TBR Thursday – April 12

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TBR Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, where you post a title from your shelf or e-reader and find out what others think about it.

My pick this week is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review and Guest Post: Happily

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Title: Happily
Author: Chauncey Rogers
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: self-published
Source: Author
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t,
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

Review:

I loved this unique twist on the story of Cinderella. Rather than telling the story of Cinderella, it tells the story of Laure, a girl who tried to trick the King and Prince into thinking she was the girl from the ball.

Since the story gave a different perspective of the Cinderella story, it was unpredictable. Laure wanted to get a glass slipper made that matches the one at the palace to deceive the King into believing that she was the girl who the Prince fell in love with at the ball. This led her on a journey with her new friend Luc (who she met when she destroyed his family’s cart) to find a glass blower who could make her a glass slipper.

I loved this different perspective of the story! It’s a fresh take on a story that’s been told a thousand times. Laure was a poor street girl, similar to Cinderella’s poor position, but she was very sneaky since she wanted to deceive the kingdom. Laure seemed like a more realistic girl than Cinderella. She wasn’t afraid to fight or lie or do whatever it took to get what she wanted. That made her an unpredictable character.

This is a great story! And the best part is there will be a sequel! I can’t wait to read it!

Guest Post:

Sticking (to) the Ending – Concluding Happily

Thank you Jill for hosting today!

It goes without saying that the ending of a story is a crucial element. Of course, so are the beginning and middle of the story. But the ending has to fulfill all the promises and answer all the questions (or at least enough of them). It has to deliver the big payoff that the reader has been working towards, and it has to leave the reader so satisfied that they’ll talk with others about it and pick up your other work.

It’s a lot of pressure.

But I’m not going to talk about endings in general. I’m going to talk about the ending of Happily in particular. So I will try to avoid spoilers, but be ye warned: we arediscussing the ending. Even if no specific spoilers are named, there still might be some general spoiling that occurs. So, please read with caution.

Okay, with that out of the way, I just want to open up about the ending of Happily a bit, and what that process was like for me.

For starters, I dread endings that drag on. This may be a byproduct of having viewed The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition too many times. Regardless, I worry about having too much follow after the main resolution. Anyone who has read my other works will notice that I do very quick wrap-ups. Once the main action is over, resolve anything that’s left and BAM! The End.

But Happily was going to be tricky. I knew that even before I began to write the ending. The problem was that Laure’s key conflicts, which needed to be resolved, where not the only key conflicts that had to be wrapped up. There was also the issue of the shoe and the real Cinderella, and what would happen to her, which was a question both for Carl and (I presume) the reader.

However, I didn’t feel like I could come off the main action sequence, and then continue the hunt for the missing girl. It also seemed to me that adding anything would have separated the end of the book too far from the story’s climax.

For example, having some kind of wedding ceremony between Carl and Laure, with the steorotypical “Speak now or forever hold your peace” bit being interrupted couldhave been done, but not without adding a fair amount to the story. Perhaps somebody else could have done it, but I didn’t see a way that I felt worked.

The other thing I want to address is the big plot twist that comes at the end of the story. Some people love it, and some people felt like it was a lot to digest, came too close to the end, came out of nowhere, and was totally unnecessary.

Alas, I find myself in both camps on this one.

I definitely love it for sentimental reasons. I don’t know if I could have written it for my daughter without including that bit. But I also agree with those other remarks.

Interestingly, however, in the original draft there were more hints of it coming. Some of my clever early readers spotted it coming, and so I decided to tone back the foreshadowing and alter some of the clues, with the result being that it is, perhaps, too well hidden to be a satisfying reveal for some.

As for it being too close to the ending, or being unnecessary, or the wrap up being too fast, I have a few final thoughts on that.

The chiefest thought, though, is that this is intended to be a Cinderella backdoortelling, as well as a Cinderella retelling.

Yes, Laure interacts with the traditional Cinderella. But Laure is also her own Cinderella. She’s a girl who goes from rags to riches, finds true love, is rescued from bad situations, and has a lot to do with a pretty shoe.

To me, the big twist at the end plays a big part in making Laure into her own Cinderella. It’s a huge reversal for her, and while there is a romance story within Happily, the true love that she finds at the ending is not the same as the romance plot line within the book. For me, that big twist at the end was the best way to deliver on the promise of true love.

And in closing, the quick wrap-up is also a trademark piece for Cinderella stories. The shoe fits, a few nice words, and *SNAP, just like that, you’re at the wedding sequence. It’s kind of just how they go. 🙂

I know this post was a bit rambly, but hopefully it gave you some insights into why Happily has the ending that it does. And anyways, with the announcement of a sequel we all know that this isn’t really the ending anyways. 😉

About the Author:

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Chauncey Rogers was born in Arizona, and since then has hopped back and forth between the mid-western and western United States. He married in 2012 while attending school in Utah. His favorite movie since he was three is Jurassic Park, and he wishes very badly that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster were real, though he doesn’t believe in them as much as he used to.

In March 2017, he published his first novel, Home to Roost. In October 2017, he published Cleaving Souls.

He currently lives in Kansas City with his wife and two children.

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Thank you Reads and Reels for letting me participate in this blog tour.

‘Waiting on’ Wednesday – April 11

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This is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. In this post we highlight a book that’s highly anticipated.

The book that I’m waiting on this Wednesday is Leah on the Offbeat.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

What books are you waiting on this week?

 

Review: Sunny (Track #3)

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Title: Sunny (Track #3)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sunny tries to shine despite his troubled past in this third novel in the critically acclaimed Track series from National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics. They all have a lot of lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.

Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.

With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time.

Review:

This is another great story in the Track series.

This book has a different form from the other two books. Sunny tells his story through his diary entries (and yes, it is a diary, not a journal. He makes that clear at the beginning). He speaks directly to his diary about what is going on in his life, so it seems like he’s speaking directly to the reader.

Like all of the main characters in this series, Sunny has a unique family situation. He lives with his father, who he calls by his first name, Darryl. Sunny’s mother died while giving birth to him. Darryl has always felt like Sunny should take his mother’s place, because he replaced her in the world, so he made Sunny follow his mother’s dream of running. But the problem is that running was what Sunny’s mother dreamed of doing, not Sunny. In this story, Sunny has to embrace his own dream of dancing, and with the help of Coach he discovers a way to bring dance into his track life.

I loved this story! I can’t wait to read the next one!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and it is now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read. Here’s my list:

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1. Outlander
by Diana Gabaldon

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2. A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

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3. Our Chemical Hearts
by Krystal Sutherland

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4. The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena

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5. The Ashes of London
by Andrew Taylor

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6. The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

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7. Room
by Emma Donoghue

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8. The Illegal
by Lawrence Hill

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9. Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

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10. The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling

(all images taken from Goodreads)

Review: Mad Miss Mimic

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Title: Mad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle in a historical fiction debut for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Elizabeth Wein.

Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people’s voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her “Mad Miss Mimic” behind her back… and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo…but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations – but to do so, she must first find her voice.

Review:

I loved this Victorian novel! As the description says, it has aspects of both Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes novels.

Leo is an interesting character. She’s very secluded because of her stutter, but she is still expected to follow the path of a Victorian lady by marrying into money. Because of her stutter, she has faced many hardships. A unique aspect of her stutter is that she can mimic voices perfectly. But that has led her into more trouble than anything. When she mimicked the voice of her sister’s suitor, her words ended her sister’s engagement and also ruined her relationship with her only sibling.

Most of the characters were unlikeable, which is hard for the writer to do and still create a great story. Right from the beginning I didn’t like Christabel, her husband, or Mr. Thornfax. I didn’t like the way they patronized Leo, solely because of her stutter. But I liked Leo and I rooted for her through the whole book. She was intelligent, and took risks to solve the mystery of the Black Glove.

I’m definitely going to follow this author, because this was a great debut novel!