Friday, August 29, 2014

Rare Ratings and Recommended Reads

Happy Friday All!

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.

(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.

(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 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!

(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!


  1. Wow only 30 books? I guess if you give 5 stars then we really should be paying attention! I loved Rites of Passage as well Jenny but the other two I haven't read. I guess I need to fix that. ;)

  2. OK Jenny, I went ahead and added The Winter King because it sounds so amazing and you made it sound even more amazing. I think I would really love the main character and feel for everything she has to go through. I love the sound of the couple together too.

    YES! I'm so excited people are loving Rites of Passage. It's one of those books that I feel like everyone should read because of how unique it is. "I hated some of the individuals in this book with the fire of a thousand suns." Yep! Pretty much how I felt. I wanted to punch everyone in the face, especially Matthews and that lousy brother of hers.

    And Jenny, you've already read Snow Like Ashes?!? EEP! I'm so happy you loved it. I want to shout out my love for it too because I read it on Wednesday and I just could not stop reading it, but I had to calm myself because only a few people on my GR friends list had read it. You need to update your GR when you're reading these books, Jenny, so that way I can attack (fangirl with) you when I'm in love with a book as you did! I was a snotty mess and on sleep-inducing antibiotics, but I still couldn't put the book down. I managed to convince Siiri to pre-order it! :D Anyways, you have to DM me your feelings about the romance, when you have some free time of course!

    I'm excited to read your full reviews, Jenny! :) But I'm so happy that you loved 2 books that I loved too. I have no doubt I will love the 3rd one.

  3. 30? *coughs* *mumbles 0* I am evil. No one is gonna get a 5 out of me even if I adore it

  4. I already have the Winter King in my Kindle library and hopefully I'll get to read it as a treat for myself soon, but I feel like I have a busy September month ahead!

    And I'm beyond happy to hear that you adored Snow Like Ashes! I've been dying to get an ARC of it but without any luck so I'll have to wait for my preorder to arrive!!

    Thank you for your fantastic recommendations, Jenny!!

  5. I loved Rites of Passage but I'm thrilled to hear Snow Like Ashes delivers on the character front. Like you, I rarely give out 5-Star reviews so I always sit up and listen when you do, Jenny. :) Amazingly written thoughts, dear!

  6. The cover for The Winter King. I just can't get enough of it, Jenny.

  7. And, I thought *I* was cheap with my 5-star ratings. I'm too lazy to figure out my ratio, but I'm sure you have me beat because I'm a sucker for werewolves. As soon as a book has fur I automatically give it an extra star. LOL The Winter King is on my wishlist; you and Jessica both LOVED it, and that pretty much says it all IMO. Happy Friday!

  8. I know we both loved The Winter King, Jenny - and now that you've mentioned Snow Like Ashes as well as one of your favorites, I'm over-the-top with excitement to begin it. With only 30 or so 5 stars, I'm paying more attention for sure now -lol !! :)

  9. STINGY IS RIGHT!! You do give a decent amount of 4.5 stars but it's a pretty rare book that gets a 5. THE WINTER KING, FTW!!! And yay for Snow Like Ashes, too! (haven't read the other one -- will get on that right away)

  10. I just read Maja's review for Rites of Passage and since she loved it so much too, I'm really excited about reading it. It's next in my TBR pile actually :)

  11. I cannot wait for Rites of Passage! I'll definitely be back for your review!

  12. Girl you described my feelings for Rites of Passage in just few paragraphs better than I did in my whole review! You are reading my mind, right? I'm so happy you loved it as well. Snow Like Ashes is on my to-read list and I really cannot wait to read it! Great post, Jenny :)

  13. Oh I was lucky to grab a copy of Snow Like Ashes and after reading your review, I'm thoroughly glad that I did, it honestly sounds like something that I would enjoy. And I've not seen much of Rites of Passage around, but I certainly am intrigued! I look forward to reading your full review! :)

  14. Well shoot, now I have three books to add to my WL! I have heard good things from others too though so it sounds like these really are must reads. Thanks for letting us know!

  15. I am stingy with my five stars too. I would have to go back and see how many I have doled out. Not that many for sure. My most recent was Isla. Go read that Jenny. I must get Snow Like Ashes now. I was offered a copy and I hesitated not sure if it was going to be good. I already grabbed Rites of Passage that was if getting a lot of buzz and the girls at Rabid Reads loved Winter King. Have a wonderful weekend, Jenny.

  16. Rites of Passage was far more emotionally wrecking than I'm used to these days! I guess I must be desensitised at least to a certain point because books really need to be something special to move me in such a way. But oh boy, Mac's story almost killed me.
    I'm starting Snow Like Ashes this weekend. It's comforting to hear such praise from you.
    I'm also very stingy with my 5-star ratings. When I give them, which is rarely, I want to make a point. So I save them.

  17. I really want to read Rites of Passage and Snow Like Ashes, I have both of them and can't wait to start! I'm so glad you enjoyed them both :)

  18. *sigh* You know what you did, don't you? You know that when the find my squished corpse under a pile of books I'm taping a note to me that said it was all your fault. You kept showing me books I HAD to read. You know that isn't a bad thing in my mind however. LOL I might have to see if Snow Like Ashes still allows reviews... :D

  19. Oh yes I heard great things about the first one but I'm ashamed to say I haven't tried any and I know I should!!!

  20. Ooh I'm very excited about Snow Like Ashes - I have review copy waiting for me when I get home and now I can't wait to meet Meira! I hadn't heard of either The Winter King or Rites of Passage but I can see I need to add both of these to my TBR list. Thanks for putting these on my radar!

  21. Those three books are already on my TBR, hehe. Snow Like Ashes sounds AMAZING. I love fantasy so a big yes for it. Rites of Passage has my full curiosity and The Winter King has so many praising reviews that I just HAVE to read it. he. Nice post! :D

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  23. I've seen The Winter King before and I promise to read it someday, but now you just made me want to read it now. I completely agree with what you said about underestimated characters. They are easier to love and root for. I've also heard about Rites of Passage but I don't think I'm ready for another emotionally exhausting read. I'd have to prepare for it. Plussss, Snow Like Ashes looks like my kind of book. I love fiery heroine who fight for themselves with maturity. I simply cannot wait to read your full reviews, Jenny!

  24. Sorry if you are getting this comment twice…having technical difficulties. Anyway I like your new feature and I am so excited to read your full review of Snow Like Ashes…you have me intrigued! I hope you have a great holiday weekend!

  25. Hm .. now I'm curious about how many 5s I gave (on GR). Man, I need to read Rites of Passage, it totally sounds like my kind of book.

  26. Wow only 30 5 star reviews? That's pretty special. I'll definitely take a closer look at these.

  27. Wow, this is really promising, Jenny! I have been planning to read the first book since I read Jessica's review of it, and your praising words just excite me even more! And Rites of Passage! Just reading the blurb gives me all the feels. I'm not one where it an give me an emotional heart attack, but I think I'll welcome it when it comes to this book.

    Faye at The Social Potato

  28. Even though The Winter King is so not my read, I'm super duper glad you enjoyed this, Jenny! And and annnnd Rites of Passage--I've yet to see a negative-ish review :) Haha, I usually hate villains too, but you and Nick have me so intrigued now beause these people sound intriguing yet horrible. I'm so glad you loved Sam as a heroine! AND YEEEEEYYYY!!! Nick really loved SLA too. And just as Sam, Meira sounds wonderful and I can't wait to meet this fiesty heroine :) So glad you have read some brilliant books lately!

  29. Considering how much I've been looking forward to Snow Like Ashes - and trying to restrain myself to only read it closer to it's release date, your words about the heroine, and promise of a gushing review put a huge smile on my face! :D <-- this is me. I can NOT wait to read your review! And, read the book myself xD

    And I'd never heard of Winter King but it sounds like something I could really enjoy! I'll be checking it out for sure, thanks for bringing it to my attention^^

  30. YAY! So happy with your reviews! I totally adore Rites Of Passage as well as Snow Like Ashes. Best Books EVA!!

  31. LOVE this post. I always want to know what you're reading, so this is a treat for me. You and Mary have both raved about The Winter King, and I need to get on reading it! I want a book exactly like that in my life. You know I loved Rites of Passage. I really like your words on Snow Like Ashes, but I'm honestly worried about a love triangle in that one, so I have been holding back reading it until book 2 is released. I hear it's light to begin with, but I can't invest in a series that will drag out a triangle through several books. However, when I talked to the author briefly on Twitter, it didn't sound like she'd do that to her readers. In any case, it means a lot that you loved the story so much. Thanks for this post, friend!