Tag: Retellings (page 1 of 2)

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra ChristoTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

 

Soon there’s sun in the distance, or perhaps even moonlight. Everything is muted and as Lira swoops her blade down on mine once more, I let it all fall away. My mission, my kingdom. The world. They exist somewhere other than in this moment, and now there is only this. Me, my ship, and a girl with oceans in her eyes.

The sea calls, sun shimmering on its tranquil surface. Cylinders of light bouncing over every rip and tear of the water’s veneer. Eyes clash, a heroic act bends and twists fate into a finite moment. Hearts drum to the beat of the ocean’s waves, as rapid and tremulous as any tentative alliance formed, swept away with the thought of a shared loneliness. Two aching souls. Like calls to like. And the inevitable betrayal…hardly a betrayal at all, for how can it be a betrayal when it was right in front of your face the whole time? Two monsters in their respective worlds…two monsters who share the same dream.

His hand moves from beside mine, and I feel a sudden absence. And then it’s on my cheek, cupping my face, thumb stroking my lip. It feels like the worst thing I’ve ever done and the best thing I could ever do and how strange that the two are suddenly the same.

Guys. I adored this book. And the writing-it was seriously out of this world. Savage. Unrelenting-the most vicious kind of poetry. If I could write, and, believe me, the last few books I’ve read have made me pine for it so, this is exactly how I’d want to write.

In Midas, the ocean glitters gold. At least, that’s the illusion. Really it’s as blue as any sea, but the light does things. Unexplainable things. The light can lie.

I can’t explain what makes a book tick for me (I lie, I could go on for days)-sometimes it’s a tried and true pattern. Sometimes it’s a random pick that is in a totally different style genre than I’m used to. And sometimes, sometimes they just click . And that’s what happened here.

As I stare at her, I see nothing of the wraith-like girl I pulled from the ocean. Whatever spell had threatened to transfix me when I saved her is broken now, and I can see quite clearly that she’s no helpless damsel. She’s something more, and it makes me too curious for my own good.

I picked this story up because of not only it’s content, but because of the rave reviews and incessant fangirling that came along with my friends devoted love and support. But, like with many things, I get nervous-it’s hard to fall in with the hordes of fans that hype up a new release (no matter how much you had previously wanted to read it). You feel a pressure to love it that much, to not feel broken because you didn’t connect like the rest of the world.

Staying still, in one place and one moment, will make me miserable. In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.

And, I’ll admit, I did feel the pressure even though I waited a month before I tried it. For one, it was just SO dark at first. I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t what I read, in the beginning. Flesh and blood and death and just…evil. Pure evil. It was as intense as it was shocking, and after coming off of so many wins in the lighter faring genres (two contemporary, one lighter fantasy), this was a cold shock to my system.

I’m not a good man. I don’t think I’ve been one for a long time.

I felt the pure, murky vileness seep from every inky page the sea queen graced, cutting off my ability to apprehend disbelief that this was going to be as light as I suppose I anticipated. The ruthlessness of Lira, our MC, was no joke either, making my eyebrows furrow and my mouth make this weird shape that I’m sure had me looking like a frowny, gapey fish (or slack-jawed mermaid, if we’re to stick with them our story’s theme, here). I didn’t know if my fragile little heart (HA) could handle the intensity with which each of our characters handled their prey. Turns out? I’m not so nice after all.

I kid…I’m never nice. When it comes to my books, the more pain, the merrier. I’m sorry, but there’s just something so appealing about a broken, hero/heroine in need of saving, amirite??? But here…I don’t know what happened. I guess going in thinking ‘la la la, little mermaid, la la’ was my largest issue-unprepared doesn’t begin to express the depth with which I felt betrayed by my inner evil self. Trust me, it won’t happen again-my guard won’t be let down so easily next time.

The Sea Queen curves downward, her tentacles brushing my hand, lips like broken glass on my ear. “Stupid girl,” she whispers, and then—as though it’s the worst thing she could utter—“ stupid human girl.”

But then, that ruins all the best surprises, doesn’t it? Which leads me here: Lira and Elian are my life. There. I said it. The slow burn that erupted like wild fire in my system was a result of wicked awesome story-telling unparalleled by many when trying to conquer a re-telling of any form. And conquer she did. I’ve never read such a vivid, beautiful, amazing retelling ever. The way she twisted and weaved the story so that it was more bloodthirsty, more dreadful, more hopeful, whimsical, daring-it blew my mind.

How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.

I wasn’t trying to compare because, well, come on. Disney does many things well, but slow burn and destruction and peril and general mayhem aren’t at the helm of their money boats-they are, but in a Disney way. But, you could still see some things that nodded to my darling Arielle, my beloved Ursula, my loving prince Eric, and even her two conniving eels. Now-tell me-how could you NOT be interested?

“Wants to be free,” her companion says.
“Free from the queen.”
“Free her heart.”
“Take a heart.”
“Take the queen’s.”

But they were so subtle. And it was little things here and there, but they were so wonderful. I’d be dying a little, you know, dying in the best, bookish obsessed way possible, and then I’d be like-OMG! That’s kind of like what happened there, and isn’t she just so clever and cunning? (One scene comes to mind near the end where View Spoiler »

just thinking of these vivid details makes my heart erupt in the best, most offbeat way-seriously. And, honestly, it made me love her all the more.

The whites of the clouds dotted with bronze as leftover shimmers from Midas float across my eyes. But soon the world comes bursting back, vivid and unyielding. The coral of the fish and the bluebell sky.

But onto the characters and why they made my heart stutter in impossible-and not so impossible-ways. Tell me. Tell me how you make my heart go crazy when all Elian has to do is snark at our evil princess…and her snark right back. And it makes me giggle and squee and do ridiculous, girly things? How can an author do this? Because they’re enemies-how can we find this endearing? Why does bickering and banter and, quite frankly, threatening bodily harm make our hearts beat so? (half this paragraph was in question form, ummmm…)

“What about your own language?” he asks.
“It’s better.”
“How?”
“It’s more suited to me.”
“I dread to think what that means.”

I’ll tell you why-because we’re fickle fickle girls (and guys, whoever) and we like bad bad things lol. We THRIVE on the hate to love trope. We CHERISH the moments that pile up and begin to forge a bond between our two antagonistic MC’s. We are loathe to admit we’re easy…but tell me, who doesn’t love a prince and princess who hate each other, but end up falling for one another, inevitably, anyway?

We’re like squirrels, gathering up all these little nuts (acorns?? I don’t know), gathering and bunching and storing away any little heated look, caress, shared moment, heroic act, proof of loyalty that’s slowly beginning to build-and EXPLODE when it all comes crashing down, when the worlds collide, their hearts open up…only to be crushed under the heavy boot of deception and lies. Necessary lies, mind you, but lies all the same. We’re suckers for it-and it’s the BEST feeling.

“Gods.” Kye recoils as I slash open Lira’s dress. “Is she going to live?”
“Do you care?” I snap back. It isn’t his fault, but yelling at Kye feels a little like yelling at myself, and I need to be yelled at right now. Because this is on me. If Lira dies, then it’s on me.
I can’t believe you came back for me.
But I left her first.

Elian was…he was everything I look for in my book men. A prince born to be a king, but loyal only to the water he loves-his only love. Suffocating under the weight of his duty, the need to fulfill what can’t be avoided-to become the reluctant king of Midas. He broke my heart with how adventurous he was. A true captain in every sense of the word, a pirate straight down to his bones, with a crew who would do anything to save him or sail by his side. His courageousness bonds his crew together, making them more than deckhands-they’re his friends. Oh, and did I mention….he’s the famous prince siren killer?

People know me as the siren hunter, and those at court utter those words with amusement and fondness: Oh, Prince Elian, trying to save us all. If they understood what it took, the awful and sickening screams sirens made. If they saw the corpses of the women on my deck before they dissolved to sea foam, then my people wouldn’t look upon me so fondly. I would no longer be a prince to them, and as much as I might desire such things, I know better.

And Lira-the princess of the sirens in her kingdom. Second only to the Sea Queen, Lira takes the heart of a prince every year on her birthday and-do you see where this is going here? Do I really need to go further?

Love is a word we scarcely hear in the ocean. It exists only in my song and on the lips of the princes I’ve killed. And I have never heard it from my mother’s mouth. I’m not even sure what it really means. To me, it has always been just a word that humans treasure for reasons I can’t comprehend.

When she and Elian meet, sparks fly-but where he’s flint, she’s tinder, and she wants to see him dead and heartless beneath her. But that’s hard to do when-well, I’ll not say. I didn’t know this happened and I loved everything unraveling before my eyes as a surprise. The less you know, the better.

These two together-amazing. He doesn’t trust her and she wants to be a part of his crew for the mission that is a conflict of interest for them both. Their banter, while sharp-tongued at first, becomes an easy rapport, a tentative bond that helps them further their mission. His alertness disguised as aloofness made me a loyal fan -I loved his personality and the devotion he put forth to save his kingdom and all princes alike. He is burdened by duty, but would do anything and sacrifice anything to save those around him. He is selfless in every sense of the word, and I adore him so much it hurts. Even Lira, who he almost doesn’t like, he defends and honors and tries to keep alive. He is a true hero, and I just have to stop or I could go on about him forever (is anyone keeping track of my book boyfriends in 2018?? The scale…it’s tipping over…).

And Lira, darling Lira-as vicious as she is beautiful. Merciless in her mission to change her kingdoms ways, to kill her mother…and to take the prince’s heart. She’s the Princes’ Bane, you see, the very creature that Elian seeks most in the world, aside from the queen herself, and she’s right under his nose. But who is the hunter…and who is the prey??

Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.

Lira, though, I could hang with this girl. She was something to behold. Her fury, her ruthlessness, her unrelenting need for vengeance (Elian, too, seeks vengeance for his friend, but, as you can see, this is just another bond they could form) making her almost as bloodthirsty as her mother-but not quite.

I loved her in ways I can’t explain, because she is such a grey area character, and while I couldn’t root her on…I sympathized with her and did want her to win-friendship. Devotion. Loyalty from her new friends crew members on the Saad. And the love she has for her cousin, and her cousin for her, it melted my heart. Two equally strong characters, lonely in ways they can’t express, because their lives almost seem full-but full doesn’t equal fulfilled.

And, PS, this song, every time I hear it…I think of these two (NOT the trust fund baby, met at a party, etc, but YOU GET IT (maybe)).

**I like that you’re broken
Broken like me
Maybe that makes me a fool
I like that you’re lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you

There’s something tragic, but almost pure
Think I could love you, but I’m not sure
There’s something wholesome, there’s something sweet
Tucked in your eyes that I’d love to meet
***

I don’t know. I just love that it reminds me of this book! (Also, upon looking at the lyrics, I heard the song wrong-it does NOT say, These ARE my people, these are my friends blah blah, but says These AREN’T (OOPS I NEVER HEAR SONGS RIGHT) but I’ll choose to still hear it my way since he adores his crew 😉 )

The rapport of the crew melted my heart in ways I haven’t seen in a long time-in fact, this story reminded me of a sea version of Six of Crows MANY TIMES OVER, even if I’m way out on a limb here. The funny banter of the crew, the jibes, the skill, the friendship-it was a warm feeling-and I’ll welcome it into my soul time and again, for this is surely a forever favorite.

“How did you get the map?” she asks.
“My charm.”
“No, really.”
“I’m really very charming,” I say. “I even roped this lot into sacrificing their lives for me.”
“Didn’t do it for you.” Madrid doesn’t look up from her deck. “Did it for the target practice.”
“I did it for the hijinks of near-death experiences,” Kye says.
“I did it for more fish suppers.” Torik stretches his arms out in a yawn. “God knows we don’t have enough fish every other day of the year.”
I turn to Lira. “See?”

A rush of adrenaline to my system, the end cemented my love further (everyone knows I’m a peril junkie) to the point of obsession, and I’m proud to say it lived up to my [not always but mostly always] haughty standards. I don’t think TKAK needs my endorsement (I mean, check out the ratings), nor does Alexandra Christo, but she has a forever fan and loyal minion here. Consider me part of your crew, Ms. (Mrs?) Christo-I’d follow you into any world (even if it’s in siren, sea queen, and mermen infested waters, but yikes, please don’t (or do, whatever-more Elian!)) and to the ends of the earth on the Saad-I’m a fool for your writing…I’m sure I’d devour it no matter the content, and that’s the most flattering endorsement I can bestow.

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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 AhdiehFlame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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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 Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes. 



But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

Review:

Buddy Read with my fabulous co-bloggers Anna & Chelsea for Anna’s belated birthday read! ♥

The Forbidden Wish was a magical journey that was fun and enchanting.  It started off with a bang, and each page was wrapped in beautifully, intoxicating words.  I rooted for the boy and the jinni to have a chance.  To find their happiness.  But I did struggle making that connection to Zahra, the jinni, and at times I would forget some of the characters names.  But there were still so many moments that captured my attention and continually kept pulling me back into the story.

He is just a boy, a moment in time that will soon pass. I have known a thousand and one like him. I will know a thousand and one more. He is nothing. I tell myself this, so that I will not hope for him. I am not allowed to hope. I am forbidden a wish of my own.

Before I go any further, I have a teeny tiny confession.  I literally remember nothing from the Disney movie Aladdin.  I saw it when it first released in the theaters, and while I remember what the characters looked like, I don’t remember much else.  Case in point, I thought that the jinni‘s name was Aladdin.  Thank you giggling, gossiping friends from back in the day that I went to the theater with lol.  So while I can’t compare this book to the movie,  I’m glad I went into it partially blind.  It made the characters feel that much more unique to me.

Aladdin raises a tentative hand to my cheek. Immobile with both dread and longing, I can only stare up at him, flushing with warmth when he gently runs his hand down the side of my face. I shut my eyes, leaning into his touch just slightly, my stomach leaping. Longing. Wishing.

Zahra was such an enigma.  She could be so level-headed one moment, and then the next her emotions would get the better part of her.  She had the capability of being a true friend, but she also had to become manipulative at times.  But there was a valid reason for the manipulative part. After thousands of years of being a slave to her bottle and granting wishes for others, she had a chance to be free.  But to do so, she had to manipulate Aladdin.  Which seemed simple enough to her at first.  Yet there’s no way it could be simple once she truly started to see who Aladdin was as a person.

Even a thief may have honor, and even a jinni may have a heart. -Aladdin

Aladdin.  Oh, he was a truly remarkable thief.  Especially when it came to people’s hearts.  But my favorite thing about him was his thoughtful heart.  The moments he was selfless and thought of others firsts was amazing.  So it’s no surprise that his thievery, drunken ways and flirtation with other women didn’t bother me.  Especially when I saw how he interacted with Zahra.  But him and Zahra together was something that could never be.  But then again, rules were meant to be broken at times, right?

I meet his eyes, feeling the vibrations of the thunder outside echoing in my chest. The way he looks at me—steady and silent, bold and bright—makes me feel as if the storm outside were trapped inside me, thunder and rain and light, rolling and crashing.

While I enjoyed the time Zahra and Aladdin were together, I kept trying to find a connection or a link to Zahra.  She had many attributes that were respectable, but I couldn’t click with her.  And since she’s the narrator, it made me feel as though I was a little bit outside of the story, instead of fully immersed.  And unfortunately I struggled with another point.  Names.  We were introduced to a lot of characters and many of their names were unique to me.  So they wouldn’t stick.  I even struggled remembering Zahra’s name at times.  Or the women who surrounded Caspida, I can’t even remember one of their names.  But speaking of Caspida, I would love to learn more about her.  There is so much story in the past and future to be told when it comes to her.

“You know we don’t stand a chance,” I whisper. Aladdin looks down at me, his hand squeezing my arm. “We’re still alive, aren’t we? Come on, Smoky. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

So I had a lot of fun following Zahra and Aladdin on their adventurous tale.  I wish I would have found that connection to Zahra, but maybe you’ll be able to easily make that connection  Regardless, if you adore a retelling, then you should definitely check this one out.  It’s filled with lots of adventure, love and friendship and I can tell that many people are going to fall hard for The Forbidden Wish! PS The nicknames were beyond adorable, with Zahra calling Aladdin thief, and Aladdin calling Zahra smokey.

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BOOK REVIEW – Emerge (Mer Chronicles #1) by Tobie Easton

BOOK REVIEW –  Emerge (Mer Chronicles #1) by Tobie EastonEmerge (Mer Chronicles #1)
by Tobie Easton
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she's never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu's seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he's gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there's a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia's entire community at risk. So it's for the best that he's dating that new girl, right? That is, until Lia finds out she isn't the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn't realize the danger he's in. If Lia hopes to save him, she'll have to get closer to Clay. Lia's parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.

Review:

Have you ever stepped into a series and was left wondering if you missed something?  Maybe you somehow skipped a few chapters beforehand?  Because that’s exactly how I felt when I started Emerge.  By the time I got my footing, it was a little too late.  Which was such a disappointment, because I was so excited for this book!  A curse on the mermaids because of what The Little Mermaid did, and we get to hear the story from one of her descendants?  YES please!  But as I read through the pages of Emerge, that yes sadly turned into a no.

  • Confusion & No Connection
Am I really off the fishhook?

The first chapter was unfortunately where the confusion started for me.  Here is the situation that made me say what,what, what……

Aurelia, who was the descendant of The Little Mermaid, was at a high school with humans and their PE coach was trying to make her swim.  A little fyi….if she got in that pool she would have transformed into a mermaid.  Luckily a human boy, named Clay, got her out of that situation.  In that first chapter we then got to watch Aurelia and Clay have an awkward conversation, Clay date a new girl in school, and then Aurelia see the new couple kiss in a store where she was shopping.  Upon seeing them kissing, she wanted to leave the store because she could not handle watching them kiss.

I was SO lost towards Aurelia’s strong feelings towards Clay and his new girlfriend kissing.  Was this someone she had crushed on forever?  Did they have a history?  I had that small amount of interaction, no backstory, and I was confused.  How was I supposed to be compassionate, let alone feel her emotions, if I couldn’t understand the why behind it.  I finally got the why and backstory at 16%.  Which left me a little confused until that point.

 

  • Timeline?
My father claps his hands once, breaking the somber mood. “I thought the party last night went just swimmingly. Pun intended!”

I am 99.9% positive that I have never complained about a books timeline before in a review.  It’s usually an aspect of the book that never affects me.  But I guess that is why they say never say never, because Emerge’s timeline drove me a little crazy.  It vacillated from slow to fast, such as their party went by in the blink of an eye, yet a conversation that took place in minutes would go on for pages.  I never could get a good grasp on whether something was going to take place in a matter of minutes, days or weeks.

 

  • Easy Peasy Plot Twists
I was probably gaping at him like a codfish.

I love when I have to work hard to figure out plot twists before the characters do.  But this time, they were so easy to figure out.  Maybe that was the point?  But if it was, I wish that I would have at least gotten farther than a quarter of the way into the book before saying aha again and again.  Because then I kept finding myself frustrated with Aurelia as she she completely oblivious to clue after clue.

 

  • An Infuriating Heroine
I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do. It’s wrong. It’s so wrong. But what other choice do I have?

You know what?  All those issues above can’t even hold a candle to my frustration to the heroine.  Aurelia’s decision making abilities was beyond horrid.  She made that statement above at not even the halfway point, and just so you know I loathe when people say that.  A lot of times, there are PLENTY of other options available. And this was definitely one of those times.  She could have asked for help, confided in her best male friend, Caspian, or her older sister.  Yet she took the worst possible of way out again and again and again.  

And I never fully grasped her interest towards Clay, because there was Caspian.  Caspian was her friend and a male mer.  And when the two of them were together, I could see the sparks flying.  But with Clay, I felt absolutely nothing.

 

I did contemplate not finishing Emerge a few times.  But I’m one of those people who always holds out hope.  Hope that something, anything will pull me back in.  Unfortunately, nothing ever did.  But I do have to say that the premise was fascinating.  I just wish it would have been executed differently.  And Emerge did end nicely with lots of options for the next book, but sadly I have no desire to continue this series.  But here’s hoping that if you pick up this book, that you are able to find enjoyment where I could not.

*ARC kindly provided by Month9Books in exchange for an honest review*

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

BOOK REVIEW – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
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Synopsis:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

BR with the astounding Chelsea and Jen

“This place is haunted by ghosts, and I am one of them.”

Told in a beautiful and evocative writing enhanced with sparks of humor, The Forbidden Wish surprised me in the best way possible : indeed albeit being quite romance-focused, it manages to avoid the tropes I hate the most in Fantasy/PNR YA :

☑ There’s neither instalove nor love triangle.(*)
☑ The female lead is always sympathetic toward other women and there’s no such thing as girl hate.
☑ Aladdin’s not perfect by any means (more about him later), but one thing is certain : he’s not a controlling, abusing jerk, and if anything his flaws made him endearing to me.

“Wishes have a way of twisting themselves, and there is nothing more dangerous than getting your heart’s desire. The question is, are you willing to gamble? How much are you willing to lose? What are you willing to risk everything for?”

Enchanting, The Forbidden Wish is not an action packed novel, but not a boring one either. As a retelling of Aladdin’s story, we find layers of the original but that does not mean that Jessica Khoury didn’t add her stamp, because she most definitely did. While original events are seen in a complete different way View Spoiler », the twists make the story even more engaging and captivating (and women friendly). If the plot isn’t the most complex I ever read (hardly), I was hooked from the beginning and I enjoyed my read immensely.

Moreover, contrary to what we find in many retellings, the author made her jinni female and let me tell you : it was FANTASTIC. Oh, and funny :

“You’re a- you’re a-
Say it, boy. Demon of fire. Monster of smoke. Devil of sand and ash. Servant of Nardukha, Daughter of Ambadya, the Nameless, the Faceless, the Limitless. Slave of the Lamp. Jinni.
“… a girl! he finishes.
For a second, I can only blink at him, but I recover quickly.”

Ha, Zahra. I loved her. Witty and self-sufficient, she never comes as pretentious and yet, she knows her worth – She’s a jinni, thank you very much, and she actually sounds like one, which is so rare! Brought to life by Aladdin after a looooong traversée du désert (pun intended), she’s ready to grant his wishes but doesn’t forget her own agenda (her freedom, no less!).

However, despite her hidden goal, Zahra has been eaten by guilt for so long that she has doubts, and who wouldn’t? Trust me, this is NOT a case of “his abs convinced me to die for him, because YUM, can I lick them?”. Nope. Her struggles and hesitations are well-founded, and not driven by Aladdin alone. See, I realize more and more that strong heroines, if they never fail, never doubt, never waver, annoy me as much as their manly counterparts. I want strong heroines in my books, but I want them complex and realistic. What’s strength, really? Is it never hesitating? I don’t think so, and honestly, I sure hope not. I could relate to Zahra, and she never annoyed me – she’s not a heartless cyborg, and I liked her all the more for it.

As for Aladdin… I may be biased, but his character made me smile so much that I couldn’t hold his flaws against him. Yes, he is reckless, charming, flirty, but so endearing, loyal, and more than a little adorable. His past haunts him, and there’s a need for revenge starving deep within him. Their personalities, so different as they are, make for the funniest interactions and I absolutely loved how their dynamics played throughout the book.

“What did Caspida want?”
“To talk about elephants and dead queens.”
“What? Really?”
“Oh, stop frowning. She asked about you too – what you’re like, what kind of person you are. Don’t worry.” I pat his hand conspiratorially and smile. “I lied.”

As I said earlier, although the romance owns an important part of the show, it never bothered me (on the contrary) because what we see isn’t a stupid and very tropey instalove but the slow and believable growth of a friendship which perhaps, perhaps, will morph into something more. And trust me, I rooted for them something fierce. So, yeah, I fought the urge to roll my eyes at some cheesy similes, but I never stopped smiling – it does change something!

“We’re in together, aren’t we, Smoky?” He gives me a crooked, bemused smile.
“But… you’re the Lampholder. Whatever you say goes. I don’t have a choice.”
He laughs, and I frown at him in surprise. “You think it’s funny?” I ask.
“No! Sorry. I should probably say how awful it is you have to go wherever I want, but… When I look at you, I see a jinni who’s not afraid to disagree with me. If I make a wish, you could use it to crush me. You’ve done it before, haven’t you? Ruined your masters with their own wishes?”
I lift a shoulder in begrudging agreement.”

Last but not least, Jessica Khoury offers significant roles for other women. Now, this is so fucking rare : not only Zahra never shows any hateful spite against other women, but they play important roles in the story (and roles that aren’t defined by their relationships with men).

That ending, though? I have to admit that it did feel a little rushed and that I wish some parts had played out differently View Spoiler » but it was satisfying nonetheless.

(*) I am sure that some readers will state that there is a love triangle, but for me there’s really not. How many characters love each others? Two. No love triangle in my book.View Spoiler »

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