Sigil in Shadow by Constance Roberts

Sigil in ShadowSigil in Shadow
by Constance Roberts
Pub Date: June 12,2016

Thank you Constance Roberts and Sweetwater Books for letting me read a proof of this book!

So, I enjoy fantasy, especially when that fantasy includes a strong female with loyalty and brains. Ellory Dane is one such protagonist. She is not a simpering female waiting for someone to save her: she is a loyal daughter who takes care of her unstable father and makes potions to sell at the local market in order to support her family. Unfortunately, taking care of her father and tending the herbs keeps Ellory so busy she has no time for anything else. Desperately, Ellory even sells her hair to buy enough food and fuel to last through the winter. Between trying to keep her father alive, putting food on the table, and worrying she will never find a man to marry, Ellory has little hope that life will get better.

Then one day, a rumor is spread that Ellory brought a man back from the dead with one of her potions. The king insists on bringing her to the castle to replicate the resurrection potion and to be trained by the royal herbalist. Suddenly, Ellory must learn to maneuver castle politics and hide the truth from everyone in order to survive.

This story was quite a page turner with several twists in the plot. I often found myself saying ‘just one more chapter,’ and then reading another after that to see what would happen next. I enjoyed the focus on medicine and herbs, as well as the way the story examines difficult issues such as social class, addiction, political games, infidelity, and abuse.  The romance is sweet and innocent, with a few funny moments—personally, I got a kick out of the closet scene. Some relationships seemed rushed to me, but all in all I felt it was a well-thought out story with an enjoyable protagonist, a great friendship between Ellory and her mentor Treya, and a sweet romance. I would definitely recommend this to someone who likes fantasy with a strong female protagonist and a compelling story line.

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessHeartless
by Marissa Meyer
Pub Date: November 8, 2016

Usually, I do not read books I know end unhappily. I also didn’t like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass. Still, I couldn’t resist Heartless. The story explains how the “off with your head” Queen of Hearts became the ruthless, cruel, intelligent woman she is in Alice in Wonderland. The journey has several twists and turns that explain different stories from Lewis Carroll’s classic and kept me guessing. Even though I knew how it would end, I had to keep reading because I wanted it to end differently. I couldn’t put the book down, and I couldn’t help but cheer for the woman I knew would become the merciless Queen of Hearts.

Before becoming the Queen of Hearts, Catherine was simply a girl who wanted to change her destiny. Instead of being a member of the royal court who must marry the wealthiest man who offers for her hand, Catherine wants to open a bakery and make the most amazing confections in all the land of Hearts. The King loves eating anything she makes, and Catherine hopes she will be able to get the King of Hearts to give her the title “Royal Tart Maker of the Kingdom of Hearts.” Unfortunately, the adage “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” applies with the King of Hearts. He proposes to Catherine, and Catherine knows she can’t refuse even though she doesn’t love him. To make matters more complicated, the mysterious Court Jester may be the kind of man she could lose her heart to.

To give you an idea of how amazing this book is, it made me appreciate Alice in Wonderland and Into the Looking Glass. I found myself remembering passages from the stories, and wanting to reread the books to appreciate this book even more. Catherine is the kind of protagonist I like: intelligent, strong, independent, loving, and loyal. I love how Marissa Meyer is able to create so many ties with the original stories, while still writing something original that can stand on its own. I would recommend this book to fans of Alice in Wonderland, those who love a good romance with a strong female protagonist, and for readers who love a good story plot with intriguing characters. This is definitely a book to put on your future reading list. I am so elated I received a pre-published copy!

The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan

The Lost HeroThe Lost Hero
by Rick Riordan
Pub Date October 12, 2010

When I saw the new book by Rick Riordan, The Trials of Apollo, I was excited to get my hands on it. The plot sounds fabulous: a god being demoted to be a mortal teenager who has to live at Camp Half Blood with his own children. Before I could get my hands on it though, my niece informed me I must read The Heroes of Olympus series first. With a five book series before me, I knew I needed to get started right away.

If you have not tried Rick Riordan, I strongly implore you to read his series. When I studied gods and goddesses in school, I couldn’t make them stick in my head. Basically, I remembered Zeus. Reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians made the gods and goddesses more real and relatable, especially how he adapts them to the modern day world.  His books make demigods seem possible, and I love that dyslexia and ADHD are signs of the demigods’ powers in his stories.

                The Lost Hero focuses on three demigods: Jason, Piper, and Leo. The three meet up at a camp for troubled youth where they are attacked by wind spirits, and escape to Camp Half Blood– the camp that protects demigods from monsters. Their first day at camp, these three demigods are sent on a quest to save Hera, the queen of the gods. If that wasn’t hard enough, Jason doesn’t remember anything about his past, Piper is worried about her father being kidnapped, and Leo has abilities he can’t reveal. No one believes Jason, Piper, and Leo will succeed in saving the day, but the more insurmountable the odds, the more fun the story becomes. Jason, Piper, and Leo meet multiple gods, monsters, giants, and villains as they complete the first part of their quest in this series. I am excited to see what happens in the rest of the series.

The Elite and The One, by Kiera Cass

eliteThe Selection’s The Elite and The One
by Kiera Cass
Pub Date April 23, 2013 & May 6, 2014

In my first post, I wrote about The Selection by Kiera Cass. In my crazy desire to read all sorts of princess stories, I couldn’t forget the next two books in The Selection series. I also had to write about them together since I read the two books in two days- I literally went back to the library on my day off just to get The One after I finished The Elite in one night. I couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened between America Singer and Prince Maxon.

 

The oneFor those of you who haven’t read the series, The Selection is based in a future America where our current government has collapsed and is now a monarchy that separates the population into eight castes, each with a different type of job and social standing, from the top number one being royalty and the bottom eight being peasants. When the prince is of marrying age, a competition is held where 35 girls from different castes and areas of the country are sent to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage. America Singer, a number five caste member, is chosen to compete in the selection for Prince Maxon’s hand in marriage.

Reading these books, I found myself incredibly grateful that dating is not like this in reality, similar to the reality tv show The Bachelor where one guy (or girl depending on the season) goes on dates with multiple people and it is expected that he will kiss, if not all of the candidates, most of them. What a weird dating ritual: hanging out all day long with girls who are competing with you for one guy and all the power and wealth he will share with you. America has to figure out if she truly loves Maxon and if she can be a proper princess before loses Maxon forever.

Honestly, America Singer drove me crazy, which is one of the reasons I truly loved this series. In the tv series The Bachelor, no one really questions whether or not being chosen is a good thing. Yet, America questions it all the time. She is a realistic girl with confidence issues who often compares herself to others. She is confused about what she wants and what she can handle. Throughout the series, you can see her confidence grow, although she is constantly making her relationship with Maxon more complicated. Dangerous revolutions, political intrigue, and secret associations are a constant part of this budding romance, and I could not drag myself away from these books. I am so excited for the 5th book in this series to come out this May.

Wide-Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker

Wide Awake PrincessThe Wide Awake Princess
by E.D. Baker
Pub Date: May 11, 2010

Magic, fairy tales, and fun fill the pages of this retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Only this time, the real hero is not the prince but the faithful younger sister of the ‘most beautiful princess in all the land.’

Princess Annie is not like any of the other princes, princesses, kings, and queens that she knows. All the others, including Annie’s parents and older sister, were blessed by fairies to be beautiful, charming, and amazing dancers. After Annie’s older sister was cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and cause all the castle to fall asleep, Annie’s fairy felt it was better to bless Annie to not be able to have good or bad magic affect her. In daily life, this means that all the magic around Annie diminishes, so her parents and sister do not like Annie to be around them for too long or they lose their fairy gifts. Fortunately, Annie is rather resilient considering her family neglect.

When the entire castle falls asleep under her sister’s curse, Princess Annie realizes that she cannot let her family stay asleep for 100 years. She needs to wake them up before someone tries to take over the kingdom. So, Annie goes on a journey to find the witch that can reverse the curse and to gather as many princes as she can to see if any of them can give her sister a true love’s kiss and wake the castle full of snoring people.

Princess Annie is a great example of someone who finds herself and her strengths by helping others. She has an optimistic attitude and a great ability to see the truth behind the lies. E.D. Baker has a great way of showing people realistically without delving into the darker side of humanity. She shows human weaknesses of jealousy, envy, anger, and fear; yet, these traits make the characters more loveable and seem braver because of the way they still do what is right despite these feelings. I highly recommend this book to young girls or those who are young at heart, especially for those who want to find a good story with a strong female protagonist.

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, by Shannon Hale

Princess AcademyPrincess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters
by Shannon Hale
Pub Date: March 3, 2015

Years ago, I fell in love with Princess Academy. Miri, Peder, and Britta— they are some of my favorite imaginary people. When Palace of Stone, the 2nd book in the series, came out I finished it in a day. When I discovered a 3rd book was coming out, I knew I needed to read it. It did not disappoint, and I must say, I love Miri and Peder even more after reading this book.

The book begins with Miri and Peder ready to leave the palace and go home to Mount Eskel. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. King Fader calls Miri back for an assignment: start a princess academy to prepare a royal girl to marry a foreign king and stop a war. Miri is to use her gift as a teacher to start a new Princess Academy in…. a swamp. Three of Prince Steffan’s distant cousins live in an isolated swamp, and they must be trained to act like princesses so that the foreign king may choose one to be his bride and save the country Danland from war. Of course, nothing is what it seems and Miri is tested beyond she can imagine.

Miri is one of the most optimistic, level-headed, resourceful people I have ever encountered in books. She takes everything in stride, from learning how to live in a swamp to navigating the political games of governments. Miri’s relationship with Peder is a romance that is simple and beautiful; my heart sighs whenever they are together.  The story is intriguing with enough twists and turns to make it interesting, and, as a librarian, I love that problems are often solved using knowledge gained from books.

So if you are looking for a sweet story with a mystery and plenty of surprises, this is an excellent choice. If you are anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down.

Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova

AwkwardAwkward
by Svetlana Chmakova
Pub Date: July 21, 2015

Peppi Torres has 2 Cardinal Rules for surviving school: #1- Don’t get noticed by the mean kids and #2- Seek out groups with similar interests and join them. Unfortunately for Peppi, she broke the first rule on her first day when she trips over her own feet, drops everything, and is helped by the nerdiest boy in school. What could she do when the mean kids start to tease her? She had to push the nerdy boy away from her. Now she has been in school for a couple months, and she still regrets pushing him. Peppi avoids him, especially when she realizes he is a member of the science club—the enemy of her art club.

This story is cute, and reminded me of my middle school days. I remember being the band geek that was so nervous about being noticed. Peppi and Jaime (the nerdy boy Peppi pushed) reminded me of those quiet kids in school, the ones who don’t say a word in class and dread being called on by the teacher. Throughout the story, Peppi learns she is stronger than she believed and that even the people who seem to have everything together have their own problems.

Not only was this graphic novel a sweet story of growing up, it also shows a variety of people without being forced. Most stories have the typical white, physically fit kids with maybe one character who has a different skin color. The illustrations in this book includes the beautiful black Miss Tobins, Jaime’s mother in a wheelchair, Akilah Saib in a hijab, and the middle school students who are all different sizes and shapes. After reading books for Black History Month in February, this aspect really stood out to me.

I would recommend this story to those who love to have a quick trip back in time to when life revolved around the school social hierarchy and an afterschool club could define your existence. It’s a sweet story about finding friends in the most unlikely places and working together to make something incredible.