Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

an ember in the ashesTitle: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Release Date: April 28th, 2015

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Review: An Ember in the Ashes is a book that I am going to have a very hard time summarizing. A friend of mine read it and highly recommended it, but I looked at the 446 page count and was not quite sure I wanted to take that on, but I am so glad that I did. Those pages flew by and I never once looked to see how many pages I had left or felt for one moment that anything was dragging.

The book switches between Laia and Elias’ perspectives which gives you are really good understanding of everything that is involved in this world and the people within it. It takes place in almost a Roman like society and is very brutal. The author did not pull her punches emotionally in this book and I was brought to tears a couple of times. It was harsh, cruel and probably very realistic of what a society in this world would look like.

I loved both of the characters, and the way they slowly worked their way to each other. There are small little snippets of romance, but the main plot focuses on the two characters finding their own definition of freedom.

It was heartbreaking, fantastic, non-stop plot and a book that has stayed with me long after I read the last page. I cannot wait to get started on the sequel and will definitely be keeping an eye on this author in the future.

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crowsTitle:  Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo 

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: September 29th, 2015

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Summary from Goodreads.com 

My Review:  I know the term “book hangover” can seem strange to some people, but I am convinced it is a real thing and this book has given me a huge one. I have read a little over 10 books since reading Six of Crows, and it is still fresh in my mind and consumes a lot of my thoughts, haha. I work as a librarian and every student who comes in searching for a good book, this is the first one I recommend to them. I cannot even really describe it to them, I just say it is a mix of Ocean’s Eleven heist scheme, some fantastic characters that all live in some awesome fantasy world. That is a poor summary I know, but there is so much to this book, and so many complex and amazing characters, I have a hard time putting all of it into a simple summary. I do know that I am not wrong with my excessive love for this book though because every student or person I recommend it to comes back loving it and often one of their friends wants to take it and check it out in their place.

Then there is Kaz Brekker. He is probably my new favorite character, ever. I love everything about that shady guy and can easily see why he can get a team of people to follow him, maybe right into their own dooms. He alone is worth reading this book for.

I have not read the other books by Leigh that take place in the same world, so I am not sure if there are crossovers or anything like that from that series, but I know I loved this book without having to read them at all. Now that I have though and I have to wait for months (sobs) for the second book to come out, I will probably go ahead and give Shadow and Bone a shot just to try and hold me over until I can get back to Kaz and the gang again.

Cannot say enough good things about this book, love, love, love it and am excited for Crooked Kingdom this fall.

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Book Review of Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

passengerTitle:  Passenger

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Release Date:  January 5th, 2016

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

-Summary from Goodreads.com

My Review:  I have been in a book slump for a while, not really finding anything I liked, until now. I will say that the first 50 pages did drag a little, which I later realized were setup for everything that was going to happen later, but I did have to really push to get through the first few chapters to get to the meat of the story. Once I got there though, I could not put this book down. I was reading and listening to it on audiobook on the way to work because I had to know what was going to happen next.

Passenger explores the idea of time travel, no not a Doc Brown kind of way, in a way that actually sounds pretty plausible. There are wrinkles in the timeline scattered throughout the world that “travelers” can use to be transported to a different time. That is just a basic quick summary, Bracken does an excellent job of spelling it out much more clearly in the book so it makes complete sense. I found the whole concept very intriguing and better than many of the time travel books that I have read in the past.

As for the characters, we switch POV between Etta and Nicholas as the story progresses which I loved. I always enjoy getting into multiple characters heads because I think it tells a more well-rounded story. Poor Etta, has no idea what is going on half the time and is playing catch up with this new world, but she takes it in stride and was a strong character. Nicholas, was an interesting puzzle to put together, his life has not been easy, but he has come out of it resilient and with a good moral compass. I loved both of them, especially the slow burn of the romance that blossomed between them that was not rushed and was extremely sweet.

The action and suspenseful elements were also fantastic and I was flipping pages and reading frantically to find out what was going to happen next. Passenger is one of those books that while it is categorized as YA, it would appeal to older audiences as well I think. It has a little bit of everything, is very well written and will keep you reading well into the night to finish it.

The ending is not really a cliffhanger, but it does leave a lot of questions that you are going to want answers too. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel which I think comes out in January. I will also be looking into Bracken’s other books as well since I love her writing style. Overall, fantastic book that I loved so much, I know it will be one I will be re-reading in the future just so I can go back and visit this world again and again.

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