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 !

 

 

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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 ~

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 ~

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 ~

The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

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

I absolutely adored the premise of this novel. It hinted at Mongolian and Japanese and Chinese influences, so I was really intrigued as to how the author would incorporate that into her story. Plus, fantasy is my all-time favorite and I’m always down for new books in the genre. Let’s begin the review:

The Hokkaran empire has been victorious in defeating all of their enemies and conquering land – but they failed to notice another enemy: the darkness festering within the people. Now, their bordering walls are starting to crumble and demons are on the rampage, killing villagers everywhere. Away on the silver steppes, the nomadic Qorin tribe try to protect themselves, having bartered a treaty with their empire. Now, in the face of evil, two young warriors from across borders must save the world, thus fulfilling their destinies. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

With a premise like that, how could this novel fail, am I right? WRONG. I had to add this ARC to my DNF pile, and we all know how much I hate doing that. But I simply could not get through this novel. I only got through 20% before I had to give up. So what was so wrong with this story? Well, for starters it begins with a letter. Now, I love letters. But this letter was there simply for info-dumping purposes. I mean, it went on and on for about 4 chapters of the story, pretty much laying all of the groundwork. But since that was the only real world-building that was happening, it made the story very clunky and effectively removed any chance of there actually being a plot line. The worst part is that the letter wasn’t even well-written! It had no nuance, it had no flair, it literally just narrated everything in an awkward way, which really didn’t make for a pleasant experience for the reader. I kept waiting for something to happen with the plot but … well, nothing really happened. that was a real bummer for me. There is clearly romance between the two female protagonists, but it wasn’t executed well, either. The author also makes some very racist remarks that really made me feel uncomfortable; others have also mentioned this on Goodreads so I’m not going to get into it any further. Overall, this novel was quite a let-down. It had garnered a lot of hype and it brought my hopes up. But in the end, it didn’t deliver. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

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 ~

 

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp reading ~

The Devil’s Bible by Dana Chamblee Carpenter – Bohemian Gospel #2

I loved Bohemian Gospel so much that I really wanted to read the sequel. I needed to know what would happen to Mouse, who was a character that I had really grown to love. Anyways, here is my review:

The Devil’s Bible. Once considered an eighth wonder of the world, the ancient book is shrouded in mystery. No one knows who wrote it or where it was written. Even dry-boned scholars whisper about the secrets hidden in the book: How it calls to the power-hungry. How it drives people mad. How it was written in the shadows by the hand of the devil himself. But the only person who knows the truth is Mouse. And she is desperate to keep it hidden. Now, she goes by Emma Nicholas and has refashioned herself into a college professor. But when forces threaten to expose her real identity, she is forced to go on the run. She unexpectedly finds hope in a stranger’s kindness, hope that she can win this game of souls. But will hope be enough to win this battle between good and evil?

I really enjoyed reading this sequel, especially knowing that The Devil’s Bible actually exists in real life. The story that began with Mouse in Bohemian Gospel was taken to new heights here, as the tale flits from past to present to explain how things ended up the way they are now. The past revolves around the actual creation of the Bible, and how she became influenced by her father – who had his own ideas on what should be in this book. The present takes us to Mouse’s current life as Emma Nicholas and how her new identity falls apart when her father and his “people” find her. While I enjoyed the story, I will say that I preferred the prequel. Perhaps it was because the prequel dealt more with Mouse’s discovery of her abilities and origins whereas this novel was more of an internal conflict on how Mouse can save those she cares about. However, the story was still gripping and exciting and the conclusion left room for (hopefully) another book to be added to the series. If you are looking for an interesting spin on something historic with supernatural and fantasy elements, then this is a novel you definitely want to check out. Just make sure you read the prequel first!

Happy reading ~