Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicle #5

It may have seemed as if I had forgotten about this book series… but I did not! As I mentioned previously, I have just had zero time for myself and that has led to a decline in my reading time, but I am working fast to make up for it. So without further ado, here I go:

In her latest adventure, Dido Twite is searching for Lord Herodsfoot, who is scouring the globe for new and interesting games. It’s up to Dido to bring him back to London, where an ill King James is in need of a distraction. Dido’s search takes her to a spice island called Aratu, where foreigners seldom venture due to the presence of the deadly pearl snakes and sting monkeys. When Dido lands on this island, she learns of something far more sinister than the poisonous snakes: there is a plot to overthrow the island’s king at his place on the Cliffs of Death. With the help of the Forest People, Dido rushes to the Cliff … but will she make it in time?

I have to admit, this has got to be one of my least favorite books in the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some positives and I still enjoyed the ride. Let me begin with what I liked:

  • the magic elements were super weird and cool. I liked the mysticism and the way in which those who could use magic were able to even convince the skeptics in the story.
  • Talisman and the Forest People were by far my favorite characters in the story. They were so different and I think Aiken did a fantastic job in creating them and giving them the ropes.
  • the plot against the King was typical Aiken and I loved it because it’s everything I expected and love about this series!

So clearly, there were some positives. However, there were some flaws that made this book drop below my expectations.

  • Dido lacked that charm I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. In this novel, she was quite flat and had no real purpose; this novel would have still moved fine without her presence.
  • Lord Herodsfoot and King were really blah characters. I just didn’t like their complete helplessness in every situation. I understand that Aiken created them specifically to be this way, but I just don’t like useless characters.
  • there were a lot of holes in the plot that didn’t make sense (and that’s saying something since most of the books in this series are wacky!) and the introduction into this adventure was very awkward and stilted. The transitions could definitely have been better!

Overall, the novel still maintained its wackiness and had an awesome fantasy element to it. However, it didn’t tie things as well as it could have and Dido really didn’t shine. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be better; for now, this novel gets a 3.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine – The Great Library #2

After the spectacular journey in Ink and Bone, it was all I could do to not rush out and get this next novel. I wanted to read it leisurely, when I knew I would have enough time and energy to devote to this series. As soon as I finished my last final, I put everything else away and began to read this book. Here is my review:

Jess Brightwell survived his introduction to the Library, but serving in the army is nothing like what he imagined. With his best friend lost and Morgan, the girl he loves, locked away in the Iron Tower, his life and the lives of his other friends has changed forever. After embarking on a mission to save a friend, Jess and his group of allies make one wrong move and find themselves being hunted by the Library’s automata, forcing them to flee Alexandria and head to London. But London is no longer safe. The Welsh army is approaching, London is burning, and Jess must decide where his loyalties lie.

Did this novel live up to the standards of Ink and Bone? Not a chance. To be quite honest, this novel was so lackluster in comparison to its predecessor. Nothing happens. Seriously, it’s just a lot of talking and conspiring. Almost all of the novel was spent with Jess and the rest of the gang trying to figure things out. It was quite annoying to continually read about this, especially once it became clear how things were headed. The craziness and the intrigue and the characters that had me so fascinated were very dull in this book. Jess had almost no personality, and none of the other characters sparked my interest like they did in the previous novel. There was just no growth and no forward movement except in little jerks. This book was definitely a disappointment, especially following the amazing quality of the first book. I hope that the next installment redeems this series!

Happy reading ~

Fyre by Katherine Bogle – Chronicles of Warshard #0.5

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

I was unaware that this was a novella when I first began reading but considering that I also received the ARC for Haven, the first novel in the series, I thought it would be a good idea to start with this prequel novella as it would give me an understanding of the major players!

Haven has never felt comfortable in royal gatherings and jumps at the chance to sneak away and race her brothers on horseback. But when the young princess is injured, her identity is called into question.

As heir to the Rythern throne, Lucian has a heavy weight on his shoulders. But when he is forced to leave the warfront by his father, he does so reluctantly. Little does anyone know that this decision would prove costly.

The battle for Helms Keep has disastrous consequences for Marcel. Soon he finds himself fighting both enemy forces and his own memories.

For her own safety, Astrid is sent to the family cottage in the Cinder Mountains. However, the cottage is less than cozy what with the frigid temperatures and knee-high snow. With only a few guards to protect her, Astrid must find a way to dig deep into herself and find a way to survive.

This novella served as a sneak preview for the story that comes ahead in Haven. I found the premise intriguing, but the short stories here were a bit too abrupt in the way they end. I liked reading the first story about Haven, but her other siblings weren’t all that interesting to read about. Hopefully, that isn’t the case in the first book! Either way, this novella has me interested in reading this series!

Happy reading ~

The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #4

What I love about this series is that you never feel like you’ve missed anything when you wait before reading the next book. In the beginning of each book, the reader gets a chance to remember the particulars that led to this current situation, and then the story takes up and you get lost in all the action. With this particular book, the author mentions that it can be read as a standalone and has no bearing on the rest of the series. So if you are intrigued by this author but don’t have the time to read the whole series, this book is a good place to start! Anyways, enough rambling, let me get on with my review:

On her way back to London aboard the Thrush, Dido and the crew are summoned to the aid of the queen of New Cumbria. Her island has been a source of help for Britain in the past, and now she uses that connection to seek justice. When the crew arrives, they find that the island is a very unusual place, full of birds that are big enough to carry off men, and fish that eat human flesh and leave only bones as remains. The queen is greatly distressed because she believes that a neighbouring king has stolen her lake. It is up to Dido and the rest of the crew to face the many dangers that are present on this island in order to get the lake back.

In comparison to the previous books in this series, this one is definitely unique. While this novel continues in the style of alternate history, we also see unique fantasy and mythology elements. Once again, we see Dido as the star of the show. Her humor and quick wit save her time and again. I actually loved the adult characters that were introduced here as Dido’s companions; unlike the other books, most of them were quite ready to follow Dido’s directives and were a great asset to her! The plot, while not related to anything Hanoverian, was still delightfully sinister, and the evil characters were quite well drawn up! There are certain things that I found weren’t addressed fully in the book, but apart from that, this novel was just as fun and amazing as every other book in the series! I think this may be one of my favorite stories about Dido so far, but I’m going to read the next one to see if it can top this!

Happy reading ~

Black Friday by B.R. Myers – Night Shift #2

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

After absolutely loving the first book in the series, I was really excited to have the chance to read this one. It’s taken me some time to get here, but now I’m done! So here is my review:

It’s been a month since 19-year-old Daniel Gale survived a vicious attack at Willard’s department store. As the culprit waits behind bars for a court date, Daniel and Mary spend every night shift researching Willard’s history in order to find some clue to save Mary and the others from a life stuck in the department store. But when an ally passes away, it reveals a shocking letter filled with confessions that will make Daniel and Mary question everything they thought they knew.

After really loving the first book, I am sad to admit that this one left me quite disappointed. The magic and the glamorous vibe were non-existent, and the plot plodded on to the point where I simply couldn’t care. Most of this novel was filled with Daniel wandering around, moping because he wanted to spend more time with Mary. And there were so many impassioned moments where they declared their love for each other… and it was really cringe-worthy. I couldn’t really feel the “true love” angle that the author was throwing in, because it just seemed to happen so quickly and with no real development! There was so much focus on the romance that I felt that the actual mystery-solving aspect got very little attention. I was craving clues and the kind of intrigue and suspicion that were the focal point in the previous novel. But since the author just glazed over it, I didn’t really feel invested. There were so many things that the author left open-ended in the book and that really bothered me. I don’t want to reveal any of them now because I don’t want to spoil the story but I really hope she clarifies it in the next novel. The last 50 pages or so moved at a very quick pace, which was a bit startling to read. But the author did leave an interesting segue for the next book in the series. I will definitely give the next novel a chance because there is a lot of potential for this series… I just hope that the author focuses more on the plot than the lovey-dovey feelings between Mary and Daniel!

Happy reading ~

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes #2

It has taken me a while to get to this book. Mostly because I really enjoyed the first novel and I was apprehensive as to whether I would like the second book. There’s this thing I like to refer to as “Second-Book Syndrome”; the second book in a series sucks in comparison to the first. I was worried that that would happen and so, I hesitated. But I finally got to reading it, so here is my review:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt them as they flee Serra and go on a dangerous journey through the heart of the Empire. Laia is determined to free her brother from Kauf, the most secure prison in the empire. And Elias is determined to help Laia, even if it means he loses his freedom. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

So…. this novel didn’t meet my expectations. I don’t know, maybe I set them too high? I really really liked the first novel, with its interesting Ancient Rome aspects and the dual storyline with Elias and Laia. In this one, however, the story plot was lacking. The story continued to be told in multiple perspectives but it started to get repetitive when it came to Laia and Elias because they were both together and going through the same thing. I really hated the fact that Elias had to go through so many issues in the novel; he literally never got a break. And Laia was super selfish. There was a love triangle and it made me feel really annoyed and upset, especially because it made the real “love” seem so fake. I really liked seeing Helen have her own perspective, because she was a character I had always been interested in and she was going through her own issues. Overall, the story was fast-paced but seemed to sacrifice on plot and character development because of this. I was quite disappointed with this novel and am probably going to have to give the rest of this series a pass.

Happy reading ~

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine – The Great Library #1

I love libraries. I love books. So it makes sense that I would be drawn to a novel that focuses on both of these things!

What if the Great Library of Alexandria had actually survived? Ruthless and powerful beyond belief, the Great Library controls the world, controlling the flow of knowledge and books to the masses. Through alchemical means, the Library allows its patrons to access the contents of the greatest works of history in an instant – but owning a book is forbidden by law. Jess Brightwell firmly believes in the values and authority of the Library, but his world is full of illegal books that his family sells on the black market. His family sees his love of books and the library and decide to use both to make him a family spy by helping him enter into the Library’s service. But the more time he spends training for a life in the Library, the more his loyalties are tested. In the end, Jess will have to decide if the Library is truly as good as it seems, especially as it seems to value knowledge and books over life.

Wow, was that a great book! I’m not kidding when I say that I loved every bit of it! The whole concept was just so interesting and the author did a great job spinning this crazy world, and I was instantly sucked in!

I really liked the whole concept of forbidden books. Trying to imagine a world where the only source of literature is through a library is so interesting. The author did a really nice job in illustrating both the positives as well as the negatives of having such a system. I liked the whole black market aspect, as it was reminiscent of The Book Thief (another novel that I really enjoyed)! While the author tried to include historical aspects to the novel, it wasn’t the central focus so if readers are expecting to see crazy historical differences, they may be disappointed. One thing I found confusing was that the novel was set in 2025 but there weren’t too many technological advances; you would think that with the amount of knowledge that the Library had, there would be more conveniences available. I mean, I still enjoyed reading about the steam carriages and automatons, but it was a bit weird. I loved all of the characters that were in the book, and I’m really glad that this novel did not have a love triangle; I’m getting quite bored of seeing that happen all the time! This novel chronicles the time that Jess and his fellow students spend getting trained in the Library, which I actually found really intriguing; most people get bored reading about lessons and learning experiences (I do, too) but the author wrote about this material in a way that kept interesting and exciting! I also loved that there were excerpts of letters at the end of each chapter that revealed some of the more secret aspects of the Library; it built up the tension and made the story come together in a really unique way! Overall, this was a really great novel and I’m already eager to get into the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

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

When I first read the premise of this novel, I was a little hesitant to read it. It sounded like every other teen fantasy story and I wanted to try something different than the norm. After reading this novel, I’m so glad that I was given the chance to read it because it was definitely unique and intriguing!

Tea never meant to resurrect her brother from the dead, but when she does, it becomes quite obvious that she has a different set of magical skills than the other witches in her family. Her gift of necromancy is not happily accepted by many in her community – or for that matter, anywhere. However, she soon finds solace and guidance in the company of a wiser and older bone witch, who takes Tea and her resurrected brother to a new land for training as a bone witch. Tea must now put all of her energy into becoming an asha, someone who can wield elemental magic using runes. She must also learn to accept her new life as a bone witch, with all its prejudices and difficulties. But dark forces are approaching and Tea doesn’t have much time to master her skills. In this new life, Tea must overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice, one that will change the future for her – and everyone around her – forever.

Before I read this story, I looked on Goodreads for what others thought about it and I was quite surprised by the amount of negative reviews. Most of them cited that the story was slow and not much happened in it, thus causing readers to lose interest. Bearing that in mind, I started to read.

What I discovered was a story with beautiful prose, rich in detail and character development. The book has been branded as a fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, and I would have to agree with this description. The asha are very much like geisha in terms of the obligations they have to tea houses, and in the manner in which they dress. What makes the asha different, however, is there power and magical abilities. While I found the concept to be interesting and well-executed for the most part, I wish the asha had been given a more powerful or stronger image; it’s great to hear about their singing and dancing abilities but I’d much rather have the asha also be admired for their fighting skills by their guests.

I really liked Tea’s character. Her voice (not referring to her singing or anything, by the way) for this story was beautiful and spellbinding and I loved to hear all of the descriptions of different aspects of her life. I enjoyed reading about her internal struggles to keep the darkness at bay, and I liked that the love interest angle was not overdone. It was also really cool to have the story told from her present self’s reflections of her past behaviour; it kept me wanting to know more about how she ended up in her present condition. I think the author did a fabulous job on that front!

The magical elements of this novel were fantastic. I loved everything from the runes to the undead demonic beasts to the mind control to the heartglasses. Everything was unique and important and it would always intrigue me enough to keep me wanting more!

Overall, I was quite impressed with this novel. It had a mature and lyrical tone and while it may have plied the readers with a great deal of detail, it allowed for the building of an intricate world and an intriguing story line. I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of Memoirs of a Geisha (which I adored!) but with a teen fantasy angle. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series!

Happy reading ~

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – Queens of Renthia #1

I’ve had my eye on this novel for a while. I really liked the premise of it, which reminded me a lot of the Queen of the Tearling series. I really like fantasy stories with strong female leads and this one showed a lot of promise.

Everything has a spirit, be it the wind or the stream or even a beautiful willow tree. But these spirits are malicious and they have only one desire: ridding the land of all humans. There is only one woman who can control these malevolent spirits, and it is the Queen. She alone has the power to bind the spirits and prevent them from harming or killing all of mankind. But even the queen is only human, and the threat of danger is ever-present. To protect the queen and safeguard the future of humanity, young women are chosen to train as heirs to the throne. These are women who are powerful, confident, and have an affinity for controlling the spirits. Daleina, is a quiet academy student, who simply wants to protect the weak – even as she knows she has no real claim to the throne. Ven is a disgraced Champion who has spent his time in exile fighting against the growing spirit attacks on villages in the outskirts. When these two join forces, they embark on a dangerous quest to find the source of the attacks. It is a journey that will test their courage and loyalty, as they make difficult decisions to protect their home… before it’s bathed in blood.

I really enjoyed this book. No, seriously, I really loved it. I sat down in a really uncomfortable part of my bed, thinking I would only read a chapter or two and when I next looked up, the whole day had gone and I was pretty much done the novel. That’s how good it was. I don’t think I’ve had a reaction like this since Queen of the Tearling! If you liked that series, then this is definitely a novel for you!

I thought the magic system with these spirits and powers was really well developed and quite cool! It was out of the ordinary realm of fantasy novels, which made me pay more attention to it. The author gave the right amount of detail in every instance; I never felt the need to skim because it was too much information, and I also never felt like it was lacking! I loved the richness of the world this author created because it truly was unique!

Daleina is an awesome character. She isn’t amazing at anything; she works hard to achieve her goals, and I really admire that. I’ve started to get bored of the stereotypical badass heroine – Daleina is definitely not stereotypical. She has her doubts and anxieties and she isn’t the best at anything. What makes her special is her determination and drive, that she is inherently good and doesn’t let difficulties get her down. In short, she is a character you can root for!

There were some instances where the plot sped up to cover a number of years. We cover pretty much all of Daleina’s schooling through a series of time jumps. I wasn’t a big fan of this as I felt that the transitions were a little choppy, but I can understand why the author decided to get through that in order to get to the really juicy parts of the story. I didn’t mind too much, especially as the rest of the plot were worth it!

I liked how this story was not just about magic, but also survival and the fear of losing power and authority. I liked that the main character was someone who didn’t really have ambition, and was someone you truly felt had her heart in the right place. I liked the supporting characters, even though they didn’t really figure into the story too much. There were times when I wish the other characters had had more of a presence in the story instead of just going away but I’m hoping that the author will bring them back in some form in the second novel.

Overall, this book really impressed me with its intricate details and unique plot! I loved the main character, the action, and the overall power struggle. I cannot wait for the second book in this series! If you liked Queen of the Tearling, then definitely give this one a go!

Happy reading ~

Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson – The Gold Seer Trilogy #1

Ever since I read my first Western-style novel (and enjoyed it!), I’ve been picking up more books in this genre. I was actually really intrigued by this story; not only is there a fantasy element, it is also partly historical fiction with its chronicling of the Gold Rush era. I have been super busy with work and meeting deadlines so I have been putting off on reading this novel, but I finally managed to sit and finish it all today!

Leah Westfall may not be rich, but she has a loving and warm family, and a best friend who she can’t imagine life without. Her life may not be perfect, but it sure is close to it. But Leah has a secret: she can sense gold. Any hint of gold, whether it’s in the ground or hidden somewhere in a house, she will sense it and find it. While she has learned to hide her powers, there are those that suspect it … and they are willing to kill for it. When everything Leah holds dear is taken away from her, she runs away to California, where gold has just been discovered. Maybe this will be the one place where she can finally feel safe. But she has to survive the journey first.

The first few chapters were really engrossing. I thought Leah’s ability to find gold was really interesting, and I couldn’t wait to see how the story would unfold. At first, the story moved quite quickly. Tragedy struck and an evil villain appeared, forcing Leah to make quick decisions. However, the story soon started to taper off in terms of speed and interest. Most of this novel involved Leah taking on the guise of Lee and travelling with people to California. Her gold-detecting abilities stopped being so important, and she mostly just talked about the physical labor she had to do in order to survive. In all frankness, it got quite boring. I began to wonder if this novel would ever pick up. In fact, I wondered what was even the point of this story. Nothing was happening, nothing seemed like it was going to happen, and I didn’t really know if I wanted to keep going. The writing style itself wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t add anything to the already-boring story. By the time I got to the last few chapters, I was just glad it was done. At the end of the day, I was quite a bit disappointed with this novel; it had a great start, but soon gave way to a boring middle and an even more boring end.

Happy reading ~