City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett – The Divine Cities #3

At last! The final novel in this amazing trilogy! What I love about this series is that each novel takes place a few years after the previous one, and it focuses on a different character each time; this means that you can manage to read it as a standalone if you are strapped for time – though I would recommend reading the entire series in order to really understand everything. In the first book, the protagonist was Shara Komayd. In the second, it was Mulagesh. And now, we hear from Sigrud, who was always one of my favorites. Anyways, here I go with my review:

Siigrud je Harkvaldsson is very good at one thing: revenge. So when he learns that his oldest friend, Prime Minister Shara Komad, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what he is going to do. Yet as Sigrud pursues Shara’s killers, he begins to fear that this mission may be unsuccessful. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death means taking part in a secret, decades-long war, facing down an angry young god, and unraveling the mystery of Bulikov, the city of miracles.

It was definitely a good thing that I read the previous books in the series because the magnanimity of the truths revealed in this novel was just … WOW. And you really can’t understand how amazing these are unless you read the previous novels. So while I’m sure you can enjoy and understand what is happening in this novel without reading anything else in the series, I would strongly advise against that; take the time and read the first 2 books before getting into this one, so that you can truly fall in love with this serie like I have!

Sigrud…. I love him. This book did him such justice. His personality is just so …. amazing and one cannot help but appreciate him for his kindness, his loyalty, and his ruthlessness. He comes off as simple but the more you read, the more you see his complexity. The author definitely did an amazing job when creating Sigrud! I also loved all of the other characters that were a part of this story; each one was unique and had so much depth that you felt like you truly knew them!

The story and world-building in this novel are incredible but I expected nothing less from the author of this series. I wasn’t expecting all of the mysteries to be revealed in the way it did, which was a really awesome surprise. I really can’t complain at all about anything in terms of the story, characters, or world-building.

This was a stunning conclusion to an epic series and I strongly urge anyone looking for an awesome fantasy series to read this series. You will not be disappointed!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

 

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Medea or Jason and the Argonauts. In fact, I did a quick Wikipedia search into the origins of these characters before delving into this book so that I could properly understand the content. Here is my review:

The story brings us aboard the ship Argo as it makes its epic journey back home across the Black Sea from Colchis – Medea’s homeland where she has fled her father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. As Medea sails along with the man she loves, she must decide whether she is a sorceress or a monster. As the journey continues and reality hits Medea, we witness Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

It definitely helped that I had a little background on the story before beginning this book because this novel starts at the point when Medea is on Jason’s ship, running away from her father. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the events that preceded this but you eventually do find out as you continue reading. Apart from that, the story is quite indepth in terms of storyline, giving a great amount of detail into the way the journey progresses. Having never read anything about Medea or Jason, I found the story fascinating. There was never a dull moment and with each page comes more violence, brutality, and treachery. If you have never heard of Medea, then you need to read this book and get to know her story!

Medea’s character….. was incredible. She is strong, ruthless, intelligent, and determined in a way that no other female protagonist I have each very read about has been. When she spoke, she voiced the thoughts of countless women over countless generations. She is the epitome of the struggles of a woman who does not fit into the mold created by men. In short, I loved her. She was violent and lacked mercy and yet shred he managed to exude femininity while acting completely unfeminine (according to our views on what a feminine person  is typically like). I cannot stress enough how well the author portrayed her and how mesmerized I was by her strength. She is definitely one badass female protagonist, even if I don’t support all of her violent actions.

At first, the writing style seemed unusual to me. It’s poetic but not in the typical way. It made me take note of every word being used, every transition being made. This was a beautifully written story and it demanded that you pay attention attention appreciate that beauty.

Happy reading ~

The Child Thief by Brom

After reading and adoring Lost Gods, I was eager to get my hands on more of Brom’s work. This novel is one that I’ve heard a ton about and I was interested to see how Brom would take the story of Peter Pan and twist it into something sinister. So here is my review:

Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and he loves to play games. When he smiles at you, he makes you his friend for life … but his promised land is not Neverland. 14-year-old Nick almost died at the hands of drug dealers but Peter saved his life. Now, Peter offers Nick a chance to escape to a secret place full of magic. Even though Nick doesn’t believe in faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, he has nothing left to lose, right?

There is always more to lose.

As Nick follows Peter, Nick finds that the beautiful paradise he was promised is everything but that. And Nick has unwittingly been recruited for a war that has raged for centuries – one where he must learn to fight among the “Devils”, Peter’s savage tribe of stolen children. And it soon becomes clear that Peter will go to any length to save the last wild magic in this dying land.

This is definitely a dark retelling of a childhood story, and Brom does not hold anything back. The author definitely transformed the Neverland of my childhood into something far wilder and I absolutely loved it! Faeries, monsters, references to Avalon…. it was definitely awesome to have this all melded together into one story. As usual, the illustrations were fantastic and really helped me imagine all of the different characters.

This novel was not nearly as dark as Lost Gods but what made it scary was how easily something that I had associated as innocent and fun could be twisted into something sinister. Peter was always just this fun guy but Brom managed to make me fear him … and fear Neverland, too.

This book was a lengthy read for me, and while engrossing, I don’t think I liked it as much as I adored Lost Gods. However, this is still a superb story with that classic artwork style Brom is known for and a dark story that will haunt you afterwards!

Happy reading ~

Monstress Vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

GUESS WHO JUST RECEIVED HER COPY OF MONSTRESS VOLUME 2 IN THE MAIL???!?!?!?!?!

Yes, it was me. To celebrate, I read Monstress Vol. 1 before I started reading this one. Here are my thoughts:

After a harrowing escape, Master Ren, Maika, and Kippa make their way to Thyria in search of answers. While they hope to meet their friends and make some allies, there are many who seek Maika for their own personal gain.

I really can’t give a good summary of this volume without giving away major plot details so …. that’s all you’re gonna get from me!

As usual, this volume is filled with stunning artwork. Sana Takeda is a fantastic illustrator and she really makes the story come to life with her beautiful depictions. The story continues to be amazing, with even more world-building and intrigue! There were new characters involved and new truths revealed that have made me even more curious about Maika and her history. A lot of questions from Volume 1 were answered, and it was done in a very satisfactory manner, which is obviously a positive! There is more gore and violence in this volume, but it just makes the story that much more appealing! I found that this volume was a lot more dense than its predecessor, requiring some rereading at parts, but it was all part of the amazing journey that Marjorie Liu has created and it was well worth the effort. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who was a fan of Volume 1 and I would recommend this entire comic series for anyone who likes fantasy and beautiful artwork.

Happy reading ~

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

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

I’m just going to say that I love this novel. A lot. It was an absolutely amazing read and I could not put it down for a second. Here is my review:

The village of Saint-Ferdinand might look like a peaceful place with its farmhouses stretching all the way down one street, its small police precinct, and its quaint coffee shops and diners. But it also has something unusual: a large over-used cemetery, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand killer, who has eluded the police for nearly 2 decades. When Inspector Stephen Crowley finally manages to capture the killer, it seems as if the nightmare is about to end. However, this is when the REAL nightmare begins.
When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

This is by far one of the best horror novels I have ever read. It hit the mark on all counts and kept the suspense, magic, and gore coming throughout the story.

First of all, the story itself is ridiculously good. There is so much depth, so many different elements that come together to give an intricate backstory that makes the reader want more. The author does a great job of keeping you in the dark until the right moment while also delivering a story that you can follow along. Every so often, you get clues that make you question what you previously knew…. and the author also provides the perfect opportunities for you to remember those clues and link the story together. It almost made me feel like a detective, and it was just so much fun to read this book! I loved the gore and the horror and the magical elements incorporated into this story; it was truly dark and I was definitely creeped out! The author had multiple POVs going, but he did such a fantastic job of keeping each one unique and fresh and interesting for the reader! The author also managed to show internal (and external) changes in character personalities and roles, which is not an easy feat by any means! There was so much going on in this novel and yet, it never felt overwhelming. Everything made sense, everything had depth, and everything made me want to flip the page and read on. The writing style was also amazing and easy to follow. I don’t want to keep on praising and praising so just do yourself a favor and give this book a shot, because it will definitely be worth your time!

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 ~

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

What drew me to this novel was its allusions to fantasy and to a cultural system that I am completely ignorant about. A chance to learn about something new combined with the fantasy tropes that I love? This was an opportunity I could not pass up on. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

12-year-old Sunny is having trouble adjusting. Having been born in New York, but moving to Nigeria has been quite a big change for her. It doesn’t help that she is albino and very sensitive to the sun. All sunny wants to do is play football and not get bullied. And for a while, it seems that her new friends, Orlu and Chichi, will help with that. But when they introduce her to the world of the Leopard People, Sunny discovers that there is more to life than she ever knew. With new friend Sasha, these 4 form the youngest Oha coven to ever exist. Their mission? To track down Black Hat Otokoto, a man who has been kidnapping and hurting children.

When I first began to read this book, I was unaware that this was for middle school children. It took me a little while to adjust at first, but once I realized who the target audience was, I had a better grasp of the story. I really liked the cultural elements that are infused into this story. The author does a great job of integrating them and explaining them in a graceful and sophisticated manner; nothing feels too simplified or “dumbed down”. It was really cool to read about all of these rituals and customs that are practiced and upheld, and it was just a great introduction to the culture. The story itself is pretty much like Harry Potter. You’ve got your group of friends and they are against an evil foe and they practice magic and learn about their abilities and have to pass tests to move up in levels. I felt that the story and writing could have used some polishing. Too many things were conveniently placed and there were many abrupt and awkward transitions in the book. The characters could also have been a bit stronger. Overall, I can see how this novel would appeal to middle schoolers and I would recommend it to any child between the ages of 8-13 who likes Harry Potter-like fantasy novels.

Happy reading ~

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

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

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

Happy reading ~

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 ~