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 Hype, Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal: Romancing the Gravestone by Gena Showalter and Jill Monroe (Artwork by Leni Kauffman)

I am so incredibly pumped and honored to be able to bring you guys the cover of Romancing the Gravestone which is set to release September 27th!

Gena Showalter is one of my all-time favorites and this time she is teaming up with Jill Monroe to bring us another sensuous story. These two authors are phenomenal and I can’t wait to see what their forces combined will bring us.

Let’s not waste any time here…

She suspects everyone of everything. Sometimes she gets it right.

Jane Ladling is the sole proprietor of her family’s landlocked cemetery, Garden of Memories. She’s responsible for the, er, guests, but there’s a slight problem. Well, besides her moody cat, Rolex, and her sixty-two-year-old best friend’s unrequited crush on the sheriff. An extra body now rests in Plot #39.

Enter Special Agent Conrad Ryan. He’s gruff, he’s gorgeous, and oh, yes, he kind of suspects her of murder. What’s an innocent—and very single, not that it matters—girl to do? Solve the crime herself. Even if she must turn the small town of Aurelian Hills, Georgia upside down. 

The only line she won’t cross? Falling for the first man to make her heart flutter. Nope, not happening. Not even a little.

Would you LOOK at this cover!?

This amazing artwork is done by the wonderful Leni Kauffman who is no stranger to creating artwork for romance novels. She has created her fair share of beautiful covers as well as her own independent illustrations. To see all of her incredible works, here are some links to her social media outlets and her personal website.
Instagram
Twitter
Personal Website

This book is available for preorder using the following links (more to come!):
Barnes & NobleAmazon
If you’re interested in learning more about the authors or seeing some of their previous works you can find them on
Instagram:
Gena ShowalterJill Monroe
Twitter:
Jill Monroe
Facebook:
Gena ShowalterJill Monroe
Or their respective websites:
Gena Showalter

Happy pre-ordering everyone!
✌💛

One more picture because I loooooooove this one!
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

Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

Read Dates: December 9, 2019 – December 12, 2019
Publication date: December 1, 2017
Source: ebook

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Merry Inkmas1

3 cats

This was a buddy read with the Dragons & Tea Book Club.

So I don’t typically read contemporary romance. I’m more of a paranormal romance or no romance at all kinda gal. But this was a cute book.

This book follows a plus size barista, Bailey, with a family history and the owner of a tattoo parlor, Cash, with a troubled past. The two are brought together when Bailey quits her job and Cash offers her a position as a receptionist at his shop.

It was so refreshing to have at least one character who wasn’t a size 2 with perfect hair and teeth who has an hourglass figure. Mind you, Bailey had an hourglass figure but the author made a point to mention that she was a size 18 in pants. You don’t find that in a lot of romance books these days.
Cash was a large, muscled, super handsome guy per the usual. But Bailey was a nice change of pace.

As it usually goes with these contemporary romance novels, everything just moved a little too fast for me. I know these are meant to be feel good stories and they’re not usually meant to be realistic at all, whatsoever, but I just can’t help but be put off by the fact that two people are professing their love for each other and giving each other SO much about their pasts and it’s barely been a couple of months of these two even knowing the other even exists.

All that being said, this was a very easy read and I was able to keep interest up to the very end. So it wasn’t NOT enjoyable, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I have to say, I did really enjoy the family elements of this book and Cash’s mom almost brought me to tears. She was my favorite for sure.

If you like contemporary romance books that include heavily tatted, super muscled dudes who are secretly the sweetest, most giving guys ever… then I would highly recommend this book to you.
It was cute.

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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Untitled design (1)

4 cats

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

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: July 21, 2019 – July 22, 2019
Publication date: June 17, 2014
Source: Owned paperback

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3 cats

Ravka is in ruin. It has fallen to the Darkling. Alina is weak and under the watchful eye of the Apparat in a well hidden underground cathedral.But she wants nothing more than to get above ground and find the firebird, which she believes to be the key to defeating the Darkling. The third and final installment of The Shadow and Bone trilogy is all about friendships, sacrifices, and ancient legends that have proven true. Will Alina and her new band of friends find a way to stop the Darkling or will their efforts cause the ruin of Ravka and the rising of the Darkling?

You see what I did there?

Anyway… let me first say that I definitely enjoyed reading this story and while I was a little bored or annoyed in some places, I did rather enjoy this story. It just wasn’t super amazing to me. Let’s get into it…

There are no other’s like us, Alina. And there never will be.

We start off like we did in book two: Alina and Mal have found a safe place to hang out and recoup and then chaos soon ensues. I have to say, I found the beginning of the book to be completely annoying and boring. It didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose at all for the story. Honestly, sitting here now, writing this review, I’m wondering to myself, “Why was the Apparat even in this book AT ALL?”

From book one I had hoped his creepy presence and occasional sightings would eventually serve some purpose. I hoped he would either be Alina’s undoing or become her only hope. But he basically did nothing but spout pretty words that meant a whole lot of nothing and just cowered in his cathedral until he knew for sure that it was safe to come out.

I’m sure he’ll be in King of Scars and I would say I’m interested to see what becomes of him there but at this point I wish he would just disappear from the books all together. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have three main issues with this series:

  • Why was the Apparat even in this book series?
  • The entire series needed more Darkling.
  • Giant miracles are happening that don’t really make sense?

Other than those things, it was pretty fun. We went on more adventures which are always fun. We were thrown a few curve balls that I honestly didn’t see coming. I thought I had Mal and Alina’s characters figured out but I had it all wrong.

The only character I really connected to or came to care about was Nikolai. Ok. And Mal. But mostly Nikolai. I can’t wait to read King of Scars. Nikolai is slowly making his way onto my “Favorite Fictional Characters” list.

I gasped. “Imposs–”
“Don’t say it,” muttered Mal.
Then chaos erupted.

I also really liked Baghra. I liked her in book one but didn’t really care about her in book two. Book three put her back on my radar. There’s something so refreshing about a grumpy old woman who can never get warm enough and is happiest when she’s smacking you in the knee with her walking stick. She’s everything I hope to be when I’m old.

“The same things that make the mountain make you. It has no lungs, so let it breathe with you. It has no pulse, so give it your heartbeat. That is the essence of the Small Science.”
She thumped me with her stick.
“Stop huffing like a wild boar. Breathe the way I taught you – contained, even.”

The Darling and his entire story arch was pretty cool but I WANTED MORE OF IT. I also enjoyed The Last Jedi type Rey and Kylo feel between Alina and the Darkling… that was pretty cool.

The ending was nice but it wasn’t convincing. I didn’t really feel it. It was cute and sweet and whatever but it held no weight. I didn’t get emotional. The most emotion I felt at the end was for an 8 year old and a cat. (After reading that back I realize that’s not really that surprising for me…)

I did enjoy this one though. It was a whole new kind of world and a whole different kind of characters and I did really enjoy it. I just wanted more Darkling. I feel like the story we got didn’t do his character justice. We could have had SO MUCH MORE DARKLING. And I say that as someone who didn’t even really like him!

I will say, the momentum for this universe has not been lost on me. I am every bit excited to get into Crooked Kingdom and then into Nikolai’s book. There are so many things we could explore. Bardugo could probably write stories based on this world for the rest of her life and then some. The possibilities are endless and I am here for it.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: July 12, 2019 – July 20, 2019
Publication date: June 4, 2013
Source: Owned paperback

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Siege and Storm1

3 cats

Why can a Grisha possess but one amplifier? I will answer this question instead: What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.

Alina, Mal, and the Darkling are back in the second installment of the Grishaverse. And if you thought there was a lot of traveling in the first book, you’re not ready for book two.
Mal and Alina have escaped the clutches of the Darkling and are living quiet lives in Cofton where they both have jobs and are saving up so they can make their way to somewhere where they feel they may be permanently safe. But they are soon found out and are sent spiraling into a new adventure with new creatures, new obstacles, new allies, and a lot of new information that will change the course of their lives forever.
Will Mal and Alina ever be free to live their lives quietly together without the Darkling’s interference? Will Alina choose duty over her best friend and the only person she’s ever loved? Will she find a way to balance the two? Or will Alina succumb to the temptation of this new found power she wields and lose herself completely?

Look, I know what you’re thinking, “There’s no way Alina and Mal AREN’T going to end up together and there’s no way the good guys AREN’T going to win in the end.” Well, my little pirozhki, buckle up because you just may be all kinds of wrong. (Spoiler free review ahead.)

Bardguo definitely makes for good reading. You think you know where things are going to go or what’s going to happen and you would be wrong. The author is relentless. She understands that in this world, not everyone can survive and some people will have to sacrifice much for the greater good of the rest. This is no fairy tale, ladies and gentlemen. This is a book full of magic, sacrifice, hardships, and pure evil. There’s no way to tell who you can trust and there are a lot of characters to question in this book.

The beginning started off with a bang. It was exciting. I wasn’t bored because I didn’t have time to be. There was so much going on. Ambushes, betrayals, allegiances were severed, daring rescues were made, the impossible (or improbable according to Sturmhond’s character) was achieved… THEY FLEW ON A BOAT LIKE FRIGGIN PETER PAN. IN THE FRIGGIN SKY.

I found the middle and meat of this book to be absolutely exhausting. There were SO MANY characters and it was hard to keep track of who was who and who had what kind of powers or if they were even Grisha at all. I grew a bit bored with the middle of this book as it was mostly Mal and Alina’s weird love story and a bunch of war planning. And also a lot of Alina being a total idiot. But I get that this is what the second book in most series contain. The first book sets up, the second book crashes down, and the third book resolves. (Hopefully.)

The ox feels the yoke, but does the bird feel the weight of its wings?”

Look, it took me a LONG TIME to begin to like the Darkling and that’s SUPER WEIRD and out of character for me. I always LOVE the villain. They are always my favorite character. He was all over the place at first. He wasn’t a straight up villain, he was teetering back and forth.

I like my villains tall, dark, and evil with no redeeming qualities and for a while he was giving himself all these redeeming qualities that I found myself rolling my eyes over. I’m just supposed to believe that he’s outright evil but I want to SEE IT. Let me FEEL the evil. Don’t tell me, “Oh, hey, this guy right here is baaaaad news. He’s evil. Trust me.” I don’t want to trust you. I want to see it and feel it for myself. I haven’t really had that yet.

I will say though, a lot of people had only one complaint about this book: it needed more Darkling. At first I was thinking “ughh, whatever”, now I’m on that same boat. Let me hop on that bandwagon. Because I’m telling you, if there had been more Darkling in this book, it may have gotten 4 stars instead of 3.

When I came to the end of the book I did have a few gasp and aha moments and it was full of action so I definitely wasn’t bored from like chapter 22 to the end. Of course, we were left with a cliffhanger. And of course, like any good second book, NOTHING has been resolved and everything is left to question. I’ll be curious to see where the author takes the story from here. I’m not going to even try and guess anymore at this point. Bardugo keeps throwing surprises my way and I love them.

You know the problem with heroes and saints, Nikolai?… They always end up dead.”

Keri