Audiobook review: Soldier by Julie Kagawa

Friday, July 1, 2016

Title: Soldier (Talon #3)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Narrator: Caitlin Davies, MacLeod Andrews, Chris Patton, Tristan Morris 
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
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Reviews for book 1 and book 2

The price of freedom is everything.

When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.

Talon is a series that I never thought I'd get into. I'm not into contemporary fiction and I don't really get the appeal of dragons. But against the odds, I ended up really enjoying the first two books in the series and I obviously had to pick up book three! To be honest, when I first went hunting for this, I thought it was the last book in a trilogy, but... Nope. It's book three in a five book series. I'm not sure why exactly this is five books long, but okay. Luckily, the third was a solid addition to the series!

This book begins with Garret and Ember having gone their separate ways and each missing the other, but knowing they can never be together. Ember is firmly on Team Riley/Cobalt at the moment, but she still battles with the desire to be back with Garret. Still, she knows that "her dragon" would not be happy with that. So... basically, this book is one huge love triangle. I guess that's not a huge change from the other two, now that I think about it, but sometimes you can forgive the romance when the story is super interesting and here it mostly is!

I did enjoy that, like Talon did for Ember and Rogue did for Cobalt, Soldier gave a lot of insight into Garret's history. We learn about his childhood, his upbringing in the Order, how he was singled out among his classmates, and how he came to be the perfect soldier. I liked having more of a clear understanding of his motivations and his relationships, especially with Tristan, who I hope to see more of in book four.

After enjoying Cobalt so much in the last book, I really expected to be more firmly on his team during Soldier, but I found myself disliking him more as the book went on. He was extremely possessive of Ember and went overboard at times trying to stake his claim. I didn't like how he told her that she was his because it didn't seem romantic, in my opinion. It seemed aggressive. I know you might say that's because it was "his dragon," but I'm not buying that the "human" and "dragon" sides are two separate things. I was glad that Garret didn't act ridiculous also and am surprised to find myself on Team Garret at this point.

Speaking of dragons/humans, one of the things that has really started to annoy me about this series is the way each character has 380174910 names. For example, Ember is also Firebrand, Riley is also Cobalt and The Rogue, and Garret is also Sebastian and The Soldier. I understand the author's need not to be repetitive, but come on. I know by book three that Riley is a rogue and Garret is a soldier. Just stick to their actual names, please! But I digress...

Even with the heavy handed romance, this installment is pretty much non-stop action. Although the book begins with Garret on a different continent, it doesn't take very long for them to find their paths crossing again in an attempt to save both dragons and humans from the corrupt plans of both organizations. I was riveted by each piece of the plot that was uncovered by Ember and Co. and couldn't wait to see what happened next! This book definitely held my attention and never really lagged.

Something I really enjoyed was getting to know about the Eastern Dragons and learning the ins and outs of a completely new species. I did think it was interesting that they had never been mentioned before though. Jade was a fun new addition who I'm hoping plays a role in future books as well.

Soldier did have it's problems, but they were mostly more of the same problems that I've had with the last two books as well. I wish that the back and forth of the love triangle would hurry up and die in a fire and I would really like for Cobalt to back off of Ember and stop acting like a caveman. The action was great and I liked learning new things about the world, though. I definitely do plan to continue the series when book number four is released!

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Blog Tour Trailer & Giveaway: Change Places with Me by Lois Metzger

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Title: Change Places With me
Author: Lois Metzger
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 224

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Rose has changed. She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before. The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror. Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new. She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before. There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.

But something still feels wrong to Rose. Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
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Author Bio
Lois Metzger was born in Queens and has always written for young adults. She is the author of five novels and two nonfiction books about the Holocaust, and she has edited five anthologies. Her short stories have appeared in collections all over the world. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

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Top Ten Tuesday #102: ALA ARCs I can't wait to read

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Today's Topic: 
Top Ten ARCs I Can't WaitTo Read From ALA 


Over the weekend I attended ALA in Orlando and IT WAS AWESOME! After missing YALLFest, YALLWEST, and BEA, I was so excited to finally go to something! I received a ton of ARCs as well as some finished copies, but these are the ten I'm most excited to read!


        

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven


        

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
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ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Monday, June 27, 2016

Title: And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Publication Date: June 27, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 496
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//This book was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review//
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

And I Darken is a book I had seen around a few times, but didn't know too much about. Then I saw it on Netgalley, read the first few lines, and was immediately sold. I don't know anything about Vlad the Impaler, other than what I saw on Dracula Untold, so I was pretty excited to get into the meat of this story about Lada, the brutal princess.

When I first started this book, I wasn't exactly sure what to think. I immediately loved the way it was written. Somehow it was able to pull me in immediately, despite the fact that it began with Lada being born. Slowly, the plot meanders through Lada's childhood. We see her a bit as a baby, then a young child, and then a preteen. Finally, she turns 13 and this is where we spend the first couple hundred pages of the book. I'll be honest in saying I had started to get a little frustrated with reading about child Lada. I wanted it to hurry up and get to her older teenage years so we could see her get her vengeance. After it all, though, I really do believe that every single page of backstory was necessary because it showed how Lada and her brother came to be the people they were.

And I Darken really is a book all about its characters more so than some others. (I don't even know if that makes sense, but it does in my head, so...) Sure, a lot of books have great characters! But where some of my other favorite books leave me thinking about the story long after it ends, all I can think about after finishing this is the characters. And not just Lada, but all of them! I don't know if I've ever read a book that focused so heavily on multiple characters.

I loved Lada, despite her pretty unlikable attitude, and I also loved Radu! Lada was unapologetically badass. There were moments where I thought she might do what so many other young adult heroines have done and change herself for her man, but I'm happy to report that Lada stays brutal from page one until the very last chapter. I also loved that she was not a special snowflake! Lada wasn't gorgeous (or even pretty), or a genius, and she didn't have any magical powers. She was just a normal girl with a lot of determination. Radu was my other (obvious) favorite, although he starts out as kind of an annoying, whiney kid. Seeing him come into his own was immensely satisfying. I cannot say I loved Mehmed, but I did appreciate that I was able to understand his motivations as he carried out his duties as a sultan. Most of all, I loved watching the relationships between all three of these characters evolve.

The story, like the main character, is brutal at times. I suppose it kind of has to be when you're looking at book based on Vlad the Impaler and I really loved the way it all came together. I will admit that the story went to places I did not anticipate, but I ended up really enjoying it! There were slow bits, of course. I mean, almost the first half of the book is about the characters as children. But there was a lot of action even in the childhood years.

The setting was also fantastic! This is one of the first books I've read with this setting and I loved learning a bit about the Ottoman empire. Kiersten White did a fantastic job of painting her setting and it made me feel like I could truly envision each new location she took me to. I also appreciated the look into Islam from both Lada's (who hated it) and Radu's (who found peace in the religion) points of view.

If I had one complaint about And I Darken it would have been how long it took to get to Lada and Radu as actual young adults. That being said, I ended up enjoying the length of time I had to get to know them, so it really isn't a complain after all. I loved this book so much! When it was over, I was honestly kind of devastated, especially realizing I'd have to wait a year for the next one. I highly recommend this book if you're looking for some YA fantasy or historical fiction that's just a little bit more ruthless than others!

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Weekly Recap: 6/19 - 6/25

Sunday, June 26, 2016


My Super Exciting Life 

So... I may have missed BEA this year, but I got to go to ALA and that'll do! Yesterday was the first day of three and I'm so happy with what I got! I'm also super exhausted, so this will have to be brief. Unfortunately I missed the Heartless giveaway by about 5 minutes, but that's okay. I'll just wait until it comes out with everyone else! I did manage to snag a copy of A Torch Against the Night though! Keep an eye out for a giveaway soon!



New Books

ALA:

        
        
        


For Review:



Won:

  



In Case You Missed It

Monday book review of The Hunt
The topic was favorite 2016 releases for Top Ten Tuesday
I featured The Architect of Song for Waiting on Wednesday
Thursday movie revies of The Conjuring 2 and 10 Cloverfield Lane
On Saturday I shared my experience at two Disney dessert parties



This Week I Read

  



Upcoming Reviews

  


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
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Disney For the Weekend: Dessert party comparison

Saturday, June 25, 2016

It has been way too long since I've done a Disney feature on this blog, but never fear! I'm back with all the Disney goodness. Specifically, Disney dessert goodness. Oh yes, friends. Today I'm going to review two Disney World dessert parties and tell you which one I liked more and why. You should probably bring cupcakes.



Last week my husband decided we should go do something special together and, obviously, Disney was involved. In May 2015 he went to the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party by himself while we were on vacation in Orlando (back before we moved here). I had gotten really sick and had been stuck in bed for the entire day. I cancelled my ticket but insisted he should go instead of being confined to the room as well. He went and he loved it and so he wanted to take me!

We arrived to Epcot on Thursday evening around 7pm. We knew check in was at 7:45, but we moseyed over to the roped off fireworks viewing area at 7:30 where we found out that the party had been moved indoors because of possible rain. And that was when I totally freaked out! See, I'm kind of obsessed with behind the scenes Disney. Recently I had noticed what looked like a mountain on the Epcot skyline near Canada and had done some digging. I'd discovered that this was a giant tent known as the World Showplace, which had been put up back in 2000 as part of the milennium celebration. Rather than taking it back down, they just left it up behind the scenes to be used for special events. Since discovering this I had wanted to find a way in, but I didn't think it would be this easy! We walked straight over and, after walking through some giant gates I'd never noticed before, stood outside with the other people who had already gathered.

 The inside was gorgeously decorated! It was dark with chandeliers and projections on the walls. Tall tables decorated with long blue tablecloths filled the room, so no seating was available. My husband immediately headed straight to the food tables while I snagged a table for us to stand at while we enjoyed the party. 

My husband decided to sneak off around the corner to scout out some more of the building (tent) that was blocked off because we're nosey like that. He was excited to report that the bathrooms were the biggest he'd ever seen and he also said that the blocked off side of the room was as big, if not bigger than the side we were in. Quite an impressive building(?) hidden back behind the World Showcase! I just wish I had gotten a chance to see it as it was originally intended. 


The offerings seemed great to me! There was a variety of desserts available including warm brownies with ice cream, baklava, rice krispy treats, pretzels with hot cheese, chocolate ganache tarts, as well as other delicious treats! Because this is the "sparkling" dessert party, there were also two sparkling wines to choose from (one dry, one sweet) and two syrups that could be added (rosé and pomegranate). While I enjoyed the desserts that were available, my husband was actually a little disappointed. According to him (and some other reviews I've found), several more unique dessert offerings were missing and had been replaced with more generic desserts. Not something a one time guest would notice, but it was definitely something my husband picked up on! 

After the desserts, we made our way out to the roped off fireworks viewing area in front of the World Showcase Lagoon. The viewing area was perfect! It's an area I've often envied when I've been around for the fireworks and this is the only way to get it.


The show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, was amazing as it always is. Illuminations is not my favorite Disney fireworks show, but it is gorgeous and thrilling to watch! 


Overall, I really enjoyed the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party! I'm a champagne lover, so I really enjoyed a lighter drink with my party. The deserts were enjoyable but I wouldn't call them fantastic. At $50 per person, I'm honestly not convinced I'd do it again. Instead, I might just make a FastPass for a comparable fireworks viewing area and grab a dessert and a drink from the World Showcase!







On Sunday night, just three days after the Epcot dessert party, my husband made reservations for another one. This time we were going to Hollywood Studios and Star Wars was involved. I didn't know much beyond that and I didn't do any digging for spoilers!

We arrived around 7:30pm and rode a few rides before checking in at 8:15 at the Disney Junior building next to the Launch Bay. We tried to check in early approximately 13180 times, but they wouldn't budge! We did get to watch some Storm Troopers roaming around in the meantime and we also played some Disney Infinity in the Launch Bay, so that was a fun time killer. Like last time, we had been moved in because of rain, which I'm honestly okay with because Florida summer.

Similar to the Epcot party, this one was set up with tall tables, this time in red and black. I did notice some handicapped tables this time to accommodate wheelchairs. Again, the room was dark, which gave it a fun ambiance. They also had music playing from all the Star Wars films! There were various Star Wars decorations around the room, which added a nice touch!

The Disney Junior stage was, you know, not very Star Wars-y, but I was totally fine with it if it meant staying out of the rain. At this party you could tell that a lot of the people were huge Star Wars fans and were there mainly for that experience. It was kind of cool to be in a huge room made up mostly of nerds. I also noticed that the crowd was slightly smaller at this party as well.

The food was totally to die for!! The thing we were most excited about on this night was the one thing we'd heard about already - freeze dried Nutella. There was some kind of Star Wars name attached to it, but my husband just kind of ran up to the table and asked for "The Nutella." They knew what he meant.

I loved that all the desserts were Star Wars themed! There were BB-8 and Darth Vader cupcakes, Darth Maul eclairs, Death Star chocolate cake, Yoda pistachio cherry bites, galactic warm space debris bread pudding, and the list goes on.

There were also some savory options including C3-PO crackers and scorched pesto crisps, among others. This party included a bar with mixed drinks in place of champagne. My favorite was "The Force," a pomegranate lemonade with bourbon.

Again, we headed to the roped off area for viewing the fireworks. I had never seen this show before, so I was really excited!! There was also a projection aspect where different Star Wars scenes were projected directly onto the Chinese Theater.

This show was SO cool!! Scenes were projected and matched to the fireworks from all seven films. There were also lighting effects over the crowd that tied in to the show. I actually think this has replaced Wishes as my favorite fireworks show at Magic Kingdom!

At $70 per person, this party is not cheap, but I think it was totally worth it! The desserts were delicious and there was a huge variety and the drinks were also really great. If you're on the fence about which party to go to, I definitely recommend this one! I'm sure we'll be back sometime too!


Here are some extra photos! 
(You can click to make them bigger.)


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