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Review, Young Adult / October 4, 2016
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Date: 09/2016
546 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

“They don’t know who we are. Not really. They don’t know what we’ve done, what we’ve managed together.” Kaz rapped his cane on the ground. “So let’s go show them they picked the wrong damn fight.”

Six of Crows was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I was a little nervous going into Crooked Kingdom. I needn’t have worried about the quality of the story, the plot was fast paced with frequently shifting sources of tension and danger. Kaz and company feel a little less ahead of the game than last time. Fighting for more personal reasons than money, and doing so against adversaries who know they are coming, plenty of ugly surprises are in store. This wasn’t like taking the Ice Court by surprise; coming up against a very-prepared Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, the gang frequently struggled and had to re-plot in their quest for revenge and redemption. I kept turning the pages wondering how Kaz and team would manage to achieve everything this story has been set up for. From beginning to end the plot flows masterfully with only small breathers before the next big disaster hits. read more

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / August 30, 2016
Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Tor
Date: 19/05/2015
438 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This is a spruced-up version of a review I wrote on my old blog last year for Uprooted. This book instantly became an all-time favorite of mine and even won the Nebula Award last spring!

Uprooted was scary, fun, and even at times romantic. It’s similar to Patricia McKillip’s novels in that it has a pastoral fairy tale feel, but is longer, with a more complex plot. read more

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By: Diane
Review, Young Adult / August 20, 2016
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonThe Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #1
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Date: July 2014
489 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

The Kiss of Deception took me 10 months to read. Yep, that’s right. I began reading it in September 2015 but only just finished it July 2016. This wasn’t because it was a bad book at all, slow but not bad. The reason why it took me so long is because I have been in a big reading slump since September 2015. I’d read a book and then be in a slumpy mood again and it has been the worst but I think I’m really beginning to come out of it now! read more

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By: Vicky
Adult, Review / August 16, 2016
His Royal Secret Duology by Lilah PaceHis Royal Secret
Date: July 19th, 2016
185 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he's keeping a king-sized secret...James, next in line for the throne, is gay.

He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.

While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James's eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.

But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth...

This is quite the fairy tale m/m romance! I first read His Royal Secret back in July but waited to review it and His Royal Favorite together as it really is one story. The main focus is on James, Prince of Wales, who is unhappily in the closet due to his concerns regarding how much of a tailspin his sexuality would throw both the monarchy and his family in were it to be known. He has a number of decent reasons for this, ranging from a mentally ill younger sibling who does not want to inherit, a scheming uncle who does, and worries over what kind of stance The Church of England will take and how that will affect public support. Beyond all that, James as lived a very privileged but undeniably controlled and limited life in preparation for becoming king, loss of the crown would make the loss of a normal youth feel a waste in so many ways and he is a both tender and steely young man who takes the duty he was raised for seriously. On a trip to Kenya is encounters globe-trotting reporter Benjamin Dahan and their clandestine affair is the center of the first book. Since their coming together was with the original understanding that no one was to ever know, and that it would have an end date, the relationship in the first book is more physical than emotional. Especially on the part of Ben, as he typically avoids relationships after having a very negative, but impactful, one in his youth. Everything changes when James makes the decision to come out publicly and Ben has to either accept that the affair is over or face the limelight. The only real drawback I felt the first book had was that it did feel almost entirely sexual at times, but that was also a reflection of the fact that, at that point, out of necessity on the part of James (who knew he wished he could have a real relationship) and unwillingness for more from Ben, it was all they agreed to. read more

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / August 9, 2016
It Ends With Us by Colleen HooverIt Ends With Us
Publisher: Atria Books
Date: August 2, 2016
384 pages
Genres: Contemporary
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Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

I’ve read quite a few of Colleen Hoover’s stories, some have been hits for me and others misses. I didn’t go into this with a lot of expectations and now that I’ve read it I’m not certain how detailed I should be. This book is an experience, a very painful one. It succeeds at bringing you inside a situation most only observe from the outside. Once there you may not understand why this is happening any better than the characters do, but you will have trouble not feeling their confusion, betrayal, and how miserable a decision can be to make even when it is clearly the only sane one. No one is black and white here, it would be easier to judge and write them off if they were. Instead I was left with compassion, deep sorrow, and satisfaction at seeing the main character, Lily, make a choice that serves as an example of strength, love, and good judgement. read more

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By: Diane