Posted in Book Review

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Read Dates: September 3, 2021 – September 9, 2021
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Kindle ebook

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From Goodreads:

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Another Rosamund Hodge book down! Rosamund is one of my favorite authors for multiple reasons. One: she wrote one of my all time favorite books, Cruel Beauty. Two: she has the most amazing short stories I’ve ever read in my life. Three: she makes me feel eerie and romantic and intrigued, and enthralled all at the same time and I LOVE IT. I could go on and on. Another huge thing for me is her retellings. I LOVE a good retelling. Cruel Beauty gave us a spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast, Gilded Ashes gave us a creepy and incredibly enjoyable spin on Cinderella, and Crimson Bound gave us a magically sinister spin on Little Red Riding Hood with a hint of Rumpelstiltskin. I’m such a sucker for retellings and she NAILS them every time.

That being said, this was actually my least favorite of her retellings thus far. I still got the creepy vibe I love to have but the story wasn’t as enticing as the previous two. Which, I mean, with something like Cruel Beauty in existence, it’s hard to compare. Especially when that was my first Rosamund Hodge novel.

When I read one of her books, I have to take a few days to marinate in what I just read before writing a review. When I come out of one of her books I’m in a trance. A happy, “I wanna go back into the book’s world” trance. This one was no exception. I had all the happy, giddy feels that I always get when I finish one of her stories. So I took a few days to reflect and realized, it wasn’t my favorite.

So in this retelling, Rachelle meets with a forestborn in the Great Forest regularly, feeling like she has made a trusted friend in him. Soon, she is betrayed and is forced into a life as a relentless murderer. She watches over the city as one of the King’s “bloodbound”, killing any woodspawn who enter the city and threaten the villages and their people. Though, her end goal always remains the same: Find the legendary sword, Joyeuse, and kill the Devourer for good, freeing the bloodbound like her and relinquishing the world from the threats of the woodspawn and the forestborn.

“Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.”

She ends up forcing the man she’s been charged by the king to protect into helping her locate the sword; as her time is limited with the looming reemergence of the Devourer.

I know what you’re thinking… she’s guarding a guy… sooo…. probably they end up falling in love?

Well, rest easy, this isn’t really a romance novel. Though, I will warn you ahead of time, if you don’t enjoy even the slightest hint of a love triangle… well then… this book isn’t for you. It’s not explored very much. Maybe just a few chapters total. This book is in no way oversaturated with the love triangle aspect. But just know, it’s there. (Love triangles just happen to be one of my guilty pleasures. :D)

Her throat tightened. It was unfair—it was absolutely unfair that his voice could make her heart beat with jagged, idiotic hope…
He grinned at her, and it felt like there was no space or barrier at all between them, like his smile was happening inside her heart. Without meaning to at all, she smiled back.

Anywho, I LOVED the world that was built into this book. The Great Forest, the woodwives and their “witchcraft”, and the building dread we get knowing that the Devourer is on his way to eat the sun and the moon and bring the world into eternal darkness where the woodspawn and forestborn will feast on the living and go on living forever as greater beings. It was a really fascinating book. Everything was so well thought out and executed and I liked it a lot. I just didn’t love it.

They didn’t even care that she was one of the rare women with permission from the King to carry a sword and a dispensation from the Church to wear men’s clothing. Not when her red coat was embroidered on each shoulder with a black fleur-de-lis, symbol of the Royal Order of Penitents. The King’s bloodbound. The King’s pet murderers.

Most of the book was just Rachelle being mean to people and then fretting over it later. Or reassuring herself of why it was necessary to be mean to those people. Granted, her character build is really fun to watch. But it’s also a bit exasperating. I get the need she feels to not trust anyone but herself but she makes some really stupid decisions that, honestly, made me cringe. I understand why they ultimately happened in the book, but that didn’t mean I had to like them. And I didn’t.

Was the ending worth it? I mean, yea? It wasn’t as definitive as I would have liked it to be. The way things happened was super cool and I didn’t see it coming… but I felt like I needed like one or two more chapters.

This is the human way, she thought. On the edge of destruction, at the end of all things, we still dance. And hope.

Overall this was really enjoyable. Just not one of my favorites. This book will likely be one of the ones I’ll have to go back to my notes in order to remember exactly what went on. Whereas books like, you guessed it, Cruel Beauty, are still so fresh in my mind even after all these years. Honestly, so is Guilded Ashes. But I highly doubt this one will be. But DAMN IT if it doesn’t have some good lines in it. Classic Hodge, I tell ya.

“The problem with martyrs is that they’re all dead. What have they got to do with those of us who are sinful enough to still be alive? Should we just give up and want to die, because death is better than dishonor? But suicide is a sin too, so then we really are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

I’ve been looking at the Bright Smoke, Cold Fire series and I’ve thought about reading it but I’m not huge on Romeo and Juliet unless you’re Leo Dicaprio and Claire Danes. It IS a retelling though, so maybe it’ll be more enjoyable to me than the original was.

Next up on my reading list are a couple of books that I got via netgalley back in 2019. One is a young adult novel and the other is a mystery/suspense. So stay tuned!

Keep spreading kindness and positivity. ✌💛

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

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Read Dates: March 27, 2020 – September 11, 2020
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Source: Owned paperback

Goodreads — Amazon

“… There’s too much violence afoot. I long for the simple, straightforward days, when we scythes had nothing to fear but the sharp blades of our own conscience. Now there are enemies within enemies.”

Citra, Rowan, Scythe Curie, Grayson, and some other unexpected enemies are back again in the second installment of the Arc of a Scythe series. Rowan runs rampant, killing and destroying the corpses of the corrupt scythe. Citra is settling into life as Scythe Anastasia, gleaning alongside her mentor, Scythe Curie. The scythedom becomes more and more divided with each passing day thanks to the sympathizers of the late Scythe Goddard. Grayson finds himself mixed up with “unsavories” who lead him down a road he never thought he’d travel. Everyone is navigating new lives under new circumstances. So when the unthinkable happens, no one is ready for it… and it may just be the thing to bring the entire scythedom to it’s knees… dragging Citra and Rowan right down with it.

Alright… well… this is going to be a fairly short review for a couple of reasons. 

1: I don’t know if you noticed… but it took me nearly six months to read this one. So I’m a little fuzzy on some of the details from the beginning. (Thank goodness for my notes.)
2. I just didn’t really enjoy this one a whole lot. It had it’s good and interesting parts and then there were the moments when I was a bit bored waiting for the next bomb to go off. 

So let’s begin… 

First off, I think Scythe Anastasia’s character was done excellently by the author. The way she chooses to glean with mercy and fair warning, the treatment she gives the victim and their families… it just fits her and I so enjoy the way it rattles members of the Scythedom. In fact I enjoyed the way she continued to rattle leadership of the Scythedom by challenging some of their teachings and customs. It reminded me a lot of my old job. People can become so set in their ways that they would rather continue taking 10 extra steps to do something that can be done in 2 and be done just as effectively and efficiently. When technology/the world moves, you sort of have to move with it. 

Anyway… back on track. So someone is trying to kill Anastasia and Curie… cue Grayson Tolliver, saving their lives. However, he soon becomes suspected of being the one trying to end their lives. *rolls eyes* Here we go again with the accusations… just like the first book, eh? 
Elsewhere Rowan is just straight up murdering the bad scythes in his forbidden black robe and going by the name Scythe Lucifer. *shivers* It’s grand. Maybe that makes me a little crazy but, hey… I have a thing for Rowan. Go figure, right? 
But the real focus of this second novel in the series… is the Thunderhead. The Thunderhead is beginning to feel. Real emotions. He’s always had his own thoughts and ideas about the happenings around the world both outside and inside the Scythedom. But the Thunderhead finds itself rooting for specific people. He doesn’t even necessarily disagree with what Rowan has been doing. So what happens when an AI who is made to be impartial and experience no emotion becomes aware and starts to feel?

I have to admit, I so enjoyed reading the Thunderhead’s little “journal entries” throughout the story and watching it become conflicted not only with itself but with humanity. The first book was all about how perfectly the Thunderhead ran the world and how impartial it was, always following it’s own rules. Book two gives the Thunderhead a little character… a little resolve… 

If you were looking for a story full of Rowan and Citra secretly meeting up and being all cute, this is not the book you’re looking for. That’s another thing that was refreshing about this story. I expected to be met with all kinds of Citra and Rowan forbidden romance crap. Living dangerously in order to run out and see each other in secret. But, nope! It was a nice change of pace from all the other predictable YA books with a subtle romance story line.

HOWEVER. 
I just… I don’t know. I wasn’t impressed. Mind you, the bombs that were dropped were wonderful. But then I feel like the bombs were so big that I expected the action to continue.. but it just didn’t. It would be another 100 pages before something exciting happened again. Now, everything you read is relevant to the story. There’s no real filler content to go through. But the up and down of the action was a bit of a rollercoaster for me that I was just kind of “eh” about and I couldn’t care less if the ride kept going or just stopped and let me off. Ya know what I mean? 

That being said… the end of the book was a giant cliffhanger. Soooo many possibilities as to where this story could go… so I just went ahead and ordered the third/final book in the series… it will be here Monday. I know I know… but I can’t help it. It’s just ONE MORE book. I can do it. Do I have high hopes? No. But that usually allows for me to be pretty at peace by the end of the book no matter what happens. 

I’ll report back once I’ve finished it. 

I realized earlier that I never wrote a review for the first book. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I probably meant more like 3.5 if I’m being honest. It’s a cool concept for a story and it’s world but it’s just kind of falling flat for me so far. It’s enjoyable in it’s own way but it’s nothing to write home about. At least the books are consistent? 

Until next time! 

 

Posted in Book Review

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Read Dates: July 27, 2020 – August 8, 2020
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Owned Hardback

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Beginning today, things would be different. Beginning today, when fate caught me, I’d meet it head-on and make it my own.

Beginning today, I would have no heart.

When we last saw Maia, she had lied to the man she loved to save his life and sacrificed her own life in order to save her homeland of A’landi. With the enchanter gone from the palace, the emperor grows weak and has been exposed as such to his enemies. The shansen sees this as an opportunity to overthrow the emperor and claim the kingdom for his own. War rages once again in A’landi and Maia Tamarin will stop at nothing to save the people and the lands she loves… even if it means losing her body, mind, and her heart along the way.

FINALLY. Book two! I’ve been waiting for this book for like… I don’t know… an eternity?! Ok fine. A little over a year. It’s been a little over a year.

Rightfully so, though. The first book was one of my all time favorites last year! (Just realizing I didn’t do my usual yearly wrap-up post and I got a little sad…)

Anyway…

So Maia is back and she is so different. For real. If you read book one and just couldn’t get into it because of how weak and sad and clumsy and ridiculous Maia was, well go on ahead and pick up book two and meet the NEW, INDEPENDENT, “DON’T NEED NO MAN”, “I’LL TAKE ON ALL THE ENEMIES BY MYSELF”… Maia. Seriously. I love the way the author has taken this character and changed her as the journey she endured in book one would have done. Maia went from non-confrontational, to a straight BADASS. But I guess that’s what sewing the three magical dresses of an ancient goddess and sacrificing her freedom will do to you. AMIRITE?

We were like the sun and the moon, sharing the same stars and the same sky.
Somehow, that made him feel less far away. And made my heart feel slightly less alone. Less cold. For a moment, the darkness inside me weakened, and my dress came alive –

The relationships in this book were on par with the way they were in book one and they succeeded in twisting my heart in a million different ways throughout the entire book. Maia and Ammi, Maia and Edan, Maia and her baba and her brother. Maia and some others at the end of the book whom I won’t mention so as to not spoil anything… ughh. Things are a little different since Maia is different because of the sacrifice she had to make in book one in order to craft the magical dresses… and it is gut wrenching at times. I’m going to be completely honest here… I cried more than once reading this book. Sad tears and happy. But mostly sad at the things that were happening to Maia and the war that was being waged inside her mind.

“Then let your heart be at peace,” Baba said at last. “No matter what you become, you are always my Maia. Always my strong one.”

The meat of this book was such an adventure. Maia trying to keep everyone she loves safe while also battling her own inner demons (see what I did there?). Maia making decisions for the greater good, not just to benefit her or the ones she loves but ALL of A’landi.

“Your heart is strong, sister,” said my brother hearing my thoughts. “It always has been.”

With the emperor gone, Maia is still acting in her role as the imperial tailor… but the emperor knows she is something more and he uses this to his advantage. There were so many political moves made in this book and so many sacrifices made by so many of the characters. Even the ones who you didn’t really care for surprised you and acted not for their own personal gain but for the gain of the nation. Heartwarming stuff going on…

LORD. What a ride this was.

Now, I offed a half a star (cat, whatever) on this one because the ending… the way the conflict wrapped up… I saw it coming but it seemed too easy and it all happened so fast. Which, thinking back I guess there was no other way to really go about ending the conflict and everything made sense but considering how tense the entire story was, the way in which the conflict is resolved fell a little flat for me. JUST A LITTLE THOUGH. Because once the big finish happened, the after effects and where Maia ended up and the choices she had to make left me in tears. Sad or happy? Well I don’t know, go read it and find out!

“I’ve had enough of the stars for now. Take me to the sea.”

Regardless, this was such a beautifully written story just as the first was and I was so happy to be able to read the conclusion to Maia’s story. Elizabeth Lim is a GEM and I fully intend to explore her Disney re-imaginings next.

Posted in Book Review

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Read Dates: November 25, 2019 – December 4, 2019
Publication date: November 19, 2019
Source: Owned Hardback

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Queen of Nothing

5 cats

“Mock me all you like. Whatever I imagined then, now it is I who would beg and grovel for a kind word from your lips.” His eyes are black with desire. “By you, I am forever undone.”

And by THIS BOOK I am forever undone. Omg. Seriously. This book chewed me up and spit me out multiple times. This book tore me apart.

“Prince Cardan will be your last born child,” the Royal Astrologer said. “He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.”

Cardan and Jude are back again.
Jude is still in exile in the mortal world but that changes when her twin sister Taryn comes to the mortal world to ask for her help. Jude is to go back to Faerie and pretend to be her sister. But Cardan is not so easily fooled. It turns out they’ve both fallen to some serious misunderstandings about each other but they’re back to working together against the enemies of the crown and the political games that are being played by folk from other regions. They’ll soon find that the only people they truly trust are each other.

This book had me CRYING. Mind you, I’m pregnant so that’s not such a crazy thing these days, but seriously… some of the words… Ugh. Let’s just get through this review without me crying all over my laptop.

“Unlike Locke, I never thought love was a game,” he says. “You may accuse me of much, but not that.”

Cardan is growing as a person. He’s come SO FAR since The Cruel Prince. It’s amazing how this cold-hearted fey went from a foolish, selfish, and cruel youth to a somehow level-headed and reasonable High King. Like, what? My head is still spinning at how we even got here. But then I realize, it was Jude. And the way that you figure it out and the ways he shows that it was her that changed him is so beautiful. This book was seriously so beautifully written.

Mind you, a lot of this book is not romance in any way. Most of the book is Jude getting herself into hairy situations and making me nervous as hell. Also, the political parts of this book never bored me. I’m still just baffled at ALL the characters really. Every single character in this book has changed so much from the first book.

If you guys remember, I didn’t care for the first book. And the second book definitely had more of my attention. But THIS book was a giant game changer. I LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down. Every time I was doing anything other than reading this book, I wanted to scream. I just wanted to pick it up and fly through the entirety of it without stopping.

“We have lived in our armor for so long, you and I. And now I am not sure if either of us knows how to remove it.”

I’m not typically one to read an enemies to lovers type story and I honestly wasn’t even sure that’s what this was when I first started this series. That was just what I heard about it. I saw people saying Cardan and Jude was “their favorite book couple”. So I held out. I waited to see what would happen. But let me tell you something… I think the reason this book hit so hard is because of the enemies to lovers aspect. The fact that he was TERRIBLE to her in book one and then hot and cold to her in book two made all the nice things he said in book three, no matter how small, mean that much more. They hit you harder in the feels than they would if he had been nice to her or even neutral with her since the beginning. It’s so hard to explain this relationship and why and how much I love it but it’s soooo so so good.

I might have grown into something else, a High King as monstrous as Dain. And if I did – if I fulfilled that prophecy – I ought to be stopped. And I believe that you would stop me.

So this book finally gave us Cardan’s background and details about his childhood and why he was treated the way he was. It gave us this prophecy about him being the “destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.” I wasn’t sure what all this would mean. I rattled my brain trying to decide what would happen and I still didn’t really see it coming.
This book not only had the wonderful characters I keep on about but it also had a fantastic plot. The story never left you wanting. I was on edge, I was hopeful, I was emotional, I was torn, and I was so ridiculously happy.

I have such a new respect for Holly Black and her writing. She murdered me with this book. I mean, c’mon, I’m getting to the point where I’ve got WAY too many fictional boyfriends. It’s getting ridiculous. But she wrote Cardan SO FREAKING WELL and she wrote this story and fulfilled this prophecy SO FREAKING WELL and I think I’m in love with Holly Black now.

Which reminds me, she dedicated this book to Leigh Bardugo, who has recently become one of my all time favorite authors. So in the beginning I was thinking to myself, “If Leigh likes her, then so do I.” But then I read this book and began to like her for my own reasons.

“My sweet nemesis, how glad I am that you returned.”

I just loved this book so much. I love the continuation of the banter between Cardan and Jude but in a new light now. And I love the supporting characters and how this last book brought everyone together and left NO ONE out when bringing everyone’s story to a close. The only issue I’m having now is I WANT MORE CARDAN AND JUDE. I think they’re my new favorite book couple. So there’s that. I just highly recommend this series. I was unsure during the first book but, now, I would reread this entire series in a heartbeat if I didn’t have so many books on my “to-read” list. So good. So so so good.

I start to speak but he stops me with a gesture. “And you.” He looks at me, his lips curving in something that’s not quite a smile; it’s more and less than that. “I knew little else, but I always knew you.”

My heart literally hurts over this book guys. But in a good way. Pick it up. Meet Cardan and Jude. Do yourself a favor.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Read Dates: October 22, 2019 – November 19, 2019
Publication date: January 8, 2019
Source: Owned Hardback

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Jude and Cardan are back, and things are much much different now. Jude exercises her newfound power over Cardan, controlling both he and the throne. Her end goal is to get her little brother, Oak, the rightful heir to the throne, crowned king. But she doesn’t want to put him there until he’s ready, and he is still very young. Jude continues to plan and scheme in order to achieve this end goal. But Cardan is just as clever as she is and keeps her on her toes not only with his manipulations, but also with his charm. Why is Jude so drawn to him? And why does it seem like he’s drawn to her too? Can they cooperate with each other long enough to find out? Can they work together to fight off the threats all around them? It’s hard to tell where anyone’s loyalties lie… and this book will make you question everyone.

Power is so much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

If you follow my blog, you know that I struggled with The Cruel Prince. I mean I really struggled. It took all the effort I had to pick up The Cruel Prince and trudge on. Don’t get me wrong, once I started up, it was an easy read. But I didn’t feel attached to the story and its characters.
Well The Wicked King was a little different. Maybe it’s because the story and characters have already been established? I’m not sure. But I found myself WANTING to pick this book up. Yes, it took me a while to get through it, but that’s just because my life is crazy right now. I legitimately wanted to continue on. This was one of those books that had me so invested that if anyone came over and interrupted my reading, I immediately wanted to take their head off their shoulders. (Just my inner Jude coming out I guess.)

You are my dearest punishment.

The characters have come so far since book one. Jude has found the power she always wanted (just not quite in the form she thought it would come). Cardan has finally been bested and is getting a healthy dose of his own medicine. Madoc is learning not to underestimate Jude. The characters are evolving and it’s so much fun to watch the way they act and how they treat each other now.

His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”

We’re also given this sliver of hope that there may be some sort of romance between Jude and Cardan. And honestly, I’m here for it. I was cheering for it the entire time. I wanted something to happen. There were so many moments in the book where I was thinking, “Ok, this is it. Something is going to happen. Cardan is finally going to fess up.” These moments were few, but I was living for all of them. Besides those moments, I LOVED just reading the scenes between Cardan and Jude. Their dynamic, the way they banter. Ughh. I just loved them.

Our eyes meet, and something dangerous sparks.
He hates you, I remind myself.
“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

Orlagh, the sea queen is stirring up trouble in this book and it makes things even more exciting. Reading this book, I was kept on my toes simply because of the games and intrigue that Jude and Cardan would throw each other’s way. But when a true threat arises and our main characters actually have to put their heads together to come up with a solution, things started to get reallllllly interesting.

Everybody in this damn book doubted Jude Duarte!
Mind you, I doubted a few characters along the way and quickly learned that I was wrong as well. If you’re going into this book thinking you know who’s going to betray who, I’m willing to bet you’re not ready for what this book is about to throw at you. There were quite a few twists and turns that had me defiant to put the book down. I wanted to keep going! But alas, lunches are only an hour in the corporate world. *sigh*

This book just makes you feel all the things. It makes you question all the characters. There was a specific twist towards the end of the book where I was cheering and whooping and wondering what came next. I was so excited at the happenings that I didn’t stop to think what this book might do to my high hopes. (How could you Holly? How could you?)

“For a moment,” he says, “I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.”
I make a face at him. “And what made you decide it wasn’t?”
He grins up at me. “They missed.”

A word of advice: If you’re going to read this one, you better go ahead and just have book 3 on standby so you can continue the story without absolutely losing your mind at this ending. You’ve been warned.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

Read Dates: September 26, 2019 – October 20, 2019
Publication date: October 1, 2019
Source: eArc via Netgalley

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Nimue is a Fey who holds within her the power of The Hidden. Because of this, she’s viewed as an outcast in her lands and is called “cursed”. But her mother, Lenore, the Arch Druid of their village, makes sure Nimue is taught to hold her own.
Until one day, the Red Paladins ride in and lay waste to Nimue’s people. Lenore gives Nimue the sword of power and tells her to find Merlin. So Nimue sets out to find Merlin per her mother’s final wish. She never expected that this would land her in the company of Arthur and Morgan who mean to help her find Merlin at whatever costs. Nor the company of many other kinds of Fey folk who are on the run from the Red Paladins.
Nimue struggles between her thirst for revenge against the Red Paladins and her decency and sanity. Will the sword of power take over her mind and turn her into a bloodthirsty, power-hungry killer? Will she be able to give the sword to Merlin when she finds him? Or will she use the sword’s history to proclaim herself Queen since whoever wields the sword is the “one true king”?
Regardless of what she decides, kings and interested parties everywhere will do what they can to claim the sword for themselves, even if that means allying with unlikely groups of murderers… or worse.

First of all, I’m super excited that this book is being adapted into a Netflix show. I can’t wait to see all of this come to life on screen!
Secondly… there are a lottttt of characters in this book. So I feel like maybe we should start there. Let’s just give you a brief rundown of who’s involved with this story:

  • Nimue – Main character. Has a connection with the “hidden”. Is labeled as a “cursed” child by the people of her village.
  • Lenore – Nimue’s mother. Arch Druid of Dewdenn
  • Arthur – Sword for hire who takes an interest in Nimue and her cause
  • Morgan – Arthur’s half-sister. Pledges herself to Nimue and her cause
  • Squirrel – 8-year-old little boy from Nimue’s village. He and Nimue are close friends
  • Uther Pendragon – 26-year-old King of England
  • Merlin – Wizard. Advisor of King Uther
  • Lady Lunette – King Uther’s mother, the Queen Regent
  • Gawain – A friend of Nimue’s from Dewdenn. He has since disappeared. They call him “The Green Knight”
  • Rugen – The Leper King
  • Father Carden – Head priest leading the Red Paladins
  • Weeping Monk – Father Carden’s favorite follower
  • Sister Iris – A pupil of Father Carden. She only wants to do his bidding, earn his respect, and be his favorite
  • Brother Salt – Member of the Red Paladins who is particularly good at “carving” information out of people
  • Abbot Wicklow – a mysterious man who is observing the work of the Red Paladins
  • Red Spear – Viking Warlord who is loyal to the Ice King
  • Lord Cumber – The Ice King (self-proclaimed)
  • Hilja – The Ice Queen
  • Pope Abel – Leader of the Trinity
  • Kaze – mysterious purple-robed woman. Gawain’s trusted companion
  • Lady Cacher – of House Chastellain. A friend of Merlin’s

It seems a bit overwhelming, I know, but these characters are introduced in such a way so that you won’t ever be confused. They only come into the story when it is their time. Some are mentioned before they actually play a part but, I’m telling you, the author made this so easy to follow.

Ya know what I found refreshing about this book? There’s a female heroine but she isn’t glorified. She makes mistakes. We’re shown her thought process multiple times where she’s wondering if she’s doing the right thing or she’s trying to figure out if she made the right decision. What’s even more, she makes mistakes! She literally makes choices in the story that lead to bad things happening. But she takes everything as it comes. She owns up to everything. SHE PUTS HER PEOPLE BEFORE HERSELF. Even though those same people ridiculed her at first and saw her as different and weird… she still chose to put them first and do what was best for all and not just one. That was so damn refreshing.

The adventure in this book is endless. The story follows Nimue, Father Carden, and occasionally the Weeping Monk or Arthur. This story does not lack adventure at any point. The action is present from the very start until the very end of the book. I was never bored while reading this story.

I really liked how these classic characters were shown in a different light. Instead of Merlin the wizard who outsmarts everyone and who can get himself out of any situation, he was instead ensnared multiple times. Yes, he still had the witty tongue to get himself out of said situations but sometimes in the story, he just plain got lucky.
Arthur is just as human as the rest of them. Making his own mistakes and bad choices. Running from conflict. But eventually, finding his flaws and correcting himself to be worthy of the knighthood he’s always dreamed of.
Lancelot even makes his appearance in this book! But I won’t go into detail about his character as that would be a MAJOR spoiler.

I feel like this story is a better representation of how things would actually be if the Sword of Power was out there and in the hands of one person. Yes, the Sword of Power chooses someone and that person is said to be the rightful king, but let’s be honest here, there will always be evils who wish the power for themselves and will do ruthless things to get to it. This story embodies that. It shows the selfish desires of man, even the ones who may have meant well in the beginning. It shows the price of wielding such power and how that power can go to your head if you let it. It reminded me a lot of Bilbo Baggins and The One Ring to Rule Them All.

I honestly can’t wait to see all of these characters come to life. I can’t wait to see if the show will be just as relentless as the book was. Torture, mass slaughters, poisonings… It got pretty brutal at times. But, GOODNESS this book was so good. It kept me on the edge of my seat. It kept me wondering what might happen next. Then there were all the twists. Those were so much fun. At one point I was whooping and fist pumping into the air because I was so excited about the twist that came my way.

I did see that this book didn’t do so well where ratings were concerned on Goodreads… But I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can handle a middle grade book that has about 100 more pages than it really needs. But again, I was never bored. The adventure was so abundant that I didn’t mind the extra pages.
You do have the option to just wait for the show to come out next year though. But I definitely urge people to always read the book first. 🙂

Shout out to Frank Miller for the amazing illustrations throughout this book! I rather enjoyed those as well!

Keri

Posted in Book Review

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Read dates: September 9, 2019 – September 25, 2019
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Source: Owned hardback

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The war is over.
The Darkling is dead.
Alina is gone.
Nikolai is King of Ravka.

Though Nikolai’s family were all casualties of the Darkling’s hunger for power and the decimation of Os Alta, Nikolai is not alone at the palace. He has his commander, Zoya, and nearly the entire gang of Alina’s followers, the Triumvirate, at his side. But none of them are able to vanquish the darkness within him, left there by the Darkling’s evil soul before he died. Nikolai just wants to rule Ravka in a way that would give his people peace and freedom, but how can he do that when he lives with the beast inside who enjoys showing up unannounced and wreaking havoc on everything around him? How long will his companions stand by his side and risk their lives to rein the beast? Can Nikolai be a good king while this darkness looms within him?

Meanwhile, Nina is on a secret mission to gain intelligence for Ravka. But what she finds when she arrives to Fjerda is much worse than she could have ever imagined. Can she put her grieving aside to do what is necessary? Can she show the Fjerdans mercy as Matthias has always wished of her? Will she ever be able to forgive the entire race of Fjerdans for the shortcomings and loss in her life?

“Call me Grisha. Call me zowa. Call me death, if you like.”

First of all, let me start by saying, “WHAT THE WHAT?!”
Does Bardugo have a voodoo doll of me that she’s using as a pin cushion? Because that’s what it feels like.

What a ride that was. I’m still reeling. So many unanswered questions and new revelations to chew on until the second book comes out WHENEVER THAT MAY BE.
Dear lord… how am I going to make it? I’ll tell ya how… I’m NOT. I can’t wait that long! I need to know the answers to my questions! I need to know what’s going to happen now that… those… things… have happened! Ughh…

So, the book starts off strong with the story of a boy named Dima. He is the youngest of his brothers and is sent out one night to close the barn doors as it seems the wind has blown them open. The boy is terrified but he wishes to earn the respect of his older brothers so he braves the storm and sets out. When he gets to the barn, he is met with a winged beast and narrowly escapes disaster when a beautiful grisha steps in to capture the beast. I loved reading this beginning piece. It sort of set the eerie mood of the book and amped you up for what was to come so I thought it was definitely worth mentioning.

“We are all connected, King Nikolai. The Grisha, the Fold, the power inside you. The Fold is a wound that may never heal. But perhaps it was not meant to.”

The rest of the story is told primarily through three perspectives. Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina. That’s right. Nina is BACK. We learn a lot about the origins of Nikolai and Zoya in this story and Nina’s tale continues and nearly brought me to tears a few times. Nikolai is battling the beast within him. Zoya is battling her past. Nina is battling the future and moving on with her life after the end of Crooked Kingdom.

Though the Darkling is dead, he’s left his mark on the world. Strange things begin to happen and a monk appears claiming to be one of the people in charge of the Cult of the Starless. A group who ultimately worship the Darkling and wish him to be seen as a saint. He wishes to officially make the Darkling a saint with the help of the Apparat (gag me with a spoon) and King Nikolai. Now Nikolai and Zoya must figure out if the monk’s ramblings are just that or if there is some truth to the Darkling’s soul living on in the fold after his death. But there’s only one way to find out! That’s right! Go to the fold!! We’re on an adventure!! Honestly, this entire book is an adventure. Nikolai and Zoya are on an adventure, Nina is on an adventure with Leoni and Adrik. It’s just chock-full of adventure and I LOVE IT.

I will never be ready for the Grishaverse to come to an end. I’ve so enjoyed the world building and the character building and the constant changes and revelations the characters go through. I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about the Grisha. I even love the characters who aren’t Grisha. I wish I could say I had favorites but I really pretty much love them all!

I will say I really hope the next book doesn’t turn into a love triangle. I don’t know if my heart can take it and it would honestly just be a little weird but they sort of alluded to a future love triangle at the end of this book.

Also, JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER!

Bottom line: this book was everything a book should be. It kept my attention, it kept me guessing, it had me attached to the characters, and it had me hating life while I was too busy to pick it up and continue on to find out what happened next.

I was eager to read this book even before I got into the Grishaverse. When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was thinking to myself, “Oh this is going to be gooooood.” But then I did a little more research and found that there were quite a few books ahead of this one so I decided to do the right thing and start at the beginning.
I can tell you, my anticipation for this book did not go to waste. This book scratched the YA/fantasy itch I’ve been dealing with for some time now. Once again, Bardugo gives us multiple POVs and delivers them seamlessly. I’m still in awe of how she’s able to pace a book with multiple POVs and it not be a jumbled mess. She’s become one of my all-time favorite authors and I can’t wait to read Ninth House while I wait to read the fate of King Nikolai and his ruthless and powerful commander, Zoya, and the girl who became one of my favorite characters during Crooked Kingdom, Nina.

A few honorable mentions that I can’t leave out:

The story about Dominik and young Nikolai. Ughhh

“This country gets you in the end, brother. Don’t forget it.”
“Not us,” he said. But Dominik was already gone. “I’ll do better,” Nikolai promised, just as he had so many years ago in Mitkin’s classroom. “I’ll find a way.”

The story about Zoya’s past and the way the dragon (that’s right, there’s a dragon) cares for her. UGHHHHHH

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself…”
“Zoya of the lost city. Zoya of the garden. Zoya bleeding in the snow. You are strong enough to survive the fall.”

The part where Nina breaks down in front of Hanne talking about her “husband” and how he loved her and she loved him. WAHHHHHH

“Have you always been this sure of yourself?”
Nina shrugged. “Yes.”
“And your husband didn’t complain?”
“He complained,” Nina said – and suddenly she had to look away, because it was not some fictional merchant who had come to mind but Matthias with his strict propriety and his disapproving glower and his loving, generous heart. “He complained all the time.”
“Was he quick to anger?” Hanne asked.
Nina shook her head and pressed her palms to her eyes, unable to stop the tears that came, not wanting to… “No. We didn’t always agree.” She smiled. “In fact, we almost never agreed. But he loved me. And I loved him.”

Keri

Posted in Book Review

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Read Dates: August 20, 2019 – August 26, 2019
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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Leigh Bardugo has bamboozled me again!
This time it’s with a collection of short stories passed down through generations in different villages spread across the lands of the Grishaverse. Novya Zem, Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerdan stories that absolutely set my soul alight. They were clever and they were beautiful and they were shocking and I LOVED THEM.

Let’s get into it.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood
A queen gives birth to a terrible wolf child and the king banishes it to a maze. However, one day the wolf escapes and chaos ensues over the Zemeni lands. Herds of cattle are attacked and human bones are piled up for the townspeople to see… So the king calls for someone to bargain with the beast in exchange for riches. Ayama, urged by her grandmother, volunteers and sets out to find the beast in the thorn wood. The beast requires a story. One that will not bore him and should Ayama succeed in holding his attention, he will agree to leave the village be.

This story was so magical and enchanting. I loved Ayama from the beginning and I loved where the story took her character. There’s a lesson to be learned from this story and also just the pure beauty of the ending this story gives us.

The Too-Clever Fox
A story of a fox born as the runt of his litter who is able to outwit any other creature, freeing himself from life threatening situations. Until one day the fox befriends a famous hunter’s sister in order to find out how the hunter is able to hunt so quietly and fiercely.

I saw the ending coming but it didn’t take away from the story at all. I still felt the shock that the author intended and was on the edge of my seat as the fox had to, once again, wiggle his way from a dire situation. Another lesson, and another entrancing story.

The Witch of Duva
Girls are going missing in the village.
Nadya and Havel live with their grieving father who has just lost his wife, their mother. When a woman named Karina comes into their lives and seems to only want the children to leave she and their father be. Havel goes off the the war but Nadya remains and wanders off one day into the woods to escape her overbearing and hateful stepmother. She becomes lost and finds the shack of a witch who she stays with for a time learning to make potions and meals. But Nadya could’ve never prepared herself for the truths the witch comes to reveal to her.

At the end of this story, in my notes, I wrote the word “WOW”. And that’s honestly the best explanation I can give you for how I felt about this story. This one actually DID have me fooled and then when all was revealed, I was in SHOCK. This story was so wonderful, and yet so chilling… Two of my favorite things.

Little Knife
This is the story of Yeva, a duke’s daughter who is so beautiful that no one can look upon her without going mad. Every man wishes to win her favor and wed her. But the greedy duke sets a task for all the men who wish to have her hand in marriage. The duke creates challenges that he believes only the prince has the resources to win, as the duke wishes his daughter to be married to the prince so that they can be rich and live a wealthy life. Semyon is a poor, penniless man who wishes to marry the beautiful Yeva and, as luck would have it, has the favor of the river who he named “Little Knife”. The river helps him win every challenge to win the beautiful Yeva, but at what price?

This story was my least favorite of all the stories in this book but I still liked it! It seemed, thus far, that all of these stories were here to teach you a moral. Stories grandmothers and mothers told their children before bed at night to keep them honest and well-behaved. This story was fun and I loved the ending but it just wasn’t my favorite… (We’ll get to that one.)

The Soldier Prince
The Clocksmith is a creepy, isolated man who decides it would be in his best interest to marry into money so he can live a comfortable life. So the Clocksmith sets his sights on Clara, the daughter of a wealthy couple whom he befriends. He attends parties at their home, bringing his magical trinkets to woo the other party goers. To win the favor of Clara, he crafts her a nutcracker doll. He enchants the doll so that he can learn all of Clara’s secrets, wishes and dreams. Clara becomes so attached to the nutcracker that her family worries for her and wishes for her to become more social with real people. Only Clara, the nutcracker, and the Clocksmith know the true nature of the doll and just what Clara can have the doll become with just a few simple words spoken to it.

This one was FASCINATING. The spin the author put on this story was amazing! Toy Story meets Peter Pan? Something like that. Anyway, it was wonderful. But… still not my favorite.

When Water Sang Fire
Ulla and Signy are mermaids who, when their voices combine, can create magic unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The two are invited to accompany the princes to the surface where they will use magic to grow legs and live among the King and Queen for three months until they can find a suitable gift to bring their King. Each prince must present their King with a gift from the mortal world. The King will decide which price will become King based on the gifts he receives. Ulla and Signy are swept into court life by the youngest price, Roffe, who takes an interest in the two and their magic. But Roffe is willing to go to great lengths to present his father with the best gift and become King… and he may end up pulling Ulla and Signy into something sinister that they could never hope to recover from.

Welcome to my favorite story in the book!! THIS STORY WAS EVERYTHING. I admit, I do have a soft spot for the mermaid stories. Once I read the REAL “Little Mermaid” story, I was obsessed. I loved the dark side of it and this story gave me just that. BUT BETTER. That ending! I was breathless. Speechless. I wanted MORE. Dear lord, Leigh, please give me a book about Ulla? Please?

Honestly, guys, Leigh Bardugo is holding my heart in her hands. I’ve been making my way through the Grishaverse one book at a time and all I have left now is King of Scars. (And then the one that comes after that which I would LOVE to have a release date for…) I don’t ever want her books to end. I absolutely adore Bardugo and everything she’s done up to this point. If you aren’t interested in reading any of the Grishaverse books, at least pick up The Language of Thorns. It has nothing to do with any of the characters or stories from the Grishaverse but the stories within it are so beautifully constructed and I HIGHLY recommend them to ANYONE who just enjoys a good fairy tale. I LOVED this book and I’m quite sure I’ll be reading it again and again.

Keri