Posted in Book Review

The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: February 24, 2021 – February 25, 2021
Date Published: October 6, 2020
Source: Owned Hardback

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(Excerpt from Goodreads:)
Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.
These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.
This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story.

Now look, I’m already in love with Leigh Bardugo. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a huge crush on her. Is it because of how well she writes her characters and how flawless her story telling is? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY.

So this is a collection of short stories about some of the saints in the Grishaverse and how they came to be saints. From a young sailor boy, to a princess, to a jeweler who takes on a demon living in a lake. I don’t think there was a single story that fell flat for me. They were all so magical and captivating.

I’m already such a sucker for short stories. I never really dabbled in short stories until I met an author named Rosamund Hodge. I’m pretty sure I mention them somewhere in one of my monthly wrap up posts. She has them all out there as free to read and they are AMAZING. I’ve not yet found anyone to contest her short story writing skills. Though, Bardugo is incredibly close with this gem.

If you’ve already read the Grishaverse and are as in love with it as I am, check this one out. The last two saints in the book are ones you will definitely recognize.

Which leads me to my favorite part about this book. The Starless Saint’s story. My goodness that one was just… so hard hitting. Of course it would be saved for last. Not only because of who he is but also because of how deep and truly haunting this story is. While the story is not his… it also is. I’ve had a soft spot for him throughout the entire Grishaverse journey and this story just deepened my feelings for him. Such amazing writing and such an amazing book.

Posted in Book Review

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Read Dates: February 14, 2021 – February 23, 2021
Date Published: December 1, 2020
Source: Owned Hardback

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(Synopsis from Goodreads:)
Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.

Wow. Just… I mean… I’ve been waiting YEARS for the conclusion of this story and this was every bit worth the wait. Three years later and I still feel all the same emotions I felt for the characters when I first discovered this series in 2018. I sat here and just cried… and then cried some more… and then cheered. And then bawled like a baby. This was everything I needed. It was everything I was hoping for. I’ve always loved the way I’ve been able to read from different perspectives in each installment of this series. That’s been so enjoyable. I admit, in some books I was bored with certain perspectives but in this final book, I was not. I was eager to read more from every narrator. Even when the narrators ended up coming together, I still loved seeing what was going on through different eyes and I enjoyed feeling what was going on through different temperaments.

It was never one. It was always three. The Blood Shrike is the first. Laia of Serra, the second. And the Soul Catcher is the last. The Mother watches over them all. If one fails, they all fail. If one dies, they all die. Go back to the beginning and there, find the truth. Strive even unto your own end, else all is lost.

More than anything, I enjoyed the chapters where the Nightbringer was the narrator. There were only a few chapters but we were able to see into his past, into his soul just a little and I so enjoyed doing that while Laia tried to figure out his past for herself in hopes to find a weak spot to finally defeat him.

These books have consistently paved the way for what was to come and I think realizing that as I finished reading that final page is what really got the emotions going. I’ve been with these characters for three years. I’ve thought about them as I waited to read the final book for THREE YEARS. It’s been killing me to know what the fate of Elias, Laia, Helene, and the Nightbringer would be.

Would that we knew the cracked terrain of each other’s broken hearts. Perhaps then, we would not be so cruel to those who walk this lonely world with us.

Of course, like most I’m sure, I was eager to get back to Laia and Elias and see what would become of them. I was a tad disappointed when Elias was only cold to her. Especially the moments where he was conversating with others and avoiding Laia. This is another reason I am so thankful for the multiple POVs. I LOVED reading Elias’ point of view and watching his internal struggle. He has always been one of the strongest characters and this book is no exception. He is honest and true to the duty he swore to keep, but he also refuses to lose hold completely on what used to be, on what makes him not just the Soul Catcher, but Elias Veturia. Laia is just as strong and stubborn as she always has been and I LOVED reading her as well. She refuses to give up on Elias. Even though she gets frustrated and he brings her to the edge of insanity multiple times, she never gives up.

For me, Elias, desire is not simple. It is not shelter. It is not warmth. It is a fire that offers no light, only heat, ruinous and consuming. The longer you deny it, the hotter it burns. You forget shelter. You forget warmth. There is only that which you want and cannot have, and the desolation that follows.

In reading the first two books I didn’t really care much for Helene’s story. But, to me, her character experienced the most development and change and I love the way her story played out. I was not bored or exasperated at all when it came to one of her chapters. She has grown so much and taken on so many new relationships with so many of the characters that I never would have expected her to. I enjoyed her banter with Musa and Harper. I loved seeing her open herself up. It was refreshing after watching her be a battle hardened soldier with no emotion. (Even though we got to see her thoughts in the previous books.) In this book, she showed the other characters the softer side of her she had been hiding. It got me a few times, I’ll admit.

You are broken. But it is the broken things that are the sharpest. The deadliest. It is the broken things that are the most unexpected, and the most underestimated.

Just like the companions to this book, there is no lack of brutality and rawness when it comes to war. I love when a young adult novel can be a young adult novel but still hold true to what war truly brings. Especially a war like the ones we saw in this series. Necks were snapped, hearts were stabbed, throats were cut… and sometimes this happened right in front of the victims loved one. While it’s sometimes jarring and leaves me feeling raw, I can appreciate that. If this war is brutal, let me know and convince me it’s brutal.

This book turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more. I couldn’t get enough. I tore through this book just as brutally as it tore through my heart. Tragedy after tragedy. Heartbreak after heartbreak. Victory after victory. This series has been amazing and I am so glad to have been immersed in this cruel, unforgiving, beautiful, ever changing world. These books were so beautifully written and the characters are written so well. This will definitely be a series I revisit in the future. Only now, I get to read them all back to back to back… to back.

“Elias,” he says after a moment, the slightest bit of warmth entering those cold gray eyes. “From you I prefer Elias.”

Posted in Book Review

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Read Dates: February 9, 2021 – February 14, 2021
Date Published: May 25, 2020
Source: eBook

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(Synopsis from Goodreads:)
A Modern Hades and Persephone Retelling

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.
Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.
After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever. The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

Here’s a little known fact about me: I’m obsessed with Greek mythology. I love to read the fan made graphic stories on Webtoon or fictional stories that retell those of the Greek gods and goddesses. I have read most of the Lords of the Underworld books by Gena Showalter which has a good bit of the Greek mythology intertwined. I’ve even read a couple of the textbooks covering the beliefs of the Greeks and I can tell you who most of the gods and goddesses are and what they represent. Sometimes I can even tell you a little bit of their history. I have a lot to learn but I know quite a bit as well. It can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to reading fantasy fiction based on the Greek characters of myth. I always wonder what new twist the author is going to put on the classic characters. That’s the beauty of retelling Greek mythologies, the possibilities are endless.
Well, this was a good one. Not my favorite! But it was definitely a good one.

The author leaves Persephone’s typical personality untouched. She’s timid and unsure due to a sheltered life with her mother Demeter. She did, however, add a twist. Persephone is the goddess of Spring, but in this book, everything she touches withers. She’s not yet found her powers and doesn’t know if she ever will.

Persephone and Hades’ is one of my favorite stories. No matter where or how I read it, I so enjoy reading about them. Mostly because of Hades. I’m slightly obsessed with the King of the Underworld. Persephone is definitely an agreeable character with me too, but… it’s Hades, y’all.

In every story I read about them, Persephone drives me a little crazy the way she says yes to everything and doesn’t stand up for herself. But this is ok with me because of her past and upbringing. This book is no different when it comes to her character.

I also love a good Hades and Persephone story where the author throws other gods and goddesses into the story. I found myself getting so excited when a new character was mentioned and I would literally stop and tell my husband something like, “OMG. Hecate just showed up! She’s the goddess of witchcraft and magic!” I’ll be honest, I was fangirl squealing at a couple of the featured guests in their story.

Overall this was a really great book. I enjoyed every second. HOWEVER. The author wrote this same story but written from Hades perspective and I SO wish I had known that was an option before I read this one. I would have opted for his book instead. I still plan to read it at some point. If it’s different enough and I like it a good bit more than I did this one, I may do a review but probably not.

Let me add before I go, this is not a young adult book. There’s a bit of smut there in the last third of the book soooo… if that’s not your thing then… perhaps a different retelling by some other author. 😀

Cheers!

Posted in Book Review

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Read Dates: February 2, 2021 – February 5, 2021
Publication Date: December 8, 2009
Source: eBook

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(From Goodreads:)
There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

They made this into a motion picture. THEY MADE IT INTO A MOTION PICTURE.
I haven’t yet watched that movie and, to be honest, I probably won’t.
But let me set the stage here because I feel like my feelings about this book aren’t necessarily the books fault.
This book came out in 2009. Around that time I was heavy into the Twilight Saga. Laying on my bed, belly down, propped up on my elbows, legs bent at the knees swinging around behind me while I felt all the emotions and raged over the events that happened in that series. SO, had I have found this book, Fallen, back in 2009 or even 2010 when it first came out, I probably would have really liked it. Regardless of the many flaws and plot holes with which it choked me to death.

Ah geez… let’s just get into it.

So my main issue with this book is the love story. While it follows the same sort of pattern that books back in 2009 followed, I unfortunately, didn’t read it back then. So that sort of pattern isn’t my thing anymore. Unless you’re Twilight. Sorry, but that series is my guilty pleasure. Actually, no, not sorry.

The story follows Luce, who is navigating her new school and her new classmates. Of course, because it’s 2009, there’s a love triangle. But not the one you’re thinking. Not the love triangle where two guys like a girl and compete for her. Nope. It’s the kind where one boy likes the girl, one boy loathes the girl and the girl really likes the guy who is rude to her but tends to settle for the one who is overly nice and shows her the most attention. Oh, not to mention the girl constantly using the nice guy to make the rude one potentially jealous. (She can only hope.)
I found myself rolling my eyes A LOT. Luce is so insufferable. Cam, “nice” guy, gets on my last nerve pretty much throughout but then, so does Daniel (the guy Luce is pining over the entire time).

The most enjoyable parts in this book, for me, were the parts where we went a little more fantasy book than romance. The parts where we learned about fallen angels and demons and the “good angels”. The parts where Luce and her friend Penn dug into the school library and learned all these wild new things about students and teachers at the school. The parts where odd things would happen to Luce and she couldn’t make any sense of it, but we knew… weeeeee knew. The parts with fire and war and… ughh… just all the parts without the love story. The love story was a hot mess, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, the ending did nothing to redeem any part of the love story. It seemed all too easy. Not to mention, some of the things they “had to do” for things to be ok ended up being completely unnecessary. Not to mention, all these things that are just lying around this school waiting for Luce to discover them and they have NO BUSINESS being anywhere near a school, much less the same one she ends up at “by chance”. But no… it’s ok! Because this book is about FATE.

Now, if you’re an avid reader, you know that the second book in a series is usually the worst or hardest to read in the series. Knowing this, I had predetermined that I was not going to dabble in any more of this series. But curiosity took hold. I went and saw that the third book apparently starts to get really good. But I have to sit through the second first! Unfortunately, this book wasn’t good enough to warrant me sitting through a second terrible one to arrive at something manageable.

Again, I did enjoy some things and if you’re down for a love triangle that’s incredibly frustrating and makes no sense, if you’re down for a female lead who makes one questionable decision after the other, if you’re down for watching a girl get saved over and over again either from herself or some situation she’s stupidly put herself in, then yea. Go get you some of this book. You’ll love it. But it just wasn’t for me. 🙂

Posted in Book Review

The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Read Dates: November 13, 2020 – November 30, 2020
Publication date: July 23, 2020
Source: Owned Hardback

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A young woman and her husband have recently added twins to their happy family. Though, raising twins as a stay at home mom proves to be difficult when Stephanie’s husband, Patrick, is only able to help from the late hour he gets home from work until his bedtime just a few hours later. His job is demanding… but so is hers. The twins are colicky and barely sleep. Soon, Stephanie begins to suffer from sleep deprivation and begins making a few careless mistakes she never thought possible of herself to make. Until, one day, an old friend of her husband’s comes to town and tells her she should be careful and accuses Patrick of the murder of his first wife. Before long, Stephanie begins to question the truth behind her husband’s first marriage and begins to wonder if maybe her careless mistakes, weren’t mistakes at all… and maybe she didn’t cause them.

Much like Lapena’s other novels, this one was incredibly hard to put down. I had my character list all made up by about a third of the way through and it was smooth sailing from there. I rather enjoy playing with my kid but I found myself getting sad when her naps were over (since I read while she’s napping).

The array of characters and the way they intertwine was incredibly satisfying. I always wonder when I pick up one of Lapena’s books how the characters will end up relating to one another. No single character is ever just some random, meaningless person. I LOVE THAT.

The book had me teetering back and forth on who I thought was truly behind things and where I thought the end of the book was headed. Though, the reason this book was only given 4 and not 5 stars is because… I saw the end coming… And all the little “twists” in the middle. I saw all of it coming. Maybe it’s just because there’s not a single book by Shari Lapena that I haven’t read and I’m incredibly familiar with her writing style, but, I knew.

However, that did not take away from the journey to the end that I knew was inevitably coming. It was still incredibly satisfying to watch the events that transpired with each character up until the very last chapter. This was one of those books, like all of the other Lapena books, that are told from multiple POVs. To me, it’s incredibly hard to pull off a story that way. It’s much easier for the multiple POVs to be the downfall in a book. Thankfully, Shari is a pro.

Stephanie was so relatable for me as I read this book shortly after the newborn stage with my own child. Though, that was ONE kid… not twins. Thank goodness. I loved reading about her friends and the play dates. I loved the way the characters overlapped without even knowing it. Being in the same places at the same time or being right down the way from each other.

There’s not really much I can say that I haven’t said before when reviewing a Lapena mystery. They’re so fun to read, even if you have everything figured out. She makes the story such a fun ride and this one was no exception. I will continue to sing her praises forever and ever.