After a week off for Thanksgiving (and to put the finishing touches on this new and improved website!), I'm back to talk about three fabulous books. Two are by fellow Fearless Fifteeners, so you'll have to wait until 2015 to add them to your shelves. The other is out now (in fact, I've been hearing I should read it for quite a while)!
Sabaa Tahir's AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is one of the most anticipated YA debut releases of 2015, so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on an ARC. And it didn't disappoint! This book is epic and thrilling, filled with complex characters who are forced to make impossible choices. It takes place in a world that's like a fantasy version of ancient Rome. The Scholars, once an educated and cultured people, have been conquered and enslaved by the Martial Empire, which craves only power and blood. Laia is a Scholar who goes undercover as a slave at the academy where the Martials train the next generation of Masks—their most fearsome fighters. Elias is the academy's best soldier, but he's having second thoughts about the life he's been born into. Their paths cross thanks to a prophesy that puts Elias in a competition to become the next Emperor. And…that's all I want to say, for fear of spoiling any of the story's twists and turns! If you're a fantasy fan—YA or adult, because this definitely skews older and darker—grab this book when it comes out in April.
The next ARC I read was also a YA fantasy, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Aside from the fact that I loved this one, too! Virginia Boecker's THE WITCH HUNTER is magical historical fiction. Elizabeth Grey is a skilled witch hunter. The king has outlawed magic, and the witch hunters are the crown's best line of defense against illegal witchcraft. But when a chain of events leads Elizabeth to be accused of witchcraft herself—and sentenced to death—she finds salvation in an unlikely ally: Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. Nicholas needs Elizabeth to find a cure for the curse that's been plaguing him. Reluctantly, she agrees to help. As the story progresses, Elizabeth's world gets turned upside-down as her enemies become her friends—and vice versa. And then there's John, the handsome young healer… (Spoiler alert: I <3 John!) I raced through this book, unable to turn pages fast enough. If you enjoy medieval history and magic, pick up THE WITCH HUNTER when it releases next June.
And finally, last night, I finished Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE. I'd been hearing great things about this book all year. I bought it on iTunes and put it on my phone before our trip to Paris in October…only to not start reading it until a few days ago. Suffice it to say, I shouldn't have waited! This is one of my top reads of the year. It's about a woman, Ursula Todd, who lives life after life. In the opening chapter, she is killed in an attempt (Successful? We never find out…) to kill Hitler before he destroys Europe. In the next chapter, we've gone back to 1910, the day of her birth. Ursula dies before she's even given a name. Then the same scene plays out again, but the doctor is able to save the baby. The book moves forward through Ursula's life—death after death (childhood accidents, the influenza pandemic in 1918, a bomb during World War II, etc.) followed by the same birth scene, always with slight variations. Atkinson follows each possible thread of Ursula's life to its natural conclusion, showing the power of one decision, one moment, to change the entire course of a life. Ursula eventually starts to experience deja vu, and to be able to avoid certain tragedies—only to encounter others down the line. This book is so rich. It's an epic historical and also an intimate family portrait. The characters are vivid and real. I finished LIFE AFTER LIFE and sat with it for a few minutes, and then flipped back to the beginning to read the opening chapters once more.
What are you reading? I want to hear about it!