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BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh(Flame in the Mist, #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.” 

Holy guacamole. This was wonderful.

HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME THIS IS A SERIES AHHHHHH. I WAS NOT PREPARED….

Alright. I wasn’t that into the first 30-40%. It wasn’t bad at all, but I just wasn’t really connecting. Mariko is on the way to her betrothed (the prince) when she gets attacked by who she believes is the Black Clan. She manages to escape (as told by the synopsis), but she refuses to return home and tell of her survival until she can figure out who paid the Black Clan to kill her. So, she infiltrates their camp and attempts to gain their trust. 

Mariko has quite the aversion to men, being that men predominately rule in their society and women are left to please men. I totally get that, and Mariko was justified in feeling that way, but she does bring it up quite a lot. Almost too much, but whatever.

Anyway, about half way through, once we’re into the Black Clan hideout, things start to get interesting. And they just keep getting better and better. I literally could not put it down past the 70% mark. Like holy wowza… SO GOOD. It was non stop, action packed, with so many fun turns. AND THE END AHHHHH WHAT DO I DO NOW?!?!

I TOTALLY GUESSED THE TWIST TOO. And I don’t even care that I guessed it because it was so great. I was actually hoping I was right because just.. yes. So good. 

Some of the highlights for me were:

1. Japanese inspired culture. Lush and gorgeous.
2. Okami. And he the fact that he has long hair.
3. Topknots.
4. The scene where Mariko falls from the… cliff thing.
5. Gorgeous quotes, like the following…

“A blossom can split through a rock, given enough time.”

I did have a few small complaints – one being the magic system. It was really confusing and not really explained at all – no rules were mentioned and it seemed very random. I’m assuming this will be explained much more in the next book, but it was odd to me that it was so sporadic. 

The only other thing was the writing- not that it was bad. It just felt a bit dry and hard to follow at times. I felt the same way about Ahdieh’s other series too – ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’. Whatever, the story here is amazing.

All in all, I totally recommend this. I’d read it again in a heartbeat.

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee AhdiehFlame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

**ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review**

 At that, the Wolf started to laugh. It began softly, like the rumble of a drum. Then it rose to a steadying rain. It wasn’t a rich kind of laughter. Its sound didn’t fill Mariko’s ears with its honeyed resonance. But it was clear and deep, much like the color of his eyes.
And a part of her couldn’t help but think-were he another boy, in another time, in another place-Mariko would have liked to hear Okami’s laughter.
Would have enjoyed being the cause of it.

Renee Ahdieh stole a place in my heart long ago with Khalid and Shazi’s story. Their love enraptured me from the start, weaving deep into my soul with each passing page. Their love overcame so many obstacles, took leaps and bounds through story-telling and a deeper understanding of a curse that could not be controlled. And now, Renee has captured my heart again through Mariko’s perilous journey to infiltrate the deadly Black Clan not as a woman…but as a man. One of their own.

“Never doubt. Never fear. Never overthink.” Okami watched her as he spoke. As though he was searching for something beyond her. “That is the only way to stay alive.”

When I saw that this amazing author was coming out with a book that had components of Mulan-or hey, even just that this author was producing another masterpiece-I was ecstatic. Also, have you SEEN that cover? It’s just so pretty I can’t stand it. But with this lovely book I saw something that made my heart sink-it came out after my baby was supposed to be born. Luckily, Penguin was more than willing to help me out and get my copy to me early-But, as fate would have it, I also had my baby girl early. Sigh. I had 50% of FITM done when I went into labor and I figured I’d have no chance of finishing it, at that point. How sad is it that when I woke up in pain and just KNEW I was going to be having her that day, my first two thoughts were this:

A) ARE YOU SERIOUS-I can’t go see Beauty and the Beast tonight in IMAX ARGH

And

B) Omg my book. I’ll never finish my beautiful book that Penguin sent me

Priorities. Seriously.

But that just goes to show you how amazing this book was-After a couple weeks of figuring out my little girl’s schedule, I persevered and finished the rest in one afternoon-It’s just a totally unputdownable book.

So here I am, making time to write a review for a book that totally deserves it. With rich story-telling, deep, imaginative characters, and vivid world-building (at least to me), I couldn’t help but fall for each and every character…even those that were not so kind to our Mariko.

Each new day brought new struggles, causing loss of breath for every moment I thought she would be caught by the too-wise Okami (Aka The Wolf), by the antagonistic Ren. And yet…I also held my breath for different reasons.

 “You don’t believe your great love is out there, simply waiting to be found?”
“Do you?” Mariko pitched her voice low. Graveled with disbelief.
Ranmaru’s broad lips spread into an easy smile.” I believe the stars align so that souls can find one another. Whether they are meant to be souls in love or souls in life remains to be seen.”

Okami always knew Mariko was different, that something was off about her-Too soft, too green to be what ‘he’ claimed to be. So Okami was always watching, taunting, waiting for their newest ‘recruit’ to make a mistake. But as he gets closer to Mariko, he begins to feel protective, to almost like him/her…yet all the while Okami feels something is off-and he will find out what, no matter the cost.

Is it bad that all I wanted was for him to find out? To see that the boy he has been teaching and bestowing wisdom upon was actually a girl…a girl he could have feelings for? I held my breath at every twist and turn, just pining for her to make a mistake so I could see them kiss or SOMETHING.

I will admit that this part of the book did baffle me a bit. Just like in Mulan, I have to wonder how you can reconcile feelings for a gender swap, just like that (Meaning, in Mulan, he never knew she was a girl, then all of a sudden he did….and then she saves them all yadda yadda and he knows he loves her, in the end. Just…how?). He knew she was different…and yet he didn’t know to what extent. I won’t spoil anything, but this did give me pause…because I just can’t help but think about these things.

 It was a mistake. All of it. For as long as she’d known him, Mariko had despised the very idea of this boy.
But the truth of him?
The truth was not quite as simple. It was a silent entreaty, A wordless plea.
Don’t stop.

And because of my extreme love for these two people who had no idea they had major tension brewing between them, I forgot to mention the best part! This is most definitely an enemies-at-first-site deal at the beginning-a hate to (maybe) love thing. Mariko despises the lazy Okami, and he finds her to be a liar, an extra burden. It was comical and sweet and…ugh. I just love this book so much, CAN’T YOU TELL??

In order to hate, one must first love.

I’m truly sorry for those who like my reviews and, quite frankly, the publisher because this review is all over the place. But, hey, so is my brain-it might be for a while. I had to write something, though, or I’d have gone crazy knowing I didn’t do my part.

So, for those of you excited about this book…you should be. And for those on the fence? STOP. Don’t be. It’s an absolutely amazing story and this author knows what she’s doing. Don’t doubt her. Just sit, wait, and grab this book the minute it releases. I truly don’t see how this could disappoint…I can’t wait to read it again and again-it was a true beauty-I’m only sorry I had to read it in two parts, two weeks apart. And that my review isn’t what I normally would be able to write. Thank you again to Penguin for the opportunity to read and review this early.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

 

I love you, a thousand times over. And I will never apologize for it.

 

Ahhh…okay. So I almost feel like these are the hardest reviews to write. All I want to do is scream and shout and fangirl and cry and just go completely crazy with my love for this story.


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I mean….come on. You just finished the perfect book, you immediately want to:

shove the book down your friends’ throats Recommend it to all your friends and physically force them to read it
-Re-read it (Because all those heart-wrenching moments just weren’t enough the first time around….you just NEED those feels again but you want to focus on them)
-Buy the hardback (oh….that’s just me?? Whoops)

These are the basic Chelsea steps after finishing a wonderful new favorite. I can’t say I have the same emotional response that most sane people do (see above), but give me a freakin’ break. You just finished the most magical book and of course you want to gush about it mutually with your best friends. Of course I want those moments back, because no one flippin’ knows how long it will be before you get another chance to get these same feels again-and oh, duh, as if that second book would be out any time soon…no, they’d rather gut you and leave you hanging (haha) until you can’t breathe and ….where was I again? Right, anyway-I never wanted to leave this world and no one can make me-nah nah nah nah boo boo stick your head in doo doo (Thank Daniel Tosh for that lovely retort). And then here comes my truly psycho side-Why yes, if I love a book, I want to walk by my damn book shelf and see it displayed proudly. Never mind if I have already read it on my IPad-that’s inconsequential. I love it, so I need to display it to my friends, family, and loved ones alike. I love to read….sue me. (I’m like a peacock, you gotta let me fly!! –again, I’m not dumb-thank Mark Wahlberg for that one)

“You were saying?” He was so close, his words were more breath than sound.
“How-how dare you say that to me?” she whispered.
His eyes glittered with something akin to amusement.
“How dare I imply you caused this mess?”
“Me? This is not my fault! This is your fault!”
“Mine?”
“You and your temper, Khalid!”
“No. You and your mouth, Shazi.”
“Wrong, you wretched lout!”
“See? That mouth.” He reached up and grazed his thumb across her lips. “That-magnificent mouth.”

Okay. *takes deep breath* I’m fully present now and I will tone the childishness down a tad…but just a tad. Now for the story. I think it’s almost better left unsaid what goes on in the book in large portions, but I do think you as readers need to know what you’re getting into as a whole. While this story has a multitude of layers going for it, those of you who want immediate action aren’t likely to receive it as quickly as you’d want. Each chapter unfurls an intricate new piece of a puzzle you so badly want to solve, but gratification doesn’t come so easily. Maybe the largest problem for most readers won’t lie in the mystery itself, but in the willingness of our lead female to not believe that there’s a bigger picture going on around her… even as she realizes there is, in fact, a bigger picture going on around her. Simply put? She begins to understand that there’s more to the story than meets the eye but she won’t put aside her hatred to let that knowledge truly sink in.


I will live to see tomorrow’s sunset. Make no mistake. I swear I will live to see as many sunsets as it takes.
And I will kill you.
With my own hands.

And as someone who absolutely cannot stand misunderstandings in books or movies alike, this could have bothered me-could-but it didn’t. Shazi and Khalid’s journey was so deeply etched into my heart that no amount of stupidity-on either of their parts-could lessen my affection for the story. But even after saying that, I really never felt that way-like they acted stupidly. Everything, to me, felt authentic and real, like two people who didn’t care one bit about each other. Then, like many forbidden and slow-build romances, they began to find similarities in one another and slowly fall madly in love with each other…haters to lovers-my absolute favorite type of love story.

When Shahrzad looked at Khalid again, his eyes were alight with an emotion she recognized.
Pride.
And the moment felt so terrifyingly real that the thought of anything destroying it cinched the air from her body…
Like a silk cord around her neck.

It says something to me when I have literally no time-none-to read a long story (like this one) and I still power through and get [mostly] all the same feels I would have had I been able to read it all in one sitting. And much of that comes from the talent of this author and her excellent writing skills. So many words and phrases were beyond me in my perpetual state of zombie-ness, yet the beauty of the words entranced me in ways I thought were unreachable in such a state. This story had some of the most heart-wrenching and soul crushing quotes and passages that I have seen in a while (I’ll Meet You There being the most recent soul-crushing favorite with amazing quotes), causing immediate shortness of breath and a beating heart careening out of control. My point? I felt this even when barely able to read and with extremely tired eyes.

“It’s a fitting punishment for a monster. To want something so much-to hold it in your arms-and know beyond a doubt you will never deserve it.”
-Khalid

So…Shazi. Shazi Shazi Shazi. I don’t know about everyone else (Cough, Banana, cough) but I really loved her voice, being inside her head. She was strong-willed, determined, and not afraid. I sank headfirst into her plot for revenge, her thirst for vengeance-Shazi was drowning in a sea of hatred. She wasn’t easily won over and not once did she waver in her plans….well….until him, naturally. Doesn’t every girl’s eventual demise begin with a boy?

His touch burned her skin.
The shame. The betrayal.
The desire.

No matter how darkly his manner is portrayed, he is still just one boy, and she’s just one girl. Her story may have began out of hatred, but it ended in love.

“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”


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Khalid isn’t what he seems. Sure, he’s fierce, harsh, doesn’t forgive easily….and tortured. Don’t forget tortured. 100 nights and 100 dawns, 100 girls and 100 deaths…that is the price. One life to one dawn…. I think I’ll leave it at that, but I can’t not say this-He may be fierce, but he’s fiercely loyal. He may be harsh, but he’s harsher to anyone that threatens those he loves (wink wink nudge nudge). And no he doesn’t forgive easily….unless you’re the only girl he’s ever fallen for. In which case, you better have your sword ready-because he’ll tear you to shreds and risk it all for her….just sayin’.

“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.”

Richly imaginative story-telling with a hint of an Aladdin feel to it, we get to relive a childhood favorite that was always larger than life. In this story we get to see the harsher side of when fairy tales go wrong. Not everyone gets their happily ever after…but some get second chances. I don’t know if literally anything I said will convince you to read this, but I know this book is special. It progresses in a slow, syrupy and warm way that only increases your love for the characters and where their story is heading, but you never feel bored as the pieces begin to unravel before your eyes. And even more alluring is the slow-burn romance that speaks to you in ways you didn’t realize you even wanted. So, I don’t know. If you don’t want to work for your enjoyment, then I suppose I’d go for something lighter. But then I think about how hooked I was from page one and I’m like….who wouldn’t be hooked from the prologue? So read it, don’t read it….that’s up to you. But wouldn’t you just love to meet the real life magic carpet? Oh yeah, not kidding-I went there.


“When you meet the one who makes you smile as you’ve never smiled before, cry as you’ve never cried before….there is nothing to do but fall.”

 

 

********************************************

OOPS! Forgot to say I read this with my French Banana! The French Frowner strikes again…

OMG GUYS. OMG this book. Words cannot describe the utter love and sheer obsession I found while reading this book. Sosososososososososossoooooooooooooooooooo good!!! AGH!

That ending though…..


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Review to come.

BOOK REVIEW – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW – The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)  by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

BR with my broken boys’ favorite specialist, Chelsea

Useless horrible love-triangle : now, that’s an addition to the original tale that doesn’t appeal to me. Indeed it was unnecessary and resulted in predictability for the plot. Plus, Tariq is an asshole. A stupid one at it.

Fast forward in Shazi’s feelings : what is it with the fluttering in the stomach after one night? So Khalid listened to her story, so what? At this point he never showed anything to prove that there’s more to him than his fucking murderer caliph’s status. More generally, I’m sorry because I know that many of my friends loved her, but Shazi annoyed me something fierce, especially because her inner monologues were always in contradiction with her acts and well, grew old after several chapters. I despise him. I WILL take revenge. I WILL stop my heart from fluttering (again with this word, godammit, I don’t even know how many times she used it), I WILL kill him. Oh, come on. We both know you won’t. Just stop it.

“The tightening in her chest… would have to be ignored.
At all cost.”

It remains to be seen.

The truth is, I was told during the whole book that Shazi was badass and fierce but I’m still not convinced. What I saw is a beautiful, immature and ill-tempered girl who never even tried to fulfill her quest. There. I said it. Actually she reminded me of Frances from Daughter of Deep Silence, as to me her behavior never justified who she was supposed to be and what she was supposed to do.

Can somebody explain to me why Khalid is interested in Shazi in the first place? Why does he seek her after the wedding? Huh? Oh, yes, he does explain it at some point, but his reasons are far too close to instalove for my taste, sorry. So, no, I’m not mad because it is mostly a romance, because I do like romance and that it could have been beautiful. Yet sadly, as it is, I didn’t buy it and therefore never felt enthralled nor captivated.

It was boring : So much that I struggled to go on and felt the urge to skim some parts – I didn’t, but damn, how I wanted to! I’m pretty sure that I can explain this by the fact that I didn’t connect with the characters : I didn’t care about them one bit before the last 30%, therefore it was pretty hard to feel involved in their story. Moreover, let’s be frank, almost nothing happens during most of the book, but I do feel like I read an eulogy of Shazi’s PERFECTION in all things. Good for you, girl. Now show me. I’m waiting. And don’t even get me started about the parts in Tariq’s POV.

✘ I have to admit that I am on the fence about the writing, since there are some features I loved (I’ll come back to them later). However, mostly I found it over-descriptive, with several similes which made me roll my eyes, and in my opinion I wasn’t shown enough.

The settings : I felt like I was there, either in the palace or the market or anywhere the characters go, really. The writing was evocative and if sometimes on the purple prose side (as I said earlier), it did make a great job as creating the world-building.

✔ I liked Khalid‘s character for the most part, who was complex and interesting, even though his eyes-opening changes thanks to Shazi are rather clichés – who don’t like a broken King, tell me? His inner turmoil moved me, especially in the last 30%.

✔ If most of the story failed to pull me in, I have to admit that the last 30% hooked me (well, kind of) and were way better in my opinion (except for everything linked to Tariq. Really, what an useless prick). Is it enough to make me want to read book 2? Frankly, I don’t know. I guess I’ll see.

► Here I am, disappointed and in the minority. The only thing I can say is that unfortunately I didn’t like The Wrath and the Dawn how much I thought I would (I’m the queen of understatements), now do whatever you want with it.

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