Tag Archives: war

You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

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You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

This haunting and otherworldly book is such an enchanting tale.  I read it in just a few hours, but I’m still thinking about it months later.


Goodreads Summary

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Thirteen-year-old novice Maresi arrived at the Abbey four years ago, during the hunger winter, and now lives a happy life under the protection of the Mother. Maresi spends her days reading in the Knowledge House, caring for the younger novices, and contentedly waiting for the moment when she will be called to serve one of the Houses of the Abbey.

This idyllic existence is threatened by the arrival of Jai, a girl whose dark past has followed her into the Abbey’s sacred spaces. In order to protect her new sister and her own way of life, Maresi must emerge from the safety of her books and her childish world and become one who acts.

My Thoughts

I loved the setting – a sanctuary for women and girls with a magic and mythology that feels epic.  I loved the well drawn characters and their transformations in the course of the action.  The action is engaging and builds to a satisfying and suspenseful climax.  While there are dark elements in this tale, Maresi is ultimately an uplifting read with themes about friendship and finding inner strength in the face of fear.  Fans of Naomi Novak’s Uprooted will definitely want to check this out, but I think anyone who loves a good fairytale or folktale will be swept away by this read.  This is a translation, but you wouldn’t know it – the prose is fluid and magical all on its own.  I can definitely see many of my high school girls enjoying this, particularly those who like the His Fair Assassins series and Marie Lu’s Rose Society books.  It’s going on my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Francesca Haig’s The Map of Bones 

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Francesca Haig’s The Map of Bones 

If you are a fan of post apocalyptic YA, you should give Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon series a try.  If you are hesitant because of the twin thing, just know that it is a lot less bizarre and a lot more believable than the premise makes it sound.  The second book, The Map of Bones, was one of my most anticipated reads this year.  I won’t lie – it started way too slow for my liking, but, oh, when it picked up, it really picked up.

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Goodreads Summary

Book Two in the critically acclaimed The Fire Sermon trilogy—The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined post-apocalyptic series by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

My Thoughts

I was expecting a fast paced and action packed follow up.  I was a little annoyed when I didn’t initially get what I wanted.  The first half of this book is slow going.  Political maneuvering and the emotional fallout that Cass faces in dealing with the death of her friend and lover take up a good part of the book.  It wasn’t until I had almost given up that the story began to pick up steam.  The second half definitely delivered the action that I was looking for, and I have to say I didn’t see where this plot was headed until it was hitting me square in the shocked (happy) face.  I think this would have been a more engaging book if the author had taken less time to develop the characters and the political climate, but I think that the series would have ultimately suffered for it.  If you liked The Fire Sermon, I think you owe it to yourself to pick up the sequel.  I encourage you to persevere through the first half, because it is definitely worth it.  Myself, I’m beginning the impatient watch for book three.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but adult readers of YA will enjoy the series just as much.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

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Great Falls by Steve Watkins – this is what you get when good writing meets compelling topic.

Great Falls is an intense read that had me from the first lines.  I think that it is our responsibility to see the toll war takes on our soldiers, and this book does that in such a remarkable way and through such an engaging and perceptive perspective  I gave Great Falls five stars because it is a book that handles tough issues with a deft and subtle hand and the story has an appeal that transcends age and gender.  Fans of books like The Things We Carried and Chris Lynch’s YA Vietnam series will be particularly happy with this read.

The ebook is available now, but the hardback is not on sale until April 26, 2016.

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Goodreads Summary

One brother home from war. The other desperate to save him. A gripping journey together to the river’s end.

Shane has always worshiped his big brother, Jeremy. But three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll, and the easy-go-lucky brother Shane knew has been replaced by a surly drunk who carries his loaded 9mm with him everywhere and lives in the basement because he can’t face life with his wife and two small children. When Jeremy shows up after Shane’s football game and offers to take him to the family cabin overnight, Shane goes along — both to get away from a humiliation on the field and to keep an eye on Jeremy, who’s AWOL from his job at Quantico and seems to have a shorter fuse than ever. But as the camping trip turns into a days-long canoe trip down the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, Shane realizes he’s in way over his head — and has no idea how to persuade Jeremy to return home and get the help he needs before it’s too late. In a novel at once gripping and heartbreaking, Steve Watkins offers a stark exploration of the unseen injuries left by war.

My Thoughts

This powerful read is exactly what I look for in a book for my classroom library.  It is engaging as it is meaningful.  I only meant to peruse the first chapter, but the next thing I knew, it was reading the acknowledgements.  Shane is an easy narrator to connect with, and the feeling of powerlessness he exudes is palpable and understandable.  So is the tension.  Shane is desperate to help his brother but the delicate shift and balance is continual, and that makes even the most mundane interactions gripping.  The journey they take together is unexpected and at times hard, but it is a journey I can’t regret taking with them.  I cared about these characters, and I think other readers will as well.  This book is certain to appeal to many of my high school students, particularly the guys, so it is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist.  There is some language, but nothing that would stop me from recommending it to grades 9+.  Adult readers will find it just as engaging.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse -A young adult WWII mystery set in the Netherlands

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Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse -A young adult WWII mystery set in the Netherlands

Girl in the Blue Coat isn’t my favorite WWII YA read, but it is the first one I’ve read about the Dutch Resistance movement, and that might just be the angle that grabs you.  I wasn’t hugely impressed by the narrator, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t enjoy it, particularly if you are a fan of historical YA set in the era.  I gave it three stars, but many readers on Goodreads and Amazon rated it significantly higher.

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Goodreads Summary

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times.

My Thoughts

While I thought the plot had plenty of twists and it was interesting enough, I didn’t love this book.  The narrator is rather self-serving initially, so that was a bit of a turn off.  When she does make a turn and begins to help others, she still seemed to be motivated primarily as a way to make herself feel better about her past choices.  I think the idea was to create the parallels between these characters to show the universal concepts of love and friendship, and I did see some of that, but I saw more of Hanneke being reckless in pursuit of a goal than I saw her embracing the ideas of human sameness.  I’m not sure that everyone will have that perception of her, but it stuck with me.  I did enjoy learning a bit more about German occupation and the Dutch Resistance movement in WWII, and I think we need more stories of everyday heroism.  I just wasn’t sure that Hanneke embodied that for me.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, and this would be a suitable book for whole class reading at a middle school level.  It doesn’t hit hard like The Diary of Anne Frank, but the mystery is engaging enough to keep YA’s reading and Hanneke’s character would make for good discussion.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Daughters of Ruin – Don’t judge this one by its cover, or its summary. Really, you should just read my review.

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Daughters of Ruin – Don’t judge this one by its cover, or its summary.  Really, you should just read my review.

This was a pretty fierce read.  Ignore the cover and the summary because they both fail to really impart how vicious and bloodthirsty this book is.  I admit it sounds sweet – four future queens raised to be sisters and guardians of peace.  However, something went seriously wrong with this plan because each new scene pits these girls against each other in everything from hand-to-hand combat to the subtle art of mean girling.

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Goodreads Summary

Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies.

Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.

But there is rarely peace among sisters. Sheltered Rhea was raised to rule everyone—including her “sisters”—but she’s cracking under pressure. The charismatic Cadis is desperately trying to redeem her people from their actions during the war. Suki guards deep family secrets that isolate her, and quiet Iren’s meekness is not what it seems.

All plans for peace are shattered when the palace is attacked. As their intended futures lie in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.

My Thoughts

I think my high school readers are going to be wildly engaged by this book.  It isn’t just the fact that the plot is full of action packed fight scenes.  This book also manages to concisely convey the universal emotions and doubts inherent in coming of age.  Add in the surprising twists of plot and unexpected reversal of characters, and you have a story that is guaranteed to captivate a wide range of readers.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t sold on a book that involved four narrative voices, and I did have a preference for Rhea, the initial narrative voice.  However, I am now convinced that this was a pretty smart move on the part of the author because it acts as a device that rotates the story so readers get a 360′ view of the plot, which maximizes the depth of the twists and betrayals.  I know I’m gushing here, and I’m not sure that this book is gush-worthy for a few simple reasons.  The narrative sometimes felt disjointed.  There are clearly chapters that are styled with purpose and intent to be disjointed, but several times outside of those chapters, I found myself having to retread passages that just weren’t smooth enough to be clear.  I also didn’t really connect emotionally with these characters. Two characters were, I believe, distant by design.  However, I still struggled to embrace the two characters I felt I was suppose to connect with, which I think is the fallout of having four narrative voices.  I don’t think these issues interfered with my overall enjoyment of this book, and I would recommend it to my high school students, particularly those who have enjoyed books like Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen or Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass.  The characters are distinct, crafty, and battle hardened lady warriors, and I found them quite intriguing.  I can’t wait to get a copy or three in my classroom library. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but I think a lot of adult readers of YA will enjoy this just as much.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Rebel of the Sands is my newest YA obsession

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Rebel of the Sands is my newest YA obsession

I really, really enjoyed this book, and I really didn’t expect that.  Lots of books that try to combine the western and the fantasy genre just don’t work – my standards are high for both, and when you combine the two, I’m downright looking for issues.  However, Rebel of the Sands, with its Wild West meets Arabian Nights feel, is spot on.  If you don’t believe me, just sample it.  I ignored this offering, but I took the publisher up on its sneak peek two days before publication.  Big mistake. I spent two days desperate to get back to this book.  I didn’t even flinch when I preordered it and paid $11.  I needed this book, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Get out there and find it because it really is a five star read.

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Goodreads Summary

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

My Thoughts

Rebel of the Sands is populated by characters I easily embraced.  They aren’t perfect, but they have the potential for greatness hovering in hidden places.  I particularly liked Amani because she is so tough, independent, and single-minded.  Her journey from that girl to the one who will change everything for her kingdom is smart and compelling.  This journey really is the heart of this book because it is essential to themes about independence and friendship, selfishness and selflessness.  I liked this message, and I think there are many readers out there who will as well.

The plot was really better than I could have imagined, and, sure, there are elements of the western and Arabian mythology, but neither of those overwhelmed the story.  Do not skip this book just because your dad had westerns on a loop when you wanted to watch cartoons as a kid.  Do not skip this book because you hate the word Djinn (I know I can’t be the only person who feels aggressive when they see the spelling of that word.  It grates like nails on a chalkboard).  I hate Alladin with all the pent up ugly that is in me, and I still loved this book.  I know it will appeal to a wide audience because it has characters with heart who are fighting for what is right against a government driven by greed – you know you love that stuff – it’s what kept you secretly watching The Hunger Games movies and The Divergent movies even though you know that the last one is going to blow chunks because we all know that book ticked off the entire population of YA girls on Earth (well, that one might have been about that hot guy, but, still).

If you love Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, with the tough-as-nails female protagonist, or if you enjoyed the travels and travails of the characters in books like Stone Rider or Walk on Earth a Stranger, you owe it to yourself to give this book a chance.

I’ve lead you to water, Kiddies.  It’s up to you to drink.

I did receive a sneak peek of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but I bought myself a copy of the book and I’m buying my beloved students a copy, so this is my real and honest opinion (It always is, anyway).

Gena Showalter’s YA offering, Firstlife, is the pop ballad version of the age old battle between good and evil

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Gena Showalter’s YA offering, Firstlife, is the pop ballad version of the age old battle between good and evil

So, I own a Miley Cyrus song.  An embarrassing one that is probably from a Hannah Montana album.  When my son saw it in my downloads the other day and began laughing his preteen butt off, I was ashamed.  But I rallied.  You see, See You Again makes me remember what it was like to be so young and uncertain in love, and, By Golly, it’s catchy.  It might be a far cry from high brow, but I enjoy it, so that should count for something.  I kind of feel the same way about this book.  It wasn’t a great literary work, and it might even have been a bad literary work in the scale of things, but I was engaged.  I’m a little embarrassed at how much I was entertained by it, but I did while away a few happy hours in this strange work, and that counts for something.  I gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary
ONE CHOICE.

TWO REALMS.

NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

My Thoughts

While Firstlife has sweeping themes about the battle between dark and light and the conflict between individual versus society, serious readers will find it difficult to navigate the fluff.  The first twenty percent of the book is full of unnatural conversational patter that relies heavily on references to testicles.  It is fast, and perhaps funny to the right audience, but it makes it hard to take the concept seriously from the start.  Add in the fact that the main character, Ten, seems more torn about her conflicted attraction to a super hot guy than the actual outcome of the battle for her soul, and this book becomes little more than a pop song rendition of one of literature’s most enduring themes.   Now, I’m a bit of a snob, and it hurts me a little to admit that, despite its shortcomings, I thought Firstlife was pretty engaging.  I didn’t understand the concept completely, but there was just enough there to keep me reading for answers.  There was a lot of suspense because, though I had my clear ideas about which side should win this fight, Ten was stubbornly uncertain until the end.  And while I didn’t care for all of the characters, I have to say that many of them were surprisingly dynamic.  I think the real star of the show was Ten’s nemesis turned ally, Sloan.  Overall, this was an entertaining, if not exactly memorable, read.  Language and innuendo make this most appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Heart of Magic is the second YA urban fantasy in Jennifer Estep’s Black Blade series

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Dark Heart of Magic is the second YA urban fantasy in Jennifer Estep’s Black Blade series

Jennifer Estep’s newest books, the Black Blade series, had a pretty great start in Cold Burn of Magic.  I was anxious to see what would happen in the second book.  I have to admit I was a little disappointed because the hardcore warrior girl from CBOM is definitely losing her edge as she becomes attached to people.  It still makes for a decent YA urban fantasy, and this one includes some pretty intense competition, but I think the target audience will enjoy it more than adult readers of YA.

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Amazon Summary

Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .

As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight–or the danger.

Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious “accidents,” it looks like someone will do anything to win–no matter who they hurt.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone’s going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing’s for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else…

My Thoughts

I enjoyed the second installment in this series, but not quite as much as I enjoyed the first.  I think that is in part because this story felt younger in terms of themes and concerns.  A lot of time was spent dealing with the various romances thwarted by family and personal loyalties when I just wanted threat and battle. Lila also seems a lot less independent now that she has been taken in by the Sinclair family, so she feels more like an average teen than the street smart loner we started with.  There are pros and cons to that, and I understand it is part of her character’s growth, but I honestly preferred the tougher, edgier Lila.  Not everyone will feel the same way, though, and plenty of readers will be excited to watch the relationship between Lila and Devon evolve as she becomes less standoffish.  This book does also provide some new revelations about Lila’s mother and her past, and I thought that added a few great complications that kept the story fresh.  Some readers will find the pacing is slower than expected (presumably because it is setting up situations for the next book) and some will be disappointed at the ease with which they spot the bad guy.  Neither of those were barriers to my enjoyment.  I look forward to where this series goes with the next book.  I think this will be more appealing to the target audience than to adult readers of YA simply because the drama and romance will be more engaging to that demographic.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Velvet Undercover – Espionage, History, and Romance in a twisty little YA read about WWI

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Velvet Undercover – Espionage, History, and Romance in a twisty little YA read about WWI

I have never been able to resist a lady spy, so Velvet Undercover had me at the premise.  Samantha reminded me a bit of Veronica Mars, without the loveable snark, but if you enjoy espionage and historical settings with a little romance thrown in the mix, you will probably find this book engaging.  I was particularly glad to find a WWI setting since the Victorian Era has been done so much in this genre.  Four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

From author Teri Brown comes the thrilling story of one girl’s journey into a deadly world of spycraft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this YA historical spy thriller.  It was well paced to keep the action moving and the threat of discovery alive.  I was particularly intrigued by the setting – WWI isn’t a big time period in YA books, and it was a nice change from the usual WWII.  Samantha is a good heroine.  She is smart but she still makes a few mistakes, as any teen would, so she came across like a real rookie spy.  The romance in this story is entirely too rushed.  I liked the romantic interest, and he will be a character that other readers will consider very charming and attractive, but little time is taken to establish a believable relationship between him and the protagonist.  I enjoyed the way the story was set up, which allowed for a little training, and a lot of time in the field.  This was just twisty enough that I got turned around for a little while.  Who can trust a spy, after all?  However, when it was time for the big reveal, I wasn’t quite as satisfied by the explanation as I could have been.  There just wasn’t enough of a backstory to allow readers to put the pieces together on their own, and that always feels a little like a cheat to me.  This story reads quickly and it is compelling.  I think it could have been longer to flesh out a few more of the details, but overall, it is a good read for middle school and high school girls who like lady spies.  I would be interested in seeing Samantha in a few more adventures.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Ice Like Fire, the Sequel to Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes, avoids the Sophomore Slump 

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Ice Like Fire, the Sequel to Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes, avoids the Sophomore Slump 

I reread  Snow Like Ashes before I dove into Ice Like Fire because the first few pages let me know I had lost track of who all the major players were.  Except Theron.  I remembered him because he was absolutely my dream guy and I couldn’t believe Meira didn’t snap him up and chain him to her body.  I know I would have.  As it turns out, tying yourself down to anyone in Primoria is a really bad idea – that is the message that came through loud and clear in this sequel.

This book is publishing Tuesday, October 13, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

My Thoughts

A lot of the things I thought I knew and understood in Snow like Ashes melted away in Fire Like Ice, and that is what I think is so compelling about this sequel.  This book doesn’t just rest on the laurels of the first book.  The conflict is fresh, and the struggle is definitely still alive.  I love it when the second book in a series makes itself so essential.

Meira should have gotten some time to breathe after saving her entire kingdom and learning her true place in Winter, but she quickly finds herself on a new quest that will take readers to previously unseen kingdoms.  This journey also offers readers a clearer picture of how the royal conduits have been used and misused, and that opens up a lot of questions about how power and wealth are and should be distributed.  Kind of weighty but important subjects for a YA fantasy read!

Mather, too, thought he had earned a little freedom at the end of SLA.  It doesn’t take long for him to see that he still has some responsibilities that he has to own up to in this new Winter.  I didn’t really enjoy his storyline as much in this book, and he does have his own, distinct storyline this time.  I’ll be really honest and admit I struggled with the point that was being made with his new buddies.  It just kind of went over my head a little, and that is okay, but I admit I would like a little group discussion to see if I could get some clarity.  I think other readers will struggle with this as well.

I’m not going to talk about Theron.  I refuse to talk about him.  I will cry or rant or spoil the whole story for all of you if I talk about him.  I do think his storyline will be a point of contention for a lot of readers.

I think the book had its faults – I’m pointing at you, brothel scenes, sometimes inexplicable magic, a really large cast of characters who sometimes get mixed up in my head – but I was pretty happy with the overall strengths of the story.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school, but adult readers of YA will find that there is enough complexity to keep their attention as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.