Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan Mcguire

When I read Every Heart A Doorway, I have to tell you it was the most amazing experience ever. I loved the dark fantasy tale and I needed more. While this novel is part of the series, it can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone. I finally got around to reading it today, and I finished it in one sitting. So here is my review:

Jacqueline and Jillian were never given any choices on who they wanted to be. For their mother, Jacqueline was molded into the perfect daughter: polite, quiet, and always dressed like a princess. Jillian was her father’s perfect girl: adventurous, tomboy-ish, and always looking for the next thrill; it was the closest he could get to a son. By the time they were 12 years old, these identities had been fixed upon them and no matter how much they hated it, they had no choice but to act the way their parents expected. But one rainy day, the twins find an impossible staircase that took them to a different world altogether, one filled with dangerous beings and death and the ability to make decisions for themselves…

I absolutely loved this story. It’s just as dark and weird as Every Heart A Doorway. It was so easy to get caught up in the journey of Jacqueline and Jillian. I loved the Moors, the vampire, the mad scientist … it was so much craziness that shouldn’t have made sense but did. The author manages to take the most random and insane ideas and tie it together to create this fantastic story. I also loved how the girls changed and developed over time, and how their past influenced their future choices. It says a lot about the expectations others can have about you and how that can affect you. Seeing these twins pursue completely opposite destinies was just so interesting, and yet the author still manages to make them connect with each other. I remembered Jack and Jill from Every Heart a Doorway, but this story made them all the more real to me. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes weird and interesting fantasy and/or is a fan of Seanan Mcguire!

Happy reading ~

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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – Three Dark Crowns #2

When I had read the first book in the series, I had not liked it. It had been too slow and I did not feel a connection with the characters. I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel … but I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

The Quickening was an unforgettable time that revealed many hidden secrets and plots revolving the three queens. Now that the Ascension Year is underway, all bets are off. Katherine, once the weakest sister and the least likely champion for the throne, is proving herself to be stronger than ever. Arsinoe, who has finally discovered the truth about her powers, must figure out how she can use this to her advantage while keeping it a secret. And Mirabella, once thought to be the certain Queen Crowned, is facing attacks that she cannot seem to fight against. Only one thing is guaranteed: this year will be the bloodiest yet.

When compared to Three Dark Crowns, I thought this novel was a LOT better. The story starts up right where it ended, and the scheming begins almost immediately. The author was kind enough to include a list of characters and their connections to each other at the beginning of the novel, which came in handy for me when I forgot someone’s name. If it’s been a while since you read Three Dark Crowns, I strongly urge you to read it before beginning this one or else you will find yourself confused for a good bit of the story. I felt like this time around the author made it easier to understand and identify with the sisters. At least, that’s how I felt! I liked reading about Arsinoe and Katharine the most. Arsinoe has a really great personality and I like how she is connected to Jules. However, I still feel that the naturalist aspects of the story were more about Jules than Arsinoe, and I would have preferred if that had been more balanced. Katharine’s character went through the greatest change (as was hinted through the description) and I really liked that because she got a whole lot more interesting! However, I wish the author had dug deeper into these changes, instead of just having it explained at the end of the novel; there was definitely room for some horror aspects in Katharine’s story but they were muted because they weren’t explored as much as I would have liked. Mirabella didn’t really spark my interest in this story but at least the terrible love triangle from before wasn’t taking front-and-center stage like last time! The romance elements that were included in the story were not too bad this time. Overall, I had a much more enjoyable experience with this novel than its predecessor. Does it still have room for improvement? Yes. Is it the best YA fantasy series I have read? No. But it has potential and it has me intrigued so I will probably keep myself aware of the release of the next book in the series and give it a shot.

Happy reading ~

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

I love fantasy fiction and when I heard that this is a brand new series coming out, I really wanted to get in on the action. It took me a while to get my hands on this book what with all the demand. But I finally did so here is my review:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are trained to be deadly killers. In some, there are signs of the old blood, giving these girls talents rarely seen since the tribes made their mark on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones the skills of novices to deadly effect – it takes them 10 years to train a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But no one truly understands what they are dealing with when 8-year-old Nona Grey is brought to their convent, bloodstained and accused of murder. While Nona has escaped from the noose, she has made powerful enemies. Despite the security of the convent, her secret and violent past will come back for her. Beneath a dying sun and a crumbling empire, Nona must come to terms with her demons and become a deadly assassin if she is to survive.

The very first page starts off with a bang, and it got me super excited. The next chapter came along and it was just as cool. The author really knows how to capture the reader’s attention! The author also invests a lot of energy and time into world-building, which is greatly appreciated. Every time something new was described, it made me excited to see how the author would use that to develop the story. And then we got to the middle of the book. And I didn’t like it. While I’m a HUGE fan of Harry Potter, I don’t always like Harry Potter-like fiction. And this story started to show signs of becoming that way. For 75% of the novel, we watch Nona and her friends go to classes and train and learn things…. just like in Harry Potter. Granted there are episodes of action that are awesome, and Nona is a very interesting main character that is not at all like Harry Potter …. but the similarities were just too much. It kind of felt like a mash up between Harry Potter and Queen of Blood, both which I loved – as separate entities. In fact, I think I liked Queen of Bloods more than I liked this one. However, the story picked up near the end and the intrigue was back. I think what really made me like this book and stick through the boring bits was the fact that there were moments where I was on the edge of my seat and the amazing writing skills of the author. While this was not my favorite fantasy novel, I definitely liked it enough to keep an eye out for the sequel when it gets released.

Happy reading ~

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicles #2

I loved Nevernight so much so that I bought it. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this novel and I had to wait FOREVER to get my hands on it. But I did. And I kid you not, I put every other book aside so that I could devote all of my time to this novel. I even skipped out on doing work (sorry not sorry) to finish it and savour this amazing sequel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is my review:

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church don’t think she’s earned it just yet. As she successfully completes one mission after the other, she finds herself no closer in her quest to kill Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo. And after a deadly confrontation with an enemy, Mia starts to suspect the allegiance of the Red Church itself.  When she finds out that Scaeva and Duomo will be making an appearance in the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia hatches a plan. She defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium in the hopes of reaching the conclusion level of the games and finally getting the chance to seek her revenge. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

This was one of the best sequels I’ve ever read. Usually, I find that in a trilogy, the second book is just filler. NOT THE CASE WITH THIS GEM! The darkness, brutality, and violence that made this story so believable in the first book carried over here. If anything, it was more intense than before! Mia is an amazing character and I love how sneaky and cunning she can be with her friends – and the reader. I love how she grows and changes, and I love that this novel showed a different side to her world than what we had seen in Nevernight. The gladiator battles were amazing, and I liked the new characters that were introduced. The writing style was just the same (meaning BRILLIANT) and it was great to see how the author flitted between past and present in the first part of the story. I think what really makes this story work for me is that the author doesn’t cheat the reader out of the experience. This book promises gore and then it delivers it. It promises an evolving and fast-paced story and that’s exactly what the reader gets. And there are so many surprising events that occur, which the reader could never have guessed and they just add to the intrigue and make you want to know more! Suffice to say, it was worth making all of the sacrifices that I did (like skipping work, and not studying or reading anything else). Now, I just have to wait in agony for the next book to be released!

Happy reading ~

 

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Thank you to Penguin Random House and First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

I love reading fantasy novels that have a different cultural influence. It adds a lot more intrigue and differnet perspectives for me to view the story in and it also gives me the opportunity to gain exposure to different cultural norms that are out there. I was super excited to get this ARC so here is my review:

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages use their magic to bring out the sin from a sinner in the form of beasts. These sin-beasts are then eaten by sin-eaters, otherwise known as aki. However, it is a difficult livelihood and comes at a price. For every sin-beast killed and consumed, a tattoo appears on the skin of the sin-eater while the guilt of committing the sin stays in the mind of the aki. Taj is the most talented of the aki but he suffers the most, as his tattoos never fade in time. He knows his fate: most aki are driven mad by the process… but Taj must survive in order to provide for his family. When Taj is sent to eat the sin of a member of the royal family, he finds himself thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy. Now Taj must fight to save the lives of those he loves – and his own.

This novel had such an interesting concept. However, it suffered quite a bit in its execution. Many people were not able to finish this novel, but I chugged through. I will say that this novel has a great deal of description and the author does a very good job fleshing out Taj’s character. You really get to know him and understand him. However, there isn’t much happening. There are loads of moments in the story where nothing is happening and it can get quite boring to go through it to get to the good stuff. While the beginning was intriguing enough to give the story momentum, it didn’t continue all the way until the end. This is probably the reason that a lot of people gave up on this novel. It finally ramped up speed near the end, but I wasn’t too happy with the way it was done. For one thing, it felt very rushed and had not been built up too well. The other problem was that it was quite predictable, which was a bit disappointing for me. I felt like I had invested a lot of time into this story, but I got the short end of the stick. So while this novel had an interesting premise, it really suffered in its plot development. For this reason, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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

When I first read the description of this book, it immediately reminded me of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. Since the second book hasn’t been released yet, I decided to use this book as a substitute!

Sallot Leon is a thief, and good at it. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape life as a highway robber and get the opportunity to take revenge on the nobles who destroyed Sal’s home. When Sal sees a poster announcing auditions for the position of Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins, Sal knows this is the chance of a lifetime. However, the audition is anything but easy; it is a fight to the death filled with people of all different walks of life – with various deadly skills. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to fulfill the ultimate goal: revenge.

This was really not at all like Nevernight and I must admit that I was quite disappointed with what I read. I really appreciated the author having a gender fluid protagonist; it was a great way to introduce diversity to the literary character world while also giving a new perspective to the story. However, it was not enough to redeem the story in my eyes. This book, while full of action, was quite boring. I have no idea how the author managed to accomplish this but it was probably due to the ridiculous amount of description and the plethora of training scenes that really did nothing to move the story forward. The plot is also very similar to a bunch of assassin YA novels that are currently out there and there really wasn’t anything unique about this one. The characters were also not very fleshed out and I had an especially hard time connecting with Sal; the personality changes were so swift that it was hard to establish anything solid about Sal that I could rely upon. Overall, this novel failed in its plot and execution, and I would give this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

First Watch by Dale Lucas – Fifth Ward #1

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

The premise of this novel was so interesting that I had to request it right away. I love fantasy stories and this one had so many magical creatures involved that I was excited for it right away. Here is my review:

Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all compete for survival in Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep everyone in line. Rem, new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons, was not expecting such chaos. But when he is offered a position with the Watch to pay for his crimes, Rem jumps at the opportunity. But his new partner, Torval the dwarf, is less than eager to have untrained and weaponless Rem by his side. But when Torval’s former partner goes missing, Torval and Rem must work together to uncover the truth and catch a murderer.

When I get an ARC, I really want to finish the novel. This is one of those times when I could not finish the novel because it really didn’t work for me. From the description, I thought there was going to be a ton of magic what with all the different magical creatures. However, there was more info dumping than anything else – and it wasn’t even very useful information! I found it a bit boring and the writing style just didn’t work for me so I stopped at about 30%. However, many people liked this book so I hope that my own opinion won’t hinder others from reading this book!

Happy reading ~

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

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

I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about this novel, so I was very happy when I received an ARC for it! It has taken me a while to get to this book because of other commitments, but now that I have, I have to say that it is definitely a book worth reading! Here is my review:

Aila Quinn is reeling from the death of her mysterious mother, Juliet, when she and her younger brother, Miles are sent to live in Sterling – the rural town where Juliet grew up. While Aila is far from eager to leave behind her home and her best friend, she is hopeful that Sterling will help her understand her mother better. But Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. It is a place plagued by the Disappearances, a phenomenon by which an experience – like the scent of flowers or the reflection from a mirror – vanish every 7 years. No one knows the cause behind the Disappearances, and no one knows what will disappear next. But Sterling has always suspected that Juliet Quinn may have been at fault … and now, the brunt of the blame passes on to Aila and Miles. As the next Disappearance nears and tensions mount, Aila takes it upon herself to figure out the mystery behind the Disappearances using literary clues her mother left behind. As Aila starts to make sense of things, one thing becomes clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for much longer.

This was such an amazing novel and I’m so glad I got an ARC of this! The author has created such a unique story that I was never bored for a minute! First off, the plot was just fantastic. I was already intrigued by the idea of different senses and elements disappearing, but once the author brought in Shakespeare, it was a done deal for me. I loved how the author weaved all of these different components to create such an awesome cohesive piece of work. I liked that there were segments of the story told from a different perspective, as that just added to the intrigue. I loved all of the characters in the story and Aila is definitely a great main character! My only slight complaint would be that WWII didn’t really have much of an impact in the story; since the author chose that specific time period for her setting, I wish it had had more relevance to the story. Overall, this was an amazing YA fiction story and I would recommend it to anyone who loves YA fantasy because you will NOT be disappointed!

Happy reading ~

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

After reading such a fantastic YA fantasy novel (I’m referring to The Bird and the Nightingale – if you haven’t read it already, GO READ IT!), I decided to read something else in the genre. This novel has been on my TBR list for a while because its premise just sounded so interesting! Here is my review:

Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she bound my fate to my father’s: if I died, he would, too. Then she foretold that the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky. My father wants the throne for himself and is waiting for the chance to make his claim. But all I want is to be free. But I am a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s ambition. I cannot speak or make a sword, and I have no talent to charm or fight. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left.

I left the blurb in first-person because the entire novel is from the perspective of Lark, the main character. I knew that any novel I read after The Bear and the Nightingale would have a tough time impressing me, but this novel completely missed the mark for me. I did not like Lark’s character. After reading about Vasya, I was eager to read about another strong female with magical abilities. Instead, I got someone very weak who developed powers but no spine. There was a lot of focus on the romance in this novel, but it was a romance that made me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t consider things like “it is your duty to please me” and “I will put a son inside of you” as being romantic or sweet. This is a relationship that is very much about power and control, and it makes Lark even more weak than she already is. However, I really liked the plot of the story and the writing style. The story was good enough for me to want to keep reading past the cringe-y points and get into the real action. The writing was beautiful and lyrical and engaging. Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this novel. I didn’t like the characters or the romance, but I enjoyed the story and the writing style. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When I first heard about this book, I had my doubts. The story sounded interesting but I worried that it would fall into the trap that a lot of fantasy stories based on fairy-tales get into. I am so glad that I chose to read this book anyways, because it was absolutely fantastic!

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 – it means more time with her wonderful siblings, listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When Vasilisa’s father decides to remarry after the death of his wife, it is in the hopes that the new wife will be a good influence for Vasilisa. Fiercely devout, Vasilisa’s stepmother forbids her family from practicing any “pagan” rituals and honoring the household spirits. While the family does her bidding, Vasilisa worries about the consequences of these actions. When crops begin to fail and misfortune plagues the village, Vasilisa’s concerns prove to be true. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows even harsher in her desire to confine Vasilisa and make her conform. As danger looms ever closer, Vasilisa must defy everyone to protect her family.

This was an absolutely beautiful book. I devoured it in one sitting and it is one of my favorite books of this year. I rarely rave about a YA fiction novel but this one deserves all the praise I can give it! I remember reading some of the traditional folk tales native to Russia and I was very happy to see them incorporated so well in this story. It made these folk stories come alive and seem so vibrant! Not only is this story rich in culture, it also has great characters. Vasilisa, also known as Vasya, is such a strong female character and I absolutely adored her. She is not beautiful in terms of traditional forms of beauty, but she manages to capture everyone’s attention with her fire and energy. I love that she is independent and strong and unafraid. I like how there are characters that complement her and that function as points of comparison. The character of the stepmother and the priest were very interesting to me; I liked that the author didn’t just label them as evil but rather, built layers of complexity for them. The mythical creatures were also so interesting and wonderful and I loved reading about Vasya’s interactions with them all. Suffice to say, this novel hit every note and was amazing in every way. I was thrilled to hear that there is a sequel to this novel and I cannot wait to read it when it comes out. Regardless of if you are a fan of YA fiction or not, this is a novel I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and strong female protagonists!

Happy reading ~