Genre: Fantasy

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Jul 01

A Bad Breed – Tour + Review!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★★



A Bad Breed – Tour + Review!A Bad Breed (Gaslamp Gothic, #3) by Kat Ross
Published by Acorn on May 31, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 292
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Pricolici.

A creature out of folklore. And nightmare.

January 1889. When a Romanian village suffers a series of brutal attacks, occult investigator Anne Lawrence is dispatched to the forests of the Old Country to hunt the killer – only to vanish without a trace.

The trail leads her mentor Vivienne Cumberland deep into the Carpathians to a remote monastery. As a blizzard rages outside, trapping them all with the pricolici, Vivienne risks sharing the fate of the woman she came to find. But is the culprit truly a werewolf … or something even more dangerous?

A man bent on revenge. And a love that was never meant to be.

Imprisoned in a decaying castle, Anne finds herself ensnared in a web of dark enchantment, at the mercy of a mysterious captor with a beast inside – and a memory as old as the ancient legends.

As the weeks pass, Anne learns his real identity, and slowly uncovers a complex and deeply passionate man. But is she willing to pay the price for falling under his spell?

Author’s Note: This darkly magical reimagining of Beauty and the Beast is the third book in the Gaslamp Gothic series, but can be read as a standalone with no need to start with Book #1, The Daemoniac.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

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A Bad Breed is a hugely atmospheric read, dropping you into a gothic Victorian world from the first page. I really wished it was longer, to delve more into the background of Anne and Vivienne – but I guess that’s what the other books are for! This is the first book I’ve read by Kat Ross, so I took the description at its word, that A Bad Breed could be read as a standalone despite being the third novel in the series. It worked out just fine, and I’ve already downloaded The Daemoniac to read soon as well. 😉

Favorite Things

  • Vivienne and her fake marriage. It was fun and lighthearted, if sad that it was necessary for both the parties involved. Accurate to the time though, I think.
  • The way the paranormal was brought into the story. I wanted more details, but I think (hope) that all that is delved into more in the other books of the series.
  • Anne using her small stature and feminine wiles to get what she wants – hurrah for our girl not being afraid to use what nature gave her!
  • The dark, sinister atmosphere. This was done so, so well and just sucked me in completely!

Less Favorite Things

  • To be honest, the romance between Anne and the “beast.” It felt kind of contrived, and due to the whole captivity thing, I found it hard not to be a little uncomfortable. He never outright abuses her (is quite the gentleman, outside of the whole OH HEY YOU CAN’T LEAVE thing), and she is clearly a woman experienced and in full control of her own desires…just, Stockholm syndrome? I did THOROUGHLY approve of the way it ended, and I’m glad to see that the fourth book will continue Anne’s story!

4/5 stars overall, and I’ll definitely be reading more by Kat Ross!

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Author Bio:

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She’s the author of the Fourth Element and Fourth Talisman fantasy series, the Gaslamp Gothic paranormal mysteries, and the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Check out Kat’s Pinterest page for the people, places and things that inspire her books.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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four-stars

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Jun 03

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Reviews 1 ★★★½

Stepsister by Jennifer DonnellyStepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Scholastic Press on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

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“Have you forgotten what I am? I am the heart’s first beat and its last. I am the newborn lamb and the wolf that rips out its throat. I am the bloodsong, crone.”

Stepsister is the story of what happens to Cinderella’s family after she marries her prince and leaves them for the palace life. I was SO excited for this book, and I loved the cover, and the premise! So, while I enjoyed it and finished it pretty quickly, this was unfortunately one of those books where I really felt like I read a different book than what other reviewers read. I saw several reviews that said it was incredibly dark, and gritty, and feminist…and while it definitely tries to be all of those things, it doesn’t quite pull it off. I think one of the main issues I have is that the book is simply too short to successfully BE what it was aiming for. I was quite surprised when it arrived, as it seemed like a very slim volume for the tale I was expecting – it comes in at 352 pages, in a book shorter than your usual hardcover. It feels rushed, and as a result I wasn’t able to fully believe in the characters or their feelings.

HOWEVER. I was still extremely curious all the way through, as it isn’t ever exactly clear how Isabelle and Octavia (the other stepsister) will reclaim themselves and their circumstances. I expected a lot more darkness, but to be honest the most horrifying thing happens in the first chapter (and isn’t a surprise) when both sisters mutilate their feet in an attempt to wear the glass slipper.

*insert Jeopardy theme song*

I kept waiting for something else bloody and awful to happen but it really…didn’t. And yes, I know, what kind of a person does this make me…I’m trying not to think too hard on that. 😛 I also loved the idea of the wolf within, slumbering under the heart of a girl who had been told to be quiet and still and stay in her place.

More Things I Liked

  • Both sisters have very unconventional interests (Octavia is a mathemetician, and Isabelle is a tactician) that have been smothered by their mother and society in general. I loved how they grew and blossomed and came into themselves as the story progressed.
  • There are some real zingers in here…

“The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.”

“No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi.”

  • The bet between Fate and Chance was pretty interesting. I wish there had been a little more explanation of how they came to be in their current form and the mapwriting…etc.
  • THE FAIRY GODMOTHER!!!! OMG. I don’t want to spoil anything but holy crap this is my favorite fairy godmother interpretation of all time.

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three-half-stars

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Apr 29

The Cold is in Her Bones

Book Reviews 1 ★★★

I won an ARC of this in a GoodReads giveaway (my second, in HOW many years of entering)!

The Cold is in Her BonesThe Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 22, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-stars

One girl must uncover secrets of the past to save her friend from a terrible curse in this dark and mesmerizing story of love, revenge, and redemption inspired by the myth of Medusa.

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla's whole world is her family's farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she's forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Girls who run from what frightens them don’t get what they want.

The Cold is in Her Bones is a loose retelling of Medusa’s story. I was expecting a lot more Greek influence, to be honest, so I was a little disappointed. It feels much more like a fairy tale of the British/German type, and the setting is very obviously inspired by that era, not ancient Greece. Maybe it was just me! Oh, and I was expecting snakes of the creepy variety. Um, there’s ONE. Well, one at a time. And they’re CUTE, not creepy.

A specific place or time is never given, so it feels sort of like a historical and sort of like a fantasy world. The writing itself is intriguing, though it seems a little jerky at times. In the beginning we start off with one character, and then we never see her again until much, MUCH later. So that was a bit odd.

Overall, this is a story of a girl, Milla, growing into herself and not only accepting herself, but seizing her personhood with both hands and lighting up her world. She refuses to be a “good girl” – though not at first. At first she, like many of us, is sad that she cannot be the daughter her parents want and tries very hard to please them. I absolutely loved how she eventually realized her own power and potential and threw off all the societal expectations.

I really wasn’t sure what to make of the old woman, or Milla’s brother, or even what I was supposed to think of Milla’s parents! It was just all very…well, “floaty.” I felt very much like I was drifting along trying to puzzle the pieces together. I felt really sorry for Iris and, much like Milla, only wanted to help her.

I would read something by this author again. I just think this story needed a little more direction and polish. The writing was good and the tone was great. Just…needed a little more.

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three-stars

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Apr 02

Review of Mera: Tidebreaker

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review of Mera: TidebreakerMera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige, Steven Bryne
Published by DC Ink Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Pages: 192
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

From Danielle Paige, the New York Times best-selling author of Stealing Snow, comes a Mera and Aquaman origin story that explores Mera's first steps on land as well as her first steps as a hero or a villain, forcing her to choose to follow her heart or her mission to kill.

Mera is teenage royalty, heir to the throne of Xebel, the other not-so-lost colony under the sea. But Mera is destined to wear a different crown, that of Atlantis. When the inhabitants of Xebel plot to overthrow their homeland of Atlantis, Mera is sent to kill the heir to the throne, Arthur Curry. As the unrest between their colonies grows, Mera and Arthur unexpectedly fall in love...will Arthur Curry be the king at Mera's side in Atlantis, or will he die under her blade?

Mera by Danielle Paige is an astonishing story that explores themes of duty, love, heroism and freedom, all through the eyes of readers' favorite undersea royalty.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Confession: this was the reviewer version of a cover-buy. I know absolutely nothing about Mera, or Aquaman, or the DC version of Atlantis. I requested a review copy because I saw it on NetGalley and went, “Ooooh a red-haired girl with a trident!” Then I read it, and it said Atlantis, and I still thought maybe it had something to do with Greek gods because of the trident. So sue me. I STILL ENJOYED IT! So I am living, breathing proof that you don’t have to have back story to enjoy this graphic novel.

Mera: Tidebreaker is an origin story for Mera, but even without knowing her future (I didn’t, I only looked it up after I finished this book) I thoroughly enjoyed the story, mainly for the stunning artwork. It has a brighter look and feel to it than a lot of the graphic novels I’ve picked up and it made it much easier to read and very engaging. Mera is such an intriguing character – immature, headstrong, but with ability and heart – and a TON of potential. Then there is the ongoing battle between Atlantis and Xebel, with SO MUCH there that wasn’t explained – I’m guessing because it is explained in the actual comics. And Arthur – I’m very interested in his back story, like how did his parents ever meet and why did he grow up as he did?

My one complaint with this story was the instalove. SO MUCH INSTALOVE. Why?!? I feel like even a teenage girl of Mera’s character and inclinations wouldn’t just suddenly -poof- fall in love with a boy just because he was nice to her. It seemed so off for her, so strange and jarring…maybe there is something there that I’m missing due to my lack of knowledge about the rest of their story, but I just really felt like that didn’t belong. Why does she have to end up paired up right now? Why not just assume that happens later, but that they MEET right now?

Regardless of that, 4/5 stars for beautiful artwork and engaging story.

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four-stars

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Mar 18

The Waking Forest Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

The Waking Forest ReviewThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
on March 12, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, magical realism, Young Adult
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I sort of do know what she means, sitting here in the semi-dark and the semi-silence. I have a scratchy, restless feeling, as if my soul were grinding against my skin, my bones, not necessarily wanting to get out but urging my body to go to impossible places, convinced I can touch the stars and not burn.

The Waking Forest is a story that is a true journey. I wasn’t EXACTLY sure what to expect going into it, and I was almost halfway through before I was even sure what the heck I was reading! Perhaps not the most stellar start for a debut novel, BUT. Bear with me – and bear with the book, too. While I did only rate it at 3.5/5 stars, I also feel it is totally a book worth reading and I will gladly be reading the next novel that Alyssa Wees comes out with.

The first half of the book is told in alternating chapters between Rhea, in our modern world, and the Witch of the Wood, in a very odd dream-like world. I was SO confused as to what was supposed to be happening in these…but the writing is beautiful. If you are not into heavy descriptions and very sustained metaphors, you might not enjoy it. It’s a very different style from what I’ve been reading recently, so it took a little while for it to grow on me. But grow on me it did, and eventually the prose (which could, admittedly, be considered kind of “purple” prose) was just painting these amazing pictures…so even if I was turned around and had no idea where the story was going, I was just enjoying the journey.

Eventually the two tales merge, and that is rather…mind-bending. There is enough foreshadowing that you sort of see it coming, but not…not…in the way it played out, or at least I didn’t. The story shifts to an entirely fantasy world, with incredible creatures and magic. I really wish the magic had been better explained! I was still kind of confused by how everything worked in the end, but it was glorious and shiny and I liked it.

My absolute favorite part was Rhea’s relationship with her sisters. These four girls are kicking ass and taking names and making no apologies – and dealing with their own issues along the way. There is some beautiful encouragement for those of us who struggle with anxiety in these pages – and the characters aren’t considered less than or incapable because of it! I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Overall, The Waking Forest isn’t perfect but if you like fantasy and quirky characters, definitely give it a try. And keep an eye out for more books by Wees!

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three-half-stars

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Jan 08

The Winter of the Witch

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

The Winter of the WitchThe Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3) by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on January 9, 2019
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

In the stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, following The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya returns to save Russia and the spirit realm, battling enemies both mortal and magic.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“I called every power of this land to war, winter-king. It had to be done. We cannot fight amongst ourselves.”

The Winter of the Witch is the absolute perfect ending to this trilogy. It shattered my heart, stitched it back together, then stomped on it. Just in case I had any hope of it ever healing properly.

The previous books in this trilogy are just as beautiful and just as compelling, as we first meet Vasya in The Bear and the Nightingale and see her growing into herself in The Girl in the Tower. In this final installment Vasya is still young and still growing, but she has come into herself as a woman and refuses (as she always has, in her way) to bend to societal expectations.

I was bawling within fifteen minutes of starting this book. And then I cried even harder at the end. I was wrung out, unspeakably sad, and yet there was an undercurrent of contentment and joy and hope that has made me recommend this beautiful trilogy to every. single. person. who would listen!

Characters

Vasya, of course. I would go to war with and for this girl. She hasn’t had an easy life but she refuses to be cowed and she embraces who and what she is, even if she doesn’t always understand it.

In her hands was the strength that had broken the bars of her cage in Moscow…”I may die tomorrow. Or live to sour old age. But you are only a wraith in a lake, and you will not command me.

She has heart, and she loves so fiercely and completely, it completely breaks my soul. Unlike in the previous books, Vasya also explores her sexuality in this one – and while I sort of saw her love interest coming, I couldn’t see HOW exactly it would work out…and then it did, and it was fabulous. Vasya will not take being anything less than an equal, and I absolutely LOVED how her path in life was not something she was willing to give up (nor did she) for anyone, regardless of her feelings for them. So often, even strong female heroines fall in love and give up their plans/dreams for their partner. Not that this is always bad…but it’s so often that it’s almost expected, and it’s definitely still an expectation in our society. It was SO refreshing to see how things settled out for Vasya.

I really fell in love with Vasya’s brother, Sasha, in this one too. He was always a sympathetic character, but his devotion to being a monk sort of turned me off. He really came into his own in this book too, and it became obvious his devotion is really more to people and country than any god. He also stops treating Vasya like a child, and their relationship just blossomed into what I’ve always dreamed a brother/sister bond to be.

Vasya put a hand on her brother’s arm. “Then, if you come with me tonight -” Her grip tightened; their eyes met. “I warn you, the road leads through darkness.”

Sasha said, “Then we will go through darkness, sister.”

Then of course, there are the bad guys…Medved, the Frost-King’s brother, as always up to treachery and warmongering, and the priest Konstantin with his hatred of Vasya and all she represents, coupled with an unrelenting thirst for power. The evil radiates off the page…and yet it is not all so cut and dry. Just as life is not all black and white, no matter how much we may wish it.

Plot

A threat from outside will tear Russia apart, but the boyars seem incapable of anything but internal bickering. Moscow burns, and the people blame Vasya. The only way to unite Russia seems to be the road through midnight…

The plot, while it definitely moves the story along and provides the catalyst for the various characters’ actions, is really secondary to the character and relationship development. It proceeds at a rather breakneck pace (unlike in The Girl in the Tower, where it seemed to meander at times), hurtling us all along towards the final bloody conclusion.

Worldbuilding

While I can’t say I would want to live in Katherine Arden’s medieval Russia, it is certainly beautiful and captivating – while also be cold and cruel, especially to women. She weaves in folktales and pagan traditions with the new Church, and who is to say it wasn’t, actually, just like that?

I am planning to re-read this trilogy every year. I bought the US and the UK editions of all three books. If you ever listen to any recommendations I make, PLEASE GO READ THESE BOOKS.

 

five-stars

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Nov 20

Review of The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1)

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review of The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1)The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code #1) by Mari Mancusi
Published by Disney Hyperion on November 20, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Modern
Pages: 346
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Young King Arthur accidentally time travels to the 21st century and googles himself, discovering the not-so-happily ever after in store for him once he pulls the sword from the stone. He decides he'd much rather stay here--and join the football team instead.Now modern day gamer geeks Sophie and Stu, with the help of Merlin, find themselves in a race against time to pull a Camelot-size caper--get that sword pulled from the stone and the stubborn once and future king back to the past where he belongs. While Arthur takes on the role of wide-receiver in an attempt to save the football team from a losing season, Sophie and Stu sword-fight, joust, and horseback ride their way through Camelot as they fight to save the timeline. If they fail, the world as they know it (not to mention the existence of pepperoni pizza!) will cease to exist forever.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Once and Future Geek is a fun, fast frolic through time and space as the young protagonists try to keep history’s course steady. While the target audience is middle grade, and the writing and plot make that clear, even as an adult I enjoyed the story – especially since I’ve been a gamer (in another time, when I *had* many free hours in a day) and so many of the phrases and occurences in the story had me laughing and nodding because yes, that is indeed what happens when you play an MMO.

“I’d rather my heart be broken a thousand times than spend one day without her,” Arthur declared valiantly. Merlin groaned. “I seriously don’t know why I bother,” he muttered under his breath.

This is NOT your high fantasy King Arthur story. Don’t go looking for that, and you’ll probably be just as happy with it as I was. I love the banter between the various characters. I did think it was a little odd that the kids were just totally okay with Merlin lying to them at the very beginning…has no one ever told them creepy old men stalk kids online?!? But anyway…the story itself was entertaining, if a bit lacking on historical detail and high in artistic license. I sort of got a Percy Jackson meets Ready Player One vibe. All the family relationships and time switcheroos got a little confusing part way through the book, but then I got so interested in what was going on with Sophie’s parents that I didn’t care.

4/5 stars, minus a star due to some odd wordiness and events that I felt were a little too eye-rolling worthy even for the target audience. Also at the end the author clearly sounded like an adult trying to speak to children, or trying to sound LIKE a child, which irritates me to no end and I’m sure would be off-putting for a kid. Otherwise a really solid read and one I would love to add to my shelf! A refreshingly positive, upbeat take on the King Arthur legends.

I loved Sophie and Stu – their friendship, their geekiness, and their acceptance of each other and other people. Sophie’s attitude was awesome, and given that ending I really hope the series gets continued now that this reprint is out!

She was going to knock some sense into this little once and future twerp’s head if it was the last thing she did.

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four-stars

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Nov 15

Review of Sky in the Deep

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review of Sky in the DeepSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Published by Wednesday Books on April 24, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 340
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
two-flames

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

First of all. This cover. AND VIKING WARRIOR WOMEN. Just take all my money right now, why don’t you. Of course, there’s also a huge danger in being completely taken by a cover and brief blurb…sometimes the copywriter is a better writer than the actual author. So I was sort of kind of worried that might have happened, but I am very happy to report that it most certainly did not disappoint!

YESSSSSSS.

Oh, and btw – I was reading my copy of this book in the bath, and my puppy knocked it out of my hand and INTO THE WATER. There was much shrieking and flailing but the book survived and so did the puppy. The book is now all ripple-y and much thicker than it should be, but still readable. *eyeroll* 

FIRST OF ALL:

Adrienne Young, can we pleeeeeeeease have a sequel where Eelyn and Fiske are a little older?? PLEASE??? Like maybe a NA type? Maybe where the enemy tribe resurges? I know there is a companion novel coming but it sounds like it might be more about someone else and I just need more of Eelyn. Please and thank you. Ok, now I will attempt to write something more coherent…there ARE some SMALL potential spoilers.

Characters:

Obviously, Eelyn. Our fierce Viking shieldmaiden. When the book first started, I was slightly put off by just how ANGRY she seemed to be, as if she had no other emotion (other than feeling pain, I definitely got the sense that she was in pain, but her reaction to pain was MORE ANGER). Did she have reason? Yes, probably more than most of us reading. Life in this time was hard, even if women were treated more equally in this Viking world. Eelyn kicks ass, but beneath her strong soldier exterior she still has a heart, she loves her family and her village more than life itself…which is why it hurts her so deeply when she discovers what her brother, Iri, has done. Eelyn is also NOT one of these heroine who walks and talks like a badass but never quite manages to DO anything badass…nope. She is downright brutal at one point in the book, and I found myself quite literally gaping at the page.

I’d envied Iri my whole life for his open heart, and now mine had been pried open too.

Iri himself is quite…well, I liked him, but I didn’t feel that close to him. I went through about the first half of the books with my arms figuratively crossed on my chest, TOTALLY with Eelyn that nothingbutnothing should have kept him from returning to his family, but then…then things happen. Still, I wanted to KNOW Iri better, because he really seemed like he was a complex character that we just didn’t get to know that well. Eelyn knows him, or thinks she does, and it is from her viewpoint that we see him.

Fiske is something else. He really grew on me, because in the beginning I just thought he was a wuss. No joke. Then we see him interact not only with Eelyn and Iri, but his mother, his little brother…and oh wait, he’s not a wuss, he just thinks before he acts. I loved the slow-burn of his and Eelyn’s romance. I know enemies-to-lovers is one of the OLDEST romantic plots ever, but it’s repeated because it works, both in books and sometimes even in real life! I really wanted to see more of them as a couple, in the village and family dynamics…ah well. 2 flames, because while there are some couple scenes there’s nothing graphic or really all that descriptive.

Inge, the only real mother-figure in the entire book (as Eelyn and Iri’s mother died long ago), is the best. I loved her so much. She is a healer, not a warrior, and yet she is very clearly just as strong as Eelyn or any of the others. I pretty much want to be her, since I’m pretty sure I don’t have the reflexes to be Eelyn.

Halvard!! OMG, this little guy has more guts and spine than several adults put together. And he is so non-judgmental, sees the good in everyone…we all need a Halvard in our lives. I swear the moments when his life is in danger, I went all Mama Bear even just sitting on my couch. DON’T YOU DARE MESS WITH MY LITTLE MAN, YO. At one point I actually thought he was going to be killed off and when I finally got to the end of that passage, I realized I’d been sitting there with my free hand just plastered over my mouth and I had tears in my eyes. THE FEELS.

Plot

The plot is pretty well encapsulated in the book blurb, making this story MUCH more character driven than action driven – despite having some really intense battle scenes in the first and last quarters of the book. The middle bit is really more about Eelyn and her internal struggles with being a captive, and of all the dynamics of the Riki village and Iri’s “new” people. It is heartbreaking, at times.

The words were small but they were true. ‘I’m thinking that I wish you’d died that day.’

Worldbuilding

There isn’t a lot of detail given, which works quite well for this book. We know that the Aska live by the sea, and the Riki live in the mountains, and they have a generations old blood feud. Their culture is clearly based on ancient Vikings, but other than that…this was a book about people and relationships, not one to immerse you completely in a historically accurate time and place. It does immerse you, just…in a much more narrow way. It works much better than I could have imagined, and I was quite surprised that the lack of detail did not seem to hinder my enjoyment of the story at all.

5/5 stars. Highly recommend. My only “complaint” is that I really wanted more, I was very disappointed when it ended…but isn’t that how the best books always are?

I could still see a young Eelyn standing on the beach turned into the wind, a sword in one hand and an axe in the other. I hadn’t lost her. I hadn’t buried her. I’d only let her change into something new.

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five-stars

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Aug 02

Review of The Girl in the Tower

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

I loved Katherine Arden’s debut, the first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale. Absolutely gorgeous. Heartbreakingly amazing. You can check out my review of that book here, and this review does NOT contain spoilers for the first book! I’m catching up on reviews a little, as I actually read this one back in September from an ARC.

 

Katherine Arden is to date one of my favorite authors, and I have high hopes that she will keep it that way. I was thrilled to see that she has a middle-grade novel coming out in September, called Small Spaces. I don’t read much MG but it sounds deliciously spooky and exactly like the kind of thing I loved to read at that age, so it’s on my list!

 

 

Review of The Girl in the TowerThe Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2) by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on December 5, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 363
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

“There were no heroes,” said Vasya between her teeth. “There was only me.”

The Girl in the Tower continues the story of Vasya, the child called a witch and shunned by her own rural village. This time it takes place mostly in Moscow, and at last we are able to continue the stories of some of Vasya’s other family members as well. A great evil is stealing across the land, stealing the daughters of the people, and someone must do something about it. The lords are growing restless and angry with the tzar for not keeping their people safe.

The detail and atmosphere in the story have once again managed to amaze and enthrall me. Arden manages to blur the line between fantasy and fiction in such a way that, while the mind “knows” that these things could not happen as written, perhaps…perhaps…perhaps they might have, or could. Taking old stories, and superstitions and tales that are Russian in origin, but often familiar in some form across the globe, the tale told is one that resonates on a deep level and often sends chills down the spine.

Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

Vasya is still my sister from another mother, with spunk and intelligence far beyond her age. She refuses to be discouraged or held down by societal expectations, choosing instead to carve her own path in the world. It’s a difficult way, but one that sets her soul on fire. She is growing older in this part of the story, coming into womanhood with all of its medieval troubles, which typically far outweigh its charms.

The plot does seem to be a little slow, but that only occurred to me later after I finished reading. While I was reading I was so immersed and entranced by the Vasya’s world that I did not care. There is action, emotion, and worldbuilding in this book and all are artfully done. Highly recommend.

Many thanks to Del Ray for providing an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

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five-stars

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Oct 25

Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★

Review of Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 453
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

I put this book off forEVER. I had a copy pre-ordered, and then I got an exclusive cover edition in an OwlCrate box, and I STILL didn’t read it. Why? Well…this, again, was one that seemed to get a lot of mixed reviews and seeing as Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is what initially got me into YA and is still one of my all-time favorites…I was terrified that I would be disappointed. Was I? Well…here I am, less than 2 weeks after finishing it, and I’m already writing about it so it must not have been too bad! 😉 Presenting my review of Heartless, by my very-much-loved Marissa Meyer!

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“If I am not to have happiness, let me at least have a purpose.”

Heartless is, as everything I have read by Marissa Meyer, beautifully written. However, compared to the Lunar Chronicles, I felt it did start off very slow. I was at 44% (according to GoodReads) before I felt like there was a big, activating event and the story took off. Not that it was BORING, per se, but just…well, I felt like I was wondering around a very brightly colored and rather strange candyland-type world, petrified of what was going to jump out at me (because I was CONVINCED something horrible was going to happen any minute).

I was extremely curious as to how Cath was going to go from our heroine and a sympathetic character, into the horrid Queen of Hearts. I had huge doubts – was pretty sure I would either not like the character at all if it was going to be believable. I WAS WRONG, OK. Because I thought Cath was really sweet (naive, but sweet), and I felt like she was my little sister and wanted to protect her. Her relationship with Jest was predictable but cute. And then as the story progresses and we see her start to unravel…I thought it was actually believable.

The story actually explains very well how the Queen of Hearts came to be who she was, and it shows her in a COMPLETELY new light. In the end I really felt like she was justified, or at least could understand why she became the kind of queen she did. Overall I thought the story could have been a little darker – I was definitely EXPECTING a little more action and darkness and blood, but in the end it all worked really well together.

OH. Let’s not forget – THE CAKE. OMG THE CAKE. This book made me freaking HUNGRY on an ENTIRELY unacceptable level. I am not even sorry for the caps lock. But seriously…there is so much scrumptious sounding baking in this book. Pumpkin cake. Tarts. Cake. Scones. Did I mention PUMPKIN CAKE?!? I think it should have been mandatory to include SOME kind of recipe. Just saying. 😛

Here’s one from Betty Crocker. You’re welcome.

Highly recommend if you like fairy tales and especially Alice in Wonderland (also cake). Just don’t go in expecting a fast-paced story like the Lunar Chronicles. This is an entirely different story and style!

I hope you enjoyed my review of Heartless! Follow me on social media!

   

GoodReads

 

four-stars

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