Tag: fantasy

May 20

The Bone Charmer – Review and Tour!

Book Reviews 0

Be sure to check out all the stops on the tour over at The Fantastic Flying Book Club! Also scroll to the bottom to enter the giveaway!

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The Bone Charmer – Review and Tour!The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields
Published by Page Street Kids on May 21, 2019
Pages: 400
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads

In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.

On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.

Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.

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 Bone Charmer is the kind of book that knocks the breath out of you. And then revives you, just a little bit, enough that you see the light at the end of the tunnel and hope that it’s not, you know, THE light. But enough with my ridiculous metaphors.

Saskia is a seventeen year old girl who has lost almost everyone dear to her in the last year. When her bone kenning doesn’t go as she hopes, her life splits into two different realities. Both were equally captivating and as they wove closer and closer together I got more and more worried – but I still didn’t see THAT ending coming.

This story punches hard in the feels. HARD. That is undoubtedly it’s strong point. The worldbuilding is a little vague, as the world is clearly a fantasy that is loosely based in some type of medieval European setting. The different magics – all involving bones – aren’t spelled out in detail, but enough to keep them separate and for their basic uses to be clear.

I loved Saskia, though she seemed a little spoiled at first. She grows so much through the story, it was quite painful at times. She is brave, but a little reckless. Her mother too, I felt a lot for. I think she could have been more open with Saskia and it might have spared them a lot of the struggles they went through, but she was doing as any parent with a heart would, and trying to spare her daughter further pain.

The idea of two realities worked a lot better than I was expecting! I got confused at the very end, but I think that is because the characters were equally confused. Phew. That ending. Please, PLEASE tell me there will be a sequel! I need to know!

There isn’t really a lot of romance in this book! There is some, but it’s really in the beginning stages and was just super sweet. I did really like that Saskia had a history with her interest, instead of it being an insta-love thing. In the end though, this is NOT your typical “love saves the day” or even a HEA. I did really like a certain guy, ahem. Again, PLEASE let there be a sequel!

4/5 stars overall. Lovely story that completely held my attention!

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About the Author

 

Breeana Shields is an author of fantasy novels for teens including THE BONE CHARMER, POISON’S KISS, and POISON’S CAGE. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English.

When she’s not writing, Breeana loves reading, traveling, and playing board games with her extremely competitive family. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, her three children, and two adorable, but spoiled dogs.

 

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Jun 18

Review of The Fallen Kingdom

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 6 ★★★★★

When I was approved for a NetGalley copy of this book, I could not have been more excited! This was totally me:

And then I put off reading it for months because I’m terrified of endings. Then when I did read it, all I could do was flail because it was still months from being released. So now…drumroll please! I can finally bring you my review of The Fallen Kingdom, the last book in Elizabeth May’s delightful The Falconer Trilogy (but hopefully far from the last book she publishes).

Review of The Fallen KingdomThe Fallen Kingdom (The Falconer, #3) by Elizabeth May
on June 13, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars
two-flames

The long-awaited final book in the Falconer trilogy is an imaginative tour-de-force that will thrill fans of the series. Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her. Packed with immersive detail, action, romance, and fae lore, and publishing simultaneously in the UK, The Fallen Kingdom brings the Falconer's story to an epic and unforgettable conclusion.

SPOILER ALERT for the first two books of the series! You can read my reviews of those here: The Falconer (Book 1), and The Vanishing Throne (Book 2).

The Fallen Kingdom picks back up exactly where The Vanishing Throne left off – at least in Aileana’s mind. In reality quite a bit has happened and I was super confused for a few chapters. This would be a negative EXCEPT Aileana is just as confused as the hapless reader and so it’s perfect. She slowly pieces together what happened to her and everyone else and while she’s just as much a badass as ever (and still feels the need to remind us of that now and again), she is not as in control as she seemed before, despite having all the unnatural powers of the fae. Aileana is human, and humans imbued with fae powers…well, it’s not working out so well for her.

Kiaran…um. Well. Kiaran is just as dark and broody as ever. His day/night personality was more in evidence here, and it was more disconcerting than ever before. However…he still wasn’t as dark as I was expecting. Good thing…I guess? He’s the Unseelie King, he’s supposed to be evil and dark and twisted…and he was, but we don’t really see that directly. Also when Kam actually gets to him it was a little anticlimactic because he really didn’t seem all that different. The end though…be. still. my. bleeding. heart.

Aithinne as queen of the Seelie fae is just as amazing, hysterical, and badass as ever. I still adore her. I still want her to be my best friend.

She still has the best lines in the book but I unfortunately can’t quote any of them because my ePub file expired and my copy of the book hasn’t arrived yet. Bad book blogger.

I LOVED the way the legend of the Morrigan and her sister was woven into the story. I definitely need to brush up on my Scottish mythology/folklore, because I’m fairly certain I was missing some subtle nuances but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

As you can see, I had a few issues with the story, as characters weren’t quite what I expected or weren’t as developed as I hoped…but Elizabeth May managed to write such an amazing story with characters I was SO committed to, and also to not make it a happily-ever-after fairy tale. It has aspects of it, but…it’s not entirely, and that was part of what made me rate it 5 stars.

I can’t wait to see what Ms. May writes next! She’s definitely on my auto-buy list. Personally, I would love to see a book (or two or three) with Aithinne as the main character. Hint, hint, Ms. May. 😉

Many thanks to Chronicle Books and NetGalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review!

five-stars

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Apr 08

The Iron King

Book Reviews 1 ★★★½

The Iron KingThe Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1) by Julie Kagawa
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 1st 2010
Pages: 363
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Time for a mini-review! I read The Iron King in a couple of hours and it was such a fast, fun book.

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The Iron King is a fun, fluffy read with a little danger, a little romance, and a lot of faeries. Also a little Alice in Wonderland – that part left me a bit flabbergasted…exactly how does the Cheshire cat fit into the faery world of redcaps and chimeras? But ok. It was definitely interesting. The hands down BEST part of this book is all the descriptions of the various fae, the Winter, Summer, and Iron Courts. I haven’t read many books based around the fae, so to me at least the Iron Court construct was entirely new and OMG IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Holy shit balls batman. Consider me successfully creeped out and a little sad.

The characters…well, the MC is actually not that compelling. I was not a real Meghan fan, but I definitely didn’t hate her. Her motivations I could understand though, and her love for her little brother melted my heart. Her loyalty was also something I could relate to…Meghan is incapable of putting any goal or end result before the people she cares about, even when the result would be the greater good. Now Robbie, I loved. I hope we see a LOT more of him in the next books! Ash was…ooooh, look, tall-dark-handsome-brooding-powerful-hero = instalove. SIGH. He had some cool powers though. The romance was meh. Meghan is very young and naïve and…well, maybe that’s my almost-30-year-old self being jaded but I just wasn’t feeling it AT ALL.

3.5/5 stars overall. I’m looking forward to the next book and can’t wait to see how this Iron Court thing plays out! It wasn’t a true hangover ending but it’s SO wide open for more possibilities…

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I won an e-book of this from a blog giveaway ages ago, and finally got around to reading it! Sadly I don’t remember which blog, but in case THEY remember – thank you!! 😀 This counts for my 75 in 2017 challenge, and the Beat the Backlist 2017 challenge.

three-half-stars

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Mar 01

Writing Up Wednesday #6: Give me ALL THE SETTINGS!

Books/Writing 0

writing up wednesday

Welcome to the next week of Writing Up Wednesday! I’ve been so excited to see more people participating in this, I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂 Besides the writing I do for my blog, I’ve also started writing fiction again this year. NaNoWriMo 2016 really kicked me into gear and got me excited about writing again. It’s an excitement that I hope will last, and there’s no better way than to keep motivation up than to share it! I know a lot of my blogger friends also have writing goals outside of their blogs. Week to week I want to discuss various different topics related to writing, and I’ll put a link-up at the bottom of each topic post. This week we have:

Writing Up Wednesday #6: Give Me ALL THE SETTINGS!

The setting of your story may seem like a background element, but in all but a very, very few books the setting is one of the MAIN elements and usually effects your story to a large extent. Different genres call for different settings, some requiring more research than others. A fantasy novel is usually has very involved worldbuilding, but the only facts you have to check are the ones you make up! In a historical fiction, however, factual accuracy is EXTREMELY important and hunting your facts can take as long or longer than the actual writing!

My current novel is a high fantasy, so I’ve put A LOT of effort into my world. While it’s somewhat inspired by medieval British and European cultures, some of it is also very loosely inspired by Greek mythology. At least right now. I’ve started to struggle with that aspect of it so I’m considering writing it out! Which would be…different.  On the other hand, a lot of it I just totally made up and it gets confusing! I have sections in Scrivener for the history, for the different levels of society, for the magic system…a horribly drawn map (haha). I also use a rather detailed set of worksheets that cover everything from outline to setting to characters.

I do need visual representation of things though, so I found a couple of castles (one in Scotland…be still my heart) that to me represent the main residences of the story. If you’re interested, check out my Pinterest board for the entire novel (including how I see my characters! *heart-eyes*). 😀 I have no artistic ability of my own, so drawing or sketching anything is out of the question. Every now and then I get a specific idea of something in my head though, and off I go to Pinterest or Google Images until I find it! And it’s only then that I can write a proper description. See, the ability to draw would be SO incredibly helpful. 😛

What’s your setting like? How much time do you spend making sure that you don’t change something halfway through (I read a very popular book awhile back, where the villain had red hair…until a random scene near the end of the book, where it was black…aaaaaand then back to red)? I know that’s what editing is for but I’m positively ANAL about keeping track of as much as I possibly can so that I don’t get confused.

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Jan 28

Book Blitz for Celtic Fire

Book Tours 0

I’m excited to be participating in this book blitz for Celtic Fire, facilitated by Xpresso Book Tours! The author is new to me, but this sounds like it could be a real winner.

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book blitz for celtic fire

book blitz for celtic fire

Celtic Fire
Liz Gavin
(Highland Celts Series, #1)
Publication date: January 31st 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Paranormal Romance

This is a standalone, historical/paranormal romance. Its mature themes – violence, religious war, and pagan rituals – might not be appropriate for audiences under 18.

When ancient gods ruled and Druids kept Faith alive, the Celts thrived as a democratic, matriarchal society. Then savage Roman soldiers swept across Europe, killing and enslaving. The Celts did not succumb without a fight. Their Old Ways survived centuries of ruthless domain until another menace loomed: a tortured god worshiped in cold stone buildings. The sacred shores of Avalon began to drift away, the mists threatened to hide the island from mortal eyes forever.

Against the bleak backdrop of war, the gorgeous Scottish Highlands stood tall, sheltering its inhabitants from greedy invaders. Yet the reach of the eagle banners was long and the highlanders turned to the Goddess for protection. However, the sacred groves felt silent and grim as Avalon faded away. Once sad, pealing bells began to sound strangely comforting while the high walls of monasteries offered an alluring barrier from violence. Caught in the middle of this centuries-old war, a young High Priestess might be Avalon’s last chance.

Wise beyond her years and powerful like no other Priestess in her lifetime, Rowen had served the Goddess faithfully, forsaking her family and the company of her soulmate. When the Lady of the Lake asks for another sacrifice, it might be one too many for her scarred heart. How could she obey the Goddess without betraying Caddaric? Could she trust Eochaid, who embodied everything she despised and hated? Would she be able to fulfill her duties without losing her soul?

Caddaric had been Rowen’s companion in countless lives; but, now, they existed in different realms. Beautiful Rowen lived in the mortal world while sweet Caddaric remained in the sacred isle of Avalon, watching over her. Could he step aside to allow another man – a flesh and blood man – to become her protector?

Eochaid had sworn to protect the Old Ways. The rude warrior never quite understood his faith yet his loyal heart belonged to the Goddess. A gorgeous, fiery High Priestess was not in his plans. He would risk his life to protect Rowen; but, would the Goddess safeguard his heart? Could he defend the bewitching maiden from himself?

When stakes were so high that a simple mistake could cost their very world, a priestess, a Druid, and a warrior must learn to trust each other and the mysterious ways of the Goddess. Their success would save Avalon. Their failure would tear the island from the human realm forever, condemning it to oblivion.

Failure was not an option.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Rowen
Although my heart is heavy and my thoughts are gloomy, I take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand. I search for the sacred oak, the oldest tree in the grove. Finding it, I lie on the ground, face down, in front of the revered tree. Earth’s energy radiates from the ground, traveling through my body and limbs, filling me with a potent magnetism, and making my skin tingle as I say my prayer.

“Forgive me, Great Mother. I have failed you yet again. I am your vessel on this realm and as such I should never doubt your ways. Nevertheless, when the time came for Caddaric to go back to Avalon, I despaired and fought against the inevitable, as I always do.

Please, give me strength to control my weak heart, wisdom to understand your signs, and courage to do your bidding.”

The wind picks up around me making the dry leaves and little twigs swirl. Faint whispers come in the breeze. A thousand gentle fingers move over my body caressing, soothing me.

“Oh, Mother, you are too kind and never abandon me. I promise to serve you faithfully and perform my duties accordingly from now on.”

The wind blows stronger, molding my clothes to my body, covering me in dry leaves. I feel faint and when I open my eyes, I’m not in the sacred grove any longer. I’m lying on a sunny field, there’s a gentle breeze blowing from the distant line of apple trees, bringing the sweet smell of their flowers in full bloom. Recognizing my beloved isle of Avalon, I get up and look around. I see the Lady of the Lake standing just a few feet away. I go to her and offer a curtsy. The Lady gently holds me by my shoulders, smiles serenely and holds my gaze. Not for the first time, I wonder if her eyes can read my soul.

“Rise, Rowen, my child. And do not cry. You should rejoice over your successes instead of mourning what you perceive as failures. Your apprentices look up to you and seek your guidance, because your advice is wise and respectful. The villagers worship the Great Mother according to the old traditions, because they follow your firm yet kind leadership. Despite being so young, my beautiful Rowen, you are wise and your people respect you.”

I am touched by her words. I never expected the Lady of the Lake herself would answer my prayer and come talk to me, comfort me.

“You are too kind, my lady. I am honored and, although I think I do not deserve your comfort, I am thankful.”

“I speak only the truth, Rowen, as all true servants of the Goddess shall do. Now, you will not like what I need to tell you. You have always been loyal to your vows and I count on that loyalty to see you through the task I need you to undertake.”

“You frighten me, my lady. What do you need from me? You know I would never deny you, or the Great Mother, anything.”

book blitz for celtic fire book blitz for celtic fire

Author Bio:

International best-selling author Liz Gavin, has accomplished much in her short career. Her books have made to #1 and Top Five best-selling ranks in her home country Brazil and others as diverse as Japan, the UK and the US; both in English and Portuguese, collecting 5 and 4-star reviews. Nominated for a Summer Indie Book Award in 2016, and again in 2017, this RWA member constantly seeks new opportunities to improve her craft.

This thirst for knowledge propelled Liz to leave the comforts of family and friends in Brazil and move to California to pursue a Master’s degree in late 2015. She lives in sunny SoCal, where she’s researching the writing process, for her thesis, in hopes to figure out why she creates in English instead of her native Portuguese.

Liz Gavin writes in contemporary, paranormal, and historical genres. In her sexy stories, one finds smart, independent women, who don’t need rescuing by knights in shining armor, but indulge in steamy action with swoony Alpha males with big hearts. She also writes about women discovering their sexuality and finding happiness in unconventional setups.

Blog / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Amazon / B&N

 

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Jan 21

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Book Reviews 0 ★★★

Mini Review of Silver on the Tree by Susan CooperSilver on the Tree (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book Five) by Susan Cooper
Published by Listening Library on February 26th 2002
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Goodreads three-stars

The final volume of Susan Cooper's brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.
The Dark is rising in its last and greatest bid to control the world. And Will Stanton--last-born of the immortal Old Ones, dedicated to keeping the world free--must join forces with his ageless master Merriman and Bran, the Welsh boy whose destiny ties him to the Light. Drawn in with them are the three Drew children, who are mortal, but have their own vital part in the story. These six fight fear and death in the darkly brooding Welsh hills, in a quest through time and space that touches the most ancient myths of the British Isles and that brings Susan Cooper's masterful sequence of novels to a satisfying close.

Notes on the audio version:

Alex Jennings narrates the last of this 5 book series, and I was very glad to have him back as a narrator! I’m not sure why they switched on book 4, and while that narrator was fine, I like continuity. That said, the audio QUALITY on this version was ATROCIOUS. It’s been digitized from cassette tape, I’m almost positive, and it was absolutely horrible. As soon as I started it I knew I was going to struggle through it because it just sounded old and a bit crackly. Ugh.

The book – short review:

I’ve read this entire series by audiobook, and while I enjoyed it, I really think I need to go back and read them as books. Sometimes I would have gaps of days in between my listening within a book, and gaps of weeks or even months between the books themselves, so I got a little confused. The whole series seems a bit un-explained, to me, and I’m really kind of perplexed that I couldn’t get as into it as so many other people. I didn’t like the way the point of view jumped back and forth between the Drew kids and Will, I didn’t like the way the “magic” was never fully explained (at least not to my satisfaction), and I didn’t like the characters themselves much! I was especially affronted by how the female characters are either air headed (Jane) or magical. Why is this series considered to be so brilliant? I really feel like I’m missing something.

Despite that, I stuck it out for the entire series and was fascinated by the setting of Wales and England. I think that, given how short the books are, I will go back and re-read them at some point. I think maybe all my gaps in reading effected my comprehension of the plot. I really don’t think anything can rescue the characters though.

Challenges:

This one counts into my Audiobook Challenge 2017, my 75 in 2017 GoodReads challenge, and my Beat the Backlist Challenge! 😀

three-stars

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Jan 17

Review of The Star-Touched Queen

Book Reviews 4

Review of The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 342
Goodreads

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

This has been on my TBR since before it was released last year! I’m so excited to have finally read it. So without further ado, I present my review of The Star-Touched Queen!

“I am  a frightened girl, a roaring river and night incarnate….And I will not be tethered. My life belongs to me.”

Feels:

Reading The Star-Touched Queen was like falling headfirst into a swirling vortex of color, light, and strange beasts. It was beautiful, fascinating, terrifying, and slightly confusing at times.

Characters:

Maya is one of the many sons and daughters of the Raja of Bharata. Ostracized for her “cursed” horoscope her entire life, Maya has developed more independent thinking than most of her sisters. I immediately admired her resiliency in adapting to her less-than-ideal circumstances. I loved her protectiveness towards her younger sister Gauri. Very endearing. I didn’t quite understand some aspects of Maya’s character though…some of which I think may be due to cultural differences. For instance, near the beginning of the book, she makes a certain choice (no spoilers), that for the life of me I cannot understand and to me seems very out of character for what we know of her, up to that point, and even to her as we see later in the book. I just don’t understand it at all.

Maya does a lot of growing in this story. She changes. She comes to realize who and what she is, is not determined by her horoscope.

Once, I would have hurled curses at the stars. But the longer I looked, the less I hated them. The stars, filled with cold light and secrets…I, not the starlight, shaped my decisions.

Amar is the hero of the story…or is he? What is he? He’s so mysterious, so confusing…and holy shit, the man has some of the most amazing one-liners I’ve ever read. Like melt-my-heart kind of one-liners. Stop and think and WOW kind of one-liners. At the same time…he seemed to be a lot of smooth talk and not a whole lot of action. At least that was my impression. As more of his character and his life is revealed…well, you’ll have to judge him for yourself. His quotes are amazing though.

“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers.”

“There is no romance in real grief, only longing and fury.”

To be honest, while I liked both Maya and Amar, I wasn’t OMG invested in either one of them. I think this was at partially because I was so overwhelmed by the world and everything that was happening (more on that later). I’m really eager to see how the next book plays out, thought I’m afraid that since it’s focusing on Gauri, we won’t really get to know Maya and Amar much better.

Plot:

Bharata is at war. The Raja will stop at nothing, nothing, to win and secure peace. However, all that quickly takes a backseat to the journey that Maya takes with Amar, to the kingdom of Akaran. Everything slows way down once they arrive there, and several chapters are spent wandering around the palace and discovering ALL SORTS OF THINGS. It was beautiful, but it was slow. While I was intrigued, I kept wondering when something was going to happen.

Once things started moving again (oh look…there’s ONE THING Maya is not supposed to do…and what do we all do when told about ONE THING?), they really start moving. I was NOT prepared for all the world-time-space jumping and more than once literally felt like I was falling into that vortex. It was amazing, but it seemed a bit disjointed at times.

About halfway through the book, I realized that there were really TWO major plot lines. My little light-bulb came on, and that was very helpful…but I really feel like it could have somehow been done better to avoid all the “WTF is going on” moments I had. I really doubt I’m the only one having these thoughts, but if I am…you know. I might just be weird.

I really like that there is no prince-saving-the-princess going on here. Yes, there is a love story. It’s beautiful, and powerful. However. Maya and Amar both remain fully their own people and in the end, Maya is the one who really does the saving.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

This, my friends, is where The Star-Touched Queen shines. The world building here is nothing short of phenomenal. The fuzziness of the plot was forgivable so long as I could live in this bright, beautiful, and unfathomably deep world. It glows. It glitters. Rosin Chokshi employs all five of the reader’s senses when building her world. I could smell the spices, see the split skies, hear the jingle of bells. It’s by turns beautiful and frightening.

The world and characters are largely drawn from traditional Indian (Hindu?) mythology and culture. Now, I am almost entirely unfamiliar with both, so maybe I was a little more in awe and sometimes a little more confused than a reader with more background. I had next to none, but the awesome thing is: it didn’t matter. Chokshi has missed nothing…I could see every step Maya took in the palace halls, I could feel her falling through space, I could see both the beauty and the horror of her journey. As someone with no frame of reference for this world, I can’t say enough good things about this aspect of the book. I was fascinated. When I was confused, it wasn’t for lack of being able to picture what was going on but being at a loss as to WHY or HOW something was happening.

I had never read a fantasy book where reincarnation was treated as…well, as anything! It added an amazing new element and all kinds of new possibilities. I found it a little hard to wrap my head around, but I hope to see it again in the second book.

Rating/Thoughts:

4/5 stars. Half a star off for the meandering and delay of the plot after the story moves to Akaran, half a star for the confusion and lack of explaining on how the space/time thing worked. Maybe I’m just a confused muppet but I really could have used a little more explanation…shocking, coming from someone who usually complains about too much telling versus showing.

I’d love to hear what other readers thought of this book! Was I the only one confused?


Challenges:

This book counts towards my 75 Books in 2017 Challenge, the Beat the Backlist Challenge, and the Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge!

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Jan 13

Review of Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book Reviews 4

Review of Fairest by Marissa MeyerFairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 220
Goodreads

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I was so excited to have this book (along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles #1-4!) under the tree for me this year! When I first heard of Fairest I wasn’t convinced I would want to read any story from Levana’s point of view (already having read the 4 main books), but I enjoyed the world so much I decided that yes, indeed, I would probably just have to read them all. So, I present you with my review of Fairest! (A few days late, because my DH was hit with an EXTREMELY violent bug of some kind and I was busy taking care of him!)


“Love is a conquest. Love is a war.”

Feels:

I went into this absolutely positive I would never feel anything remotely akin to sympathy for Levana. She’s such an unholy terror in the other books! And seemingly without reason. I felt like she just liked being evil and inflicting pain on others (which I guess is partially true but there’s so much more to it than that). However, about halfway through I changed my mind. Of course I already knew roughly how it would end, but it was just so tragic. I was so overwhelmingly sad. Levana as a young woman had so much potential, if she had just had someone to help her channel her emotions and teach her how to overcome.

Characters:

She tried to brush away the sting of rejection, the knowledge that she was still not good enough…she pressed the feelings down, down, letting them turn hard and cold inside, while her face was smiling and pleasant.

Obviously, this is Levana’s story. However, we see characters familiar to us sprinkled throughout (especially if you’ve already read Winter, like I had), which was fun. Some of the characters that have already passed on in the other books are here and alive, too. We get to see some of the events that are only speculated on by Cinder and her friends. There are a couple of other characters that are new to this story, that really wrung my little heart out as well.

When we first meet Levana here she’s a relatively normal 15 year old girl! She’s been abused at the hands of her egotistical, cruel older sister, neglected by cold, distracted parents, and pushed and pulled into the image of a perfect princess (since, as the second born daughter, she’s only fit to be married off). Levana is gifted – or cursed – with a quick mind, intelligent and resourceful – the mind of a queen. She’s also terribly scarred, as much mentally and emotionally as physically. This combination has resulted in her being an entirely self-centered, self-absorbed person who quite literally never thinks of other people or their feelings except as they pertain to HER feelings or desires.

I think that in the end, selfishness was Levana’s true issue. She is one of the most selfish characters I’ve met in a long time. She becomes egotistical, but she didn’t start out that way. She reacts to pain by assuming that the world owes her something (not a hard conclusion to come to, when you’re a spoiled princess anyway). She comes to believe that she is entitled to whatever she wants, no matter what it takes to get it. No matter how much she might hurt other people, even the one person she actually cares about. She has no concept of true love for anyone. She hurts, but beyond that she knows almost no emotion.

Plot:

This is a novella, so the plot is pretty straightforward. I.e., how Levana became queen and all the people she hurt in the process.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

If you’re familiar with any of the other Lunar Chronicles books, you’re already familiar with Luna and her people. If you’re not, I strongly recommend starting with Cinder! This story is basically the backstory that we never see fully in the main 4 books. You could start with Fairest, as chronologically it is actually first, but I don’t think it’s very interesting without that prior knowledge. The setting is there, but it’s not explained as well.

Rating:

3.5 stars. I’m struggling to give this one 4 because it really feels like a flashback that should have been somewhere in Cinder, also aside from Levana’s becoming a psycho it’s all focused on luuuuuuuv. And I just…I’m so tired of twu wuv being THE motivator of teen girls. I mean I know we were all there once. But come on! I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Challenges:

This is 2/75 for my 75 in 2017 GoodReads Challenge, and 1/40 of my Beat the Backlist Challenge!

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Jan 10

Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

Book Reviews 5 ★★★★★

Review of The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Before I get to my actual review of The Bear and the Nightingale (possibly my longest review ever), I have a little note:

Dear 2017,

I’m sure you’re aware of what a suck-tastic year 2016 was, for so many people. I really appreciate your efforts to make up for it by giving us this amazing treasure of a book so early in the year. The Bear in the Nightingale is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time. It’s savage. It’s painful. And it’s phenomenally lovely. I had chills. I cried (and not just the tears-in-my-eyes kind…the I’m-on-a-public-bus-and-I’m-trying-so-hard-not-to-sob-I’m-shaking kind). Thank you for giving me a stellar 2017 book to recommend to everyone I know. Thank you for giving me another author to put on auto-buy.

Please send more books like this my way this year. 

~Lizzy

P.S. On second thought, maybe just one a year is fine. I had to order both the US and UK editions, so very many of these might break my bank.


There was a time, not long ago
When flowers grew all year
When days were long
And nights star-strewn
And men lived free from fear

Just to clarify: The Bear and the Nightingale (TBATN) is NOT a YA book. I’ve seen it pop up on several lists as such, but it is not. It’s also NOT historical fiction, though it is heavily inspired by historical, medieval Russia. It is adult fantasy that reads almost entirely like historical fiction until Part II, where it starts to feel like magical realism historical fiction…so let’s just keep it simple and say fantasy. Could some teenagers read it and appreciate it? Yes, but the style is very different from most YA, and some of the content is definitely adult (marital rape and a little graphic violence). This obviously didn’t deter me from ADORING it, but I thought the slight genre-confusion I’ve been noticing was worth a mention.

In Russian, Frost was called Morocco, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.

Feels:

I am in love. With everything. With the world, with the characters, with the woods, the village. With Vasya. A little bit with Alyosha. I wept with Vasya and her family. I saw the spirits as Vasya did. I felt the fear of the villagers. I felt the pain and confusion of a young child with a wild, free spirit in a world that didn’t accept her. The writing in TBATN is astounding. Lyrical, whimsical, and utterly entrancing.

Characters:

“I am only a country girl,” said Vasya. “I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.”

Vasya, the main character, is my sister from another mother. I swear. Her love of nature, her stubborn refusal to accept the fate others wish to push on her, her refusal to be broken. I already said I love her but it bears repeating. The story spans from right before her birth to the time she is 14 years old. She doesn’t have an easy life, but she has to be one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Bent, at times, but never broken.

“All my life I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing.”

Now no joke, there are quite a few characters in this story. However, they are all so clear and distinct I was never confused. Not once. Not even with the Russian names. I did have to realize in the beginning that everyone had a given (fancy) name and a called (shorter, plainer) name, but since Arden stuck mostly to the called names it wasn’t hard. Also, each character experiences a growth arc in the book. No matter how minor, they show some growth and change – sometimes for good, sometimes for bad! That is an incredible feat and after reading so many books with such flat minor characters – amazing.

Romance – guess what? There is none. None. None, none, none, NONE! It’s such a beautiful breath of fresh air. There IS marriage. There’s also sex – and by sex I mean marital rape. It’s not graphic, but it’s obvious. I feel it’s treated as well as such a thing CAN be – these are medieval times, and in those times women were no more than property, no matter how highly valued that property. The women themselves often never questioned the right of their fathers and husbands to barter with them and then use their bodies for their own pleasure – it was a husband’s right and a wife’s duty! *insert much sarcasm* It definitely effects the entire dynamic of the story.

Plot:

TBATN is not a fast-paced book. It’s a slow burn building up to more and more – and it’s TOTALLY worth the read. All the details are beautiful and intriguing, and they really add to the mystery and overall atmosphere. The characters are really the driving force, and all the drama and suspense are very slow to build but after spending several chapters getting to know the people and the country I was already so invested I already knew I was in for the haul. Things really start to pick up with the arrival of a new priest in Vasya’s village. There is a struggle between the new Catholic church and the old spirits of the land and as things start to happen at first NOTHING is explained. Everything just kept building and building and there’s even a little mini-climax at one point (which was EXTREMELY satisfying), but things just keep going! Not only did it keep going, it picked up speed and I was completely wrapped up in the story.

As previously stated, there is no actual romance in TBATN. It doesn’t need it. There’s also not an entirely happy ending. It is…heartrending, yet hopeful at the same time. There’s no actual cliffhanger, but so much room for additional stories, and Vasya’s fate and path seem far from decided.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

Phenomenal. It truly has a historical feel to it. I’m not all the well-versed in Russian history or mythology, but the detailed notes on language and history at the end, as well as the comments I’ve read from people native to that part of the world seem to bear out that thought as well. The descriptions allow you to fall through the pages into the story, and it really feels like a full sensory experience. When the mythological creatures begin to appear, it feels so amazingly right.

Rating/Further Notes:

5 stars. I don’t have any more words for how beautifully savage this book is. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Arden comes up with next. I’ve heard rumors this is the first of a trilogy, but in her author Q&A page I only see mention of a sequel. I’ll be buying whatever she comes up with!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Challenges:

This one only counts towards my GoodReads challenge!

 

 

five-stars

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Dec 31

300 Followers Book Giveaway!

Books/Writing, Giveaways 24

I want to give a huge shout-out and thank you to everyone who has followed my little book blog in the past 5 months! In honor of ALL YOU WONDERFUL people I’m having a book giveaway. 😀 I’ve had a ton of fun and am continuing to have fun reading and sharing books with each and every one of you. I love getting to exchange thoughts and ideas with other bookworms, and there are SO MANY more reviews and thoughts I want to post! I’m hoping to add some more author interaction in 2017 as well as some more original content.

What: A paperback copy of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted or Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, shipped direct to you from The Book Depository! Winner’s choice. I wanted to let people choose between a standalone and a series starter, and I loved both of these!

 

 

Who: Any blog follower from ANY COUNTRY that TBD delivers to! You can see the list here.

When: Open from now until January 14th at 12 a.m., Seoul time.

How: Enter how you follow in the Rafflecopter linked below, subscribe via WordPress or Bloglovin’, leave a comment, Tweet and follow, share the giveaway on social media…lots of ways, and up to 20 entries possible per person! Links are in the right-hand sidebar. 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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