Posted in Book Review

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: January 18, 2022 – January 23, 2022
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source: owned hardback

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From Goodreads:
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

Alright… bear with me because, even though I’ve slept on it and it’s been two days, my thoughts on this book are still all over the place. One thing I can tell you for sure, though, is that two days later, this book has no special place in my heart or my head. It just was. It used to be. I read it and now I’m done with it.

They say the Hunt rides abroad when there is an imbalance between the Underground and the land of the living.

Alright so, Wintersong. I really did enjoy Wintersong! It was enjoyable and I was fangirling at the references and nods to the movie Labyrinth. When I finished Wintersong, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the second book. I wanted, nay, NEEDED to know what was going to happen with the Goblin King and Liesl. But what I got from this book just wasn’t fulfilling.

So, it’s been half a year, and Liesl has abandoned music and is pouring herself into work at the Inn. The synopsis up there, yea, not correct. The girl hasn’t touched music since Wintersong. She refuses to. She “can’t”. Even though she promised the Goblin King she was going to play her song for him so he would hear and remember her and he could hold onto his humanity and whatever. But no. This character who changed SO MUCH in Wintersong has reverted right back as if the first book never even happened. Even the second part of the synopsis… Liesl doesn’t find her way back to the Underground until the very end! It makes it sound like she’s back in the Underground for a majority of the book but she’s not. Not at all! She doesn’t even try until almost the very end.

“Ah,” she said softly, “but what’s the use of running” – she lifted her eyes to mine – “if you are on the wrong road?”

The beginning of the book is a series of letters Liesl has written to her brother that have gone unanswered. But there isn’t really any investigation there either. Liesl doesn’t think to find a way to investigate her brother’s well-being. Not until a letter is received asking Liesl to come to Vienna and it appears to be in Josef’s handwriting. So it takes a frantic cryptic letter to get her to worry enough to investigate her brother’s well-being. Except… she STILL doesn’t! The letter gets talked about and ultimately thrown off to the side. It’s not until ANOTHER letter comes from a well-to-do individual who claims they are sheltering Josef and offers the money and means of travel to get Liesl and her sister to Vienna to join them. Now, finally, Liesl is heading to her brother. But, still, it feels like the pleading letter is completely forgotten. It’s not even mentioned when they get there! That’s the first inconsistency I’m going to mention.

Another thing that I can’t really go into too much detail about without giving things away, is a couple of characters that get introduced. Like, why? Thinking back, they didn’t have much of a purpose. They didn’t do anything significant. They didn’t drop any bombs. THe didn’t help. They didn’t hinder. They were just there.

Oh! Oh! Not to mention, Constanze, the grandmother. She starts talking all crazy calling Liesl and Kathe by her sister’s names and it turns out that was basically pointless too. It didn’t really go anywhere. I was thinking “Ooo. I bet that’s significant somehow.” Meh. Not really.

There just weren’t any exciting or “ah-ha!” moments in this book. I wasn’t really wow’ed. I suppose the end was kind of exciting. I just, I don’t know, I wasn’t impressed. There were inconsistencies, there was filler content, or what I felt was filler content. I just feel like the two books could have been condensed into one really awesome book.

My final complaint is The Goblin King. He was barely in it! Yes, we got his back story and that was cool but we hardly got any time with him in the state he’s in now. I felt like I didn’t know him anymore by the time we got to the end of the book. Which kind of made the end of the book fall flat for me.

He reaches out for her one last time, pressing his name onto her heart.
Keep me safe, he thinks. Keep me human. Keep me whole.
And then he is gone.

This wasn’t a love story about Liesl and The Goblin King, this was a love story about Liesl and her brother Josef. Which is fine, but, that wasn’t what I signed up for. I was in this story for the Goblin King and, honestly, that’s probably on me for having expectations going in. I’m just feeling a bit betrayed by this synopsis that is completely misleading and the story that felt like one of those movies that feels like it’s 4 hours long because of how much content there is that is just boring and doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. The one where you keep checking your watch and marveling at how it’s only been half an hour and you just wish things would either get better or just hurry along.

I will say, I did enjoy the way this book was written. I enjoyed the first one for the same reason. It’s sort of poetic and old-timey and it was really fun to read. Well… Until it wasn’t. There were a lot of times something was said either in German or French or Latin and there was no explanation as to what it meant. That was a bit annoying.

Anyway, this one just wasn’t for me. I’m really disappointed and I am off to find more Labyrinth-inspired stories. I feel unfulfilled. I feel like I HAVE to find another series now to fill the hole that was just left in me from reading this duology.

Now I always say this, and this book is no exception but… there’s a chance you’ll love it! There are people who do! I just didn’t. So if what I’ve described intrigues you, by all means, go read it! It’s definitely a cool world S. Jae-Jones has built.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Read Dates: November 21,2021 – December 1, 2021
Publication Date: November 6, 2020
Source: Owned hardback

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“You are perhaps the one thing in Midscape I find terrifying.”

Maybe there’s something wrong with me… there’s probably something wrong with me.
So when I saw this book had a Hades and Persephone/Beauty and the Beast type feel, I was ALL IN.
Those are two of my absolute favorite stories. Again, because there’s probably something wrong with me. Stockholm syndrome you say? Yes, please.  

Anyway…

So this book is about a girl named Luella. She lives in a town where, for centuries, the elves have come to take a human queen. The human queen brings about the seasons and prevents the elves from being plunged into an eternal winter. In exchange for their human queen, the village receives longer life spans and protection from the wild fae and other dangerous creatures that lurk outside their borders. Unfortunately, the human queen has not presented herself and the elf king is growing impatient.

Luella is a healer within her village and she believes she is just an ordinary girl. But when the elf king comes to demand his human queen, she is revealed to have the same magical abilities every human queen before her had and is whisked away to Lafaire, the Elf King’s kingdom. She has to learn the ways of the elves and endure their harsh and unusual treatment of their human queen as well as learn how to use her new powers. Most human queens are discovered at a young age and are trained to use their magic, but Luella was not.

Let’s start with Luella. I actually really genuinely enjoyed Luella throughout the book. She didn’t exasperate me like so many main female characters in stories similar to this do. She trusted herself and questioned the things that her predecessors had not been willing to. She truly wants to do good for her people and she believes going with Eldas is the right thing to do for them. She does feel sad, however, that she is leaving her village as their only healer. The people in her village even donated money so that she could go off to school to become a better healer. She feels indebted to them, yes, but she also just feels this love for everyone in her community. It’s also hard on her as she is carted off as a plague has broken out in her village. She’s just an all-around great character with a good head on her shoulders who just genuinely cares. It’s refreshing.

Eldas. Now, of course, he’s tall and brooding and mysterious… so… Yea. He had my full attention. Eldas is just as duty motivated as Luella. He wants to do right by his people and he wants to keep his subjects happy and comfortable. He feels the need to continue on with this tradition of taking a human queen to bring about the end of winter. However, he also feels a bit trapped by this old tradition. Not to mention, he has started to maybe start to have feelings for Luella.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the plot of this book and where it was heading. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. This was honestly such a good read with two incredible main characters and equally enjoyable secondary characters who just made my heart so happy. The entire thing was so so so good. The plot, the character building, the relationship building with not only our two main characters but with all the other characters as well. The story was just *chef’s kiss*.

I will say, there were times when I was desperate to have chapters showing Eldas’ point of view. But this didn’t take away from my liking of the book at all. I was still so entranced and so enchanted by the whole thing.

Now, I will say… there’s not a whole lot of “adventuring” in this book. I typically like my fantasy books to have a bit of adventure if only for the sake of seeing this world the author has envisioned for the characters. This book takes place, for the most part, in the Elf King’s castle. So, if you’re off-put by a book without adventure, this isn’t the one for you.

I honestly enjoyed the simplicity of this story though. It was just the story of two people bound by duty who lived for others but in the end, helped each other find themselves. It was incredibly enjoyable and I honestly got a lot of David Bowie’s “Labyrinth” vibes which is pretty much an instant two thumbs up from me!

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

Read Dates: September 18, 2021 – September 21, 2021
Date Published: August 1, 2019
Source: ebook

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Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.

**Thank you to H.J. Ramsay and Red Rogue Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Hi. So uhh… as you can see, I finished this book a couple of weeks ago… I’ve honestly been putting off writing this review because I HATE writing reviews on books I didn’t like. But I felt like I needed to be true to the reason I started this blog in the first place and true to the people that read my reviews and let y’all know… I didn’t like this one.

I love retellings. If you follow my blog posts you know I am a serious SUCKER for a retelling. So when I saw this one, I got excited! An Alice in Wonderland retelling where Alice is a psych patient? That sounded AMAZING to me. But it was nothing I hoped. Nothing I expected. I was bored. I wanted to like it! I really did! I really tried to love the story but I was so, so incredibly bored.

When I think “Alice in Wonderland” I think silly, out of the blue, unexpected, straight up NONSENSE. But that’s not what happened.

This book was full of characters I couldn’t connect with. I didn’t feel anything for a single character. There were moments in the book that should have made me gasp and my heart should have ached but it didn’t. It just didn’t. Because I couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters in this book.

Alice annoyed me most of the way through. She wasn’t a constant character. She didn’t stick to one personality. She cycled through many. Which I guess would be appropriate since she’s a psych patient and that’s sort of the point but it made the entire story feel sloppy and forced. She couldn’t do a single thing unless someone told her to do it and it was incredibly frustrating.

Speaking of forced… the elements of Wonderland and some of the happenings felt forced. It felt like the author was trying to shove every well-known element of Wonderland into this story in a new way that we hadn’t seen but it didn’t work for me because, again, it felt forced.

The prince. Let’s talk about the Prince of Wonderland. That whole storyline didn’t make a lick of sense either. I couldn’t connect with him and I couldn’t bring myself to care what he was doing and with whom. His presence wasn’t even needed in this story. I feel like he was just added for a “romance” element that the book could have done without.

Now, I suppose these things would make sense and they would sort of go with the ending of the story, which I saw coming unfortunately, but when I read an Alice in Wonderland retelling, I want to feel the wonder. I want to be dazzled and I want to hear all the silly fast-paced Wonderland banter. Sometimes we would get tiny snippets of that classic Wonderland but then suddenly the book would shift back and it didn’t feel like we were in Wonderland at all. It felt like a regular story in a regular world full of regular characters where regular things happened and nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred.

I’m just sad and disappointed. Maybe it’s my own fault. Maybe I went into this book with my expectations too high and my excitement level a little through the roof. However, I’ve sat on thoughts of this book for weeks and I still can’t get past how utterly plain it was. No story about Wonderland should be so plain. It should stick with you. It should have you recalling moments and laughing at how silly it was. The parts of the story that were meant to be climaxes just continued to feel like the rest of the story. It didn’t feel like anything exciting was happening. I never felt I needed to hold my breath for what was to come because the story held the same monotonous tone the entire way through. This story was forgettable and I’m just really disappointed.

ALL THAT BEING SAID, I would never straight up tell someone to not read this book. I’ve seen rave reviews on this book. Lots of them. This book has won awards and has come incredibly close to winning others. It’s been a finalist in many “best book” categories. So if you came here to read this review because this book sounded interesting to you and you thought you might like it, I implore you, go read it! Chances are you’ll think differently than me. Everyone perceives differently. Don’t let my sad review deter you.

Just be warned that there are no happy endings in this book. Which is usually a plus for me, but this time it wasn’t. Things aren’t going to work out the way you want them to in ANY situation. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers but… yea. Go see for yourself if you feel so inclined.

✌💛

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

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: April 19, 2021 – June 26, 2021
Date Published: March 30, 2021
Source: Owned Hardback

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

First of all, that synopsis gave me chills when I first read it. How could you possibly read that and not want to dive right into this book!? Ughh.
Secondly, that cover art. Especially after reading the book and understanding why the image made the cover. *More chills*
And lastly, *sigh* Leigh Bardugo, you little minx. You have a large piece of my literary heart. I can’t imagine life on a planet without this woman’s books.

So this is the second in the King of Scars series by Bardugo. We’re still very much in the Grisha universe, we’re just quite a ways down the line book-wise. Ya know, like 8 books down the line. (Holy moly. I just turned to look at my bookshelf where Bardugo’s books sit and counted the 7 books before this one. Am I really that deep into this!?) Anyway, King of Scars follows Nikolai’s story. In King of Scars we met the privateer/prince of Ravka become King. He’s witty, he’s full of jokes, and he can’t take many things seriously. From the beginning, he became one of my all time favorites in the Grisha universe. Though, I was just a little sad as to where I felt his storyline would end up. Boy was I wrong. YOU. LITTLE. MINX.

“Men who see too much have a way of losing their eyes.” “And queens who trust too little have a way of losing their thrones.”

Ravka isn’t doing too hot in the military area and they’re not very plentiful when it comes to friends either. The Shu-Han Queen, Makhi plots against Ravka as do the Fjerdans and their brutal general, Jarl Brum. But with a super witty King and a relentlessly powerful Grisha Squaller general at his side, what could go wrong? Right?

Again, and I feel like I always say this but… Leigh Bardugo does not romanticize war. War is war. She understands that and she writes it as such. I went into this book knowing that good and well from the previous 7. We’ve lost many characters along the way and I knew this book would be no exception. It wasn’t. I found myself shedding actual tears for these characters I’ve known for so long who ended up hurt or worse, killed. But I can appreciate this kind of writing because she’s not pulling punches. She’s giving us the reality of the situation and we sort of have to live with it. I think that’s beautiful. Sad, but beautiful.

Tell me it’s more than war and worry that makes you speak those words. Tell me what they would mean if you weren’t a king and I weren’t a soldier. But she didn’t want to hear any of that, not really. Sweet words and grand declarations were for other people, other lives.

Zoya has also grown to be one of my favorite characters. I really wanted to choke her out the first few times we meet her and deal with her but she’s grown so much. Her character, I think, is one of the biggest character builds in the entire series. I love her strength and her honesty. Then there’s also the bit of her vulnerability that we get to see. She’s come so far and she’s finally developed friendships and opened herself up a bit to love. We also finally get to learn about her roots in this book which was incredibly moving for me.

Ahhhh. The Queen of Mourning. When I saw that in the synopsis, it gave me chills. Nina truly has gone through so much pain and what a title that absolutely fits her just right. Nina is undercover in Fjerda trying to gain access to their military strategies and secrets so that she might send the information back to Nikolai so he can prepare. She’s living under the roof of the man she hates the most, Jarl Brum. Along with his wife and his daughter, Hanne who Nina has come to be close with. Nina is always so much fun to read. Her quick wit and sharp tongue make for some fun chapters. I have to say, hers was one of the storylines that ripped me apart in previous books. I felt like *I* was the Queen of Mourning reading about her life and all the tragedies that befall her.

I just can’t get enough of the Grishaverse. There are so many elements that come into play that make me so excited. I think I mentioned in one of my previous reviews how the possibilities are absolutely endless and they still are! Bardugo knows that and she makes these possibilities come to life. Giant war machines, altered Grisha, monsters, flying contraptions, and secret underwater weapons. It just never ends and I am here for it!

I thought I had this book figured out. And I guess I did for some of it but about 60% of the way through the book, I found I was wrong. So very, very wrong. I didn’t see any of it coming but now that it’s happened and it’s over, I can’t imagine it happening any other way. Bardugo does it again. She took a situation where there was seemingly only two ways out and added a third option that was soooo much better than either of the other possibilities. This really was a pleasure to read.

“I have a surplus of bad ideas,” said Nikolai. “I have to spend them somewhere.”

At this point I am definitely invested in these characters. There is very obviously going to be a third book in this series. The end left things wide open so I’m super excited to see how this plays out in the end. Though part of me is kind of like, “No! Leave things how they are. We don’t need to go out and risk our lives anymore for that stupid Darkling!” But I must admit, I’m excited for book three! I’d love to know when it’s coming out at the least! Ughh..

I know it took me a while to read this one and I’ll tell you why in just three words. Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve gotten back into it and I’m a bit obsessed. I bought Blackwood and I’ve been tearing through all the DLC’s content. It’s been so much fun but it hasn’t left me much reading time. I’ve recently found some balance though. I’ve got a lot of books in my queue that I’m dying to read so ESO is just going to have to be content with only having me for maybe 2 hours a day. Ideally, anyway.

If you haven’t already, check out the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix! Shadow and Bone was the first book in the first series Bardugo wrote in the Grisha universe and it is sooo good. Mind you, the show is soooo different from the books. There are some likenesses but ughh. Don’t get me started. The show still works though and it’s really good so go check it out!

Keep spreading kindness! ✌💛

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

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

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

Goodreads — Amazon

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.