Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, rape/sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, slavery.


27774758Official Blurb: 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 Take: 5/5 Stars

There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.

~ Sabaa Tahir

I am late to this party, I know. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES has been on my TBR for so long that the book I own still has the above cover. It was bringing me actual shame to pass by it on my shelf, but I was also daunted because my days have been busy lately and it seemed so… large. But I finally decided to tackle it and WOW.

In some previous blog posts, I talked about a few of my automatic five star rules. I said if a book makes me cry it gets an automatic five-star review. I also said if a book makes me want to create it gets an automatic five-star review. Now, I introduce you to rule number three: the book that makes me stay up past my bedtime to binge read. Because despite the fact that An Ember in the Ashes initially daunted me with its size, I read it in one sitting, staying up well past my bedtime to finish it.

Dynamic. That’s the word that kept running through my mind as I raced through this book. It’s dynamic. This book moves. I could barely wait to get to the end of each page, desperate to turn another, to follow these characters, to know more about them. When we talk about a character-driven story, we should certainly talk about An Ember in the Ashes. The two main characters of this book push it forward in a fast-paced whirl of a song. And I loved every single second of it.

What seemed daunting at first didn’t turn out to be in the least. It was a quick read, if only because I became lost in it. It took me to a place where time no longer mattered. A brilliant story crafted by a brilliant writer. My only regret is that it took me so long to jump on this train!

Tell me about a hyped book that lived up to its hype!

But Links:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Graceling

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, child molestation, incest.


3236307Official Blurb: Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Awards: Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, winner of the SIBA Book Award/YA, Indies Choice Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2008, 2008 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Booklist’s 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2009 Amelia Bloomer List, BCCB 2009 Blue Ribbon List

My Take: 5/5 Stars

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? ~ Kristin Cashore

GRACELING, Kristin Cashore’s 2008 debut novel has been on my to be read list for about three years. Maybe more. Allowing it to linger there for so long turned out to be a mistake. I berated myself almost the entire read for taking so long to actually read this book. I couldn’t put it down.

This book did young adult fantasy right. The main character was strong and well-rounded, someone you could connect with and root for right away. The story was well-crafted and high-paced, a real page turner. The romance (because if you know me, I like my fantasy with a heavy dose of romance) was the best I’ve read since Kaz and Inez (yes, technically this came first but I didn’t get there first). But I think the thing that blew me away the most was how revolutionary this book was for its time.

Graceling debuted in 2008. To some people that might not seem that long ago, but in terms of publishing and where publishing has come in the past decade, it’s AGES ago. Honestly, the feminism in the book smacks of 2019, not 2008. I mean here we have a character who is in her late teens who says, with certainty, that she does not want to get married or have children, and she is never convinced out of it. I swear, the entire book I kept waiting for that moment when she would cede this decision, or hedge. I waited for the collapse I was certain was coming.

When it didn’t? I seriously almost whooped with joy. We made it through an entire book from a decade ago without the main (female) character ever renouncing her desire to not get married and not have children. For teens today, that may not seem revolutionary, but in 2008? It sort of was. Even more so that the love interest was 100% okay with that decision and never once questioned it. I mean… wow.

My only regret is that I loved it so much I finished it in a day. Wait, I take that back, I have two regrets: not reading it sooner, then reading it too fast. Still, if you haven’t read it and are worried you’ll be disappointed because it’s “old,” don’t worry. You’ll love it.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Audible

<a href="http://Graceling – Kristin Cashore“>iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Question: What’s the last book you had on your TBR for ages then read it and was like, “Why did this take me so long to get to?” Because honestly, I want it on MY TBR 🙂

❤ Aimee

Bookstagram

Hey guys!

I have no regularly scheduled Thursday post about my writing musings, because I’m working on something for next week about allllll the writing rules I break. But I didn’t want to leave you hanging, so I’m going to encourage you to follow me on Instagram @writingwaimee

Rainbow Books IG
Today we’re going to talk about my Bookstagram because the post I was going to post isn’t finished because adulting is hard and time management is hard and books are pretty.

On Tuesdays, I do abbreviated reviews of what I post here on the blog with a Bookstagram photo of whatever book I’ve reviewing (obviously). Those are posted under the hashtag #FiveStarOnlyReviews.

Born a Crime IG
Remember the Five Star Review I did last week for Born a Crime about how I made a fool of myself at the gym? Yep, there’s a #Bookstagram for that, too!

On Saturdays, I do #ShowYouSaturday where I show you my current read and encourage you to play along by taking a photo of YOUR current read and posting it under the hashtag for all to admire 😉

The Hazel Wood IG
Last Saturday I was reading (and not super feeling) The Hazel Wood. (It got better, though!) Anyway, everyone here knows my policy about not bashing books, but sometimes I’ll talk on IG about a current read I’m meh about. Not to bash, just to be like, “Hey, we all have different tastes, and that’s cool because humanity is a neat thing right?”

Anyway, come join in on the fun, get to see my more positive (and more abbreviated side), and of course, gush with me about books.

The Belles Maps IG
Like these. I will gush about these a lot. If you haven’t read them you should. Really. Right now. Get it them on your TBR.

Oh, and you should also join me because #bookspirals or #booktowers or #bookstacks I’m not really sure what the hashtag is to be honest (I’m still learning and trying to get better), but I made my first one, and I need you all to be amazed.

Book Spiral IG
See! I made one! A book spiral thing. There are others on #bookstagram that are way more impressive if you follow the hashtag, but it took me awhile to even figure out the shape, so here we are. Also, Ash Princess was very good.

That’s all for now! Next week I hope to have the rule-breaking post ready for you. In the meantime, pop over to Instagram (if it’s working again, please say it is) and say hi!

❤ Always,

Aimee

P.s. I just posted a photo of my dog who is adorable, with some books, so just saying.

Diversity Check In

One of my goals for this year was to read 24 books, but more importantly, to read diversely.

*Note: When I mean diversely throughout this post, I mean diverse characters written by diverse authors (e.g. own voices).*

Good news! I am upping that goal to 40 books for the year based on my current rate of reads. But my most important endeavor is still to read diversely.

Brief anecdote about being thirty. I was a teenager in the 2000s. Young adult literature existed then (I’ve heard other writers my age try to say it didn’t), but it wasn’t like it is now. It was sparser, for one, and mostly contemporary. There wasn’t a lot of fantasy to be had. There was almost no fantasy with female main characters save Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey (one of these days I’m going to try one of those book spirals with all the Mercedes Lackey books I own, and you’ll see how desperate I was for this kind of writing), and those books are… well, they’re quite white. I didn’t have Twitter. Goodreads didn’t even come out until I was a freshman in college. Social Media wasn’t really a thing yet. I mean, Facebook wasn’t available to anyone except for college students and MySpace was more about glitter backgrounds and bands. I found books I might like the “good old fashioned way” — by asking a bookseller or librarian, or by sitting on the floor of Borders (we still had those) and reading a ton of blurbs. When I found something I liked, I stuck with that author (see: my someday Mercedes Lackey spiral).

Reading diversely wasn’t something anyone talked about like people do now. That doesn’t excuse me not doing it. It was possible. It wasn’t like authors of color didn’t exist. I could have found them, but I didn’t.

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I’m trying to rectify that now. And it’s easier these days, thanks to social media in part, but mostly thanks to authors of color leading the push for their rightfully deserved and earned spots at the table. It’s thanks to initiatives like We Need Diverse Books. And it’s thanks to a new generation of readers who are hungry for newer and better stories than the ones that came before.

That doesn’t mean I can be lazy about reading diversely, though. Publishing is still light years behind when it comes to reflecting America (and note that I am specifically talking about traditional publishing in America here; self-publishing is a whole different ballpark, and I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about the publishing situation in other countries). This is why I’ve decided that every so often, here on the blog, I’m going to do a quick diversity check in with regard to my reading. I want to hold myself publicly accountable for being a better reader. Because being a better reader means being a better writer. And reading diversely means being a better a human, in all honesty.

So without further ado, here’s my very first diversity check-in.

Books Read in 2019: 8

Books by women authors: 6

Books by POC authors: 3 (Breakdown: 2 Black Authors and 1 Asian Author)

Books by LGBTQIA authors: 3 (Note: Not all of these numbers may be accurate as some of these authors may choose to keep their personal lives out of the public sphere which I am 100% okay with)

Books by authors with disabilities: 1

So not bad! But as soon as I wrote this the first thing I realized: I haven’t read a single book this year by an author who identifies as non-Christian. Granted, some of these were fantasies exploring religions that are not Christian or Christian coded so some of these authors may identify as non-Christian, I don’t know, but I definitely cannot put my finger on it for certain. As always, room to improve. Anyone have any recommendations for books by non-Christian authors? YA fantasy is always a plus! Or a great memoir?

❤ Always,

Aimee

 

Book Review: Legendary

Author’s Note: Hey! Look at me! Posting another review! I’ve had some new subscribers, so for any of you who are new here, welcome to my 5 Star Reviews. Here, you’ll only find books I LOVED. Want to know why? See the first 5 Star Review post here. Interested in learning more about my books? You can read their blurbs here and get the prologues here. Want to know what I’m reading/have read that didn’t make an appearance here, or what is next on my to-read list? Follow me on Instagram at: writingwaimee. And now, with all the business out of the way, let’s get on to this week’s 5 Star Review.

legendaryOfficial Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more―and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about―maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

My Take: 6/5 Stars

“Only those who persevere can find their true ending.” ~ Stephanie Garber

When I read Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, Caraval, I thought it wasn’t possible to like a book (besides my beloved Crooked Kingdom) anymore. LEGENDARY proved me wrong, which is why you will notice it has received a whopping 6 out of 5 stars on my rating index. Legendary is truly legendary. It breaks its own mold. The second book in the Caraval trilogy, Legendary takes all the good bits of Caraval and cranks them up a notch. It’s faster, bigger, bolder, darker, richer.

To accomplish this, Garber gives us a new lens by which to view this dark, dangerous “game.” She gives us Tella — the daring younger sister of Caraval’s protagonist, Scarlett. Tella was made for Legendary. She is not Scarlett cranked up a notch, but in many ways, is the opposite side of a perfect coin. She is all edges and distrust and brash, sometimes reckless bravery. But like Scarlett before her, Tella grows throughout the novel. And like Caraval, watching this growth happen throughout Legendary is equally as fulfilling as watching the game of Caraval unfold.

But this time… it’s much less of a game. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, the winner is not so clear.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes 

Barnes & Noble

Who else is excited for Finale?! Because I know I am! Preorder it here.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

❤ Aimee

 

 

Book Review: Caraval

Author’s Note: Want to see my other 2018 and 2019 reads that maybe didn’t (or haven’t yet) made my 5 Star Review? Head over to my Instagram at: writingwaimee plus get bonus photos of my pets (of which there are many) and sometimes the random stuff I’m baking. Now, onto this week’s 5 Star Review.

caravalOfficial Blurb:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

My Take:

5/5 Stars

“Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost” ~ Stephanie Garber

Welcome, welcome to Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, CARAVAL. And what a debut it is. Fast-paced and riveting, the world Stephanie Garber creates in this first novel of her career and first novel of the Caraval series drags you in and has you begging for more by the end. I read it in one sitting. At times, I found my heart pounding. There were twists I expected, and others I did not. They were all handled with the same intensity, the same breathless waiting. I couldn’t make my eyes move fast enough. I just wanted to get to that place where I found out if what I thought was going to happen was actually going to happen or if Garber was going to swerve in another direction all together. The plot was as theatrical as the world the author created. It was so elegantly crafted I could almost swear Legend himself had made it.

And Scarlett. Oh, Scarlett. Scarlett is not like the main characters I’m used to seeing in this genre. She is unsure, shy, exceedingly cautious. Scarlett is responsible and serious, much like me. Scarlett is not a sword-wielding badass of a heroine (don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies, too), but is of a softer sort. But Scarlett is earnest and smart and she grows. Watching her grow was one of my favorite parts of the novel (if you can say anything is your favorite in a novel where everything is simply exceptional).

So hurry, hurry, one and all. Get yourself to Caraval.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Anyone else read this and want to gush with me? Want to shout about how much you didn’t like my gushing? Go ahead and leave it in the comments.

❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

Author’s Note: I know! You thought I’d never be back, right? Well, here I am, ready to report on another 5 Star Review! I’m hoping to be able to revive this blog and also my IG over the coming months, so if you want to follow the progress there, my handle is writingwaimee. Now, onward!

darkest part of forestOfficial Blurb: 

In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives….

Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.
Until one day, he does….
As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
“The only way to end grief was to go through it.” ~ Holly Black
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, published in 2016 and recommended to me in 2018, was a fast-paced, emotionally charged page turner. The book blends the real and the fantastical in a way that, if not done correctly, would be a bumpy, jarring ride. Fortunately, Holly Black does it right. So right it makes you wonder if there could be a fairyland under that mound of dirt in the back yard your parents have always told you is a sand mound septic system. Maybe it is, or maybe the King of the Fairy Court is down there, with his entourage of sharp-toothed, winged, and antlered fair folk.
The Darkest Part of the Forest transports the reader to the small town of Fairfold, which might be somewhere in my native state of Pennsylvania, as Philadelphia is mentioned a few times throughout the novel. But Fairfold is far from an ordinary Philadelphia suburb. And yet… in some ways, it is completely ordinary. In fact, this ordinariness is one of the things I admired most about Black’s novel. Black is unabashed and unafraid in her portrayal of teenage life. Her characters were authentic in their youth. They were all the things I remember being: emotional and spontaneous; a little wild; a little reckless; unsure; yet often confident in a way you can only be in your teenage years. (If a teen who has read it reads this review and disagrees, I 100% differ to you, however).
I also loved the fact that this book is a standalone. We don’t really see enough of that in young adult fantasy. So all in all, The Darkest Part of the Forest was a quick read that left me feeling all the feels. A book I could shut with a satisfied little sigh and settle on the shelf. No cliffhanger, no desperate wait for the next book, simply a happy memory that also looks lovely in my collection.
Buy Links:
Has anyone else read this beauty? What were YOUR thoughts?
❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Belles

Author’s Note: Hi all! I know I haven’t been around a lot, life has been extremely hectic. However, I do have a few posts I’ve been chewing over I hope to get to soon, about agency (eek!) and failure (double eek!). In the meantime, I’ve decided that in an effort to support other authors, I’m going to start doing BOOK REVIEWS! Woo! They’ll be sporadic as I intend to ONLY review those books I think deserving of five stars. Why? Well, because: (1) I want to support other authors; but (2) I like to keep it honest here, and I don’t five star like every single book I read; but also (3) I’m also an author who empathizes with anything less than five stars. So! I bring you my five-star only book reviews. To begin, I offer a review of Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Belles, which was my most anticipated read of the year and which definitely did not disappoint. Without further ado, here we go!

23197837Official Blurb: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

27783510_10105455140147238_344651365_nMy Take:

5/5 Stars.

THE BELLES, Clayton’s first high fantasy novel, is a stunning take on the concept of beauty in society. THE BELLES transports the reader to the world of Orléans, a place in which beauty is bought and bartered for and those with the power to give the people what they so desire, The Belles, are revered.

Clayton’s prose is warm and lush. It drips and flows, so I want to drink in every word. Beauty is reflected in every aspect of the piece, but so is the price that must be paid to obtain “perfection.”

In addition to the take on beauty that permeates the page, Clayton’s depiction of female relationships was something that had me thinking for hours after I left Orléans behind. Her characters were relatable but not perfect. Never perfect. Camellia Beauregard (“Camille”), the story’s protagonist, makes decisions I cringed at, not because I judged her, but because her choices forced me to examine myself. Put in Camille’s shoes, I might have done some of the same things, and Clayton’s intricate use of language allowed me to make that connection both instantly and deeply, leading to a greater appreciation of Camille’s situation and the world of Orléans.

In short, I highly recommend picking up a copy, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Buy Links (click me and buy Dhonielle’s book because it’s so good, and I want everyone to read it and love it):

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

That’s all for now! Hope everyone is doing well!

❤ Aimee

 

New Review of #TheBloodMage

Hi all!

Sorry I haven’t been around! If you’ve read my last two posts you’ll know I’m still struggling with mental health issues as well as trying to find a proper work/life balance. I think I’m getting my head back in the game slowly but surely and hope to come back to regular posts soon!

Because of everything going on I unfortunately didn’t get a newsletter out this month, but the next one will be sure to be action-packed! At least I hope 🙂 If you’d like to sign up  you can do so here.

In the meantime, check out this new review of The Blood Mage by My Life, Stolen by Books.

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The Wheel Mages is an Award Winner

I’m back! I apologize for the delay in blogging, but I’ve had a whirlwind end of July/beginning of August! I attended the Romance Writers of America Nationals where The Wheel Mages was up for an award through the Young Adult Romance Writers of America chapter (YARWA), and The King’s Blade, which you can read more about here, was submitted to Pitch Wars for consideration, so it’s been a busy few weeks!

But I have news!

The Wheel Mages, my debut high fantasy novel, won third place for YARWA’s Athena Award for Excellence in New Adult Fiction! I’m so humbled to have been part of the competition. And for any romance fans out there, I would definitely recommend the RWA’s Nationals! I didn’t get to stay for the full conference because I had Pitch Wars things to do and the budget didn’t really allow for it, but it looked like a heck of a good time if romance is your jam!

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So now that The King’s Blade has been submitted to Pitch Wars, I have three full weeks with no writing deadlines whatsoever, and I’m sort of at a loss of what to do with myself! Since this journey began in January of last year, I’ve always had something on my plate. My biggest goal is to use this time to relax, reboot, and refresh (and catch up on my ridiculously large TBR).

Anyone have any reads they’d recommend?