City of B

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura SebastianAsh Princess by Laura Sebastian
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 24, 2018
Genres: High Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

It took me longer than usual to finish this book. I picked it up and put it down multiple times, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because  other books came along that I wanted to read more, like A Court of Frost and Starlight. I’m glad I finally sat down and finished Ash Princess, because it was a good start to what I think could be a great series.

Here’s two things I liked about Ash Princess, and one thing I didn’t.

I liked:

The love triangle. I know, I know, bleh love triangle – but hear me out! This one wasn’t so bad. I think I was easily able to get on board with it, because it didn’t drive the story. Ash Princess mostly focused on Theo’s journey to rising from the “ashes”. Theo had been beaten down (physically and emotionally) for ten long years, and in the process, lost sight of her true self and her true purpose. Once a fierce will is rekindled in Theo, she constructs a plan to reignite her people’s will to rebel against their conquerors, the Kalovaxians. Theo’s not a bad-ass warrior like say, Throne of Glass’ Aelin, but she’s incredibly clever, and knows when to verbally push, and when to back off. Strengths come in all forms, and it was nice to see a new type of heroine kick ass with words instead of swords.

The magics. Yes, it was the commonly used elemental-variety, but it was also achieved in new, unique way. There’s some individuals who have the innate ability to summon elemental powers, and the others who can’t, can still accomplish some magic by holding special gems that have been imbued with elemental power. I loved this new take on magic!

I disliked:

The first third (maybe closer to half) of Ash Princess. The brutal opening with Theo being forced to harm one of her own people, was shocking and made me want to dive right into the story, but then what immediately followed was pretty boring. I didn’t really get into the story until Theo started plotting her people’s rebellion, and when she started spending time with the swoon-worthy Soren. So far Soren is my favorite character in this series, and not just because I’m #teamThoren. He’s complex, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where his story is headed in the future books. 

Overall I thought Ash Princess was a solid first book. I’m eager to read book two, because the ending of Ash Princess had a huge WTF moment and I think it’s gonna make book two even more intense and high stake.

City of B

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Meant to Be by Lauren MorrillMeant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on November 13th 2012
Pages: 292

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quote another to fall for the - gasp - wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's the queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her...well, pocket. Julia also believes in fate, and that Mark, her childhood crush, is her MTB - her meant-to-be.

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts...from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to live a little along the way. And this begins a wild-goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Meant to Be was cute, fast, and funny! I didn’t want to put this book down because I was too entirely wrapped up in Julia’s London-love whirlwind adventures. Because of the premise and certain key moments that happened early on, I thought I had this book figured out. Bummed at the thought of another predictable ending, I made a pact to simply enjoy MTB’s journey rather than get caught up in what I believed to be an inevitable ending. Boy was I ever wrong! Although I had one detail right, the rest of plot sprung a Houdini leaving me utterly and happily surprised. Believe me when I say, Morrill knows how to weave an intricate story line full of shocks and sweet surprises.

This is the first time that I’ve truly felt a connection to a main character. There’s so many similarities between Julia and I, it’s actually quite scary. We’re both too shy and too nervous and completely clumsy. (I can barely walk without accidentally smacking something) We’re also what you call “book smart” as opposed to street smart, and have a tendency to check, double check and triple check things such as agendas. And boys…. don’t get me started! Haha. All of these similarities and Morrill’s engaging writing style really had me connecting with Julia on a deeper level and being able to understand her character better.

I really loved the dynamic that developed between Julia and one of this book’s swooners, Jason. Julia is Miss rules and guidelines while Jason is Mr. live a little. Although a valued member of the swim team, Julia’s personality is very mousy and bookish. Jason is part of the proverbial cool clique which entirely explains my initial dislike of him in the beginning. For the longest time I thought him arrogant and quite frankly ass-y. He had a tendency to embarrass Julia in front the “populars” just about every chance he got.Granted, Julia preferred to be a wallflower, and therefore was easily embarrassed when receiving attention. Jason was also very hot and cold. One moment it seemed like he and Julia we’re getting closer, at the minimal becoming friends. Then he’d pull a 180 and go back to ignoring her, or like I said, embarrassing her. I definitely understood Julia’s conflicting feelings towards him because I had pretty conflicting ones as well.

Although I knew I’d at least like Meant to Be I was seriously thrilled when I ended up loving it. London is such a richly cultural place which made the setting of this book all the more enjoyable and refreshing. It was amazing watching Julia transform from a shy, timid girl into someone brimming with confidence. I also really liked getting to know more about Jason. From the outside he seemed shallow and disrespectful, but like Julia, I slowly began to see a whole other side to him, one that I really loved. Meant to Be was a fabulous standalone contemporary that I’m so happy I read!