdre’s new life at court to be so intense. Just like Deirdre herself, I imagined she would go there as a guest to the king & queen and flit around in pretty dresses wooing noble knights and attending parties but that was far from the truth!

With growing worries about the allegiances of the court – For King Arthur or against him- the obsessive practices of Christianity imposed by the unsavory King Maelgwyn, and sexually aggressive knights hoping to sully Deirdre’s reputation, her new life was far from simple. And just one mistake gets her banished from the castle, leading her to take up Sir Einion’s invitation to join him at Din Arth.

I quite liked Einion as a love interest, but after seeing how awful all of the other knights behaved it was definitely hard to trust him. I think it’s clear from the start that Deirdre’s best friend Ronan would be a better pick for her and I enjoyed seeing how the relationships developed.

As Daughter of Camelot neared its end I did think that perhaps it was unnecessarily long, especially for its target audience, but then it did had a lot of scope. My one issue with it though, was that I felt the final battle was a bit of an anti-climax. But it certainly wouldn’t put me off reading the next in the series, quite the opposite in fact.

I’m a fan of Arthurian Literature and obvs a fan of YA Lit so it didn’t take much for me to love this book but I think anyone who enjoys being swept along on a medieval action-adventure will find a lot to like here.

Details: Paperback, 421 pages.
Expected publication: September 24th 2013 by Mabon Publishing
Unicorn Rating: 4/5
Is it a keeper? Yes!
If you like this try: The Seeing Stone – Kevin Crossley-Holland

WWW Wednesday! (17-09-2013)

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:
When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes: This ARC SO different to what I was expecting. Seriously riveted! More on this later 🙂

Recently Finished:
I had a v. productive week last week. Whoop.
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The Eye of the Moon (Bourbon Kid #2) by Anonymous: Another insane, darkly hilarious violent thriller/horror by this particular Anonymous. My review is here.

Daughter of Camelot by Glynis Cooney. LOVED this YA novel set at the tumultuous end of the Arthurian Era. Review to follow.

And I also finished rereading City of Bones before I went to see the film. My review/rant is here.

Up Next:
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The Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory. Really looking forward to this ARC.

It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope.

In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads.

But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

Leave the link to your post in the comments below 🙂

Coming Up: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)

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Title: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1)
Author: Glynis Cooney
Details: Paperback, 421 pages
Expected Publication: September 24th 2013 by Mabon Publishing

Filled with terrific suspense and budding romance, Daughter of Camelot is a fast paced adventure set against the turmoil at the end of the Arthurian era.

Raised in the shadow of a fort dedicated to training Knights of the Round Table, Deirdre thirsts for adventure.

Instead, at 14, she is sent to court to learn the etiquette and talents of a young woman.

Court life, however, is more fraught with danger than she expected, and Deirdre finds herself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that stretches deep into the very heart of Camelot.

All Deirdre thought she knew and believed in—loyalty, love, bravery—is challenged when she embarks on a quest to defy Fate and save the King.

Synopsis & Image from Goodreads. Click the image to fly there.

More Flaws Than a Broken Mirror? Throne of Glass (ToG #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Click image for Goodreads.
Click image for Goodreads.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many issues with a book yet still loved it. But that’s what happened with Throne of Glass. I absolutely loved the settings and the descriptions in the book, the salt mines sounded horrific and the glass castle sounded beautiful and exciting so I enjoyed the world that Maas created in that way but in other ways it fell flat.

I instantly fell in love with Celaena though. She survived the impossible and came out of it relatively unscathed albeit with a bit of an attitude. She’s a kick-ass, smoking-hot assassin and she knows it, and feels the need tell everyone she is such. I usually find narcissistic characters unbearable but for some reason with Celaena it was OK. It kind of suited her and I felt like she deserved to love herself a bit.

The main issue I had with her was that as the story develops she never quite lives up to her infamy, and no one treats her the way I thought they should. She’s taken out of the deadly salt mines and given a chance at freedom if she competes in the competition but she is so infamous as the deadliest assassin in the kingdom that her identity has to be covered up, yet she’s still free to roam around the castle and make friends with Princesses? It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but I went with it anyway.

I enjoyed the relationship dynamics between Celaena and Prince Dorian (what is it with all these princes with stupid names?? Po, Maxon, now Dorian…really!?) Dorian doesn’t seem too bothered that Celaena could kill him with her bare hands, and considering that the contestants are now dropping like flies, he never seems to even doubt her. Which is nice I guess, if not stupid.

Celaena on the other hand comes across as being pretty compassionate for an assassin but she’s still quite icy when it comes to love. We’re never entirely sure if she likes Dorian as much as he likes her, or if her close friendship with Chaol, Captain of the Guard, will turn into something more. To be honest, she doesn’t really seem to care either way. She wants Dorian, but we don’t know if it’s just lust or something more. She’s certainly a character of contradictions – she might be an assassin but she’s a book-loving, dress and shoe-obsessed assassin who doesn’t even seem to enjoy fighting all that much, or really be that good at it.

I liked how fast-paced Throne of Glass was and I was never bored, but I did wish that some of the ‘tests’ that the competitors faced were a bit more imaginative and dangerous. I expected each round of the competition to be a fight to the death so we could see Celaena’s skillz in action, but most of them were harmless tasks like archery which I found a bit lame. However, the gruesome deaths of the other competitors and the mystery and magic surrounding them was enough to keep me interested and entertained.

I haven’t read the prequel novellas yet, and I hope that between those and the following books in the series we’ll discover more about Celaena and how/why she became an assassin in the first place to help us understand her and believe in her more. I also hope that this is just the beginning and that the world Maas has created has something more to offer – I’m sure it does.

Somehow, despite all of its flaws and beyond all reason I absolutely loved Throne of Glass. It didn’t hurt that Maas is a Buffy fan either. Or that her initial idea came from one simple thought – what if Cinderella was an assassin sent to kill Prince Charming (I kind of wish her idea hadn’t evolved so much!)?

Details:Paperback, 420 pgs. Published Aug 02 2012 by Bloomsbury.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Definitely!
If you liked this try: Graceling.

Top Ten Tuesday #1 (Castles)

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is my first ever Top Ten Tuesday post! I’ve been meaning to jump on the wagon for a while…better late than never. Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting.

This week’s topic was Top Ten Books With X Setting and I’ve decided to go for my Top Ten books with a castle setting (or at least featuring a castle)…because, y’know, I’m a bit obsessed with castles. Click on the images to go their Goodread pages.

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1. The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbit A rose garden, a maze and an enchanted castle…what’s not to like.

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2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardbrobe – C.S Lewis Two castles for the price of one! There’s the White Witch’s icy castle with ‘long pointed spires, sharp as needles’, and Cair Paravel with its four empty thrones.

1911374 3. King Arthur and his Knights at the Round Table Camelot is clearly the king of all castles!
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4. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende The Ivory Tower definitely counts as a castle, right?

14976 5. Return to Labyrinth – Jake T. Forbes I LOVE this Manga series of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. The Castle beyond the Goblin City is epic!

13519397 6. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas The protagonist Celeana thought the idea of a glass castle was ridiculous – I think it’s amazing.


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7. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman The Kingdom of Goredd not only has a beautiful castle but also some pretty unique Dragons.

7180320 8. Castle of Shadows – Ellen Renner I’ve only read the first book in this series but I loved it. The Royal Castle of Quale is as grand as it sounds.

1635042 9. Beauty & the Beast I’ve had this book for years and it’s every bit as beautiful as the film.

237012 10. The 10th Kingdom – Kathryn Wesley I love this book, it brings so many different fairy tales together set in a fantasy world and also modern day New York.

What would be in your top ten books featuring castles? Leave a comment with your TTT link!

The Verdict: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Click to view on GoodReads.
Click to view on GoodReads.

There are just many things to be said about Bitterblue but let’s start with the basics. It’s the third book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore and it looks beautiful.

In Graceling, we entered a world of seven kingdoms where some people are born graced with any number of unique skills or abilities and where we first meet Katsa, seemingly graced with the skill of killing and under the command of King Randa. Katsa becomes increasingly frustrated and depressed about being used in such a cruel way and when Prince Po comes along their journey together slowly reveals just how corrupt the seven kingdoms really are. In Fire, we’re transported to The Dells, a kingdom of ‘rainbow coloured monsters and underground labyrinths’ where Fire, the last human monster is both hated and obsessed over, constantly assaulted for being so irresistible and who refuses to use her mind control to steal people’s memories and secrets.

By the time we come to Bitterblue, it is several years after King Leck’s tyrannous and torturous reign in Graceling and we follow the young Queen Bitterblue as she attempts to rebuild her kingdom; a kingdom that is still deeply affected by her father’s spell over them. But how can you rebuild something that is based on lies and secrets and despicable acts? Especially when the people who were most under Leck’s spell are the ones closest to Bitterblue?

There are so many things I love about this book. I enjoyed Fire, but as soon I opened this it felt like I was coming back home. I was eager to meet up with Katsa and Po again and it didn’t disappoint despite the fact that they weave in and out of the narritive. I think Cashore could easy have ridden the wave of their romance and made that the main strand of this book but I think this portrays a much more realistic and exciting relationship. It’s certainly refreshing to see these characters living their own lives, putting the important things first and not just glaring at each other with puppy-dog eyes. They are definitely not the puppy-dog eyes types!

I love how this story slowly builds momentum. We find the clues as Bitterblue finds them -one by one- linking what really happened during Leck’s time to just how many secrets and lies are being maintained within the city walls. I found myself even more confused than Bitterblue as to who to trust and who to investigate. However, I did feel like there was a lull in the middle where the pace could have been picked up and I just wanted to grab Bitterblue and shake her yelling ‘haven’t you learnt by now you can’t trust anyone, get on with it!’

I enjoyed the mix of the old and new here too. Whenever I think of Kings, Queens and castles, whether it’s in this universe or a fictional one I think of times gone by, but Cashore’s world is full of modern themes making no fuss over boys and girls fighting each other, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, birth control, or a Queen who wears trousers and slips out of the castle at night to smooch with a thief. And is it just me or is it completely devoid of religion? Hallelujah!

Cashore has created an in-depth world of strong, kick-ass girls, epic sword-fights, passion, and intriguing mystery. Essentially, Bitterblue and those before it are about the abuse of control and power, facing up to horrible truths and having the strength to overcome the impossible.

Bitterblue is published by Gollancz and I received a copy in exchange for a review as part of their Gollancz Geeks Blog.