Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Wolfsbane (Nightshade 2) by Andrea Cremer

This thrilling sequel to the much-talked-about Nightshade begins just where it ended.Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered.

But then the Searchers make her an offer,one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. (Goodreads)

The book starts right after the last one ended. Calla wakes up in the custody of the Searchers and they make her an offer; to help them to take down the Keepers. She’s still trying to choose between Shay and Ren and along the way she learns more about the history of the Guardians, Keepers, and Searchers.

I really loved Nightshade and I’ve wanted to get my hands on this one but I have to say I’m kinda disappointed. The first half was so boring with page after page telling the history of the war but it got better towards the end.

Calla goes through huge change in this book, and not all for the best. Gone is the confident leader and she’s turned to this unsure, easily-trusting-person who probably lost half her IQ along the way. I mean she grew up thinking The Searchers are the enemy and she spent a week in chains and when they unchain her explaining they need her help, she just agrees? Just like that. I’m not convinced it’s should be that easy. At all. There were few times that I just wanted to slap her really hard to get her to understand. There were so many hints dropped that even I figured that out and I’m not exactly rocket scientist…

There was way too much telling about the history with dialogs that went on and on and quite frankly I just skipped most of them. Maybe I missed something but I just don’t care.

I’m not sure if my biggest complain is that there’s hardly any Ren in the book. I started to think if I read the books just for him and I just might be right…

I still find Shay very annoying and for the life of me can’t understand why Calla would choose him! I wasn’t fan of him in the first book and I’m even less in this. He gets mad pretty much every time someone mentions Ren and can’t remember that’s its him that stole another’s intended mate in the first place?!

We get bunch of new characters who are Searchers and I liked Connor. I really hope he’s in the next book too! I wasn’t huge fan of Adne but I think she would be good with Shay. Especially if it means Shay won’t be with Calla… Then there is Ethan. Guardians killed his brother and he hates Calla from the start, and all the guardians. But when he sees Sabine he is awestruck from the first. Seriously?!

All in all it wasn’t bad but it could have been so much better and it did get better towards the end. I’m hoping the next one is better but I’m fearing for the worst. I read couple reviews of Bloodrose and I’m already having problems with it…

Published: Atom (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 390
Source: library

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

 Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch . . .

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

Lina hopes for her family. For her country. For her future. For love – first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose . . . Will hope keep Lina alive?

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors. (Goodreads)

In 1941 the Soviets are gathering people they think as anti-Soviets, mainly from university, army, teachers. When NKVD comes knocking on their door, 15 year old Lina’ life turns for the worse. She along with her mother and 11 year old brother gets deported from Lithuania to freezing Siberia with crowded train car that’s labelled as thieves and prostitutes. As in worthless people.

This was such a great and emotional book. There isn’t many books about Stalin’s regime and even fewer about the Baltic countries and it was great reading about those for change.

They were given very little food and water which resulted in people dying of hunger and disease. Under those circumstances people react differently. Some fights back and won’t give up, some are just desperate and some has given up. Lina’s mother is good example of someone who has courage and stays strong through it all. Even with small rations of wood, she always has food to give to those who needs it. She’s the one who keeps it all together.

The NKVD officers treated them worse than human beings. They were there to do their job and often saw it as a game. But it also made me thinking if there were some who had sympathies for the victims and who for their own good did nothing. I mean they would have gotten themselves killed otherwise most likely.

I would have liked to hear what happened to the other half after the camps were separated. And why they were separated in the first place. I also wondered what happened to that one guard and I found having more symphaty for him than I probably should have.

I’m not usually huge fan of historical YA but don’t let it fool you. This was amazing book and I’m glad I read it!

And it always makes me excited when Finland is mentioned in a book lol :)

Published: Puffin (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 344
Source: my own

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire 1) by Mark Lawrence

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him–and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining? (Goodreads)

9 year old Jorg Ancrath sees his mother and brother killed. Soon after he leaves his father and becomes consummated with rage, and guilt for not being able to save them. He flees with group of men freed from the dungeons and 4 years later he is the leader. At the age of 15 he vows to be king.

Although the main character is a teen, this is not a book for kids and Jorg is not very likeable character. And his actions are even less likeable. But I loved it!

The book starts when the gang is torching a village and it sets the pace for the book from the start. There’s no hero to root in this book for sure. At first I thought it weird that he’s so young and still the leader of them and how he grew up to be so cold. There’s flashback’s from the past that explains some of the things and while I’m not usually fan of too many flashbacks, I think it worked here.

I liked the relationship between Jorg and Makin. Makin used to be the king’s guard and he knew Jorg before he flees from home and he’s the one who really knows him. Or at least as much as anyone is able. But it makes Jorg more humane anyway.

My only complain will be the references to “our world”. Like at some point someone mentioned Shakespeare and stuff like that. I prefer my fantasy to be totally in other world. But it only happened few times so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I really enjoyed this book and it was truly wonderful debut book. I can’t wait for the next book to come out and I hope I get my hands on it! But this may not be for everyone so be warned…

Published: Harper Voyager (2012)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 399
Source: publisher

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels 1) by Ilona Andrews

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way… (Goodreads)

Kate works as a mercenary instead of working for the Order. When her guardian is killed she finds herself working on their behalf for finding the killer. And she must work with shapechangers and vampires to do so, and with the Beast Lord.

I liked the book and I thought it was great one to start a new serie. There’s magic, shifters and vampires so what’s not to like? I would have liked to learn more about the world and how everything came to pass, like how the magic came back and shifters and vampires too.

I liked Kate who knew how to stand up to herself and was no damsel in distress. She’s not afraid of Curran the Beast Lord of the city, and I’m not sure if she should be. You can see there’s something between them but there’s no romance yet but I hope there will be! We don’t really learn much about Curran yet but I’m sure he’ll be more in the next books.

It was good first book, maybe not the best, but I’ve heard those get better. Can’t wait to read more!

Published: Ace (2007)
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 260
Source: my own

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters 1) by Michelle Zink

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters–one good, one evil.

Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, they find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents’ deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets. (Goodreads)

After Lia’s father dies she discovers a mark on her wrist and learns about a prophecy that has been in her family for generations, and is now concerning Lia and her twin sister Alice. One sister is the Gate and the other the Guardian and the mission is to keep Samael and other demons from coming into this world.

First of all I had no idea when I started this that it’s set in 1890’s and if I had known I’d have been more hesitant to read it. But apart from characters riding in carriages and wearing gowns I could have said it’s set in modern times.

I enjoyed this but it was little slow going. The main problem was that it had way too many questions but few answers. I never got the sense of the prophecy and it was too evil vs. good, I mean Lia was so good and Alice so evil. When Alice started to turn evil and why? I didn’t feel the sisters had any connection with each other or that they were ever really close.

Blurb says that the prophecy has turned sisters against each other but I never got the feeling that there was problems between the sisters of previous generations. Lia’s and Alice’s aunt Virginia lives with them but it was never mentioned that she had problems with her sister.

The book was enjoyable but I was still little bit disappointed. I’m not sure yet if I’ll read the next book but I’m curious if there’s some improvement in it.

Published: Atom (2010)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 343
Source: my own

Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber

Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber

In fourteenth-century England, beautiful Queen Isabella-humiliated by her weak, unfaithful husband-is emerging from the shadows to take her revenge. But her newly arrived, twenty-oneyear-old Welsh handmaiden, Gwenith de Percy, also seeks vengeance-against the English invaders who crushed her beloved Wales. Isabella’s once-golden marriage is now her penance. Due to his rumored relations with men, Parliament forced Edward to share his throne-a demeaning arrangement that torments Isabella.

With the help of her secret, noble lover, Roger Mortimer-an enemy of her husband, imprisoned in the Tower of London-the queen plots to take control. Thrilled by this turn of events, Gwenith realizes that a king cannot afford to be weak-especially when his formidable, discontented queen seeks his power as her due. (Goodreads)

Gwenith’s family is killed when Edward I crushes Wales and Gwenith grows up with her grandmother, who makes Gwenith promise to seek vengeance for her family. She starts to serve Queen Isabella intending to bring harm but comes to respect Isabella, but comes hate the Despensers.

Book is told mostly from Gwenith’s point of view, for reasons I can’t figure out. The idea of Gwenith taking revenge for her family is kinda far-stretching. Why does she want to kill Edward II who isn’t in anyway responsible for the things that happened to her family? It would have been far more interesting to hear the story just from Isabella’s point of view. Instead we get abruptly changing POV’s which made me so confused. I had to read a sentence few times to make sense of it.
But I have to say I didn’t like Isabella either. She was just too good to be true. She is constantly complaining how the women are treated, how everyone loved her in France more and telling all the time that she is the queen.

The most annoying this was that it’s hinted through the book that Edward II wasn’t the real father of future Edward III, and it’s never told who the real father is supposed to be! I mean why!? It’s mentioned that Isabella spent some time in Scotland when Edward abandoned her and had an affair from which Edward III was born. If you invent such rubbish at least you could tell the inventory man’s name!

Isabella is also sneaking out to The Tower to have sex with Roger Mortimer, multiple times. Because queen can just leave castles wearing a hood as her only disguise. Queens are constantly watched and very rarely alone so how could she have managed to get her little trysts?

In the afterword it’s told that Edward III had huge sexual appetites and had many mistresses and illegitimate children. I don’t remember reading about any other mistress than Alice Perrers but I’m not sure about the children. Wouldn’t call it “huge sexual appetite” if he has one known mistress.

Published: NAL (2006)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Source: my own

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross (Outlander 5) by Diana Gabaldon

The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser’s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge. Claire’s unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead—or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes. (Goodreads)

The book starts where the last book ends. Jamie, Claire, Brianna, Roger and Jemmy are living in America and its few years before The American Revolutionary War. There is already unrest seen by people called the Regulators which leads to fighting, and Fraser’s are caught up in it.

While I liked this book it wasn’t as good as the previous ones. There wasn’t anything big happening, we just see them living their lives. There were parts that dragged on and for the first time I really felt that the book could have been lot shorter.

I loved seeing the relationship growing between Jamie and Roger. Jamie didn’t seem to have too high opinion of Roger in the last book and I’m happy to see that changing.
I still wish that we could have Fergus’s POV instead of Roger’s but I wouldn’t want to lose him though.

I loved the last surprise at the end but I really want to know what happened that lead to it!

Published: Dell (2005)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 1443
Source: my own

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace (Catherine 1) by Eva Stachniak

When Vavara, a young orphaned Polish girl, is brought to serve at Empress Elizabeth’s glittering, dangerous court in St Petersburg, she is schooled by the Chancellor himself in skills from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent – and listen. Soon, she is Elizabeth’s ‘tongue’ – her secret eyes and ears.

Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for Elizabeth’s heir. Set to spy on her by the Empress, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit seductions and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court.But Sophie’s destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power? (Goodreads)

Barbara, or Varvara in Russian, becomes to Russian court during the reign of Empress Elizabeth. Chancellor Bestuzhev trains her to be a spy (tongue) and after the Empress brings the future Catherine the Great, then called Sophie, to marry her nephew Peter, Varvara becomes part of her retinue. Catherine doesn’t have easy time in Russia and the two soon become close confidantes.

The book is called “a novel of Catherine the Great” but Catherine is not the main character and is absent most of the book. It tells more to us about Empress Elizabeth than Catherine and the book is told from a servants point of view. It would have been more interesting if there would have been also Catherine’s point of view.
I did like Varvara however so in that sense I didn’t mind that she was the narrator, but it gave us only one side of the story which becomes clear at the end,

I’m not overly familiar with history of Russia so I can’t say anything about the accuracy but there was couple of things that bugged me. There were few times that Catherine made these escapades to town or somewhere and nobody didn’t see? With all the spies and all? And how Varvara seemed to be just little too familiar with Catherine and Elizabeth and her knowledge on pretty much everything.

I would have liked to read more about the relationship between Catherine and Peter, what really happened then. Peter was told to be real nutty but we don’t really see it. Also I don’t think it was good thing to remove Varvara off from the court for seven years while anything didn’t really happened in her life during that time.

I liked Varvara as a character but I think it would have worked better if told from Catherine’s point of view.

Published: Doubleday (2012)
Format: Hardback
Pages: 464
Source: publisher

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Falling Under (Falling Under 1) by Gwen Hayes

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she’s seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. (Goodreads)

One night Theia sees burning man falling from the sky and her life will never bee the same again. She starts to dream about a boy and is more than surprised when the same boy starts the same school Theia does. Haden seems to avoid her but she can’t help but to be drawn to him.

I liked the idea of the book; The world of Under and how demons traveling between worlds. And for once in YA book there wasn’t love triangle! But I couldn’t connect with the characters.

They fell in love too soon and Haden was all over other girls and still Theia wants him. Seriously? Haden is telling Theia all the time to stay away from him because he’s dangerous but I just couldn’t tell why he’s so dangerous exactly.

Theia was brought up by overprotective father and I didn’t buy how she so suddenly decides to rebel. I liked Haden better but honestly he was total jackass most of the book.

And it really annoyed me how Haden calls Theia “lamb” all the time, And how Haden’s mother Mara calls her “pussycat”, I believe she called Haden that one time too…

I’m kinda torn between giving this 2.5 and 3. In the other hand there were so many things that annoyed me but it was also entertaining and quick read. But I think the annoying winns…

Published: NAL (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 324
Source: library

Rivals of the Tudor Court by Darcey Bonnette

Rivals of the Tudor Court (Tudor Court 2) by Darcey Bonnette

Thomas Howard founded a dynasty and staked his place in history through a self-serving ruthlessness that allowed no rival to stand in his way.

But the true rivals of the Tudor court were those who stood alongside him: his wife and his mistress, who would battle to the end for him…

As Queen Catherine’s maid, and daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, the future seems bright for Elizabeth Stafford. But when her father gives her hand to Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, the spirited young woman must sacrifice all for duty. Yet Elizabeth is surprised by her passion for her powerful new husband. And when he takes on a mistress, she is determined to fight for her love and her honour…

Naïve and vulnerable, Bess Holland is easily charmed by the Duke of Norfolk, doing his bidding in exchange for gifts and adoration. For years, she and Elizabeth compete for his affections. But they are mere spectators to an obsession neither can rival: Norfolk’s quest to weave the Howard name into the royal bloodline.

The women’s loyalties are tested as his schemes unfold – among them the litigious marriage of his niece Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII. But in an age of ruthless beheadings, no self-serving motive goes unpunished – and Elizabeth and Bess will have to fight a force more sinister than the executioner’s axe… (Goodreads)

As a child Thomas was brought up to know the importance of the Howard family. He takes it to heart and makes advancing his family his life mission and soon his star is rising in the court of Henry VIII. His marriage to outspoken Elizabeth Stafford is nothing but peaceful and is made worse when Thomas supports his niece Anne to get more power for the family. Then Thomas finds Bess Holland, who is the very opposite of his wife.

I was very curious to read this book because I didn’t know that much about Thomas Howard as a person. And he really wasn’t likeable guy!

I knew he was firstly married to Anne Plantagenet but I didn’t know they had and lost four children. Their marriage seems to be a happy one but the loss of their children hardened him and made him fear losing the people he cared about.

Elizabeth Stafford wanted to marry another man and wasn’t happy when told to marry the much older Thomas Howard. She soon starts to care about him but he’s not easy man to live with and has short temper at times.

There were times, okay the whole book, when I just wanted to bang their heads together to get some sense! At first I felt like there was point made that every Howard man is evil and only thinks about power and the whole killing the dog thing. But I liked the relationship between Thomas and Anne and it was nice that he was happy for awhile.

And I really want to know if it’s true that Thomas ordered his servants to beat his wife? I mean seriously!

The book is told from 3 point of views: Thomas, Elizabeth and Bess. I liked Bess’s parts less because it was mostly Bess whining about Thomas being away or that she doesn’t have husband and children.

In the end it was entertaining book but I still feel it lacked it something. Or maybe Thomas annoyed me way to much…

Published: Avon (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Source: publisher