Genre: Fantasy

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Sep 26

House of Salt and Sorrows

Book Reviews 0 ★★½

House of Salt and SorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Published by Delacorte on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadstwo-half-stars

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls' lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn't sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh's involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it's a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

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.

Am I the only person who didn’t love this book? It has a 4+ star rating on GoodReads! I just don’t see how…I wanted to like it. I wanted to LOVE it! Come on, just look at that cover. It’s stunning. Sadly though, the cover was really the only thing I could 100% get behind with this book.

The Good

  • The writing itself was quite good. I would read something else by this author without hesitation. It was just the actual plot and storyline I didn’t care for.
  • As I’ve already said, the cover!
  • The creep factor in the last half of the book really amped up and was extremely well done. I completely doubted the conclusions I had already drawn, haha! The author was great at dragging the reader right along into all the confusion and dream-in-a-dream confusion of reality along with the characters.

The Bad and the Ugly

  • Our heroine, who is built up as this fearless, snarky, go-getter in the first few chapters of the book, takes one look – LITERALLY one look – at a handsome man and becomes a tongue-tied, bumbling, helpless girl. She’s had a sheltered life, has met very few men outside one of her family’s servant’s sons and her father, and all of a sudden she sees a stranger and completely falls for him. Really? This is 2019, I thought we were past this sort of ridiculousness.
  • The first half of the book is almost all dancing and balls and fancy dresses and shoes. I wanted to stab my eyeballs out. How many descriptions of dancing shoes and ballgowns does one really need? Like nothing was happening except they were dancing. I get it, it’s a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses…but COME ON.
  • The villain of the story was SO OBVIOUS and it was such a worn-out trope I wanted to fling the book across the room (except, I was reading on my iPad, so I couldn’t). Can stepmoms catch a freaking break already?
  • At the very end, I actually thought the author was going to redeem the story by not wrapping everything up in a pretty little bow as far as the romance. BUT OH NO! There must be a romantic interest and there must be a pairing up or I guess it’s not a good YA story.

2.5/5 stars. If you’re a die-hard fan of retellings you might enjoy it more, also if you’re more of a love-at-first-sight person than I am. Otherwise I’ll have to recommend you skip it, but keep an eye out for other books by the author!

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two-half-stars

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Sep 23

Beasts of the Frozen Sun – Review + Blog Tour!

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★



Beasts of the Frozen Sun – Review + Blog Tour!Beasts of the Frozen Sun (Frozen Sun Saga, #1) by Jill Criswell
Published by Blackstone on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfive-stars

Burn brightly. Love fiercely. For all else is dust.

Every child of Glasnith learns the last words of Aillira, the god-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair sparked a war of gods and men, and Lira of clan Stone knows the story better than most. As a descendant of Aillira and god-gifted in her own right, she has the power to read people's souls, to see someone's true essence with only a touch of her hand.

When a golden-haired warrior washes up on the shores of her homeland--one of the fearful marauders from the land of the Frozen Sun--Lira helps the wounded man instead of turning him in. After reading his soul, she realizes Reyker is different than his brethren who attack the coasts of Glasnith. He confides in her that he's been cursed with what his people call battle-madness, forced to fight for the warlord known as the Dragon, a powerful tyrant determined to reignite the ancient war that Aillira started.

As Lira and Reyker form a bond forbidden by both their clans, the wrath of the Dragon falls upon them and all of Glasnith, and Lira finds herself facing the same tragic fate as her ancestor. The battle for Lira's life, for Reyker's soul, and for their peoples' freedom has only just begun.

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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“He is everything you fear, and worse. He is also everything you hope, and more.”

I was just halfway through Beasts of the Frozen Sun, and I already loved it so much I ordered a hardback copy. I’m both excited and furious that it’s the first in a trilogy, because it means I’ll get to spend two more books following Lira and Reyker’s stories but also that I have to wait AN ENTIRE TWO YEARS to find out how it all ends! How has this story not gotten more press? Why is it not more popular?!?

But apparently I will have to. :'(

I’ve discovered I really love this little sub-genre of fantasy, historical fantasy. The setting of this book reminded me somewhat of Sky in the Deep (which was awesome as well), but it goes much more in depth, not just in the geography but in the mythology and spiritual beliefs of the world. It’s set in a very British Isles sort of locale, and the Dragonmen are obviously meant to be patterned off the Vikings – all this is pretty obvious even if you hadn’t read the author’s lovely page about the real world locations she patterned the book settings off.

As is fitting for the ancient British isles…there is a lot the modern reader might find disturbing in this book. There is violence, bloodshed, abuse, torture, near-rape, and horrible, vindictive and abusive gods. It does somewhat gloss over what I think would have actually happened in those times, probably to make it more suitable for a YA audience. But it’s just barely done and doesn’t really take away from the story.

Lira and Reyker are one of the few YA fantasy pairings I could actually get behind. It’s not insta-love, and it’s not perfect, but they respect each other and they compliment each other and yet they never seem to catch a break! I was rooting for them so hard by the end.

5/5 stars for Beasts of the Frozen Sun. I absolutely cannot WAIT for the second book! Be sure to scroll to the bottom to enter the giveaway. 🙂

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Author Bio:

Jill Criswell is a writer of Young Adult Historical Fantasy. She was born and raised in the swamps of northeastern Florida. She earned degrees in English and Psychology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida. Her greatest passion, besides reading and writing, is traveling the world; she’s visited fifty countries across six continents, falling in love with places like Iceland, Namibia, and Cambodia. She works as a university English teacher and lives in South Carolina, near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with her husband and daughter (who is named after a volcano in Iceland).

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five-stars

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Sep 19

The Necromancer’s Bride – Tour + Review!

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

First of all, a huge apology to Xpresso Book Tours – this post is VERY late, as I’ve been sick for over a week and I forgot everything except (possibly) my name.



The Necromancer’s Bride – Tour + Review!The Necromancer's Bride (Gaslamp Gothic, #4) by Kat Ross
Published by Acorn on September 6, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Pages: 350
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfour-stars
three-flames

Forgiveness is not Gabriel D’Ange’s strong suit.

A self-appointed soldier of God with a penchant for ruthlessly punishing his enemies, he vanished after Anne Lawrence stabbed him with his own dagger.

The smart thing would be to let him go.

Unfortunately, Anne’s life isn’t just lonely without Gabriel. It’s insufferably boring.

Determined to heal the rift between them, she goes in search of her tempestuous former lover, black parasol in hand and daeva magic crackling at her fingertips. But Gabriel has his own plans afoot and Anne finds herself drawn into one of his tangled webs, much against her better judgment.

Gabriel’s nemesis has reappeared in Brussels, a vile slaver who’s plundering the Congo Free State with the blessing of King Leopold. Gabriel might be willing to give Anne a second chance, but not until Jorin Bekker’s head is lying at his feet.

Back in London, the quasi-reformed necromancer Balthazar sets his sights on the same quarry. He holds a very personal grudge against Bekker — and killing him might be the only way to keep Gabriel D’Ange from Balthazar’s own throat.

When the hunters collide at a lavish gala thrown by the king, Anne learns just how far she’ll go to save the man she loves.

Note: The Necromancer’s Bride is the sequel to A Bad Breed, which should be read first.

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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The Necromancer’s Bride is an excellent continuation of the story begun in A Bad Breed, and as the fourth installment in the Gaslamp Gothic series! I was so excited to read more about Anne and Gabriel and the whole scheme of everything that’s going on. I still need to go back and read the first two books in the series (which you do NOT have to read to start with A Bad Breed, but you DO need to read A Bad Breed before reading The Necromancer’s Bride…yes, I know, slightly confusing). Also there’s a 5th novel coming!! It’s not on GoodReads yet but was named in the end notes for Necromancer, and it’s called The Dead Ringer.

Favorite Things

“You won’t be laughing so hard when my wife gets here,” Gabriel said. 
The guards exchanged a solemn look.
“His wife,” Daan echoed in a quaking voice. “Well, now I’m truly terrified.”…
“Will she bring her rolling pin?” 
“No, no, it’ll be knitting needles,” Daan put in. “She’ll poke us and tell us we’re very naughty boys.”

  • This exchange. Because if they only knew…and then they are properly educated and it’s both awesome and hilarious.
  • Besides the romance, which I found much more believable in this book than the last – if you read my review of A Bad Breed, due to the whole Belle and the Beast thing felt kind of forced – there was intrigue and evilness going on that was awesome and kept me reading.
  • Balthazar! Can someone please give me some more of Balthazar’s story? He’s such a morally grey character and yet he seems to be an actual teddy bear inside.
  • Anne continues to be a total badass, and in this book she is the BADDEST of the badasses. Gabriel, of course, and Balthazar also kickass, but they get themselves into PROBLEMS and have to be rescued by the tiny little lady. It’s awesome. YES PLEASE.

She was barefoot and painted head to toe in dried blood. With her wild auburn hair, she reminded Balthazar of the Celtic queen who had burned Londinium to ashes and whipped the Romans so badly they almost fled Britain. 

Less Favorite Things
  • There is still so much unexplained about the magic of this world, and the daevas and necromancers in general. Where did this come from? Why are they immortal? I need details. This might have been explained in the first books of the series, but I feel like if the later books are to be read as standalones there needs to be some kind of refresher course in them as well. I found myself a bit frustrated by the lack of info and occasionally confused.

Overall 4/5 stars, and I’m eagerly waiting for the next one!

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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.

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four-stars

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Jul 01

A Bad Breed – Tour + Review!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 1 ★★★★



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
Goodreadsfour-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.

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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.

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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
Goodreadsthree-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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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
Goodreadsthree-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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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
Goodreadsfour-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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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
Goodreadsthree-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
Goodreadsfive-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
Goodreadsfour-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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