King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Description:

Published: February 7, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Review –

It’s been almost a year since I read the second book in the Red Queen series so I was afraid I’d have trouble getting back into the story, but it was amazingly simple to pick up the storyline.

The story starts with Mare as Maven’s prisoner, but gets wonderfully complicated as it delves into their twisted relationship. It’s all just SO WELL DONE. Maven’s mother literally molded his mind throughout his life to the point where he’s no longer sure which parts are his own. She even turned his love for Mare into an obsession and erased the love he had for his brother, Cal. And there’s still a small part of Mare that cares about Maven (or is at least empathetic) even though she wants to kill him.

The story never excuses Maven’s actions, by the way.The author is very clear that this is not a relationship that will ever be good (or happen), but  I still LOVE how complicated everything is between them. Stories with black & white characters or shallow villains get old for me really fast because it’s unbelievable. Maven’s character totally worked.

Mare is  totally broken and starts to feel gratitude to Maven for the most basic acts of humanity. Watching her grapple with everything was actually one of my favorite parts. She somehow finds the strength to fight again and is a totally relatable character you WANT to support. All of her thoughts and actions make sense and she has so much growth over the course of the story.

To make a long story short, Mare is finally able to be rescued and a huge battle ensues between the Reds and the Silvers, with both sides having many casualties. “The Lightening Girl” is able to harness her gift and she a Cal, together work for the good. BUT, when push comes to shove and a kingship is offered to Cal, he takes it, knowing it goes against everything Mare believes in. So after barely getting back together, they break up. A bit after that, the book ends, and I CANNOT wait until next year for the fourth book in the series.  Write faster, Victoria Aveyard!!!!!

 

 

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The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 29, 2016

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

Review –

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I love how the author, Marie Rutkoski, starts off the final book exactly where the second one ended. No wasted time rehashing the past happenings. It’s like READY, SET GO!

As with the  other two books in the trilogy, I had the audio version and the narrator, Justine Eyre, does a magnificent job with the voices of all the characters and makes it a very pleasant listening event.

Besides the descriptions of the battles of  war, the author, gave us more in depth development of several secondary characters which made the book richer and gave us a better insight into their actions.

I am fiercely in love with all things Kestrel and Arin. Their relationship struggle in the novel was so real. Finally a YA book where it’s not the fantasy world keeping them apart, but actual real relationship bumps that plagues us all: break down of communication, acknowledgements of individual changes and growth, trust issues, accepting faults along with strengths, understanding personal struggles, guilt of hurting the one you love the most, forgiveness, and above all, mutual respect.

Our protagonists, Kestrel and Arin, experience a lot of growth as previous choices finally reach shocking, climatic consequences, many of which I was unsure how they’d move past. I definitely didn’t expect the changes Kestrel underwent; she is both the same and vastly different, exploring physical and mental strength of female characters.

THE WINNER’S TRILOGY is one of my favorites. I love the way the whole series comes  together as a whole and this last installment is fantastic and I’m really satisfied with how everything came about.

I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Five stars *****

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Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Description:

Published: February 9, 2016

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Review –

This book takes up exactly where the first book left off (I love it when authors do that) and  even though it has been a year since I read the Red Queen, I had no trouble falling back into the story line.

There is so much action, heartache,heartbreak,angst and death in this installment of the series I don’t know where to start. BUT, I’ll try.

Mare has found her brother, Shade, a new blood, like herself, whom she thought was dead and he joins with her and others to find other new bloods to recruit to fight Maven before Maven can find them and kill them or worse be manipulated by the queen.

Mare spends the majority of the book being suspicious of everyone – she’s been betrayed far too many times already in her 17 years – and her suspicion carries over to the reader as well. I spent most of the book with absolutely no idea of who was trustworthy and to be honest, I still am not 100% sure, especially with the characters I want to trust most.

There was also a slew of new characters come into play in this book and some we get to  know while others  we’re merely told how they came to the group after the simple recruitment of the first Newblood, Nix. Suddenly we have around 10-12 new characters stirred into the mix, with no idea how they got there or why we should care about them. Character development for what could have been interesting side characters was instead merely highlighted 

There is sadness, loss, tragedy, and sacrifice and the ending is a definite cliffhanger, but I loved it and now have to wait until February 2017 for the third book, King’s Cage to be released. Can’t wait!!!

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Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die #3) by Danielle Paige

Book Description:

Published: March 15, 2016

Once upon a time, there was a girl from Kansas named Dorothy.

You might know her as the Girl Who Rode the Cyclone. She ended up in Oz, where she became friends with the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. But the temptation of magic was too much for her. She let it change her. Her friends became twisted versions of their former selves.

The magical land of Oz is now a dark and menacing place.

My name is Amy Gumm. Tornadoes must have a thing about girls from Kansas, because I got swept away on one too. I also landed in Oz, where Good is Wicked, Wicked is Good, and the Wicked Witches clued me in to my true calling:

Assassin.

The only way to stop Dorothy from destroying Oz—and Kansas—is to kill her. And I’m the only one who can do it.

But I failed. Others died for my mistakes. Because of me, the portal between the worlds has been opened and Kansas and Oz are both in danger. And if I don’t find a way to close it?

Dorothy will make sure I never get to go home again.

Review –

Amy Gumm had one mission after she got whisked from her trailer-park home in Kansas to Oz. To kill Dorothy Gale, who has stolen Oz’s magic and is turning the place dead and dark.
Amy failed.
And now she and the four Witches of Oz are stuck. In Kansas.
You see, things are brewing – bad bad things. Oz and Kansas are linked together with magic – and Dorothy wants to blow both of them off the map.
Can Amy help the Wicked Witches (including the boy she loves, Nox, who has lied to her and can never be hers) to stop Dorothy from destroying both places? Preferably without letting Oz’s magic turn her as twisted as Dorothy – without letting herself become the monster she’s so afraid to be…?

I really do love the other characters in this book – but I loved seeing some familiar old faces from Kansas, loved the Wicked Witches and Lulu the monkey queen…
And then there are our Big Bads. Dorothy is just the most fascinating character and I loved that we go to understand her more in this book. Every scene she’s in is brilliant – she’s such a perfect villain; sickly sweet on the surface and rotten to the core, but with the kind of background that makes you almost empathise with her. 

If you haven’t read this series, I just can’t recommend it enough. It is the ultimate escape with the most fantastic world building and one of the coolest classical twists ever written. Which, for a fairy-tale-twist lover like myself, is sayin’ something. Yellow Brick War kept me hooked from the word go and has left me absolutely desperate for more.

Can’t wait for Book Four !

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The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 4, 2014

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Review –

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I generally, as a rule, don’t read books with story lines in kingdoms or empires past, present, or future.  Something about them are off-putting. Maybe it the wars that are always a part of the story. Of course, there are exceptions, like the Selection series by Kiera Cass’s   which was fantastic but I think the draw for me was that it was mostly a love story and I’m sure there are others, but they escape me now.

The Winner’s Curse is also a love story with war playing a very important part but it stays in the background for the most part. Kestrel is a General’s daughter who has only know the wealthy way of life because she was only seven when the Valorians conquered the Herran peninsula and enslaved its people. She leads a comfortable, even pampered life in the Herrani capital. Her real love is music, but with her eighteenth birthday approaching, she will soon be forced to choose between enlisting in the army or marrying.  In the first chapter of the novel, Kestrel finds herself purchasing a young male Herrani slave named Arin, who comes advertised as a blacksmith as well as a singer of some talent… little does she know that the auctioneer has expectations of placing Arin in the General’s household as a spy.

And Arin, it turns out, isn’t an ordinary slave. A son of a good family before the Valorians conquered the Herrani, he has plans of his own to get back at the foreign oppressors. Which leads to complicated places for both Kestrel and Arin when they find themselves falling in love, or at least deep adolescent lust, with each other.

I won’t go into too much detail, so as not to spoil it, but suffice it to say that things do not go well for their budding romance and there is a huge cliffhanger at the end. I have already finished book two and will report on it in the next couple of days.

Fantastic Read.

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Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

Book Description:

Published: April 9, 2013

Lisa Scottoline’s Don’t Go introduces us to Dr. Mike Scanlon, an army doctor called to serve in Afghanistan, who is acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will bring his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but a healer.

However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home in the suburbs, in an apparently freak household accident. Devastated, he returns home to bury her, only to discover that the life he left behind has fallen apart. He’s a stranger to his baby girl, and his medical practice has downsized in his absence. Worse, he learns a shocking secret that sends him into a downward spiral.

Grief-stricken, Mike makes decisions upon returning to Afghanistan which will change his life forever. It’s not until he comes home for good that he grasps the gravity of his actions, and realizes he must fight the most important battle of his life, to reclaim his life and his daughter. Along the way, he discovers that everything is not as it seems, and he learns ugly truths about those he loves the most, as well as the true meaning of heroism.

Review –

Although I rated this book four out of five stars, the narrator wasn’t the best and that irks me. A narrator is so important to the way an audio book is perceived and it’s like nails on a chalkboard if the narration isn’t done correctly, at least to me.

I enjoyed the storyline but thought that some of the characters seemed wishy-washy and flat.  I also thought that the story was predictable in parts and  so I would skip ahead a minute or two to get passed them.

I like Lisa Scottoline and her writing style but I think she needs to stick to the Rosato & Di Nunzio  series because that’s where she’s excels.

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The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige

Book Description:

Published: March 31, 2015

To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die…

But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?

Review –

The theme of this book is much dark than Dorothy Must Die and  Amy faces a constant battle between the wicked and the good, which we saw in book one is such a thin line.  Amy starts growing fonder and fonder of the dark magic that gave her so much power.Once after using the dark magic she actually changes into a hideous monster.

In this second book in the series, Danielle Paige has expanded to cast of characters and moved beyond those we may be familiar with. We meet LuLu, the monkey queen with a past close to the crown, Bright, a beautiful but cowardly young man and Polychrome, the rainbow fairy who appears to have a great deal more going on beneath the surface. Of course our old favorites reappear and we get to see a developing relationship between Amy and Nox. Amy experiences a great deal of growth within this novel as she learns more and more about the magic of Oz and balances the line between good and wicked. She is not your simpering, goody-two shoes character who whines about her lot in life and she never hesitates to do the dirty work – even when that involves beheadings!

We follow Amy and Ozma through several new, enchanting lands and get a glimpse of what Oz could have been without the influence of Dorothy and Glinda. These worlds are truly magical and I only wish the book had been longer so that we could spend more time in these incredible places. We also get to see a twisted, macabre version of the Emerald City and discover that the liberation of Oz has become even more complicated than we had previously thought. In the end, we are left on a cliffhanger so of course I’ll be reading the next in this magical series.

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Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Description:

Published: February 10, 2015

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard–a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Review –
Five stars *****
Once I started listening to this book I had a VERY hard time thinking about other things I should be doing like housework,laundry,running errands etc. Instead I listened and listened some more. It is that good!
I’ve read some reviews that says this story is a re-hash of others like Red Rising, Graceling, and the Selection and I say WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT? Although it may lean that way a bit it has its own shining stars in the characters of Mare, Princes Cal(heir to the throne) and his younger brother, Maven.
Mare is seventeen and rather a tomboy who is a very successful pickpocket just waiting to be conscripted to the Army because she doesn’t have a real job. She chances upon Cal one night, who is dressed in dirty clothes and looks like another other RED, so she doesn’t know his true identity. He gets her a job in the Palace and through no fault of her own falls from a balcony and her fear of falling to her death activates her electrifying ability and the King decides to use her to his courts advantage. He makes up a back story  for her of being a long-lost SILVER princess and she becomes engaged to Maven.
She is put in a course study to learn all the things a princess should know and how to control her ability. Maven becomes her close friend and conspirator in trying to make a change in the way the court see SILVERS and REDS. She wants equality for everyone.
While her eyes roam to Cal, she knows he is gung-ho SILVER and is working toward keeping the status quo.
Mare, Maven, Farley and others plan to peacefully overthrow the King but things don’t go as planned and innocent people are killed and she discovers that Maven has been lying about his allegiance all along.
Mare and Cal are sentenced to death in the Bowl of Bones and through they win with the help of her abilities and are rescued by Farley and the underground train all is not well. Cal is their prisoner and feels betrayed by Mare. While on the train Mare discovers that the brother she thought had been executed is alive and he is like her, RED with SILVER abilities that ate stronger than regular SILVERS. 
Together they vow to find the others who are like them and bring down the SILVER court for the good of the REDS,
When Mare discovered that Maven had betrayed her and Cal learned that she had betrayed him I cried (of course I did) because it was a heart wrenching scene especially between Cal and Mare because they now had feelings for each other and had shared a kiss.
I can’t wait for the sequel!!!!!!!
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Divided We Fall (Divided We Fall Book 1) by Trent Reedy

Book Description:

Published: January 28, 2014

Danny Wright never thought he’d be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the Idaho governor’s orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission … but then Danny’s gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

The president wants the soldiers arrested. The governor swears to protect them. And as tensions build on both sides, the conflict slowly escalates toward the unthinkable: a second American civil war.

With political questions that are popular in American culture yet rare in YA fiction, and a provocative plot that could far too easily become real, DIVIDED WE FALL is Trent Reedy’s very timely YA debut.

Review –

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started listening to this book but the further into it I got the more i was hooked.  The narration was done by several people and that made the story really come alive.

The premise of Divided We Fall is frightening because it could all to well happen in our life time. I’m not one to spout political views but all you have to do is listen to the news and the talking heads to see that what’s happening in our country today would have been unthinkable even ten years ago.  Never say Never!

The main character, Danny Wright, is 17 and has enlisted with the Idaho National Guard, partly because his father died in the war. He has completed summer training, and until he graduates, his commitment will be minimal. Then the governor of Idaho gets into a squabble about sovereign rights with the president.

Danny’s unit is called up to help contain  a riot in Boise; when a rock hits him, he accidentally shoots a protester.  As each side’s position hardens, Danny is caught in the middle, wanted by the feds, and protected by the state. As the situation spirals out of control, Danny’s choices become narrow and inevitable.  Danny tries to keep life normal with football, rodeo, his best friends and his devoted girlfriend.
At one point the Idaho border is closed and no one can enter. You leave but you can’t come back. Food and all things needed to sustain life in Idaho have been shut off and Danny’s mother is stuck in Washington state for a month, until he decided he has to go get her, All of his friends accompany him and they make it out of Idaho easily but coming back they were shot at by Washington troops and helicopter and Danny’s mother is killed.The ending comes shortly after that and was a complete surprise until I found out that there is a follow-up book that I will be listening to very soon. I rated this book five stars *****.
The author  does a very good job of presenting all sides’ opinions, especially through the tweets and news reports that end chapters. This has the dual advantage of giving readers an action-filled story that will also make them think. The ending came as a complete surprise until I found out that there is a follow-up book that I will be listening to very soon.
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Dragonfly In Amber (Outlander #2) By Diana Gabaldon

Book Description:

Published: November 2, 1993

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves….

Review –

Five stars *****. That about says it all.

As I listened to this, the second book in the Outlander Series, I found myself often holding my breath as I traveled along with Claire and Jamie on their adventures and misfortunes in England, France and Scotland. I laughed and cried and at the end I was left with my mouth agape and a feeling of awe and wonder filling me.

Excellent series.

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