Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Read (July 19-20, 2014)

Book: Queen of Someday (Stolen Empire #1) by Sherry D. Ficklin
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Number of Pages: 262
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: Publisher via Netgalley


Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme? - (source)

Set in the time of Imperial Russia, the Queen of Someday tells the story of the Russian empress, Catherine the Great or Sophie before her conversion to the Orthodox Church. I've always had a penchant for stories set in this period. It excites me to delve into the world of ball gowns and court intrigues, that's why the blurb of Queen of Someday along with its stunning cover immediately caught my attention.

To be honest, I am not familiar with Catherine the Great nor any monarchial figure, so reading a historical fiction novel depicting them seems like a good excuse as any to learn more about the history of the past great kings and queens. I am aware that this would generally not appeal to anyone except me (heh) and a few others so let me start by saying, Queen of Someday will be enjoyed both by historical fiction readers and any normal people alike.

Ficklin manages quite beautifully to merge fiction and facts into one cohesive whole (I did my research after reading, sorryNOTsorry). It's impressive to see her skillfully interweave her own take at what might have occurred in Catherine's past life as she ascended to the throne. Her narrative made it so easy to get lost in the political intrigue and the romantic entanglements.

Sophie, as a character, is lovely to read about. She's sensible, intelligent and brave. She can handle herself with charm and wits or with a knife if needed. I saw her dramatic change from a naive, impressionable girl to a fierce, unwavering would-be queen. I ached for what she had lost in the process of acquiring a crown, but my heart rejoiced at her strength and resoluteness. She was heartbroken, yes, but she is hopeful that even after the cards she'd been dealt with, she would come to find a little happiness in her situation.
“Because I cannot win, I cannot have what I truly desire—it is beyond my grasp, I realize that now. It's sad really, to think that until I came here, I had no other dreams, no other desires but what my family wanted for me. I discovered my own mind and heart too late ... Fate has offered me an opportunity. A crown in one hand and a husband in the other. Even if I were to throw all that away, it would still not get me what I want. It would only serve to hurt the people I care about. I would be sent back to Germany in disgrace, and my family would lose everything. There is no way to win, but there is certainly a way to lose. My choice, what little choice I have, is not to lose.” 
Ficklin's writing is a marvel to read. The dialogues and secret correspondences were so alluring and exquisite that I highlighted like crazy to note them all. I also fully embraced the romance in this one. It was swoon-worthy, splendid and all-consuming, and like mostly with good things, it was terribly tragic as well.
“I will have what I've always had, myself. And I will have a lifetime worth of sweet memories to keep me warm at night. Don't weep for me, my love. Live your life in joy, and know that if I could have lived it with you, I would have.”  — Cue sobbing. *sobs uncontrollably*
Queen of Someday is an enthralling, romantic historical fiction. I flew by its pages and it was over before I knew it. It left me salivating for more and I truly think that's a mark of an effective historical fiction or any novel, for that matter. If you are a fan of periodic dramas like Reign, you won't really want to miss out on this one.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2014 Favorite Reads so far + Emoticons

Are you aware that we are entering the ber months already? Because I'm not and it's not fun getting jolted back to reality. How can there be only four more months left until 2015? How could the first 8 months flew by so fast? I guess we'll never know. Time is just sneaky that way. Anyway, today I am going to share my 2014 early favorites (books I've read from Jan 1 to August 29, 2014), in hopes that I can force influence some of you to pick them up and bask in their glory.

 photo 46_zps1d1d190e.gifTo make this post even more special, I included emoticons (source) that best describe my feels while I was reading. This is in line with the Emoji + Books tag by my good friend Meg, blogger extraordinaire at Adrift on Vulcan. I am finally doing it Meg, but I'm breaking all the rules coz' I'm a rebel. Heh.

Without further ado, here are my early 2014 favorites:

The Kiss of Deception
(add to Goodreads)
What? Is that groaning I hear? Well for some reason, this book came just at the right moment and it even made its way onto my favorites shelf. In a different kind of day, this story won’t work for me. The love triangle that I loathe so much was practically mocking me while I was reading. But something clicked and it’s not every day that I get blindsided by character reveals so go you, book!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb, Marion Lindsay

Book: The Case of the Stolen Sixpence by Holly Webb, Marion Lindsay
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 176
Genre/s: Middle Grade, Mystery
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

When George, the butcher's boy, is fired for stealing coins from the till, Maisie knows in her heart he is innocent. With her little dog Eddie as the Watson to her Sherlock Holmes, Maisie uses her budding detective skills to solve the mystery of the stolen sixpence, vindicate her old friend, and even help a new friend in need. The first book in a series! - (source)

I've been meaning to read a book in which I could simply lose myself in, and The Case of the Stolen Sixpence came at just the right time. Who would've thought that this observant girl who sweep floors in her Granny's apartment and hates shopping (unless it's an excuse for sleuthing) would whisked me straight to Victorian London?

The huge grin on my face didn't vanish at all from the moment I started reading until I turned the last page. It's like I've tapped into a whimsical story I could see myself enjoying back when I was younger and even now. The illustrations added to the book's engrossment factor and it would surely entice even those kids who are reluctant to open a book.

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Maisie is very good at spotting things. But having detecting skills are not enough, you need cases to solve and maybe a detective paraphernalia or two to look the part. Can you see the dilemma our aspiring detective is in?

Needless to say, Maisie is a charming character and she has moxie others can only dream of having. As a curious kid, she and Nancy Drew might just become great pals and even Sherlock Holmes would find her greatly amusing. Maisie is a joy to read and her faithful dog assistant is just as cute.

The Case of the Stolen Sixpence is a Middle Grade mystery novel that will tickle the imagination of young ones as well as those who are still in touch with their youthful spirit. It's a delightful, quick read filled with adorable characters I'd surely love to get to know more in future installments.

Cupid's Verdict:
 photo 4cupidsa_zps3b2346ee.png
4 Cupids
A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (21): Winterkill

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating. 

Book: Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books

Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.
- (source)

What is the secret? What did Emmeline grandmother paid the price for? Oh, the suspense. I already love this book. Let's just hope there's no love triangle or instalove. 

So what books are you waiting on?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett

Read (August 20-21, 2014)
Book: Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett
Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Number of Pages: 360
Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Source: Publisher

Anna O’Mally doesn’t believe in the five stages of grief. Her way of dealing with death equates to daily bouts of coffin yoga and fake-tattooing Patti Smith quotes onto her arms. Once a talented writer, Anna no longer believes words matter, until shocking discoveries–in the form of origami cranes–force her to redefine family and love.

As Anna goes in search of the truth, she discovers that while every story, every human being, has a last line, it might still be possible to find the words for a new beginning.
- (source)

“It's only been a year and some change since Joe. And now, here I am again, waiting, trying to stop hoping. And drowning in what I could have done to save someone I love. ”
Words and their Meanings is a tough book to read. It's a kind of story that pleads silently for any comforting gesture but lashes out at the slightest of touch. It has sucker punched me in all my vulnerable places and I have no idea how I've survived it. Reading this book trapped me in an awful, depressing bubble that I don't know how to shake away, even now. I feel like doing my own coffin yoga, practice my own blank stare, and will away my existence, even just for a short while, because feeling all these feels is hurting me.
“You can't let emotions consume you. ”
— Ha, book! Are you referring to me?
Grief is the weirdest thing. I've seen it time and again. From people I don't know, from acquaintances, and from people who are close to me. Everyone reacts differently. Coping varies from one person to the next. One thing is a constant though, it never fails to make itself known. It might hit you the way a raindrop casually falls from an oncoming downpour or it might felt like being ran over by a bulldozer. In Words and their Meanings, I've suffered both and I am still not sure how and why.
“What I feel is not in the human vocabulary.”
Its intensity and rawness is unflinching in its pain. Its words carried a weight that begs to be endured and understood and absorbed. I cried—no, I leaked. My unrelenting tears was a direct result of the emotional gutting I've received from this sad, sob-fest of a story. But the most surprising thing was underneath the crushing waves of agony and sorrow, it was punctuated by tiny nuggets of hope and healing for these characters, which comes unexpectedly in hilarious moments. A minor respite but enough to fill me with optimism that they could come back from all these, stronger as a person and tighter as a family than ever.
“How do I say Mateo reminds me of the poem that cut deepest? The one so full of fear that one break in stillness is enough to bring joy and hope and life?

I don't.”
I feel obligated to talk about the characters' humanness, fragility and realness. I feel like I need to discuss the genuineness of the friendship, the family dynamics, and the wonderful portrayal of love and its complexity. I feel like I need a separate section for Mateo alone, or for Joe, or for Anna, or for Anna's parents or her Gramps, or her sister or her bestfriend. But I won't try. I don't have enough in me to try. But I was there for them and I hope that's enough.
“Think about how weird it is to feel broken and mended all at once. Sad and happy. Sappy.”
— Tell me about it, book. *sniffs*
I felt so drained. So emotionally exhausted. So wrung out. This book scared me with its darkness and pain. My head hurt, as what happens, when I cry too much and I don't think I could ever go through this again. But I might, I might just have to, because if every reread is equivalent to a pat on the shoulder, or an embrace, or even a simple nod of understanding, I'd do it all again for these characters and their story.
“Everyone gets one last line. But first lines, stories of love and loss and hope floating on backs of paper cranes? We choose how many of those we get to tell.

All we have to do is breathe deep. Breathe life in.

My eyes slip closed, and I do. I breathe. I breathe. I breathe.”
Cupid's Verdict:
5 Cupids

A copy was provided by the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an uncorrected ARC and may change in the final copy.
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