An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

4 out of 5 stars.

After a raid by Martial legionnaires, Laia is left without a family, without a home. She would be dead alongside her grandparents if it hadn’t been for her older brother, Darin, who sacrificed himself so that she could flee into the night. The guilt and shame of her cowardice that night is suffocating her, and Laia is determined to free her brother from whatever terrifying prison the Martials have condemned him to. Afraid and alone, Laia discovers a rebel group that agrees to help save her brother from the Martials, but the deal is not without its risks. To get Darin back, Laia must pretend to be a slave at the Blackcliff Academy and serve the most deadly person within its walls: the Commandant. One wrong move and Laia could die, and then she’ll lose her one and only chance at redemption, at saving her brother.

Elias has been planning his desertion of the Blackcliff Academy for some time now. He loathes the Academy for all of the death and pain he has inflicted upon others in its name, and he wants nothing to do with it anymore. The day he graduates, Elias plans to leave Blackcliff and its horrors behind him forever; his only regret is lying to his best friend, Helene and that he will have to leave her behind when the time comes. But if she knew, faithful Mask that she is, she would tell on him and he would end up in a Martial prison or worse. Secrets and false sincerity before the Martial Empire has kept him alive at Blackcliff, and a few more days of it won’t kill him. Freedom is within his grasp and he won’t waste his one and only chance at having it.

 As Elias and Laia fight to gain their freedom from the Martial Empire, their paths cross and these two unlikely allies will have to rely on one another to survive. With the odds stacked against them, can Elias and Laia find the freedom, the redemption, they crave, or was fate against them from the start?

Sabaa Tahir’s debut was truly amazing. I am so impressed that this was her first novel because of how well-paced and developed the story of “An Ember in the Ashes” was, and I was also impressed with how dynamic and fleshed out her characters were. Sabaa created a vivid, lush, and evocative world that drew me in from page one. For world building alone this book deserves four stars!

Sabaa Tahir’s world in “An Ember in the Ashes” resembles the Roman Empire, and her social dynamics between the Martials and the Scholars were reminiscent of the relations between the Romans and Greeks. Rome conquered Greece, they stole their culture and “Romanized” it while enslaving the Greeks, and they claimed all of the Mediterranean as theirs. The Martials did to the Scholars exactly what Rome did to Greece, and another similarity was that the Scholars were the philosophers and slaves whereas the Martials practiced warfare and dominated by force, killing or enslaving those who do not submit to their authority. I really liked “An Ember in the Ashes” for the fact that, at moments, it felt like a historical recounting of those two civilizations, and I loved how I could see the influences of Grecian and Roman dynamics reflected in this book’s social and cultural atmosphere. Another reason why I loved learning about Sabaa’s world was because the more I knew about it, the more easily I could understand her characters and where they were coming from.

I really enjoyed Laia’s as a character. Most of the reviewers on goodreads and on some of the blogs didn’t like Laia’s perspective because they felt like she was weak and too timid to be a “good” heroine. In their opinion, she was no Tris or Katniss, and I thank God for that! To be quite honest, the things that reviewers didn’t like about Laia are the things that actually made me like her. Laia had grown up under the tyrannical and oppressive rule of the Martial Empire, and Scholars such as herself were treated like dirt. Because of that, Laia fears and timidity made sense to me. She wasn’t a go-out-and-conquer-the-world kind of person, even though she desperately wished she was; Laia wanted to be brave and courageous like her brother and her parents, but she didn’t know how. I loved Laia because she was real, she had fears that overwhelmed her and made her keep quite when she should speak up, but she was also kind and she loved her family fiercely and wanted to protect them. Characters like Katniss and Tris are very irritating to me because of how cold and unfeeling they can be towards people, and yet they are hailed as amazing people and strong females. Yeah, sure, they can kill someone at the drop of a hat and without batting an eyelash, but those kinds of actions don’t equate a strong person. I liked Laia because she had an amazing heart and she wasn’t a warrior in the physical sense. As “An Ember in the Ashes” progressed, however, she started to grow a lot as a person and she became a much stronger, and more courageous individual. Laia had paralyzing fears, but she slowly learned to not give in to them or allow them to control her life.

I also loved Laia because she responded to the horrors of her world similarly to how one of us actually would, yet she grew as a character into a strong young woman who could be brave despite her fears, even if she couldn’t wield a sword all that well. I think one of the things I loved so much about this book was that Elias’s and Laia’s characters showed very different kinds of strength: mental, emotional, and physical strength. Both Elias and Laia were strong individuals, but they had very different forms of strength.There are so many ways a person can be strong, and I like that Sabaa showed so many of the forms that strength can come in through each of her characters and the journey she took them on.

Elias was a great male lead. I thought that he was quite interesting considering his situation (being a Martial, and a Mask at that) and how he’d still retained his humanity, and it made him all the more dynamic. Elias’s main struggled was with figuring out if he could still have a soul after what he had done throughout the years, but as a reader I could see that he still had a good heart. He wasn’t malicious like a lot of the other Masks and despite some of the awful things he had done, I liked Elias a lot. He was complex and fascinating, and I found his struggle between surviving and keeping true to who he actually was to be engrossing. I wanted for him to be free of Blackcliff and its never-ending horrors, but time and time again, Elias got sucked back into that awful place, and it wasn’t until he met Laia that the cycle shifted so that it could be broken.

It took until about halfway (or just over) through “An Ember in the Ashes” for Laia and Elias to really meet each other; they had encountered one another before, but not like this, where I as a reader could see something come in the future from that moment. This wonderful scene that Sabaa Tahir wrote happened when Laia and her little friend from Blackcliff were in the Scholar district while a festival was taking place. In those handful of chapters, Laia and Elias met, and it was so lush and vivid compared to the grit and grime of the rest of the book that those chapters ended up being my absolute favorites in this book. I wish that there had been more scenes like that one or that it had at least lasted longer because it was just so good! I felt like it also developed Laia’s and Elias’s personalities outside of Blackcliff, and I liked seeing them in a different environment. In that moment, “An Ember in the Ashes” wasn’t just gritty and harrowing, it was magical and beautiful. It was also the only real moment where I felt like Elias and Laia connected. I shipped them for that scene, but there just wasn’t enough of that in the remaining half of “An Ember in the Ashes” for me to SHIP them completely; I liked Elias and Laia separately, but I had yet to reach shipper level beyond that one scene.

Helene, Elias’s best friend, is the last character I want to discuss in-depth. Helene was the other “main” character in “An Ember in the Ashes” despite the fact this book did not shift entirely to her perspective.  A lot of people preferred Helene to Laia as a female lead, and I can see why: she’s a more likeable version of Katniss Everdeen. Helene is a warrior, a Mask, who held her own in the Blackcliff Academy. She was also the only female recruit on the Academy’s grounds, and she and Elias had a lot of history together. Helene was far more likeable to me than Katniss, but she still exuded the same instinct to kill rather than evaluating the consequences that could result from her actions. She was fiercely faithful and loyal to those she loved and I really admired that about her, but I still felt like she was too abrasive for my taste. I didn’t dislike Helene, but I was not the hugest fan. She was a strong female character in both determination and physical attributes, so I won’t discredit that. Helene was a strong, independent, and smart character, and I thought that her and Elias’s dynamic was interesting, but I just preferred Laia’s quiet determination of overcoming her fears to Helene’s ferocious  desire to be the best at the Blackcliff Academy.

All of Sabaa’s characters were pretty amazing, so I think that the only thing that I didn’t like about “An Ember in the Ashes” was the supernatural element. For me, the creatures and special powers that were interspersed throughout this book felt a bit unnecessary; Sabaa’s world was already amazingly well-designed and I was completely engrossed, and I also liked that idea of it being more like a high fantasy in the sense that the world was epic, yet had those Greco-Roman themes. Lots of people loved the supernatural creatures added to this book, but for me, they were a little off-putting and they felt a bit random in the already extremely gritty world that Sabaa Tahir had written. I did love the metal-like masks that soldiers like Elias wore, but beyond that, I don’t feel like the supernatural elements ended up being pivotal to this story.

Other than the mythical creatures and supernatural abilities that were incorporated into “An Ember in the Ashes,” I really liked this story. A lot of brutal things happened in it because the world itself was brutal and unforgiving, but Sabaa Tahir did a great job of creating characters and moments that reminded her readers that there is always hope, and people have the ability to change the world if they let that spark stay alive. Laia and Elias were sparks, embers, in a world of despair and pain, and they held great power within themselves because they didn’t let their hope burn out. They fought back against the soul-crushing hopelessness that consumed those around them with all they had, and I cannot wait to see how Sabaa plans on revolutionizing the world they live in.

This book is definitely not for the faint of heart or those looking for a light read, but I ended up liking it a lot. I would recommend “An Ember in the Ashes” to fans of the “Prince of Persia” movie, or anyone looking for an epic fantasy book to read!

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

I had entered a giveaway about two months that was posted by a blogger who hosted an interview with one of my favorite authors, Katie McGarry. Nova and Katie McGarry are fabulous ladies, and I was so excited when I got an email from Nova a week ago telling me that I had won the giveaway! The prize was a Katie McGarry book of my choice, and so I asked Nova if I would be able to choose “Nowhere But Here,” which wasn’t slated to release until May 26th. I kind of put it out there knowing that it wouldn’t happen, and I ended up writing that if “Nowhere But Here” wouldn’t work out, then I would love “Crash Into You.” I didn’t expect my prize to be “Nowhere But Here” and I was personally just excited to have won a Katie McGarry book in a giveaway, but lo and behold, the mail lady came and dropped off a yellow bubble envelope with this heavenly item inside of it.


When I began unwrapping it, I could see the ‘n’ peeking out from behind the yellow paper and the tape, and I immediately started to shriek as only a fangirl can.  


I was in shock that Katie McGarry had sent me “Nowhere But Here,” which isn’t out for two more weeks, and she even signed it!! *faints* I ended up running into my sister’s room screaming, shouting, and jumping up and down! (I honestly did not know I could jump that high…) Once the shock wore off, I was kinda just like,


Thanks for reading, and hopefully I will have a review to share with you all soon!

Release Day Blitz: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

I am so excited that “The Wrath and the Dawn” by Renée Ahdieh releases today and that I get to share the news, along with a special introduction from Renée herself! If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Renée Ahdieh, be sure to check out all the details below. This blitz also includes a giveaway for a signed copies of her book and some beautiful book inspired scarves, courtesy of Renée, Penguin Teen, and Rockstar Book Tours. If you’d like a chance to win, keep reading and then enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post!
18798983 The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Pub. Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 388
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A
Thousand and One Nights
Summary of “The Wrath and the Dawn”:
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn.
 Letter from the author:
  There are not enough words to express how thrilled I am to share THE WRATH AND THE DAWN with you! From the moment I typed the first word, I felt connected to Shahrzad and her world in a way that carried me through the long process of publication to where we are today. Everything about this process has been a dream come true, and hope you love my book half as much as I enjoyed writing it.
In celebration of release day, I’ll be giving away a signed, first edition hardcover of the book, as well as a gorgeous scarf . . . or two!
Always remember to make it a story worthy of you!
Renée author
About Renée:
Renée lives in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with her husband Victor and their dog Mushu. Her YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, will be published on May 12th, 2015. In her spare time, she likes to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of her characters.
She’s also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and
Illustrators, as well as an active member of theScience Fiction &
Fantasy Writers of America.

Comments are always welcome on my blog, and I’m sure  Renée would love to hear from you all!

Here’s an optional question to answer if you comment: What are you excited about that makes you want to read “The Wrath and the Dawn”?

Giveaway Details!
 3 winners will receive a hardcover of “The Wrath and the Dawn” and a beautiful book inspired scarf! US Only.
Ends on May 22nd at Midnight EST!

Click on the link to enter!

Renée 2

Cover Reveal: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Guys, it’s here! The cover for Marie Rutkoski’s “The Winner’s Kiss” has officially been revealed and a summary with it.



Saying I’m excited for “The Winner’s Kiss” is an understatement. Marie Rutkoski is a magician of a writer, and “The Winner’s Trilogy” is one of my most favorite series/trilogies that I have EVER read! *starts to cry* Her writing is just so beautiful and I want more!

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Okay, here’s the cover for the magnificent conclusion to “The Winner’s Trilogy.”









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I’m SO excited for “The Winner’s Kiss,” and it’s going to be a long year waiting for its release….


If you’re interested in reading the synopsis of “The Winner’s Kiss,” visit this link to the blog that did the official cover reveal:

Exciting News…

So, the amazing news that I hinted at in my “Rook” by Sharon Cameron review arrived yesterday in the mail! About two weeks ago, Sharon Cameron was giving away books on Facebook and Twitter to random contestants each day if they posted the book trailer for “Rook.” I ended up tweeting it, and as a result, I won copies of Sharon’s three books (including “Rook”)!!! *commence fangirl screams*


I was pretty darn excited to say the least, and Sharon Cameron was so wonderful and she signed them all for me! I was ecstatic when they came in the mail and I got to touch their covers! Aren’t they pretty?!!!!

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I’m so excited to add these gorgeous books to my collection, and hopefully after finals I’ll be able to read and review the two books in Sharon’s steampunk duology! Alright, thanks for reading!

Release Day Blitz: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

unnamedThanks, Rockstar Book Tours, for letting me join in. Check out their blog here:

Hello! Today is a very exciting and eventful because it’s the release day of “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir! Sabaa Tahir has generously set up a giveaway (signed copies of “An Ember in the Ashes,” hardback copies of it, and little sword letter openers!!) for those of you who want to enter, and the details about it are at the bottom of this post. But before then, I wanted to share with you the description for “An Ember in the Ashes” and also a letter from the lovely author herself!

20560137 sabaa tahir an ember in the ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464

Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Goodreads

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the
Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for
her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story
that’s literally burning to be told.


“LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is
arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy
in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother
from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering
deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to
choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more
intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the
empire itself.”


                                                  About Sabaa:

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room
motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her
brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing “An
Ember in the Ashes” while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes
thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently
lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Alright, now that you know what this book is about, Sabaa wanted us blitz bloggers to share a letter with you all.

Dear Readers,

Today, my “baby” AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is finally out in the world! From inception to pub
date, this journey took eight years. And what a journey it was: writing, rewriting, revising,
editing, querying, submitting; Meeting other debuts, bloggers, booksellers and librarians, and
hearing their thoughts on EMBER. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the radness.

And now, the book is here! I am so excited to see it in the hands of readers. I hope you enjoy
reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. To celebrate release day, I’m giving away two signed,
first-edition hardcovers of the book. Details below!

All my best, Sabaa

Thank you for looking at this release day blitz post, and don’t forget to enter Sabaa’s amazing giveaway! Go forth and read this book!

Giveaway details:

2 winners will receive a signed hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. US Only.
3 winners will receive a hardcover of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and a Sword Letter Opener! US Only.
Ends on May 9th at Midnight EST!

Enter giveaway here:

Rook by Sharon Cameron

23399192 Rook by Sharon Cameron

“Rook” by Sharon Cameron

Publishing Company: Scholastic

Release Date: April 28th, 2015

5 out of 5 stars.

Sophia Bellamy is the daughter of a wealthy landowner, or at least the daughter of a man who used to be wealthy. Now it is up to her to save the Bellamy name from ruin and to protect her family’s manor from falling into the government’s hands. To do that, Sophia has to marry for money, and René Hasard is her only option. René has a reputation for being a flirt and scoundrel, and Sophia wishes that there was another way to preserve the Bellamy estate until her brother can claim it, but it is obvious to her that there nothing to be done. Unexpectedly, Sophia discovers that there is more to her fiancé than meets the eye, and he is playing his own kind of game within their engagement. Being the Red Rook has its advantages and spotting a liar is one of them, but even after her discovery, Sophia’s still unsure as to what cards René Hasard has up his sleeve.

The Red Rook has saved countless lives from LeBlanc’s guillotine, and the madman has never gotten close enough to Sophia for her to ever have to worry. But when something terrible happens and Sophia’s world is upended, she realizes that she can’t fix what’s gone wrong, and that not even the Red Rook is capable of putting right everything that has happened. As LeBlanc gets closer to uncovering her secret, Sophia has no choice but to put her trust in René Hasard, a man who just so happens to be the least trustworthy person in her life.

Time ticks away as Sophia, René, and their motley group of troops try to stop LeBlanc and his madness from destroying everyone in the Sunken City. But things are never quite as they seem, and Sophia wonders who she can really trust and who is only moments away from betraying her? Everything seems to be going against Sophia, even her own heart, and she is terrified for all of the innocent lives at stake in LeBlanc’s game of Fate, especially when her judgment is clouded. Can the Red Rook stop LeBlanc in time, or is Sophia fated to fail and lose everyone she loves?

Thank you Scholastic and Sharon Cameron for being willing to send me an ARC of “Rook.” In no way has this affected my review.

About three weeks ago, I got into contact with Sharon Cameron, the author of “The Dark Unwinding” and “A Spark Unseen,” and I ended up asking her if I could get an ARC of her newest YA novel, “Rook.” As it turned out, she submitted my info to Scholastic and I was fortunate enough to be sent an ARC; I was pretty darn excited to say the least! (P.S. I have some more news related to this book, but I’ll share it with you at a later date). When it came, I got my game face on, sat down with my teacup and some Earl Grey, and I started reading “Rook.”

The first thing I noticed about “Rook” was that Sharon Cameron had a very distinct and sophisticated style of writing. During the beginning chapters of this book, I was kind of taken aback (in a good way) by Mrs. Cameron’s writing style  because I was not expecting it from a Scholastic author; Scholastic authors are great, but those I’ve gotten the chance to read have never had the elegance to their writing style that Sharon’s did. After processing this difference for about a chapter, I was completely enraptured with Sharon Cameron’s method of storytelling. Besides Sharon’s writing being unique, I felt that all of her characters were also very distinct. A lot of authors are good writers, but some writers are unable to create characters who have those special traits that individualize them, or that make them fully “fleshed-out” people who readers can connect with. Mrs. Cameron, from the very beginning of “Rook,” created real, tangible characters, and I could pick out who it was speaking by just the way they talked or acted. That takes talent, and I really commend Sharon for being able to do that.Okay, let’s delve into the characters!

I really liked Sophia as a heroine. She was intense and strong-willed, but she was not too overpowering and her behavior made a lot of sense to me. Sophia was a Bellamy in the daytime, but at night she was the Red Rook who risked her life to save as many innocent people as she could from LeBlanc’s razor. Because of these two personas she was constantly keeping up, I do not think Sophia knew who she really was until “Rook” took place. It was really interesting seeing her change whenever she “became” the Red Rook or when she was Sophia Bellamy, and it was as if she were playing two different roles in a play. Sophia had played the game of lies and secrets quite well, always keeping her cards close, but that all changed when René Hasard came along.

René Hasard was a really interesting character. One moment he was a player and heart stealer and the next he could show a shocking amount of depth, and that was slightly unsettling considering who he was related to in “Rook.” I wanted to dislike René in the first forty or fifty pages of “Rook,” but to be quite honest, it was kind of hard not to enjoy the scenes he was in. Sharon Cameron did such a good job of writing this character (accent and all), and René ended up being a really vivid and colorful person in “Rook.” P.S. He super swoony!


Another thing that Sharon did really well was show her readers all the different sides of René Hasard; you have to allow some time to pass before you can ever see where he was truly coming from in this book and his intentions towards Sophia, and I loved that!

An aspect of this book that was quite enjoyable in addition to everything else was the tenuous truce between Sophia and René. The only reason these two characters had ever met was so that  René could appease someone and Sophia would be able to save her family from ruin. By no means did they get along in the first hundred to hundred and fifty pages of “Rook,” but then circumstances forced them to become unwilling partners. I liked seeing their relationship slowly evolve and the tension build between them and their circumstances; their whole world could go up in flames at any moment, and they took that into account. Sharon Cameron did a good job of making their acquaintance become more without going into the insta-love category. Even though “Rook” took place over a shorter period of time, nothing felt rushed or like it was haphazardly thrown into the story, and that made this book even better! I will warn you, though, that there are only a few moments where René and Sophia have a moment, but they are darn good and well worth the wait! I officially ship René and Sophia together.

fed ex

I also loved how Sharon Cameron took all of her characters and either made them grow as individuals or show their true colors. But Sharon, once again using her skill as a writer, made it a wee bit hard to figure out people’s true intentions until the end of this book. A lot of characters are not as they appeared in “Rook,” and it was a lot of fun trying to figure out what was really going on and what I was missing. I predicted a few things, but I was also surprised by others. It has been a really long time since an author and a book have kept me in real suspense about what was going to happen and whether the characters I liked were good or bad, but Sharon totally did that with “Rook”! There were a lot of twists and turns and I loved them all! The only person who you really see as they are was Albert LeBlanc, and he was one of the most creepy and well done bad guys that I’ve read in quite some time.

I loved everything about “Rook,” but what really captured me while reading it was the French and historical influences that Sharon Cameron wove into this book so seamlessly. The tagline for this book is “What will be has already been…” and that sentence is literally the perfect description for what happens in this book! Fancy gowns and lavish parties clashed with the dirty, oppressiveness of the rest of the world Sophia lived in, and that is how it was during the French Revolution. I just loved that “Rook” felt more like a historical fiction novel rather than a dystopian because there were so many historical elements that lent a lot to this story, and they created a really great dynamic for a reader to enjoy. I loved “Rook” so much because it reminiscent of “For Darkness Shows the Stars” by Diana Peterfreund due to the regression in technology and society, but it had the elegance and entrancing quality of Marie Rutkoski’s “Winner’s Trilogy.”

“Rook” was SUCH an amazing and well-written book. It had everything I was looking for in a good book, and Sharon’s dynamic characters and the loads of twists and turns that she took me on made the ride all the more enjoyable! The French setting and the theme of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” behind it just sent this book over the top (in a good kind of way), and I want to start reading it again already! Sharon Cameron did such a wonderful job retelling a classic piece of literature while leaving her own mark on the story. “Rook” was fantastic, and I loved it!

Check out my “Rook” board on pinterest here: