Review: Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas

20652088Title: Ash & Bramble

Author: Sarah Prineas

Publishing Information:  September 15th 2015 by HarperTeen

Genre: Fantasy, retellings, romance, fairy tale, magic

Series Information: First in the Ash & Bramble series

Format: Hardcover, 464 pages

Source: Received an ARC for review from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of fairy tale retellings

 

I almost didn’t review Ash & Bramble because I have been feeling such frustration over the disappointment I had upon finishing. This book had so much promise, excellent writing fitted with a dark and twisty fairy tale retelling seemed like it would be a wonderful experience for me. Unfortunately, the novel didn’t just fall flat, but it frustrated me to no end. I will say that this novel was interesting and fast paced, Sarah Prineas writes eloquently and I wanted to love this novel so much for so many reasons. Unfortunately, I had a very hard time relating to our main character, Pin. However, due to her being an unreliable narrator I think that it isn’t unexpected that this was the case. It somehow frustrated me more that the secondary characters such as Shoe, were more likable and interesting than our main gal.

Throughout this novel there were continuous hints to the “before” and I needed more from that. I almost felt as if the novel was half finished, and to be honest the romance was not something that I fell into at all. I somewhat irrationally judged our male lead for liking Pin so much because I felt like she was so standoffish and somewhat rude. I like the dark parts to the plot, I liked the concept, but overall it just didn’t work for me. To be quite honest if this was the first in a duology I would probably be making excuses and saying that things were just getting fleshed out with hopes that we would learn answers to ALL THE THINGS in book two. Unfortunately this is not the case, so I was left very disappointed in the end.

Shelf Talker: The more time that has passed since I have read this novel, the more frustrated I have become. I felt that many parts of the novel were disconnected and though the ending was satisfying in a way, it still made me angry. The ending was conclusive for the most part, but on the other hand, it seemed very much like there could (ahem, should) be a sequel to explain some very open plot threads. I have just recently learned that there is to be a companion novel that takes place 50 years after the ending of Ash & Bramble. I can’t imagine how it will answer questions that I have, it seems as if a prequel would have been more helpful in answering my inquiries. I will say that there are many who absolutely adored this novel so as always I suggest you read other reviews and maybe give it a go yourself!

On the Same Page: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Title: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Author: Lish McBride

Publishing Information:  October 12th 2010 by Henry Holt and Company

Genre: Fantasy, paranormal, humor, horror, supernatural, magic

Series Information: First in the Necromancer series

Format: Hardcover, 343 pages

Source: Was gifted a copy

Recommended For: Fans of the humorous side of horror and those who value friendships over loveships.

Related Posts: Check out Amy’s post on readalikes and Brittany’s review!

I loved Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Love it. It was full of heart, humor, and well, necromancy. What more could a gal ask for? I loved this book so much that I immediately started to read it’s sequel and friends, I just cannot get enough of Sam and his crew. The friendships in this novel were excellent, the loyalties among these friends is definitely something to be envious of. My favorite part of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was definitely the way in which it made me laugh. Sam’s personality is extremely lovable in his perfect use of wit and sarcasm. He is definitely a guy that I would was as my best friend. To better understand what I am talking about, I thought I would showcase some of the hilarious quotes found throughout the novel. Check them out, and check out Amy and Britt’s post and let us know what you think! Have you read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer? If not, have we convinced you that you should give it a go? 

jedi of hot chocolate

“Despite her obvious stress, my mom still managed to pour the hot chocolate into mugs, cover them with whipped cream and a pinch of cayenne, and add a cinnamon stick to them. She was like the Jedi master of hot chocolate.”

in peace

“Can you just tell them we don’t need Jesus, Girl Scout cookies, or whatever the Mormons worship, and let me lie here in peace?”

mustang

“Mrs. Winalski owned a candy-apple-red 1965 Mustang GT convertible, and she drove it like she could die at any minute and needed to get five things done before that happened.”

no no cha cha

“So you’re the guy who did the no-no cha-cha with my baby sister.”

On the Same Page: Howl’s Moving Castle

Title: Howl’s Moving Castle

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Publishing Information:  April 22nd 2008 by Greenwillow Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Magic, Adventure

Series Information: Book one in the Howl’s Moving Castle Trilogy

Format: Paperback, 429 pages

Source: Borrowed from my public library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a fun and quick read that will bring them back to their childhood.

Related Reviews: Check out Amy’s post and Brittany’s post

Hi friends! Here again for our On the Same Page post! This month we read a classic that we had all neglected to read while growing up! Howl’s Moving Castle is one of those books that I have always regretted not reading, not to mention the fact that people keep telling me that I absolutely needed to see the movie – and we all know that I can’t watch it before reading! So that is just what I did, I set out to read Howl’s Moving Castle and I devoured it in a day! I loved this book so much, it reminded me of growing up reading The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which I think is my go to highest compliment! Okay so let’s get into the comparison…

castle

The first thing that I should tell you is that I am finding that those who watched the movie prior to reading the book enjoy the movie a lot more, and vice versa. Actually, multiple people have told me that they were unable to even finish the book because they were not enjoying it as much as the movie! I read the book first and found that I enjoyed the book so much more than the movie. I don’t really see how I can write this post without ruining some of the plot so, spoilers ahead! Continue reading

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publishing Information:  May 12, 2015 by Putnam Juvenile

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Series Information: The first in The Wrath and the Dawn duet

Format: Hardcover, 388 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss *review and quotes based on an unfinished copy

Recommended For: Readers looking for something that feels familiar but is wholly different, and anyone needing a multitude of swoons

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

There is so much to say, and yet I don’t think that I have enough words to convey how much I absolutely adored The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I honestly don’t know where to start…

Let’s start with all of the things that The Wrath and the Dawn could have done. It could have given the readers a love triangle to frustrate the most easy going reader. It could have provided us with a strong heroine who suddenly shifts in character and falls apart due to a man. We could have been given women who hate each other due to their beauty, or jealousy. Honestly, this novel could have fallen into every trope imaginable, and somehow the author managed to move past these boundaries and therefore succeed in writing one of the best debuts that I have ever read.

Instead, Renee Ahdieh wrote a novel that encompasses love after it has grown and become something real, between two characters who grow and learn with one another. Characters who only lose themselves in the moment, still maintaining their sense of self and strength while learning to allow another past the walls around their hearts. The slow burn love story in The Wrath and the Dawn is admittedly the best part of the novel. It is the core of the novel, weaving through every page, yet it doesn’t take away from the underlying plot, the question of why Shazi is there in the first place and the struggle that Khalid has every waking moment.

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.

“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.

“No.” His hands dropped to her waist, “Destroy me.”

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On the Same Page: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Title: The Goose Girl

Author: Shannon Hale

Publishing Information:  May 13th 2005 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling, Adventure

Series Information: First in The Books of Bayern series

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: Gifted for my personal library from Amy

Recommended For: Fans of Jessica Day George, Patricia C. Wrede, strong heroines, and sweet romances

Related Reviews: Brittany’s Review and Amy’s Post on Quotes

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt’s guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani’s journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her.

Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

This was Amy’s choice for our On the Same Page feature, and a few years ago she even bought it for me (before we were best friends) when she had me for Secret Santa! So it is no question that she LOVES this book, and therefore I knew that I would love it as well. Well, friends, love it I did. I adored Ani and her strength, but I also loved that she was unsure about herself and her abilities. She was very real to me, and I love it when that happens. I could honestly go on and on about this book, but as we try and change it up for our On the Same Page posts I thought I would share a read alike guide with you instead of a traditional review!

So, if you liked The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, try…

 

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George – While it may sound that this is just another dragon inspired fairy tale employing all of the familiar themes, I promise that it is more involved than that, and though reminiscent of other tales it is uniquely sweet and promising. This novel comes highly recommended for those of you looking for a sweet story about a girl, her dragon, and their successful attempts to save a kingdom.

 

 

Entwined by Heather Dixon – This story follows Azalea and her sisters, they live with their mother and father and their favorite thing in the world is to dance. Unfortunately, their mother dies giving birth to their youngest sister and the palace goes under a period of mourning, in which no dancing is allowed. Azalea finds out some information regarding the secret passages in their castle and they discover a magical wood beyond their castle that contains a dancing glen, taken care of by a man who only goes by the name Keeper. Then, evil comes to the castle and there is an epic battle and all of these love pairings come about in a non-obvious way and it was so sweet and refreshing from the immediate I-have-to-have-you-now that comes in most YA romance novels. Also? I cried. This alone makes me like this book because it was so unexpected. The relationship between the girls and their father is even better than the romantic relationships in the book, which is rare and beautiful.

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Review: The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

Title: The Witch’s Boy

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publishing Information: September 16th 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a middle grade novel filled with self discovery and friendship with a perfect blend of darkness and hope.

When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?

There is so much to be said about The Witch’s Boy, right from the beginning I was hooked in the story that was reminiscent of old tales being told over a campfire. Kelly Barnhill managed to weave what felt like a very old story into the life of Ned and his (now dead) twin brother. It was a different way in which the author portrayed our main character, as he was not one, but two boys merged into one by their mother’s love and magic. Ned is described as “the wrong boy” who lived when an accident struck he and his brother. But somehow, Ned manages to grow to mirror his mother’s strength, taking control of the increasingly pushy magic that flows through him. It was a novel filled with different stories that flowed together to tell a very important tale. Overall, the novel was unique and refreshing in the way that the author portrayed the characters and their combined flaws and strengths.

The best things about The Witch’s Boy were the characters and their relationships with one another. I loved Ned for his courage and ability to move forward for the love of his family. I loved Aine for her strength, wit, and the choices that she makes when faced with adversity. Don’t even get me started on the wolf and his loyalties to this pair. Aine’s father had a great backstory that broke my heart a little, which brings me to the second thing that I loved about The Witch’s Boy, the fact that Kelly Barnhill doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.

If you are familiar with some of my other reviews of middle grade novels, you will remember that the one thing that will make me love a novel geared toward children is the ability to not brush over those “tough” subjects. I’m talking about grief, pain, death, and so on. I have to be honest and say that I was pleasantly surprised while reading The Witch’s Boy because the author does a perfect job of serving the reader a plate of bitter heartache which is then followed up with just enough light and hope to keep one going. I am completely in the mindset that these so called “children’s” novels are often darker than young adult or adult novels because the kids can handle it. Much respect to the author for perfectly blending darkness and light, for showing the reader how to hope and move forward through all sorts of trials.

An added bonus to loving this novel was that I actually met Kelly Barnhill at the Kids Author Carnival a few months ago and she was wonderful. Honestly, one of the nicest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Shelf Talker: The Witch’s Boy was everything that I wanted it to be. It was a beautiful and wonderful story about love in all forms. It had adventure, coming of age, a perfect blend of darkness and hope, and elements that reminded me of the fairytales I read as a kid. In truth, I loved it, and I think you all will too.

Review: The Lynburn Legacy Novellas by Sarah Rees Brennan

Since the gals and I are reading Unspoken for our On the Same Page feature this month, I thought I would read and review the novellas to see what I am in for! It is safe to say that I am pretty excited for this series after what these novellas contained!

 

Title: The Spring Before I Met You

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Publishing Information: September 11, 2012

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Series Information: Novella 0.25 in The Lynburn Legacy

Format: ebook, 18 pages

Source: Available for free here

For readers who are looking for a novella that will only add mystery and pique your interest of the series more, read these novellas! This novellas gives the reader more insight into Jared’s character, and even though we haven’t met Kami yet, we are able to see her through is eyes and it is rather beautiful. We are also able to see Jared’s family dynamic, which was really rather sad but still so mysterious. Honestly after finishing this novella all I could think of was how quickly I needed to read this series. I had held off because I heard that the first two books had crazy cliffhangers, but thankfully the end is near so I can pick them up and binge read!

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Review: Night of Cake & Puppets and Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Title: Night of Cake & Puppets

Author: Laini Taylor

Publishing Information: November 26th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Series Information: novella 2.5 in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy

Format: ebook, 89 pages

Source: Purchased for my personal library

Recommended For: Readers looking for a deeper look into Zuzana and Mik’s relationship as well as the closeness between Zuzana and Karou in Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Related Reviews: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 1), Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 2)

In lieu of a traditional review, I am going to write a mini review for Night of Cake & Puppets and Dreams of Gods & Monsters because at this point I almost think it is silly to go in depth about the conclusion to a well known series. Bottom line is, if you haven’t read this series yet – get on it. Immediately.

“I want to do mysterious and improbable things alongside a fierce and beautiful girl who looks like a doll brought to life by a sorcerer.”

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On the Same Page: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

OtSPcirclebanner

On the Same Page is a new feature here on Books Take You Places that I am hosting along with two of my very dear friends, Amy (Tripping Over Books) and Brittany (The Book Addict’s Guide). Essentially, we will be reading one book a month together and then doing a non-traditional review such as a playlist, character analysis, or like my post below, a dedication to some beautiful quotes found in the book. To find out more about this new feature, head on over to its dedication page!

The quotes in Days of Blood and Starlight really stood out for me, I can’t tell you how many pictures I took on my phone of different quotes throughout the book. With that in mind, I went forth and made some images that feature some of my favorite quotes through the novel. Enjoy!

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight

Author: Laini Taylor

Publishing Information: November 6, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Angels, Magic, Romance

Series Information: Book 2 in The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy

Format: Hardcover, 513 pages

Recommended For: Fans of intricate and vibrant novels that tear your heart out a little bit.

A new way of living

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living—one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.”

It was rare

“It was brave,” countered Issa. “It was rare. It was love, and it was beautiful.”

Daughter of my heart

“Daughter of my heart,’ was the message Brimstone sent just for Karou. She wanted to cry again right here in the court, thinking of it. ‘Twice-daughter, my joy. Your dream is my dream, and your name is true. You are all of our hope.”

More than magic

“The man had lifted Madrigal up, cloaked in her living shawl, and brought her back down again, and even a boy could see that there was magic between them, and more than magic.”

Dead souls

“Dead souls dream only of death. Small dreams for small men. It is life that expands to fill worlds. Life is your master, or death is.”

Shimmer and shadow

“Light coursed through Karou and darkness chased it-burning through her,

chilling her, shimmer and shadow, ice and fire, blood and starlight, rushing, roaring, filling her.”

Be sure to check out Amy and Brittany’s similar posts:
Amy: Review of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, and Visualize Days of Blood and Starlight
Brittany: Branching Out Into Fantasy

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publishing Information: June 18, 2013 by William Morrow Books

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Horror

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 181 pages

Source: Bought for my personal library

Recommended For: Fans of dark fantasies and mythologies of all kinds.

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

I always have a hard time reviewing a book that I love, I think it is because I have become so immersed in the world and have a hard time coming out of it and looking at it with a critical eye. Perhaps, or perhaps I just want to keep it all for me, in a secret chamber in my soul. Whatever the reason, I will do my best to put my feelings into words and I will try not to be too biased as everyone knows I think Neil Gaiman is the best writer alive. It is also no mystery that I love his narration, so when I was able to meet him earlier last year and have him sign my copy of Ocean at the End of the Lane, I also bought the audio to enjoy!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane leaves the reader reminiscing about their childhood, trying to bring up memories long forgotten. It is a book that makes you think back at the way you looked at the world before it became so ugly, when your parents were your superheroes and everything was safe within your own little world. It is hard to look back on those times, to see how vastly different your life is and realize that things are never what they seem. It is almost frightening to realize that your perception on the world at that young an age puts you at a high risk for many things, from disappointment to real harm.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” 

The novel is narrated by a seven year old, and it is haunting to see the story progress through his eyes as he is so innocent and naïve but made stronger and older by the happenings around him. The fact that it can be considered slightly autobiographical (as some of the events that happen at the beginning of the book do in fact happen to Gaiman’s family) makes it even more real and emotional. The Hempstock women are strong, witty and all together marvelous; I love their relationship with one another and their relationship with our unnamed protagonist. Ursula Munkton (I love her name – and the way in which Neil Gaiman says it) was really quite terrifying.

This novel is not like other novels by Neil Gaiman, instead of coming on bold and strong as most of his novels, it creeps up on your and you are made raw by the different emotions playing through your mind as you read (or listen) to Gaiman’s words. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like nothing I have ever read before. It spreads over many genres and bridges the gaps between ages. It is a story of friendship, coming of age, and battling monsters both real and imaginary. It is horrific, and lighthearted, ugly and so beautiful. In short, it is a glorious blend of all things.