ARC Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

DefyHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Scholastic Press)

Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Summary: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

My Thoughts

I must say, I enjoyed this book. Alexa is a fantastic protagonist, and I love that she refuses to be a damsel in distress. She kicks everybody’s asses and saves everybody and she refuses to just lie back and do what the men tell her. I. Love. Her. She is my spirit animal and if I could call on a fictional character to have my back in a fight with the mafia, I would choose Alexa. Every time.

I will say it was a bit heavy on the romance, especially the love triangle situation, but that’s partly due to the fact that I would much rather see her fighting than making out with a guy, just because she’s so awesome at it. I would have found it more interesting if the animosity between her and Damian was real, or if Rylan was less of a Jacob Black clone. As it was, the love triangle annoyed me, especially because it seemed to transform Alexa into some starstruck idiot “discovering her newfound femininity.” And (slight spoiler), I was a bit bummed that there was no “OH MY GOD YOU’RE A GIRL WTF IS THIS” moment. Apparently Alexa is really shitty at pretending to be a boy. And apparently it’s not like anybody caught a glimpse of her lady bits; they just went “oh that’s a effeminate looking guy, must be a girl” and then went quietly about their business while allowing Alexa to keep believing she was the best fake boy to ever fake boy.

And when Damian is an ass (which, let’s be honest, is like once a page), Alexa takes none of it. She demands answers and is rightly furious at what he does, and although she does lose steam rather quickly, I still loved how feisty she is. By the end of that book, everybody and their mom knows not to mess with Alexa Hollen.

Also, SHE SAVES PEOPLE. There was no girl-plays-miniscule-role-in-actually-killing-bad-guy. Nope. This girl kicks the bad guy’s ass herself and becomes a national hero. It’s like Mulan except with a really not-cool king instead of an old emperor who is basically a Chinese Dumbledore.

Serious note: I was impressed with the inclusion of “breeding houses”. Rape is a really difficult and sensitive topic but I think the author approached it very well and it made me root for Alexa to succeed even more. Just the thought of what those girls were going through in that place is horrific, and it instantly made the plot so much more real and urgent for me. BUT, with that being said, I’ve heard other opinions and I know that not every reader will see it in that light. I can certainly see where it would come across as offensive, so just be aware of that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. Alexa was an great protagonist and I’m very excited for the next book in the series!

Rating:

Four Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely!

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

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ARC Review: Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton

Witch FinderHow did I get it? Netgalley (thanks @ Hodder Children’s Books)

Genre: YA, Fantasy/Paranormal

Synopsis: London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with Witch Finder from the cover alone. I mean, it’s freaking GORGEOUS. And also I love reading witch stories, so I was really excited to get approved for this one.

It actually turned out even better than I thought it would. Ruth Warburton has a lovely way with words and Luke and Rosa just gave me a lot of feelings. I loved Luke’s conflict over what he’s sworn to do; it was written perfectly and he did some things that I was rather surprised by. He’s not immediately torn with grief over his task of killing this upper-class witch, nor is Rosa a glowing beacon of virtue winning him over with the sheer purity and goodness of her heart. They both have faults and weaknesses and they had splendid chemistry together. The romance between them felt so sweet and genuine and I had to allow myself a few fangirling moments while reading.

There are some heavier issues in this book that I did not expect, such as abuse and financial problems, which really enhanced the story to me. The “villain” role, while a bit shallow in this book, has clear potential as a deeper character who has a legitimate reason for what he’s doing, and I was especially pleased by this because I hate typecasted antagonists who are bad just for the sake of being bad. It’s such a cop-out and it drives me nuts when authors do that.

I also really love the fact that Rosa does not just lie down and take everything that’s thrown at her—she’s a brilliant, strong character who, although having moments where she is powerless and defeated, really comes into her own by the end of the book. Luke, of course, made me want to throw myself off a cliff and paint rainbows everywhere simultaneously. He’s not fearless but he’s not a pushover either; I loved his protective side and the way he interacts with Rosa and the conflict he feels.

Overall, I loved this book. It was sweet, brilliantly written, and the ending came far too soon.

Rating:

Five Stars

Recommend it?

Absolutely.

Pre-order it:

Amazon | Book Depository

Other books by the author:

A Witch in Winter            A Witch in Love             A Witch Alone

Stacking the Shelves #7

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s a chance to share any books you’ve bought, borrowed, or received in the past 7 days. All of the books on this list are linked to Goodreads.

For Review

Being Sloane Jacobs

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill (thanks @ Delacorte)

From the Bookshop

The Importance of Being Earnest The Book of Lost Things The Iron Witch Literary Britain Robert Burns Out of Sight, Out of Time 6339664 Going Vintage

The Importance of Being Earnest and Four Other Plays by Oscar Wilde (for school)

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Literary Britain: A Reader’s Guide to Its Writers and Landmarks by Frank Morley (a birthday gift from my girlfriend)

A collection of Robert Burns poetry (also a birthday gift from my girlfriend, but I couldn’t find the right edition, so Penguin Classics will have to do!)

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

I was determined to go book-hunting yesterday, and it went quite well. Today is my birthday, so I thought I might as well treat myself to some good books. I’ll honestly probably go back to the bookstore today just because I have no self-control. And also I really need to get on the Divergent series again and stop having to cover my eyes every time somebody mentions Allegiant.

In other news, you think bookcases are unfeeling inanimate objects? I am 99.99% sure I felt my bookcase judging me when I added all eight of these books to one of the last empty little patches of shelf remaining. The struggle is real.

What books have you added to your shelf this week? Link me up in the comments! I’d love to see it! Have a great weekend!

Love, Sam

 

WWW Wednesdays #2

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. It’s a chance for us all to talk about books we’ve just read, books we’re reading now, and books we’re planning on reading soon.

Just Finished

Defy

(thanks @ Scholastic)

I really enjoyed this one! Alexa was a fierce protagonist and I’m so glad I was approved to read this!

Reading Now

Jane Eyre

I’m halfway through this and I cannot believe I waited this long to read it. It’s quickly becoming just as much of a favorite as Pride & Prejudice, which is really saying something.

What's Next?

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

I’m so excited to read this one! I ordered it from Barnes & Noble last week and I’m rather desperate for it; I have a mighty need for holiday books at the moment.

Netgalley November Update

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We’re in the final stretch of Netgalley November! This Saturday will mark the end of the month of Netgalley marathoning, at which point I will (if all goes as planned) be celebrating the polishing off of my stack of e-galleys waiting to be read. I’ve had a lot of fun and found some fabulous books.

Read So Far

Damselfly The Curse Keepers Endless Counting Shadows A Dance of Cloaks Witch Finder Defy

Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic (read my official review here)

The Curse Keepers by Denise Grover Swank (read my official review here)

Endless by Amanda Gray (my official review will be up this Friday)

Counting Shadows by Olivia Rivers (my official review will be up next Monday)

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (my official review will be up in a few weeks)

Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton (my official review will be up in a few weeks)

Defy by Sara B. Larson (my official review will be up in a few weeks)

Reading Next

Branded

 

Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki

Really looking forward to this one! I’m pretty sure this will be my last book for Netgalley November, which I’m quite happy with since I originally only planned to read 4 books, and instead I’m on #8 with time to spare!

How is your reading going this fine November? Have a wonderful week!