Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crowns #1)

Action, alternating narration, families, Fantasy, Female Leads, Series

The first of the series with the same title, the story begins with three queen sister (triplets) each facing the ceremony on their 16th birthday in which will not only validate their power, but will begin the time period where they should – and are expected to – kill the other sisters so she may be the true queen.

Each generation produces triplet sisters, all holding different magical abilities.   Mirabella can control the elements, Kat (Katherine) is a poisoner and can ingest any poisons and survive, and Arsinoe is a naturalist who can control all things in nature.  Each sister remembers a time before separated from her sisters, a time in which sister’s love was strong.  Only now, each has advisers who not only prepare their queen  for the fight ahead, but encourage murder for their queen’s survival.

As for the sisters, their ambition is only challenged with the memory of sisterhood.  With suitors approaching all three girls as if the prize is marriage, they learn power is both isolating and, at times, unwanted.  Each sister wants to be Queen, but the only way to become Queen is to eventually kill the other two sisters during the Ascension year.  Each sister also has her strengths and weaknesses whether it is confidence, skill, or beauty. As suitors and servants provide allies and comfort (and many bears play a part), Mirabella, Kat, and Arsinoe also learn that they can be enemies too.

This story has lots of fantasy elements and some action, but at times I found it difficult to remember which sister was friends with other side characters and even how to balance the lives of the side characters when learning of their parentage.  One great aspect is the growth they face by the end of this installment: one who was weak is strong, one who was confident is shaken, and one who felt powerless has a newfound power.  Once I could follow who was supporting which sister, the night of the reunion was soon and the Quickening to begin the year of ‘try to kill your sisters so that you can be Queen’ was happening.  So a bit confusing at first, but with some solid action at the end – and a cliffhanger of course!


one

September 2017

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A Mad Wicked Folly – Sharon Biggs Waller

Female Leads, period pieces, Uncategorized

1909, high society London, women only being seen as wives and mothers with their only purpose of keeping house and children in high society….. and then there’s Victoria (Vicky), the independent 17 year old attending art school in Paris who one day poses nude for the men in her class.  Yep, she’s ahead of her time.

After being expelled from school she is shipped back to London in shameful disgrace (from society, not her own) to parents who not only don’t appreciate her artistic talent, but do not appreciate her independence.  Vicky’s struggle to convince her parents to let her go to art school with men quickly connects her to the struggles of the time with suffragettes in Europe wanting the vote.  Will Vicky realize her own dreams for equality to attend art school is the same struggle these women face with voting rights?

“This is why we all fight so hard.  Not just for the vote, but for an equal opportunity in the world.  A vote is a voice.”

Apparently Queen Victoria is quoted as saying the struggle for women’s equality was a ‘mad, wicked folly’.  As for our Vicky, she struggles with choosing a life of freedom and one that is financial stable.  She isn’t vain, but realistic and with the promise of the fiance to allow (I know right, “allow” irks me too) but at the time, the husband or father must allow freedom of the female…. so in allowing her to attend art school, Vicky is in agreement to marry.  When she works with the suffragettes and meets people around town she doesn’t want to be the kept upper crust, society event driven female.  She applies to art school with the help of a new, unpredictable stranger turned friend.

There are so many strong females in this novel.  From Cumberbrunch, the ladies maid who secretly works for the suffragettes, to Lucy (the brazen American), to the wonderful Sylvia Pankhurst and even Vicky’s mom.  Regardless of position or circumstance, these ladies provide many strong characters who fight for equality.

As many do, Vicky must decide which life she wants to live – the one in which life seems easy and laid out for her or the one that is worth fighting for.  This is the story of females fighting for equality.


An added bonus to this novel is there are Author’s Notes about the time period, hunger strikes, Edwardian clothing, and Votes for Women information, but a legitimate bibliography.

Historical Fiction at its finest.

The Rose Society – Marie Lu

Action, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Read-a-Likes, Series, Young Readers

So. Excited. For. This. Sequel!!!!  There are some awesome females in this series:  “Right now, what I want is the throne.  Enzo’s power.  A perfect revenge.  And all the Inquisitors, queens, and Daggers in the world won’t be able to stop me.” (196)   —— Boom ———

Adelina is strong and she and her sister immediately begin their search for other Elites.  In hiding their powers, they sneak among society, but ever fearful of being caught by the Inquisitors ruled by Teren and Queen Giulietta – those who fear the malfettos (aka: gifted people after the fever left them with powers.  Those with the strongest powers are the Elites).  This sequel immediately keeps the plot moving and character’s personalities grow.  I may just prefer the sequel to the debut, something that I haven’t done since Catching Fire from the The Hunger Games series.

Raffaele Laurent Bessette is a new leader of the Dagger Society and a former consort, and former confidant to Prince Enzo – an Elite himself who was killed by Teren, (the self hating Elite who works and loves Queen Giulietta, the sister of Enzo) —- a very connected group of characters for sure.  While Raffaele is taken under a new Queen’s charge he struggles with the loss of Enzo.  Maeve, the Malfetto Queen and ally to Enzo with her vengeance and violent tendencies, has recently risen to power and has no problems using Raffaele as a tool, even if it means his death.  She fights and has a ferocious white tiger and I keep thinking of Lady MacBeth, yep – she’s sort of that frightening as a newly crowned young Queen.  Her power is one of the darkest.

Lots of secrets and trickery, but a fast moving plot and unlike Six of Crows, which has similarities, this one is easier to follow.  Maybe it’s just that  we’re following 3 groups instead of 6 backstories, but it flows better.  And as far as sequels go, it keeps you reading and I almost want to reread it.

Another side of the plot’s maturity deals with love, the disappointment with it (not in a teenage sappy love story).  It covers the gut wrenching loss of a confidant, the cruelty given by a parent, and true abandonment.  Not to mention our characters have to choose between friends, choose who suffers pain (even death), and who to let go.  Adelina certainly comes to understand how her ideal of love has changed.

“I’m suddenly angry.  Why must I lose everything that I care for? Why is love such a weakness? I wish, for an instant, that I didn’t need such a thing.  I can win the same things in my life with fear, with power.  What is the point of searching for love, when love is nothing but an illusion?”

I think what really makes this book stand out is the darkness that comes through for many of the characters, Adelina mostly who struggles with a desire of revenge and power, but also of the prejudice towards the malfettos.  Eventually her drive for power, and the whispers in her head overtake her initial goal of justice and it’s a glorious spiral out of control.  One that is very Shakespearean or Game of Thrones like.  Not a typical depth found in Young Adult Literature and one Marie Lu covers so well.  You will not put this book down for the last half, I promise.

Sadly, I must now wait for the third book, but at least we’re already into 2016 right?   I love this series and recommend it to male and female students and also to adults.  It does not disappoint in action, plot, creativity, and characters.

Six of Crows -Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy, Female Leads, Young Readers

Continuing the YA trend of teens with special powers comes Six of Crows, a recently published book that I am reading within a month of being published and hope I’m ahead of the popularity – I predict it to become another YA popular book.

Chapters alternate between characters who hide their powers, are taken advantage of for their powers, and characters who are fighting for survival and those who have secret pasts in which they are trying to forget.  In other words —– exciting!  We have narration of male and female characters, but all are strong in mental ability or physical strength and in the first 10 chapters I just kept wanting them to get together already and become a force of rebels with superpowers like X-men.

I had to wait…… and wait.   Disappointingly long for any real action to get going. (Did I mention the wait?)

Kaz is sort of a gang ruler of misfits, thugs, and survivalists.  It’s a time where groups clash, powerful people are taken and locked away, and politics decide who survives.  As he gets together a group in a sort of Oceans 11 coming together to pull of a heist, readers slowly learn more of each of the six and of the heist.  It’s good enough with some action, but not near as much as I expected.  I kept thinking it would build.

Inej is a strong, confident, female – a loner for sure.  Jesper

Wylan is the out of place character, later to find out his sole purpose is to be a hostage against his powerful father…. until his power saves the crew.

Nina is respected and feared, and both quick and as silent as a cat.

Matthias is their captured hostage with a past with Nina, one in which both of them wish to alternate between loving and killing the other.

Trying to keep it all straight – me too. Finally around page 150 I was enjoying it.  Still, I couldn’t make myself finish it at this time.  Maybe later….. other people seem to like it so maybe I was just interrupted too often with this book and holidays got in the way – but I couldn’t force myself to finish it.  There were good parts so I was hopeful, but I’ve decided to let this one go.

 

 

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston

Uncategorized

frozen

In the future, the Earth is a frozen wasteland.  New Vegas still runs on casinos and crime, but is covered in ice.  Power is no longer held by politicians and government, but by criminals and underground markets.  Natasha (Nat) hides her power for fear of persecution like all the others who are marked with special abilities.  She must rely on others to flee New Vegas she comes across a team, the Runners, willing to smuggle her out – at a cost.

Wes, the team’s leader, doesn’t know that Nat is stronger and smarter than just a basic blackjack dealer when he agrees to take this job.  He is out of heat credits and running low on food and has his team to think of so once again he takes the job of as a Runner and tries to find the mysterious Blue.  Nat was given a necklace that seems to be the key to the Blue – both an oasis for those with special powers and also an environmental oasis away from the frozen land.  As the crew begins their journey, Nat’s secret is exposed causing division among Wes’ group.  Soon old members are gone and new ones join the ship.  With the addition of a woman with supernatural powers and a homosexual little person couple the crew is a bunch of misfits unlike the trained soldiers Wes is used to dealing with.

Wes’ past continues to haunt him both with internal guilt he can never let go and in everyday life as he runs into military officials and other seamen breaking laws.  Nat’s search for an oasis and Wes’ struggle with survival soon brings them together when Nat realizes their pasts are intertwined. Soon the slavers get a hold of the newly formed crew and though they are separated, our characters remain strong.

As the climax begins we learn Nat is much more powerful than even she knew.  We learn the answer to what the voice is in her head and how she has been able to survive extreme circumstances.  Though she finds answers to why she was used as a weapon in her past, the realization brings more questions about her future.


I think the authors set up a good premise for the second book, but I’m doubtful I will continue with this series.  The action did increase with the battles against the slave ships and the realization of Nat’s powers, but it’s not enough to keep me reading the second installment….. maybe.  Some quotes I find are building up Nat’s strength ….and I always like a Kick-Awesome YA female character.

Heart of Dread on Tumbler

Still, for readers who like fantasy and those especially who like adventures at sea it could be a good series.  Not a lot of romance in this one even though it’s a plot point so it’s (so far) safe for the younger YA readers – though the types of torture are a bit intense and the Flesh Markets are dark. I also give props for sneaking in the homosexual couple to a YA book.


Series continuation with Stolen and Golden.