Soulless by Gail Carriger – Parasol Protectorate #1

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the premise contained all of my favorite things: supernatural beings, the Victorian era, and a feisty heroine. That was enough to intrigue me and give this book a shot. After reading it, I am so glad I did. Here is my review:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Unfortunately, Alexia accidentally kills the vampire while protecting herself – and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. News on this vampire’s death leads to an investigation that reveals that unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing. And everyone seems to believe that Alexia is somehow involved. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy?

To define this book by one genre would be doing it an injustice because it is such a mashup! You’ve got steampunk, Victorian social etiquette, comedy, romance, and of course, supernatural/paranormal fantasy. I loved this eclectic mix of themes because it added so much variety to the story! I absolutely adored Alexia. She is funny, and inquisitive, and everything I wanted her to be! She adheres to Victorian etiquette standards only when it suits her and her independent thinking gets her into a great deal of trouble. I love that the author always keeps her in the center of the action and never makes her rely on men to fix things for her. I also loved her romance with Lord Maccon, which I had guessed would happen right from the start; it is VERY believable and not exactly pg-13 (so I would advise younger teenagers to not read this book). The story itself was intriguing, with witty humor thrown in every now and then. I liked the mystery and the action, and the different supernatural beings who were involved. If anything, I wish the organization of the different societies had been given more details, as that would have given me a better understanding of this world that Alexia lives in. I had a great reading experience with this novel because I just found it to be so funny and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars for being weird and funny and everything else in between!

Happy reading ~

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Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

It has taken me a long time to get my hands on this book but I am so glad I did! I love everything about Peter Pan and I knew that this novel would be perfect for me, just by reading the premise. It reminded me of The Child Thief by Brom, which was also a really cool twist on the original Peter Pan story. Anyways, enough of my rambling, here is my review:

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups tHe brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Peter lied.

I think the premise is pretty clear on what the story is about. But it definitely doesn’t give you enough of an idea of how GOOD this novel is! I devoured it in one sitting and found myself thoroughly creeped out (in a good way, of course)! This novel is a very dark retelling, with plenty of violence and manipulation to keep the reader interested. It is very easy to believe in this dark and twisted Peter Pan, and the author does a fantastic job of sticking to this personality and developing it as the story goes along. The story is told from the perspective of Jamie, the first Lost Boy. Jamie has always loved Peter but now, he sees that things aren’t right, that Peter is not who he thought he was. The author does an amazing job of showing this gradual deterioration in the relationship between Jamie and Peter; with this deterioration comes an increase in tension and an intensity in the violence and brutality on the island. There were many points in time when I was holding in my breath, waiting for the tension to abate. There are a lot of heart-breaking moments in this novel; the author really knew how to get the reader invested in the fates of the characters! In a way, this novel reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies; there is this loss of innocence and complete breakdown of law and order, which is what leads to the disastrous and inevitable conclusion of the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves dark retellings!

Happy reading ~

The Final Book: Gods by SW Hammond

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book has been long overdue on my TBR list; I mean, it was published in June and I just got to it now. However, I was really excited to read this novel because of its connections to mythology. I love mythology and I’m always interested to see how authors will take stories and characters that we already know and incorporate them into a brand-new story. Here is my review:

In the beginning there was love. The Goddess of Life in an elated romance with a beloved mortal. Her sister killed him. Their combined actions ripping a hole in destiny and plagued mankind with an age of unprecedented corruption, vicious holy wars, and religious absolution.

Though long forgotten by the mortals they serve, Zeus and his Pantheon continue to foster and protect mankind which is tearing itself apart—but even God isn’t infallible. After failed diplomacy, the King of the Gods is left with no choice but to take the persona of a modern man—the famed genetic scientist Dr. Hork. In an effort to preserve the future by reshaping the past, Dr. Hork uses Project Genesis—the transfer of consciousness—to send subjects back in time. However, not without devastating failures. Subjects of the experiment wreak havoc upon humanity until a familiar character is reborn to correct the course.

Reincarnated and ready to fulfill his true destiny, Joshua Bach is the catalyst the Gods have been waiting for—and Dr. Hork’s final beacon of salvation. Ferociously idealistic, the free-spirited young man struggles to come-of-age in a time and society ruled by money and corruption. Under the wing of the Gods, Josh rediscovers his purpose, along with a love that can only be considered timeless.

I’m not going to give a rating for this book because I don’t think it would be fair (or accurate). This was a case where the book just did not work for me and I wasn’t able to finish the novel. The story started off interestingly enough but I couldn’t get into it and I felt like there was a lot going on for me. I think that the author actually did a really good job of taking the Greek mythological character and maintaining their personalities, even including little details. I think the reason this novel didn’t work for me was because there was just a lot going on. From cloning to theology, this book talks about everything. For me, that was a bit too much to handle. However, I want to mention here that this novel has gotten great reviews on Goodreads, reviews that will probably be more accurate. If you like Greek mythology and are looking for something deep and out of the norm, then this is the novel for you!

Happy reading `

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grandmére Ursule was one of the most powerful witches in her family. But when she dies trying to save the life of her tribe, her magic seems to have died with her. Even so, her daughters do their best to keep the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been a part of their family for generations. Then one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. The story traverses 5 generations of witches, from early 19th century Brittany to London during WWII as they fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, their futures.

I really wanted to love this novel but I didn’t. The book is broken down into multiple parts such that each witch from the next generation gets her own story. I love the idea of magic being passed down from mother to daughter but I think that is where the problem of this novel lay: for each generation, the story from the previous generation must be recounted, and the same reactions from the newest witch are described, and it just starts to become repetitive. It’s hard to break from that cycle when it is that very cycle that is being described in the novel. I think that out of all of the witches that were described, there was only one that was truly different from the rest. While I get that the same traits and powers will run in the family, the personalities of the different witches were too similar for my taste. And as I mentioned, the concept was interesting in the beginning but the story itself was too cyclic and repetitive to maintain my interest. The author did put a valiant effort in trying to tie in different historical events to change things up between generations, but the scenarios remained the same. I also wish there had been more supernatural elements; I would have loved to read about the different spells and things that they learned and the reasons why they did certain rituals. For me, there was just not enough of a unique story and so, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this premise so much that I had to request this ARC. I was so happy to have gotten my request approved and I’m even happier that I got the chance to read this novel because it was just such a fantastic read! Here is my review:

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey always knew he was different. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how special – and powerful – he really was. That tornado might have been the first event that had every happened to him … but it definitely wasn’t his last. Strange things seemed to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he tries not to take credit for them. While the powers seem amazing, they can also endanger Weylyn’s life and the lives of others. As Weylyn distances himself from his loved ones, those who care about him try to do everything they can to make him stay in their lives.

This story is told from multiple perspectives through various points of time. But every account centers around Weylyn and how he has changed that person’s life. I usually find that this kind of storytelling style can get quite complicated and murky. But the author handled it fantastically and I could not imagine this story being told in any other way. I love Weylyn; he is a sweetheart and someone I wish I could have met in my own life. He is conscientious and caring and always trying to be someone he is not. Every character that is introduced to him gets changed in their own way, and I love how each of these characters had their own unique voice and experience with Weylyn. Now, I usually prefer hearing things from the main character’s point of view but the author managed to give the reader a full appreciation for Weylyn through so many different perspectives that I was just as happy. I would not say that this story is plot-driven; it’s more about Weylyn struggling to deal with his abilities and finding himself. If you are looking for something more plot based, you probably won’t enjoy this story. I loved the simplicity of the motives behind Weylyn’s actions, as well as that of others. This story also pulled at my heartstrings; I didn’t realize how attached to Weylyn I had become as I was reading this book! Overall, this was just a lovely engrossing read that used an interesting style to shed light on a wonderful protagonist. I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of magical realism and sweet character-driven stories! I’m giving this novel 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

 

 

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst – Queens of Renthia #2

I loved the first book in this series Queen of Blood and I knew I had to get my hands on the second one. As soon as it came out, I went and bought it. But that’s where I made the mistake. You see, when I buy books, I get really excited to read them… but then they end up on my bookshelf and never get read. I get so overwhelmed by ARCs and books I’ve borrowed from the library so I prioritize those over books I’ve bought. I tell myself I’m going to get to it eventually … but I never do. This time, however, I tricked myself (sort-of!); I bought the book but also placed a library hold on it. When the library hold came through, I took the physical book from my bookshelf. I outsmarted myself …  I think! Either way, the book has been read so here is my review:

Just 6 months ago, Daleina used her strength and skills to survive the spirits and become Queen. Since then, she has worked hard at keeping the peace between the spirits and humans. However, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she dies before an heir is chosen, the spirits will take over her realm and kill everyone. Naelin is a woodswoman who could be the heir Daleina so desperately needs – but she doesn’t want to be Queen. Her world consists of her two children, her husband, and the remote village she lives in. But when Ven, the Queen’s champion, passes through, Naelin’s boastful husband can’t help but let slip of his wife’s abilities. For Ven, this is the best news; he can find someone to help Daleina through this difficult time. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

I really loved this sequel, perhaps even more than the first book. This novel had everything I have ever wanted from a fantasy story: adventure, magic, strong characters, and lack of cliches. I loved how the story was more mature this time; the characters aren’t children anymore. They’re adults making difficult decisions about life, death, safety, and duty. Everything was perfectly balanced: the adventure, the romance, the tension, the mystery. I loved all of the new characters that were introduced and I loved how well they interacted and played their part in this story. As a reader, I love when you get characters that have depth to them, and this was the case here. I also found the story itself compelling, and I literally could not put this book down for a minute! I think that this is a real gem of a fantasy series that more people need to be aware of; it is fast-paced, well thought out, and it will leave you wanting more! 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

The Ninth Circle: Fire by C.A. Harland

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What drew me to this novel was the beautiful cover design and the fact that it features females as the protagonists. I love fantasy and supernatural novels that have strong females in them, and this one seemed like one of them. Here is my review:

Tala Morgenstern has grown up hunting demons. Her family are all Nightwalkers, and it is their duty to protect humans from supernatural beings. But when her younger sister, Hartley, disappears while looking for her long-lost father, Tala must reach out to her other sister, Aiva. Aiva is the only Morgenstern who has turned her back on the underworld … but the underworld hasn’t forgotten about her. Reluctantly, Aiva agrees to help Tala track down Hartley. But as they investigate, they discover that there is something more sinister at hand. Now, they must make their way to the depths of the demon stronghold to save Hartley … before she can be claimed by hell.

If the TV show Supernatural had female protagonists and was in book format, this would be it. I used to be a big fan of the show, and I have to say that the similarities are uncanny. Both deal with family members who have gone missing on a “hunting” trip, and involve siblings coming together to discover the truth and fight supernatural creatures along the way. There are some unique elements, like the fact that Aiva can scry and make protection spells, but not much else. Was this an interesting read? Yes. It was fast-paced and action-packed. However, it was just too similar to the show for me to appreciate it as its own unique entity. Even the characters themselves resembled the Winchester brothers. And while I have no problems with authors being influenced by other ideas/stories, this was a little too much for me. Since it was still written well and exciting, I’m going to give this a 2/5/5 stars, rounded up to 3.

Happy reading ~

Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

So I’ve been trying to give high fantasy a chance, and I was told by a friend that this would be a good place to start. I was really happy to receive this ARC so here is my review:

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war. On both sides are sorcerers who use the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemies. But, somehow, the Amikans have found a way to use the seventh Decimate, and it is a power that strips all lesser sorcery of its powers. Now, the Bellegerins are defenseless. Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, hates sorcerers with a passion. But it is he who is given the task of finding the book of the seventh Decimate and reversing the fate of his land. All hopes rests on Bifalt. But the legendary library that houses this book is in a dangerous place, where Bifalt has never been before. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn.

I really wanted to like this book. But I didn’t. The problem wasn’t with the concept but rather the way the author told the story – it just didn’t do it for me. First of all, I didn’t like Bifalt. As in, I hated him. And that’s never a good sign when you are reading a book. This led me to not feel as connected with him and to also not care about what was happening to him. I also found that the story was a little hard for me to get into. For some reason, I couldn’t get myself to feel interested in what was being described or the events that were happening. I found myself skimming through passages looking for something juicy… but coming up empty. I will say that the author was very good at describing battle scenes; he made it realistic and didn’t glorify death and carnage, which I really appreciated. Overall, this novel has the potential to be a really great fantasy series but it’s just not for me. 2/5 stars from me!

Happy reading !

 

 

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

This novel is apparently a standalone that is linked to a previous series written by this author: The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. I’m really happy that the author created a book like this because getting into an epic or high fantasy series can be daunting at times, and I felt that this would kind of give me an idea of what I would be getting into if I did. So here is my review:

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer–she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial. Pyrre has no qualms about killing people. Her trial gives her 10 days to kill 10 people, as depicted in an ancient song, which includes  “the one you love / who will not come again.” Pyrre has never been in love, doesn’t even know what love feels like. And that is her biggest worry: how can she complete her trial when she cannot even find someone she can love? If Pyrre fails to complete her test, then she will be given up to the god. And while Pyrre doesn’t fear death, she hates failing. So, with a month before her trials begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love… and ending it on the edge of her sword.

I’m a sucker for stories with assassins. It’s what really drew me to this book. The author created a beautiful background and a wonderful setting. Everything was thought through and described wonderfully. I loved learning about the Dombang’s and the old gods and the new gods. I really liked Ru Lun Lac, the man Pyrre is trying to fall in love with; he was cunning and harsh and hard to read. I also liked all of the minor characters in the story. In fact, the only character I didn’t like was Pyrre. I felt as if her personality didn’t have the fire I wanted. Yes, she was this cool badass who kills like nobody else, but she didn’t really pique my interest. The other thing I didn’t like was the actual chemistry between Pyrre and Ru Lun Lac…. because there was none. It was just weird and I didn’t understand what was really going on between them. I actually loved reading about Pyrre’s backstory and that was what I wanted to keep reading about; I felt like if I understood more about what her childhood was like and her connection with old gods was, I would like her better. I didn’t like the ending of the story. I’m not going to tell you what it was but it was disappointing for me. Overall, this novel was not what I was expecting. Yes, I got the gore and violence and awesome story-building that I wanted. But I didn’t like the main character that much and the ending wasn’t up to my expectations. I will, however, give the actual series a chance because the world itself is too awesome to pass up on. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3!

Happy reading ~

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~