Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday (81): Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Ugh, I need this book. I adored Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood duology. The characters, the plot, the writing was all on point. Three Dark Crowns sounds like it could be even better. This is going to be a book I purchase day of and read immediately. I just can't wait.

What are you waiting on this week?

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
Series: The Conquerors Saga (#1)
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Source: ARC Received from Publisher in Exchange for an Honest Review

My Rating: 5/5   


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.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken. (Summary from Goodreads)

How do I love thee, book? Let me count the ways.

Legit though, how do I even start reviewing this beautiful, masterpiece of a book? Do I start with the captivating landscape? The slow burn plot underlying everything? Or maybe with the characters who appeared so fully formed on the page they felt more like friends? I had very high expectations for this book and it truly smashed every one of them. As soon as I turned the last page I wanted to flip back to the first and start all over again. And I Darken was spectacular. It's going to be really hard to top this book for me.

I think it's pretty well known that I'm a huge Kiersten White fan. Her books constantly offer something new and unique and her characters are always memorable. There hasn't been a single book of hers that I haven't loved fiercely. And I Darken was no exception. In fact, I think And I Darken may have become my new favourite. It was passionate and heartfelt and grand and I miss it already.

Despite my love of history, I don't read a lot of historical novels. Especially now that my reading time is so limited, I like books that instantly engage me and historical fiction usually doesn't. That was not the case for And I Darken. I was captivated by this world from the first line and was pulled along for the ride. I read this book slowly, trying to savor every word and detail. The world of White's Ottoman Empire truly came alive for me, to the point where I always felt a pang when I put the book down. Even now, I long to read more of Lada and Radu's adventures. It's going to be so hard waiting for the next volume.

Kiersten White did her research for this book and it really shows. And I Darken was rich with history and mesmerizing. I felt like I was walking the streets of Edirine or wandering the thick forests in Wallachia. There were many times where I felt a swell in my heart like this, this particular scene, vision, moment was iconic, bigger than the page. I want to go back and read them over and over again. I don't particularly want to live in this world (being a woman and all) but I felt like I got to visit it in these pages. 

Okay, I guess it's time for me to sing Lada's praises. A couple chapters into this book she literally bit a guy and barred her blood-stained teeth at another and I was instantly in love. She was cold and calculating, intelligent and fierce. Lada fought for what she wanted and didn't back down. But, she wasn't always like that. Sometimes Lada was soft, caring, a young girl struggling to hold on to her past while carving a place in this new future. Sometimes I wanted to scream at her, but most of the time I felt so proud watching her come of age. Watching her defy all the limits society tried to put on her. She is a character to remember, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Although I expected Lada to blow me away, I never saw Radu coming. Here's a tidbid of information about me: I don't read book summaries. I knew And I Darken was about a female Vlad the Impaler, written by one of my favourite authors and...that's it. I didn't even know Radu would be such a central character until I got to his chapters. And wow, did I adore him. Seriously, my heart ached for him half the time, but the other half I was just so dang proud of the man he was. I have so many Radu feelings, guys. The contrast between Lada and Radu's chapters worked marvelously. Where Lada was vicious and calculating, Radu was soft and sensitive. He used his intelligence and social skills to survive and thrive in this cruel environment. Watching him grow from scared young boy to confident young man was incredible. 

The relationship between Lada and Radu ruined me. I loved them both so much and hated when they couldn't see eye-to-eye. The bond between them was tested, twisted, pulled, and prodded constantly but it never broke. Despite everything that happened, they were still siblings, still loved each other, and still made me feel like a weepy mess, basically.

Then there was Mehmed. I won't lie, I was very skeptical of him at first. I was solidly in Lada's corner of distrust but, just like her, managed to warm up to him. The three of them together were powerful and I couldn't help but root for them.  

There was a lot of talk about the love triangle when it was first announced. I'm not anti-love triangle by any means, but sometimes I don't see the point of them. This love triangle though was so well done and really added to the tension of the story (and killed my heart just a tiny bit). There was angst and heartbreak and romance and me feeling like my heart was being slowly ripped out of my chest thanks for that Kiersten White.

Also also! There are multiple LGBT characters in And I Darken and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. They are all fully fleshed out and truly some of my favourites. I can't wait to see how White explores their narratives in the next books.

So much in this story was not cut and dry. There were shifting alliances, long-held secrets, and unexpected conflicts. The bad guys weren't always  as bad as first thought, and the good guys did some pretty bad things. I never knew what to think or who to trust and just hoped that Lada and Radu could survive this chaotic world.

And I Darken was powerful, magical, and basically everything I wanted in a book. Even weeks later, my heart tugs just thinking about it. This is one of my favourite books. Hands down. Read it, read it, read it. Do not miss this book.

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

Find This Book: Amazon | Chapters/Indigo | Goodreads | Delcatore Press | Kiersten White       

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Growing Up in YA

I've been working on this post for over two years. It's something I've thought about a lot recently and something I've had a bit of a hard time grappling with.

Today, I'm talking about what it's like to grow up in YA. To grow from YA's target audience to outside of it. To realize that the characters you identified with, loved, hated, cheered for, are suddenly younger than you. Because, when I first started reading YA, at fourteen, they were almost always older. And then as a got older, the same age. And as I entered my 20s, it was a hard thing to realize the characters didn't age right along with me.

It all started with Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead. 

When Bloodlines was first released, I was seventeen. Sydney Sage, the narrator, was eighteen. I liked that we were so close in age. As I was aging up, I liked reading older narrators. 

When I was reading Silver Shadows, the fifth book in the series, I realized something that startled me. In it, Sydney was nineteen. That took me aback. I was used to reading Sydney when she was older than me. She was always mature, responsible, clearly older than my I-can't-even-figure-out-how-to-do-the-laundry self. But...she wasn't. By the time I was reading Silver Shadows, I was actually two years older than Sydney. How the hell did that happen? (Okay, logistically I know how that happened but really how the hell did that happen). 

Not long after the Sydney incident, I couldn't sleep. So, I picked up one of my favourite books, Stray by Rachel Vincent, in hopes that it would help me relax. It's not a YA book, but it really drove home what had been nagging me these last couple of years.  

I remember when I first picked up Stray. I was doing what fifteen-year-old me did best: searching my library's catalog endlessly for a new read. Stray sounded really interesting, in the same vein as the books I'd been reading but also really different. I brought it home and promptly read the entire thing in basically one sitting. I didn't know it was an adult book at the time just that loved it completely. It sucked me right in. Even all these years later, it still does. As I was reading the beginning this time around, a sentence set off alarm bells in my head.

"In my entire twenty-three years, I'd never heard of a stray getting this far into our territory without being caught..."


Faythe was twenty-three. When I first read Stray, I thought Faythe was...well...old. She was eight-years older than me. At fifteen, I couldn't even imagine being twenty-three. Faythe was in grad school; I was in grade ten. Faythe had two guys after her; I'd never even been on a date. Faythe was independent; I was not even slightly. 

In less than two months, I will turn twenty-three.  I will be the same age Faythe was at the beginning of the series. And it's jarring. My image of Faythe is altered because now I see her as a peer, not as an adult. I don't have the same perspective on the story as I did at fifteen.

Growing up in YA is just weird. You go from being younger than the characters, to the same age, to older. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels like you're still their age when you read YA. 

YA has always been around in some form, but during my early teen years YA BOOMED. My book store went from having a couple of YA shelves to having entire walls. And I devoured it. There were so many books I could read, so many worlds I could enter. It was my sanctuary when I needed it the most. It became the thing I revolved my life around. And it still is. I want to work in YA (in whatever form that ends up taking). I want to keep reading YA. I want to champion and sing YA's praises from the rooftops.

But, YA isn't my space anymore. Not really. It's a space I get to enjoy, a community I have my roots in, and something I care so deeply about. But, I'm not a teen anymore and YA should be written for teens. There's been a lot of talk recently about how adults needs to respect teen spaces, particularly in the YA community. It's important to remember that YA is for TEENS, not adults. And I understand. I understand how hard it is to let go of this space, to understand that as much as I enjoy it, as much as I will never truly leave it, it isn't being written for me anymore.

My bestie and I were talking about this and she said that since we were around for the YA boom it feels like it's ours. It's something we don't want to give up. And we don't have to. We don't have to stop reading, loving, and championing YA. But, we have to acknowledge our place in it. Which is, in a sense, outside of it. I'm not going to pretend its easy, cause it's not. It breaks my heart. It feels like I've lost something, even though I really haven't. But, I'm slowly coming around to it. Because I'm getting an entirely new perspective on YA, in a sense. And dammit, I can read whatever the heck I like. 

I'm not good at growing up. I never really have been. I hate birthdays and age questions and not being the youngest in the room (long story). And I know I'm not the only one. And I know I'm probably not the only one having this weird how-did-I-get-older-than-these-characters feelings. It's a hard thing to acknowledge, but one I think is incredibly important. 

I'll never stop reading YA. I just need to find my new place in it.

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)