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 ~

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A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish

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

My journey into the Western genre has been quite recent. While I usually stick to fantasy or thrillers or sci-fi as my go-to genres, I like to change it up a bit and I’ve found that Western novels are quite interesting! I also liked that this novel featured a badass protagonist who goes off to save her husband – instead of it being the other way around. So with all that in mind, I decided to read this book. Here is my review:

Briar Logan has always felt more comfortable alone. It was just a way of life for her, after having survived a terrible childhood, near starvation, and the harsh western frontier. But just as things are starting to look better for her, Briar’s husband is kidnapped by lawless gold miners. Desperate to save her husband, she is forced to accept the help of a damaged young man and a notorious female horse trainer. As they face thieves, whiskey runners, and dangerous men, the unlikely trio must form an alliance in order to survive – and get what they want. 

This is a very detailed novel that focuses on Briar and is told from her perspective. We learn about her and her relationship with her husband and other loved ones through flashbacks. The language is poetic, and Briar is definitely a strong female character. However, I didn’t really enjoy the story. It moved a lot slower than I had expected and it was hard to tell what this novel was: was it a love story? was it more of action? It felt more like a mashup of 2 novels than one independent story. I also found that the poetic language and the flashbacks impeded my reading experience and detracted from the plot. The other characters were interesting but not so much that I felt drawn or connected to them. While I appreciate the author’s attempt to showcase a strong female as the lead, the rest of the story didn’t work for me. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

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 ~

 

 

Select by Marit Weisenberg

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

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

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 ~

 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

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

This is one of thsoe cases where I chose a book simply because its title and cover looked interesting. I wanted to see if the story would match its outward appeal, and was very excited to have received this ARC. Here is my review:

Aviva Grossman is a bright and ambitious congressional intern… until she makes the mistake of having an affair with her married boss, the congressman. What’s worse is she wrote about her experience in an anonymous blog. When the affair comes to light in an unfortunate turn of events, it’s not the congressman who takes the fall, but rather Aiva. Suddenly, she can’t find herself a job anywhere, and she is slut shamed by everyone everywhere. Determined to get out of this unpleasant situation, Aviva leaves her home, changes her name, starts her own event planning business … and continues her surprise pregnancy. But when “Jane Young” decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake comes back to haunt her.

This was a really interesting novel in terms of its premise. However, I’m still on the fence about whether it achieved its goals or not. This story is narrated from quite a few perspectives (all female), which I wasn’t expecting. Since this was Aviva’s story and the premise only mentions Aviva, I thought that this story would be from her perspective alone. While this made it interesting, it also made it a bit confusing. The novel begins with Aviva’s mother’s perspective, and while I loved her character, it took me a while to figure out where exactly the story was going. Then there was another switch in perspective, and again, I felt as if I had been uprooted from one story and put into another. This feeling was persistent for a large portion of the novel. However, I will say that I enjoyed reading from each perspective. All of the characters were wonderful and just so funny to read about. I also think that the author really makes a fine point of how unfair it is that a publicly drawn-out affair only affects the woman involved and not the man. However, I wish the author had elaborated on this aspect; while it is the main reason why Aviva takes such drastic decisions, it also never felt like it was fully addressed and resolved. This novel was a really enjoyable and funny read with great characters. However, it didn’t really address the elephant in the room and left me a bit disappointed. For that reason, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The House At the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I was very eager to read this book, not only because of its hype, but also because I thought it was an interesting way to go about telling a historical story. So let me just get right to the chase:

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. On the island is a café called the House at the Edge of Night, where everyone in the community comes to gossip. Amedeo Esposito owns this place and it has helped him make a home for himself and his family. As the story follows the lives of the Esposito family and the islanders who live on Castellamare, we see how the people – and Castellamare – itself are transformed by both world wars and a great recession.

Let me start by saying that this novel is very eloquently written. It has beautiful descriptions and very complex characters that it is easy to become caught up in their world. I loved the way that the author described the island; it made you feel like you were a part of the island community as you were reading. However, I found the novel to be a tad bit boring. There were too many characters, and the story meandered away from the central family to describe details that I really didn’t care about. While there were interesting points, it took a lot of effort to focus and get to those areas. Because of that, I didn’t have the best experience reading the novel. However, I would definitely not discourage others from reading this book; it has a ton of raving reviews on Goodreads so this may just be a one-off situation where the book and I didn’t match. If you like descriptive historical fiction, then definitely add this to your TBR list.

Happy reading ~

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho

I really wanted to read a short novel that had an interesting concept so when this one was recommended to me, I grabbed the chance! Here is my review:

In the tenth court of hell, wealthy spirits bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld in order to avoid the torments of hell and not undergo reincarnation. It’s a comfortable place to live, even for those who didn’t necessarily have a choice. Siew Tsin didn’t want to marry the richest man in hell, but she’s made her peace with it. After all, she avoids all of the unpleasant aspects of death and hell. But everything changes when her husband brings home a new bride. Yonghua is an artifical woman made from terracotta. At first, Siew Tsin does not know what to make of her. But as the two sister wives frow closer, the mystery of Yonghua will draw Siew Tsin to choose between eternal life or a very final death.

I quite enjoyed reading this novel. The author did a wonderful job of taking a traditional idea and showing its different nuances. While I may not know much about the Chinese afterlife, the author did a great job of painting a vivid picture of it for readers like me. The story and the ideas it puts out there are complex. They are designed to make the reader pause and think about the implications behind the scenario. I really enjoyed having that opportunity, especially since I wasn’t expecting it. Altogether, this was a short yet thought-provoking read that is sure to delight everyone.

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 ~