I had an unusual day today wherein I didn't have any reviews or interviews scheduled, so I thought I would put together a post that featured some of my recent favorite reads. In four years and over 550 reviews on this blog, I've only given a 5 star rating to 30 books. Apparently, I'm a bit stingy with my praise ;-) Lately though I've come across a number of books that have joined the ranks in my rarest of rating categories, and sometimes my short 3-4 paragraph reviews just don't allow me to say all the things I want to say, so below are a few gushing words about three books that simply blew me away.
THE WINTER KING
(Available now from Avon)
After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea's king by taking one of the man's beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride. But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter's battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother's death, rages on.
Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father's palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig's icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.
As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin's wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter's passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test.
The Winter King is one of those books I bought strictly for me, a book meant just for fun in between review reads that I never intended to feature on the blog, but I fell so much in love with Wynter and Khamsin that it became impossible for me not to fangirl about it just a little.
I am someone who absolutely adores characters that are largely underestimated; men and women who are beaten down, isolated, or social pariahs in their given worlds, and from the moment I bore witness to the treatment Khamsin endures at the hands of her father I knew she was a woman I would want to spend time with again and again. Despite being an outcast in her own home, Khamsin is full of fight and fire, going toe to toe with Wynter from beginning to end without once being cowed by the force of his personality or power.
Wynter is driven by pain and vengeance, fair in his dealings with Summerlea but also firm and unyielding in the terms of their surrender. He's the type of man whose presence can be felt before he even enters a room–literal and figurative cold clinging to him and making people suck in a breath as he walks by, but that only serves to make his gradual thaw thanks to Khamsin all the more enjoyable.
For lovers of sweeping fantasy worlds and lead couples who are strong individually but even stronger together, The Winter King should not be missed.
RITES OF PASSAGE
(releases September 9th from HarperTeen)
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.
So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.
Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.
It's the rare book that can enrage me to such a degree that I have to get up and walk away from it just to give myself a breather. Rites of Passage is the first book I've had to set aside for the sake of my emotional health in years, and that means it's something truly special indeed. I'm not typically someone who hates villainous characters, instead I tend to love them because they hold me in some kind of sickeningly fascinating thrall that ensures I'm caught up in the story, but I hated some of the individuals in this book with the fire of a thousand suns.
The people surrounding Sam, especially the ones who should have been in her corner cheering her on every step of the way, are cruel, cowardly and so infuriating my fingers are actually trying to curl into fists as I'm typing this. Through it all though, Sam is extraordinary, and her story is one I will never be able to forget. Pre-order this book immediately.
*My full review and an interview with Joy will go up next week, so be sure and check back then!
SNOW LIKE ASHES
(releases October 14th from Balzer + Bray)
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
Confession time. I have a few bookish pet peeves as I think we all do. One is when characters swallow insults and hurtful words or actions from those closest to them without a word of protest. Who absorb the blows and then easily forgive when no adequate apology has been given or olive branch extended. Perhaps I'm a more vengeful person than most, but I like my characters to have some backbone and stand up for themselves when the situation calls for it (though I do acknowledge that there are times when inaction is better than action and silence a mightier weapon than words).
Meira is my dream heroine. She's madly in love with her best friend and wants nothing more than to please the man who's raised her after her parents died when Winter fell, but though she loves and respects them both, she doesn't allow them to run roughshod over her. When they hurt her deeply, she lets them know it, but she does so with maturity and inarguable logic rather than emotional words honed to sharp points and carelessly aimed. She's also a fighter to her core, someone who refuses to stay down even when the illusion of safety found at rock bottom is a nearly overwhelming temptation.
I can't say enough good things about this book (and I'll say more when my review goes up in October), so I hope you add it to your lists!