“I am your father. But that woman is not your mother. Your mother is Wallachia. Your mother is the very earth we go to now, the land I am prince of. Do you understand?” Lada looked into her father’s eyes, deep-set and etched with years of cunning and cruelty. She nodded, then held out her hand . “The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back.” Vlad smiled and gave it to her. ~p. 12
Radu and Ladislav (Lada) are born into a world of conflict–they are the children of Vlad Dracul, who rules Wallachia, an outlying province/principality of the Ottoman Empire. They are as different as night and day–Lada can be a terror, a bully, but she is also strong and fiercely protects what she considers to be her own (such as Radu). Radu is quiet, bullied, but kindness and cunning are his gifts. When their father, Vlad Dracul, allows them to be held hostage by the emperor, Murad, who rules the Ottoman Empire all to keep his throne in Wallachia, Lada remains fiercely loyal to Wallachia, if not her father, while Radu is ready to eschew everything about his former life. Radu loves the Ottoman Empire, Islam, and most of all their friend, the emperor’s son Mehmed. The bonds of their friendship are tested again and again as they grow up and Mehmed takes the throne. Mehmed will need both Lada’s ferocity and Radu’s quiet cunning to help him gain and keep the throne. But what of Lada’s destiny, and her strange place in society as a fighting woman, a woman who refuses what traditional womanhood means? While they are so different, both Lada and Radu don’t quite “fit” into the roles society has given them–Lada desperately wants to rule and protect Wallachia, and Radu desperately wants Mehmed–a desire that he knows is somehow forbidden though no one speaks of it. In the end, what will each of them be willing to sacrifice for what they want?
I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. I loved how bravely the author posed the question, what if Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was a woman? How would this story change? Fair warning though, if you like your protagonists to be straightforward good guys, this might not be the book for you. White does an excellent job of complicating both Lada and Radu. And what a love triangle! I see that this is going to be a series and I can’t wait to read the next installment. I enjoyed the writing (subtle and sharp as Lada’s hidden knives), the characters, and even the setting of Wallachia and the Ottoman Empire. And I Darken earned my wholehearted recommendation.
Every city is a ghost. New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel beam, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or a filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now is a park. ~Lair of Dreams
Lair of Dreams is the sequel to Libba Bray’s Diviners. It features much of the same cast (Evie, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Mabel, and Sam), except the focus has shifted to the dream walkers–Ling Chan (who only had a brief cameo in the first) and Henry DuBois. Ling Chan is a resident of Chinatown, which is under threat from a mysterious sleeping illness. If anyone should be able to get to the bottom of the sleeping sickness, it should be the dream walkers, right? But Henry and Ling are pulled into the enchanting Lair of Dreams–where they not only walk in, but can shape dreams. And it will eventually be up to all the diviners to help Ling and Henry banish the ravenous ghosts of the past.
I was definitely NOT disappointed by this sequel to the amazing Diviners. In fact, the writing and the characters were just as solid as in the first. Evie is quickly becoming a live-for-the-now, constantly partying, flapper girl. Sam is becoming more desperate to find his mother and Project Buffalo. And Memphis and Theta’s relationship grows ever more complicated under the weight of both of their secrets. I love the diviners, each and every one. Libba Bray has crafted some insanely lovable characters and in this sequel, we get to learn even more about Ling, Henry, Sam, and Theta.
I recommend the Diviners series to anyone who loves a good historical and fantasy fiction blend. Or, basically, I recommend this series to anyone who loves to read anything amazing!
A few years ago I received a recommendation to read The Duke and I, saved it to my “Want-To-Read” Shelf on Goodreads (thank you Goodreads), and then promptly forgot about. However, as this is my last week of freedom before school (and massive amounts of required reading) starts, I took a gander through my Goodreads account to look for something I could read for fun that would require little to no brain cells. Sure enough–I saw the Duke and I. I’ve never set very high standards for romance novels–I mostly view them as pure enjoyment.
And sure enough–Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I was every bit as enjoyable and fun as I thought it would be! I knew right away I would enjoy the story because it is an Avon Historical Romance (I used to read the YA versions–some of them penned by Meg Cabot under a pseudonym) and it is set in early, 19th-century England.
The story revolves around a young woman, Daphne Bridgerton, who is always just the “best friend” and never a love interest, and a young man, the Duke of Hastings, who wishes to be left alone from the ambitious mothers of London society who scheme for their daughters to marry him. Together, they form a plan, which involves some deception, to get what they both want. The story is fast-paced, the banter witty, and there are some fairly steamy romance scenes. Overall, I would say it was JUST what I needed currently. Was the plot twisted, was the description mind-blowing and the dialogue or character development earth-shattering? No. But it was incredibly fun to read and it made me laugh out loud. In short, if you are only the occasional reader of romance (like me) or are looking to pick up a historical romance novel for the first time, this first book in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series is a great place to start! I know I’ll eventually get around to reading the sequels!
Dark Triumph is set in the same world as Grave Mercy, but focuses instead on the character of Sybella (another one of the daughters of Mortain). Sybella is a beautiful, young, noblewoman with lethal abilities as a trained assassin. However, she is plagued by darkness and deep despair. She was sent by the convent where she was trained to be assassin–the convent that should have provided her with protection–back into the den of vipers, her father’s household. As time goes by and she is prevented from killing the source of her despair, her father, D’Albret, she begins to lose hope and faith. Until one impossible mission to save rather than kill opens her world to the possibility of love rather than constant hate and fear.
While from my enthusiastic review of Grave Mercy you can definitely tell that I enjoyed the first novel of this series very much, I have to say that I loved this novel just as much–but for much different reasons. Dark Triumph was, well, very dark indeed. But I liked Sybella’s darkness and her inner struggle to keep faith alive within herself. As an added bonus, I really loved the folktales of the Dark Mother that LaFevers incorporated into the culture of the charbonnerie. As far as pacing, Grave Mercy seemed to fly by and was intensely action-packed, whereas Dark Triumph seemed to move a bit slower, having a more introspective focus. I look forward to the third installment of the series coming soon!
Sometimes I just can’t help it….I judge a book by its cover. And this book’s cover is what drew me to read it even though I was supposed to begin Game of Thrones. The girl with a murderous look on her face, fabulous red gown, and crossbow just seemed to scream “Yes! Read me! Read me!” So I did. And while a convent of assassin nuns steeped in the politics of medieval France might not sound like the ideal summer read, it really was. This book, though copious in page length, was a pretty fast read–filled with adventure, mysterious, dark, handsome strangers, and yes…assassin nuns serving the patron saint of death. While the premise might be a bit unbelievable, if you can suspend your disbelief this is a fun, entertaining read that treads the boundaries of fantasy, historical fiction, and romance.
Claire Randall, an Englishwoman in 1945, is suddenly transported back in time to the mid 18th century through the Standing Stones near Inverness, Scotland where she had been on a delayed honeymoon with her husband. Now Claire must learn how to survive in 18th century Scotland with the Jacobite rebellion underway.
This was a great book to read after visiting Scotland! I greatly enjoyed the characters and the setting of the novel. In Jamie, Diana Gabaldon has created a completely irresistible character. I absolutely fell in love with him, as Claire does (though it takes awhile for her to admit). This book is rich in historical detail as well as romance and makes for a compelling, fun read: perfect for the summer (since imagining Scotland’s weather will certainly cool the reader off!).
Or….BOTWOT (because everything needs an acronym)
So…I’ve decided to try something that I may or may not be able to keep up every week. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to pick a book (any book from any genre, including non-fiction, criticism, and poetry) to showcase each week. Just because I can. I will include a quote from the book and a short summary. Also, I will include updates on what I am reading, what I’m planning on reading/reviewing next. And any other tidbits of information I want to bequeath to the internet.
So here goes!
And the winner for this week is:
(I took inspiration from this freak cold front that Austin, TX is experiencing)
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
“They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there–family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape. We were taken.”
~From Between Shades of Gray
About This Book
Lina and her family are taken suddenly by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) in June 1941. They and other Lithuanians who are considered to be a threat to Stalin’s regime are uprooted from their home and forced into labor camps in the harsh land of Siberia. This is a story of survival, of creating hope when there is none, and of forgiveness in the most bleak of situations. This beautifully and poignantly written YA historical fiction novel gives a voice to the Lithuanian victims who survived the Siberian Labor Camps who were silenced for many years. I absolutely recommend it.
What I Read Before: Bitten by Twilight
What I’m Reading Currently: The Imaginarium Geographica: Here There Be Dragons
What I’ll Be Reading Next: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
And for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of author Ruta Sepetys and me at this year’s TLA Annual Conference:
She is an amazing writer and a truly kind, interesting person to talk to. I hope we’ll meet again!
Well, that’s all folks! Be sure to look for the reviews I will be posting of the many books I read this past semester for my Young Adult Materials class, as well as new reviews of all my newly acquired TLA ARCs!
~Molly (aka The Book Hunter)