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Title: The Night of the Mi'raj (aka "Finding Nouf")
Author: Zoë Ferraris
Genre: Crime, cultural
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 356
Date read: October, 2010

When Nouf ash-Shrawi, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a wealthy Saudi dynasty, disappears from her home in Jeddah just days before her arranged marriage, desert guide Nayir is asked to bring her home.

But when Nouf's battered body is found, Nayir feels compelled to uncover the disturbing truth, travelling away from the endless desert to the vast city of Jeddah, where, most troubling of all, he finds himself having to work closely with Katya Hijazi, a forensic scientist. The further into the investigation he goes, the more Nayir begins to question his loyalties: to his friends, faith and culture.

I'm not usually a big fan mystery/crime/detective novels. They have to be really good - or at least "just right" for me to care much about them. As crime stories go, I'd have to say that this was just "okay". Though I understand the reasoning, I think it was a mistake to tell the story from Nayir's view point. Since Nouf was dead by the beginning of the book, the reader couldn't get to care about her, and therefore didn't need the closure of discovering her murder, and as Nayir didn't know enough about her to care for her either, the motivation to solve the murder was secondhand at best, and made it really difficult to relate or even care whether or not we found the murderer. Sure, I was curious, but that was about it.

But as always it was fascinating to read a book that takes place in a culture so foreign to what I'm used to, so Zoê Ferraris still managed to keep me interested by the atmosphere, even though I was somewhat indifferent to the plot.
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Title: The Love Dare
Author: Stephen & Alex Kendrick
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 222
Date read: October, 2010

Too many marriages end when someone says "I've fallen out of love with you" or "I don't love you anymore."

The Love Dare discusses how these statements reveal a lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of true love.

The Love Dare is a 40-day guided devotional experience that will lead your heart back to truly loving your spouse while learning more about the design, nature, and source of true love. Each reading includes Scripture, a statement of principle, the day's "dare," and a journaling area and check box to chart progress

A couple of years ago, I decided to do the 30 day challenge, and found it extremely satisfying. Somebody recommended this book to me as an alternative. I thought it sounded interesting, and got it out of the library about a month-and-a-half ago, deciding to read one chapter a day, and doing the challenges as they came.

It started out being very similar to the 30 day challenge, and I enjoyed following it (think my husband did too, even if he had no clue what was going on ;) ), but I quickly discovered that this wasn't nearly as well thought-through as the 30-day version. The authors made a lot of assumptions that made it less generally relevant, and many of the challenges couldn't be done just any day, but required a certain event taking place that day to even make sense (e.g. the challenge on how to make up after a fight - I'm not about to initiate a fight just in order to complete the challenge!). Also, they used not just one but three chapters on encouraging the reader to become a Christian. A worthy cause, to be sure, but not really appropriate as three challenges in a love dare (just to explain, the love dare is NOT about love in general - in which case these challenges would actually have been very appropriate - but solely about the love between a husband and a wife). Since it's a Christian book, I think it's okay to assume the reader is a Christian and just add an appendix with "If not..."

I finished it partly because I got stubborn and partly because some of the challenges were actually really good, but in general I'd recommend everybody do the 30 day version (even though that's aimed at wives and this book is aimed at both parts of the couple - just ignore any personal pronouns and you'll be fine ;) ) and give this one a miss.

I still want to see the movie "Fireproof" though, as it's apparently either inspired by this book, or this book was inspired by the movie. Sounds like it could be a very sweet movie.
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Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Suspense, Sci-fi
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 880
Date read: October, 2010

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mills, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the Dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when - or if - it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens - town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a selectwoman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing - even murder - to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry.

But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

I stumbled across this book at random, and thought it sounded an awful lot like "Gone" by Michael Grant, but since I loved that one, I was willing to give this a try as well. "Under the Dome" definitely has similarities both to "Gone" and to "Simpsons - The Movie", but after reading the book, I think it's more a matter of several people getting the same idea, than anybody being inspired by the others.

"Under the Dome" is the most captivating book I've read in a very, very long time. I started reading it Sunday afternoon, got to bed too late Sunday evening, read "just one more chapter" before leaving for work Monday morning, got to bed too late Monday evening, left for work late Tuesday and finally finished Tuesday evening. It's a long book, but every page counts. I got more and more intrigued and troubled as the pages went by, and more and more captivated by the story. Especially the beginning is fascinating as the havoc the dome causes is slowly revealed from several different perspectives, and the reader has NO idea what's going on.

As usual, Stephen King likes playing around with a large persons gallery and he mixes up a lot of different storylines and viewpoints to create this patchwork of a book. I think it works well though, and didn't have problems keeping the characters apart.

I did think events happened a tad too quickly though, and am not sure I find it feasible that a society would go to hell in a handbasket in just a couple of days, just because of greedy men and the power of mob-mentality. I think Stephen King could have made it more realistic by letting it cover twice or even three times as long a period of time as it did.

It's a 880-page chunkster. For the first 680 pages I was ready to call it the best book I'd read this year. Unfortunately it is pretty near impossible to end such a suspenseful novel in a satisfactory manner, and it did fall short on a couple of issues (being deliberately vague in order to avoid spoilers). It didn't let me down completely though, and I still adore it for being so utterly unputdownable, so it well deserves the honour of being the best Stephen King book I've ever read.
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Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Sci-fi, dystopian
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 485
Date read: October, 2010

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

This was very, very different from what I had expected, and unfortunately not as good as I had expected, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, the plot wasn't what I thought it would be. That's hardly the fault of the book, but still affected my reading experience.

Secondly, I didn't care much for the writing style. It got better as I went along and got more used to it, but still really annoyed me in places, and made me feel disconnected to the characters.

Thirdly, the end really bugged me. I won't say more in order to avoid spoilers, but will just leave it at that it employed one of my biggest pet peeves.

Had it not been for the end, I would probably have given this 4 stars, because it did keep me interested, and I was constantly intrigued by what would happen next. One thing it does have going for it, is that it is definitely a book that'll keep you guessing!
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Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 360
Date read: October 2010

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created "perfect" life is about to unravel before her eyes. She's forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for... her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

It never fails to puzzle me to see which books become hyped and which don't. I could see Perfect Chemistry being every bit as famous as Twilight, yet so few people have ever heard of it! But perhaps I should just give it time. After all, it took Twilight a couple of years too ;)

Shannon recommended this book to me, and I'm glad she did, otherwise I probably wouldn't have heard about it yet. It's a fascinating alternative West Side Story (only much better! Never did care for WSS - nor R&J for that matter), with an ending that turned out to be not nearly as sugary-sweet and perfect as I had expected... not immediately so anyway. It had me in tears more than once and was more poignant than I had expected a book of that genre to be.

The epilogue was more than a little corny though.

It had definite shades of "Ten Things I Hate About You", but as I loved that movie, that's definitely not a bad thing ;)
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Title: Holly's Inbox
Author: Holly Denham
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 710
Date read: October, 2010

Meet Holly Denham. It's her first day as a receptionist at a London investment bank and inexperienced Holly is struggling. How's a working girl supposed to have a love life with a demanding job, crazy friends, a dysfunctional family, and gossipy colleagues? Not to mention that Holly's been keeping a secret from everyone - and the past is about to catch up with her.

An affair with a sexy VP heats things up at the office, but when Holly's first flame (who, she thinks, left her in the lurch) gets a job at the same company, complications abound and Holly's inbox becomes a daily source of drama, laughter and scandal.

I presume this is fiction? Although it did confuse me that the author and the main character's names were the same, but as far as I could gather, the emails (originally found at www.hollysinbox.com) are all fictional.

Quite entertaining, and a very quick read (it may be 700+ pages, but there's so little writing on each, that it reads like a 2-300 page book). It was a bit too Bridget Jones'ish in places for my tastes (I'm glad Holly didn't make quite as many bad decisions though - her judgement was definitely much better thankfully), and I had a hard time relating to many of the characters, which obviously brought the rating down some (also, do people IRL really get as bitchy as Jennie? I've certainly never met any - but that may just be luck!). On the other hand, I loved the writing style, found myself laughing out loud in several places, and had a hard time putting it down, when it was time to head off to bed last night.
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Title: Tunnelmanden (The Tunnel Man)
Author: Dennis Jürgensen
Genre: YA, Horror
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 314
Date read: October, 2010

After her father's death, Adelene has lived alone together with her mother. Constantly half-drunk, her mother only ever cares about Adelene when she needs her morning beer, or she wants somebody to go shopping for the cigarettes and drink she needs. It's only gotten worse since her new boyfriend started supplying her with drugs.

Add that to constantly being bullied in school, and Adelene's life is no dance on roses... something that the Tunnel Man has discovered too, and that he's intent on fixing.

Unfortunately his idea of "fixing" is to eliminate the people who makes Adelene's life a hardship, and Adelene now discovers that no matter how unfair it seems, she can't save everybody.

Surprisingly good, although I'm not too sure why it's surprising - I tend to like Dennis Jürgensen's books. They're seldom very deep or 'high literature', but they're almost always good entertainment.

I liked the moral dilemma of the story - if you could dictate who should die and who should live, would it be easier for you to opt-in or opt-out? And would you be able to choose at all, even when knowing that if you don't somebody else will make the decision for you - and it might be worse?
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Title: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
Author: Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 319
Date read: October, 2010

For starters, there's the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There's also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he's not doing a very good job of it--so just what are his intentions?) And then there's Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn't bothered to tell anyone where he is.

Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives... if only they weren't having so much fun!

An epistolary novel of the best kind - it was actually written using letters! Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer spent 6 months sending letters back and forth "in character", and slowly but surely this novel grew out of the letters. What a fascinating way to write a book!

The plot itself is a pretty run-off-the-mill story, but very charming as we follow the lives of Cecelia and Kate - both of whom turn out to be experts at getting into scrapes! It was a good read to round off my read-a-thon challenge with, as it wasn't terribly taxing, but good entertainment that could hold my attention.
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Title: Eternal Hunger
Author: Laura Wright
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 2/5
# pages: 284
Date read: October, 2010

Alexander Roman wants nothing to do with the controlling rulers of his vampire breed or the family he escaped from a hundred years ago. But as a new threat to the pureblood vampires emerges, Alexander's ties to the past are forced upon him again, and without warning, he finds himself - disoriented, terrified, and near death - at the door of a stranger.

Dr. Sarah Donohue is dedicated to removing the traumatic memories of her patients - like those of the stranger at her front door. But what he tells her of his past is too astonishing to be anything more than the delusion of a madman. Yet she has seen his flesh scarred by the sun and witnessed his inhuman strength. And never more has she felt so connected to a man, by both fear and seductive excitement.

Paranormal erotica. Entertaining in the same way as a stereotypical Harlequin novel. It wasn't bad, but certainly not good either. The plot was actually half-decent, but very obviously just an excuse for the two main characters to 'get it on' as often as possible, and their relationship was so over-the-top unrealistic that it became plain ridiculous.

Had the author spent more page-time on the plot, and less page-time writing smut, it could actually have been an excellent book, as the genre does have its merrits. For an example of how it should be done, go read Bitten by Kelley Armstrong instead.

... and don't get me started on the front cover. Gah! I'm glad I had an ebook version of this and didn't have to look at it all the time, or it would certainly have scared me away.
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Title: Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
# pages: Audiobook ~10hrs
Date read: October, 2010

When Briar Moss spots a street kid using magic in a marketplace, he knows he must find her a teacher. But before he can do so, Briar and the young mage are swept up in gang warfare that puts them both in grave danger. Now Briar must decide if he's ready to step in as young Evvy's mentor - and if he's ready to put his own gang life behind him for good.

No where near as good as the other books in the "Circle Opens" series. I constantly found my attention wandering, and had to go back to see what actually happened. Part of this was because I just didn't care for Evvy much, and part of it was the distinct lack of Briar doing any magic for himself.
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Title: The Penny
Author: Joyce Meyer & Deborah Bedford
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 1.5/5
# pages: 235
Date read: October, 2010

Jenny Blake has a theory about life: big decisions often don't amount to much, but little decisions sometimes transform everything. Her theory proves true the summer she's 14, when she makes the decision to pick up a penny embedded in asphalt and consequently ends up stopping a robbery, getting a job, and meeting someone who changes her life forever...

If this had been a memoir I think I would really have liked it, because the style and story would have fitted a memoir well. Being a fictional story, however, it utilized a number of my literary pet peeves - lots of foreshadowing, stereotypical characters and very, very heavy-handed preaching. The book suffered greatly from having the story told rather than shown, and the testimony would have been so much stronger if the events of the story had been allowed to speak for themselves, rather than be constantly spelled out to the reader.

I know this is the lowest rating I've given in a LONG time, but I pretty much only finished it because I got stubborn.
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Title: Rebel
Author: R.J. Anderson
Genre: Fantasy, Christian fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 295
Date read: October, 2010

The faeries of the Oak are dying, and it's up to a lone faery named Linden to find a way to restore their magic. Linden travels bravely into dangerous new territory, where she enlists the help of an unlikely friend'a human named Timothy. Soon they discover something much worse than the Oakenfolk's loss of magic: a potent evil that threatens the fate of all faeries. In a fevered, desperate chase across the country, Timothy and Linden risk their lives to seek an ancient power before it's too late to save everyone they love.

This sequel to "Knife" is even better than the first book in the series! In "Knife" a lot of page-time was giving to setting up the universe and explaining the fairy's history. That wasn't necessary here, which made for a smoother story. Besides, I just found Linden's story more interesting than Knife's. Timothy was a very interesting addition to the universe, as was the power of the Empress and her fate.

"Rebel" is a quick and pleasant read - I finished it in 3 hours flat. I'll be keeping an eye out for "Arrow" now.
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Title: PS, I Love You
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 502
Date read: September 2007, October 2010


Summary: "PS, I Love You" is a sweet, sentimental tale of a young widow's trials and triumphs in the year after her husband's death. Soul mates Holly and Gerry married in their early 20s; when Gerry dies of brain cancer at 30, Holly is utterly bereft. But Gerry has a final gift: a series of letters, which Holly is to open on the first of each month from March to New Year's, and which will guide her on her journey from grief. Gerry correctly predicts that Holly will not have gone through his belongings by June, found a new job by September or considered falling in love again by December, but with his posthumous epistolary encouragement she does all those things. She also enters a karaoke contest, takes a beach vacation and dances at a holiday ball she'd always attended with Gerry. The months pass as close friends help prop Holly up; around her, a marriage falls apart, a couple gets engaged and a friend announces her pregnancy. Within her tight-knit family, Holly's youngest brother makes a revealing film of her birthday party, her elder brothers change places in her allegiance and her parents take in one stray grown child after another for stays short and long.

Review: Do not be scared away by the cover of this one. Despite classifying it as 'chick-lit', it's definitely not your usual chick-lit, as there's a lot more depth to it than one would usually expect from chick-lit. It's beautiful and devastating. I'd recommend it to everybody, but make sure you have tissues nearby, because even though the book is generally optimistic, there are scenes that will break your heart.

The author was 22 when she wrote this book! That's just incredible!

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Title: In the Hand of the Goddess
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 209
Date read: August 2007, October 2010, September 2011


Summary: Disguised as a boy, Alanna of Trebond becomes a squire -- to none other than the prince of the realm. But Prince Jonathan is much more to Alanna; he is her ally, her best friend, and one of the few who knows that she's really a girl. Now it will take all of Alanna's awesome skill, strength, and growing magical powers to protect him from the mysterious evil sorcerer who is bent on his destruction--and hers!

Review: Probably my all-time favourite Tamora Pierce book... although it's subject to change whenever I reread one of the others ;-) When writing this series, Tamora Pierce still stuck to the 'keep it simple' policy (something which she dropped in later books) making her earlier series both more accessible and more charming.

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Title: Alanna
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 216
Date read: August 2007, October 2010, September 2011


Summary: Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but somehow young Alanna knows she isn't meant to become some proper lady cloistered in a convent. Instead, she wants to be a great warrior maiden--a female knight. But in the land of Tortall, women aren't allowed to train as warriors. So Alanna finds a way to switch places with her twin, Thom, and take his place as a knight in training at the palace of King Roald. Disguising herself as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page in the royal court. Soon, she is garnering the admiration of all around her, including the crown prince, with her strong work ethic and her thirst for knowledge. But all the while, she is haunted by the recurring vision of a black stone city that emanates evil... somehow she knows it is her fate to purge that place of its wickedness. But how will she find it? And can she fulfill her destiny while keeping her gender a secret?

Review: The first quartet written by Tamora Pierce, and while "Protector of the Small" has overtaken it as my favourite series, the two first books of this quartet are definitely my favourite books. I love reading about how Alanna fits into life at the palace - her lessons and the friends she makes. I read it for the first time when I was 12'ish and have reread it regularly ever since.

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Title: Squire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 339
Date read: August 2007, October 2010


Summary: 14-year-old Keladry of Mindelan is ready to begin training as a squire after undergoing four grueling years as the first girl to be officially educated as a page. Disappointed at first that Lady Alanna does not choose her, Kel is delighted when gruff, good-natured, down-to-earth Lord Raoul takes her on. The next four years prove to be tough but happy, for the most part, as Raoul and most of the others in the King's Own (a corps of 300 men--299 now, plus Kel--that enforces the law and helps local nobles deal with problems such as centaur attacks and forest robberies) treat Kel as an equal. Throughout, Kel is physically and mentally preparing herself for the final test in the Chamber of the Ordeal, in which fourth-year squires must successfully face their greatest fears before becoming knights.

Review: A bit repetitious, especially as we're told 5 or 6 times thoughout the book just *why* Kelandry is no longer petrified by heights. I think we got it after the first time, thanks!

Still a charming book though, and a quick and pleasant read. Probably my favourite of the lot as it's more diverse than the others.

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Title: Page
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 231
Date read: August 2007, October 2010, October 2012


Summary: As the only female page in history to last beyond the first year of formal training to become a knight, 11-year-old Keladry of Mindelan has an uphill battle to fight. In addition to proving herself worthy of being a page, Kel spends her time defending first-year pages from bullies, staying on top of homework, conquering her paralyzing fear of heights, and keeping up with Lord Wyldon's grueling physical training schedule. Kel's detractors do everything in their power to thwart her progress, from tormenting her friends to sabotaging the Midwinter Festivities to kidnapping her maid and dog on the day of final examinations. The tide of resistance begins to turn slightly during the summer between Kel's second and third years, when she leads a team of pages in defensive maneuvers against renegade bandits.

Review: This book covers 3 years, and while it mostly handles that well, it does occasionally seem a tad rushed... 8 months passing by in a single chapter. I don't mind books covering a lot of time as long as it's done consistently, instead of covering one week in three chapters and then 8 months in one. Still, it's a minor complaint. Mostly I love this book as I find it fascinating to read of the training pages have to go through in order to become squires.

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Title: The Will of the Empress
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 539
Date read: September 2006, October 2010

Summary: Powers in full flush after stints of wayfaring, precocious ambient mages Daja, Briar, and Tris have finally reunited with left-behind Sandry. But nothing is quite what it was, and the 16-year-olds begin to question their telepathic connection: "As adults, we keep our minds and our secrets hidden, and our wounds. It's safer." It will take a common foe to shake the cobwebs from this partnership. Pierce provides a formidable one in Namorn's charismatic empress, who does battle with silken weapons of courtly politics to compel the mages to live and serve in Sandry's native land. Subplots deepen characterizations in ways reflective of the teens'increasing maturity: Daja discovers she is a "woman who loves women"; Sandry must confront her high-born heritage and stave off forced marriage by means of an archaic bride-stealing custom. A few threads seem to dangle in ways that cloth-mage Sandry would scorn, but little will deter readers from reveling in the elemental magics, or from sympathizing with the prickly young adults'nostalgia for the easy companionships of childhood. (From Amazon.com)

Review: I didn't even know this book existed until [livejournal.com profile] lizziey mentioned it to me! Thank you, sweetie! It's brilliant! After the repetitiveness of "The Circle Opens" it was great to read something different, and see that Tamora Pierce still has what it takes :-)

The Will of the Empress has been split into two when translated to Danish. A more detailed of the second half, The Wrath of the Empress can be found here (written in English).

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