Top Ten Favourite Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish in which we can showcase the top ten books we feel deserve the spotlight according to the topic of the week. This week's topic is favourite heroines.

This was a surprisingly difficult list for me to make. Most of the novels I read don't contain strong heroines, but are still amazing due to the secondary characters. Generally, a heroine will make it onto my favourites list due to being completely kickass, but some of them have strength in their own right.

Yelena Zaltana
Yelena goes through so much throughout the Study series, and it's difficult not to love her. She's a complete badass, and her powers are beyond belief.

Katniss Everdeen
I think this is pretty much a given for YA fans. Katniss knows how to kick some butt and her loyalty to the cause is unmatched. She goes after what she wants, damn the consequences, and she gets the job done.

Hermione Granger
Though Hermione was an obnoxious know-it-all throughout most of this series, I thoroughly loved her. Towards the end of the series, she becomes a super tough cookie and her cool logic helps get them out of some pretty sticky situations.

Tris Prior
Tris definitely grows into herself throughout this trilogy, and I enjoyed her story every step of the way. She was born for Dauntless, and what Roth did at the end of Allegiant still brings tears to my eyes.

Rose Hathaway
Rose's loyalty to Lissa is something that I've never experienced before or since in YA fiction. For two characters to connect on such a deep level without being in a relationship is unusual, and Rose's devotion to protecting her best friend is utterly unbelievable to read about.

Faythe Sanders
Though Faythe did annoy me with some of the choices she made, she's the kind of chick who can kick ass and look good doing it.

Claire Danvers
Though not physically a strong character, Claire's ability to see the logic in any situation is the reason I love her. She reminds me of Hermione Granger in a lot of ways (minus the wand, of course), and I can't help but find her adorable.

Clary Fray
Despite starting this series as quite a naïve character, Clary's Shadowhunter training truly pays off eventually. She's a fantastic character that can keep a cool head in the middle of a battle, and the loyalty and devotion she shows her loved ones is inspiring.

Tessa Gray
Tessa really grows into herself throughout this trilogy, and much like Clary, she becomes a real heroine towards the end of the series.

Kaylee Cavanaugh
Despite annoying me with her obsession with Nash, Kaylee does become quite good at what she does during this series. Her sacrificial nature makes her a deeply inspiring character.

My Thoughts On Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
This book is a standalone novel
First published in 2007 by Razorbill
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.06)

Edition I Was Gifted
Paperback, 288 pages
Published in 2011 by Razorbill
My Rating: ★★★★★
You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret... is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his time on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and first love - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening - and what he discovers changes his life. Forever.

Have you ever read a book so powerful that you believe it can genuinely change lives? Thirteen Reasons Why is one of those books. Though there are plenty of authors who have written books that skirt around serious subject matters, there are few who have gone into detail and made their books count. Regardless of whether you, someone you know, or nobody in your life at all, have been in a similar situation as Hannah, I can guarantee this novel will hit home. Jay Asher is an amazing author with the ability to really get inside your head and make you care. Though you may not like this book for many different reasons, you will not walk away and say it didn't impact your life in some small way. It's impossible.

Told in a truly unique way, this is the story of Hannah Baker - a normal high school student - and the reasons behind her suicide. Thirteen people that will have to live with the knowledge that they had something to do with Hannah's death for the rest of their lives. Thirteen people who had no idea how the smallest of things can impact someone else's life in such a huge way. We hear Hannah's story through cassette tapes, passed around the group of thirteen. Clay Jensen is on that list somewhere, and we listen with him as Hannah pours out her soul, feeling his emotions as if they're our own. 

The snowball effect is something that every single person has experienced at some point in their lives, so in that aspect, this novel is easy to relate to. However, there are only a certain amount of people out there who will truly feel this book. It's easy for a person to say that something depressed them, but I can guarantee that not a single one of those people has ever experienced real depression: the soul-wrenching feeling that keeps you awake night after night as you think about every little detail of your life and how all those experiences have woven together to get you to where you are today. Despite manifesting itself in a lot of different ways, there is one thing that links every single person with depression together: the thought of suicide.

Though Hannah seemed wildly unconcerned by the thought taking her own life, it's easy to tell from the very beginning that this girl is deeply depressed. The humour she injects is tinged with sadness, and I felt myself drowning in her despair. I felt like Clay. I just wish she'd told someone exactly what was happening before it was too late. I found myself angry at her on several occasions, wishing she'd just taken the oppurtunities to speak up when she had the chance. And then I realized she and I aren't much different. Back in high school, when my depression started, I never sought out help. I hoped that someone would just know. That a single person would realise that something had gone seriously wrong in my life and just be there for me. But people aren't mind readers, and Hannah and I made the same mistake. After that realisation hit, I found myself more and more invested in her story, hoping and praying that someone would come to her rescue, despite already knowing the outcome.

I can't say that I'm angry at Clay for not noticing the signs. After all, high school is an emotional time for everyone, and people spiral up and down throughout. It's not unusual for a girl to come in one day with drastically different hair. It's not unusual for a guy to take a break from being a pleasant young man to a delinquent juvenile desperate for attention. At the end of the day, nobody really knows what's going on inside someone else's head. Clay's emotions throughout the entire book felt so real, and I found myself laughing with him, mourning with him, and breaking down with him. We both wished that Hannah had just opened up to him. He could have changed everything if she'd let him.

When I first started this book, I had trouble with the style. I couldn't wrap my head around the two different points of view running simultaneously. Occasionally Clay's thoughts would take a completely different turn and I'd have trouble keeping my own thoughts on track before we'd be back to Hannah again. It definitely took some getting used to, but once I got there, I absolutely loved what Asher did. It made the novel feel infinitely more real, and I'm so glad he decided to add Clay to the story, instead of keeping it all Hannah. 

There were multiple aspects of this novel that I loved, but I think one of the teachers' ideas to bring the class together was the best. Basically, each student has their own paper bag. If you have something nice you want to say to a person, but can't bring yourself to say it to their face (it's surprising how many people have difficulty), you can leave them a note in their bag, completely anonymously. It's an absolutely fantastic idea that may just brighten up someone's day. And you can even incorporate this into your own life. I mean, why not leave a colleague a note by the kettle? Or slip it into a fellow student's locker? At the end of the day, that little friendly note might just prove that there's someone out there who actually cares.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an incredibly powerful novel that will change your life if you let it. It teaches us that even the smallest of actions can impact someone else's life in an extraordinary way. It's unpleasant thinking that you might be one of the reasons a person is on a major downward spiral, but there are so many self-involved people out there that this book could very well be a true story. Jay Asher is an incredible author, and I'll definitely be checking out his other works. Absolutely astounding.

My Thoughts On Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder


Fire Study
by Maria V. Snyder
Bk. #3 of Study
First published in 2008 by Mira
Genre: YA Fantasy
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (3.96)

Edition I Purchased
Paperback, 441 pages
Published in 2009 by Mira Books
My Rating: ★★★★★
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.

Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies and enemies. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself - and save the land she holds dear.

I have to say that this is potentially one of my favourite fantasy series' ever. I absolutely adored this trilogy, and I'm very excited to reunite with Yelena in Shadow Study, the first book of the spin off Soulfinder series. While most of the important questions pertaining the storyline were answered, there were so many things that were never really explained. Instead, we got watered down versions crammed into a couple of sentences. It felt a little like the author rushed the ending, so I really hope we get some better answers in the next book.

After failing to destory the Soulstealer, Yelena is now set on tracking down Cahil and Ferde and finishing what she started. Her journey is fraught with danger, and when a new threat emerges, Yelena ends up backed into a corner. The Fire Warper - a soul from the Underworld - will stop at nothing to drag Yelena down into his world and use her abilities to take to the sky, allowing him control over Sitia and Ixia both. When it comes to light that someone - known only as Jal - is performing old blood magic to garner extra power, Yelena will stop at nothing to find him. 

Yelena's abilities are something that have intrigued me since the beginning of this series, and this book gives us plenty of oppurtunities to see them in action. The way her skills have developed since she first came to Sitia is astounding, and I'm glad that the author didn't run out of ways to keep us interested. There seems to be no limit to Yelena's power, which is proven at the end of this novel when she succeeds where so many others have failed - without even trying! I absolutely love Yelena and I'm so glad that Snyder decided to write another series based on this character. I'm so excited to find out what else Yelena discovers about her powers, and after the previously mentioned success, there is definitely much more to come. 

We learned a little bit more about Opal Cowan in this novel, so I'm definitely going to have to start her story soon. Her abilities are very interesting, and I was impressed by what Snyder did with them. There's so much more to this character than meets the eye, and I can't wait to find out what else she can do.

Though the romance has never been at the forefront of this story, it's definitely a main theme. It seems as though Yelena and Valek spend more time apart than they do with one another, but when they're together, there's major fireworks. I absolutely adore these guys as a couple, and I can't wait to see what else gets in their way in the next book. Valek himself is an extremely interesting character. His ability to withstand magical attacks with no effect to himself, though explained at the very end of this book, leaves us with many more questions than answers. The fact that Snyder originally planned this as the last book with Yelena means that, had I read it before I knew there was another novel coming out, the rating for this novel would have been very different. I just hope she gives us some more details in the coming story.

Overall, I highly recommend this series to anybody who is interested in fantasy worlds filled with magic and mystery. If you're looking for a kickass female heroine who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, the Study series is definitely one for you. I thoroughly enjoyed these novels from start to finish, and I can't wait to read the next book.

Waiting On Finding Paris by Joy Preble

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking The Spine in which we can spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly awaiting. My pick this week is Finding Paris by Joy Preble.

Finding Paris
by Joy Preble
This will be a standalone novel
Expected April 2015 from Balzer & Bray
Genre: YA Mystery
200+ pages

Pre-order it here (cover may vary):
The Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind - going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love.

But Leo isn’t going anywhere yet... until Paris ditches her at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris - a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared?

When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is a not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold tightly.

I'm not sure what it is about this novel that initially drew me in. Perhaps it was the cover? It's gorgeous. Either way, this sounds like a really interesting read. I'm not sure how much mystery the author is going to incorporate, but it could be pretty intense.

My Thoughts On Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study
Bk. #2 of Study
First Published in 2006 by Luna
Genre: YA Fantasy
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.07)

Edition I Purchased
Paperback, 419 pages
Published in 2008 by Mira Books
My Rating: ★★★★★
With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Not the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye.

Suddenly she is embroiled in battle against good and evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life... or be her downfall.

Though I absolutely adored Poison Study, the first book in this series, Magic Study was better. I found myself more interested by the magic than the politics in the first novel, so when we were informed that Yelena was fleeing to Sitia, I was very excited. A book set completely in the land where magic has few limits? Yes please. I was prepared for a whirlwind novel that would take my breath away, and I was not disappointed. Sitia is a beautiful place that Maria V. Snyder described perfectly, and I can't wait to return in the next novel. I haven't actually checked out the synopsis for Fire Study yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we're going to explore Ixia a little more, as well. Either way, I just want more magic.

Reunited with her family, Yelena can't help but feel uneasy. There are members of the Zaltana clan that believe she is an Ixian spy, and her own brother, Leif, is the main culprit. Born with the ability to read souls, Leif won't let go of the fact that Yelena has had a difficult life, killing - among other things - along the way, and is determined to keep his distance. Difficult to do when he's forced to guide Yelena to the Citadel. Along the way, they're ambushed by Cahil, claimant to the throne of Ixia. The king's nephew will stop at nothing to get information and support out of Yelena, but more pressing issues take over her mind as she discovers that young girls are being kidnapped and murdered. The Master Magicians are at a loss, and when one of the victims turns up alive, Yelena takes it upon herself to try and retrieve the girl's soul, just as she had with Commander Ambrose. As things heat up inside the Citadel, Yelena finds herself at risk yet again.

I will admit, I feel kind of bad for Yelena. It seems she can never catch a break, and it must be exhausting knowing you're constantly at the top of someone's hitlist. Her time in Sitia should have been a relaxing one after her ordeals before and during her time as poison taster, filled with magic and education, but of course a new threat has emerged. The power hungry magician that has been torturing young girls for his own power gain has targeted Yelena's abilities and wants them for his own. Our heroine underwent a huge transformation in Poison Study, going from untrusting and angry, to loyal and compassionate. I like this new side of Yelena, and I genuinely want her to find happiness. She's such a strong young woman, and I found myself loving her more with every page.

Cahil and Leif, however, I found to be severely unappealing characters - to the extent that I found myself growing very bored of them very quickly. Though both men have their own stories, I just couldn't feel anything other than disdain. Despite disliking him throughout the majority of the books, Leif did manage to redeem himself at the very end, and I feel more positive towards him going forwards. I just hope it lasts. Cahil, on the other hand, needs to grow up. We saw a different side to him when he asked Yelena to the New Beginnings feast, but the tentative friendship that followed didn't last as long as I had hoped. Cahil ended up as one of the most disliked characters I've ever read about, and I really don't think that's going to change. 

On the other hand, I absolutely loved Irys. Though her inability to trust Yelena's instincts annoyed me to no end, I still found her unbelievably interesting. She has a unique outlook on everything, and I can't wait to read about her again in Fire Study. I just hope she's learnt her lesson and will start trusting Yelena.

When it comes to the other characters, there's not really much to say. Dax was welcomed with open arms when I realised he was as funny as Ari and Janco. He was a nice distraction from the power twins whilst they weren't around, and I hope we see more of him in the next book. I also adored Fisk, the darling little beggar that became a true entrepreneur. This kid was awesome and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his transformation from afar. And then there's Roze - First Magician and major bitch. She made me want to claw her eyes out, and I'm sure her arrogance will be her downfall. I really hope she mellows out in the next book. 

The magic side of this novel was everything I had hoped it would be - fun, scary, dangerous, and above all, interesting. Seeing Yelena's abilities develop was fantastic, and I can't wait to see where Snyder takes them. The one-on-one sessions that Yelena had with Irys were a wonderful addition to this novel, and I hope they continue to train together. I also hope we see more of Valek's ability to deflect magic. I have a strange feeling there's going to be a huge plot twist pertaining that little skill, and I hope I'm not disappointed.

Overall, this was an absolutely fantastic sequel and I'm positive Fire Study will be the conclusion that this series deserves. Maria V. Snyder is a wonderful author with writing that flows beautifully and descriptions that create a vivid image. I can't wait to see where she takes Yelena next.

My Thoughts On Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study
by Maria V. Snyder
Bk. #1 of Study
First Published in 2005 by Luna
Genre: YA Fantasy
Avg. Rating: ★★★★ (4.18)

Edition I Purchased
Paperback, 409 pages
Published in 2007 by Mira Books
My Rating: ★★★★★
Yelena has a choice - be executed for murder, or become food taster to the Commander of Ixia. She leaps at the chance for survival, but her relief may be short-lived.

Life in the palace is full of hazards and secrets. Wily and smart, Yelena must learn to identify poisons before they kill her, recognise whom she can trust and how to spy on those she can't. And who is the mysterious Southern sorceress who can reach into her head?

When Yelena realises she has extraordinary magical powers of her own, she faces a whole new problem, for using magic in Ixia is punishable by death...

Maria V. Snyder is one of those authors whom everybody raves about, and after reading this novel, I can understand why. Her writing flows beautifully, and her descriptive style is mesmerizing. Not once did I feel overwhelmed by all the information she was thrusting my way, though there were several subplots throughout the entirety of this book. Snyder has created a world that I fell in love with, and I will definitely be reading the rest of this series immediately.

Yelena is a character who underwent a lot of personal development in this book. When I first started reading, I found that there was something strangely dislikable about her. I'm still not positive as to what it was, but as the novel progressed, I found myself admiring her more and more. My emotions were taken on a terrifying rollercoaster as disaster after disaster struck, and I kept praying that things would just fall into place for her. With Valek's help, she grows into her role as food taster pretty quickly, but there are still people out there who want her executed. General Brazell will stop at nothing to get revenge for his son's murder, and Yelena finds herself fighting for her life numerous times. 

When a novel is written based on events that happened before the book started, a lot of authors fail at giving us the backstory without taking focus off what's currently happening. Maria V. Snyder didn't have that problem. She incorporated Yelena and Reyed's history primarily with flashbacks, but they didn't bombard us with information. Rather, we had to piece together the story bit by bit. At the start of the book, Yelena struggled with the emotional pain of remembering her past at Brazell's orphanage, but as the story progressed, we discovered more about what happened to her, and I found it impossible not to sympathize with her. She experienced some pretty dark things, and for her to come through with her sanity in tact is amazing. Yelena is incredibly brave and strong-willed, and she manages to overcome every obstacle thrust her way. She's a true heroine, through and through.

There's a ton of other characters in this novel, but I'm only going to talk about Valek, otherwise this review will take days to write/read. I absolutely adored this guy right from the off. He has an air of mystery surrounding him and you can't help but want to get to know him better. Despite his blunt nature, he has a softer side that will make you go weak at the knees. Though it doesn't show very often, there are a few moments (further towards the end of the book) that make you wish he and Yelena had met under different circumstances. The romance is by no means the focal point of this novel, but I adored their relationship and can't wait to see how Snyder incorporates it into the next book.

The magic side of things didn't fully come into play until pretty late on in the novel. Despite there being signs and talk of magic, Snyder brought that aspect in slowly, letting us get used to the idea. I'm glad she did this, as I can imagine things would have gotten pretty overwhelming had she started this novel talking about magic as if we knew anything about her world. Irys, the Southern sorceress that can get into Yelena's head uninvited is a character whom I found intriguing. I didn't expect her to turn out the way she did, and I can't wait to read more about her in the sequel, Magic Study. 

Overall, this is an absolutely fantastic novel that fantasy and mystery fans alike will enjoy. The plot itself is interesting and surprising, and you never know what's going to happen next. Maria V. Snyder is a master of creating twists and turns you could never have guessed at, and I'm definitely going to check out her other works.

Waiting On Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking The Spine in which we can spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly awaiting. My pick this week is Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine.

Ink & Bone

by Rachel Caine
Bk. #1 of The Great Library
Expected July 2015 from NAL
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
300+ pages

Pre-order it here (cover may vary):
The Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly - but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life - and soon both heretics and books will burn...

I absolutely love The Morganville Vampires - in fact, it's one of my all time favourite series'. Rachel Caine is a fantastic author that constantly keeps me on the edge of my seat, so I've pretty much vowed to read everything she writes.

This sounds like a really interesting novel, and I'm curious to see how Caine goes about it. No doubt there will be a dozen twists and turns along the way, so I'm prepared for a stellar read.