The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

As I wait for the sequel to The Cruel Prince to be released, I decided to check out other books by this author. I was really happy to find that the author has written many standalone books, because I’m not sure if I’m up for the commitment of a series right now – I have far too many series to complete as it is! I decided to read this one in audiobook format, because I’ve been doing a lot of commuting and haven’t had a lot of time to crack open a physical book. Here is my review:

20958632Summary (Goodreads): Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

 


Review:

So the premise of this novel was very interesting. I loved the idea of putting a story about the fae in a modern setting. Usually, you only read about characters being transported to the world of the fae or vice versa, so it was refreshing to have this element of magical realism/urban fantasy in the story.

But while the story started off well, it didn’t stay that way. Something about the way the story was presented just didn’t hold my attention. I wasn’t really able to pinpoint if it was the writing style itself or the plot, but it just felt a bit bland compared to the description I was given at the beginning. I was missing that building tension, that darkness that this novel was promising to deliver.

Some of my unhappiness with the story can also be attributed to the portrayal of the characters: it just wasn’t done very well. They just lacked personality and I couldn’t feel a connection to them – or between them. There were quite a few instances of romance in the story but it just felt so unnatural and forced; it was more of an insta-love situation than a gradual buildup of emotion. Even the fact that there was an LGBTQ+ presence couldn’t save it.

Maybe it was the poor characterization. Or maybe it was my expectations for a dark and creepy tale. Either way, this novel let me down. Now, this doesn’t mean I won’t try other books by Holly Black. I clearly LOVED The Cruel Prince. However, this is one of her earlier books and it may just not have been my cup of tea. I’m giving this story a 2/5 stars, but I am definitely not giving up on this author!

2 star

Happy reading ~

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Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, I forget the premise of a book. But instead of looking it up, I read it as is and try to figure out what the story is all about. I find that it makes the reading experience more enjoyable, especially when the novel is a thriller. Here is my review:

3 little girls headed off to school one morning in May. Within an hour, 1 of them is dead.

15 years later, Alison and Kitty are living separate lives. Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak or move properly and has no recollection of the accident that put her here. Alison is an art teacher who struggles to make ends meet. when a job to teach prison inmates opens up, she decides to take it. Maybe now, she can finally make things right. Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right. But things aren’t all what they seem. Someone is watching Kitty and Alison, someone who wants revenge for what happened that day. And only another life will suffice…

This novel was told from 2 perspectives: Alison and Kitty. I thought that this was quite a different thriller than what I’m used to. Maybe this was because I had no idea about the premise before reading this novel, but I found the writing to be really appealing and the story caught my attention right away. Having a character with a mental and physical disability is something very unique, and I thought the author did a really great job of representing this character’s difficulties in life. I also really liked that the author made Kitty a bitchy person; most authors try to garner pity for the disabled character but the author didn’t try to do that here. However, I didn’t really like Alison’s character. A lot of the things she did made no sense, and while the author did explain it at the end, the explanation didn’t cut it for me. The main theme for this story is about what it means to be sisters and how far you would go to protect your sibling. Considering that I have a sister who is 8 years younger than me, a lot of the reasons behind hiding the truth was understandable from me. I wasn’t ever able to predict any of the twists which was nice, but I didn’t care much for the plot after the halfway point. I don’t want to reveal too much of the story but it just didn’t really seem to flow at this point of the novel. However, I did like the focus on the sibling relationship… but maybe this is because of my own partiality to stories about sisters. Since I liked the theme and most of the story, I’m giving this a 3/5 stars. But note: this was a really hard novel to rate because I was torn at points on whether I liked the story or not.

Happy reading ~

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – Winternight Trilogy #2

I’m so lucky to have gotten my hands on this book as soon as it released! I have been really bad when it comes to series; I almost always preorder the books, but when they arrive, I never read them. This is what has happened with the Queen of the Tearling series (I promise I will get to it soon!), but I was determined to not let it happen here! As soon as I received my copy, I put aside all of my other books. So now, here is my review:

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya has very few options: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both restrict her freedom and her chances of seeing the vast world. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

As usual, the author has delivered a stunning historical fantasy novel. I love how true the author stays to historical Russian events and Russian mythology throughout the story. It is so easy for the reader to imagine this vivid setting and fall into the story. There are loads of supernatural elements in the story but they are worked into this intricate political plot. I’m always surprised to see this combination work as well as it does, because it just seems so contradictory! I also love learning about Russian culture and mythology through this novel; it’s something I’ve always been fascinated by and the author really does an amazing job of making it come to life through Vasya’s adventure. This story takes place almost right where the first book left off. I found it interesting that the first perspective wasn’t Vasya’s but one of her siblings, instead. I thought that this novel had more action and adventure than the previous novel in the series. This kept my interest up, but I also wish that there had been more mystery, which is what I had loved about The Bear and the Nightingale. In all fairness, I think I preferred the first book to this one. The Bear and the Nightingale had this wonderful depth and development of character even though it lacked the fast pace of The Girl in the Tower. I almost wish that there had been a little less action and a little more focus on the character relationships (especially between Vasya and Morozko!) and the mythology. Overall, this was still a really great novel and I cannot wait for the third book in this trilogy! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The Ninth Circle: Fire by C.A. Harland

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

What drew me to this novel was the beautiful cover design and the fact that it features females as the protagonists. I love fantasy and supernatural novels that have strong females in them, and this one seemed like one of them. Here is my review:

Tala Morgenstern has grown up hunting demons. Her family are all Nightwalkers, and it is their duty to protect humans from supernatural beings. But when her younger sister, Hartley, disappears while looking for her long-lost father, Tala must reach out to her other sister, Aiva. Aiva is the only Morgenstern who has turned her back on the underworld … but the underworld hasn’t forgotten about her. Reluctantly, Aiva agrees to help Tala track down Hartley. But as they investigate, they discover that there is something more sinister at hand. Now, they must make their way to the depths of the demon stronghold to save Hartley … before she can be claimed by hell.

If the TV show Supernatural had female protagonists and was in book format, this would be it. I used to be a big fan of the show, and I have to say that the similarities are uncanny. Both deal with family members who have gone missing on a “hunting” trip, and involve siblings coming together to discover the truth and fight supernatural creatures along the way. There are some unique elements, like the fact that Aiva can scry and make protection spells, but not much else. Was this an interesting read? Yes. It was fast-paced and action-packed. However, it was just too similar to the show for me to appreciate it as its own unique entity. Even the characters themselves resembled the Winchester brothers. And while I have no problems with authors being influenced by other ideas/stories, this was a little too much for me. Since it was still written well and exciting, I’m going to give this a 2/5/5 stars, rounded up to 3.

Happy reading ~

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

I have purposefully been avoiding this novel. It has been getting a huge amount of hype; everywhere I go, I see people reading this book, or recommending it to me. I see it in so many stores and everywhere in the library. For some reason, I just didn’t find the premise of this novel interesting enough but after seeing so many people gushing about this book, I decided to try it out. After all, I’ve been wrong before!

Every family has its problems. But the Plumb family is on a whole other level. Months ago, Leo, the eldest of the Plumb siblings, got drunk and drove in a car with a 19-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident meant that the Plumb siblings’ joint trust fund, “The Nest”, was depleted, leaving the other three siblings in a tight financial situation. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has to find a way to save her home and send her twin teenage daughters to the college of their choice. Jack, a passionate antiques dealer, has been borrowing against the beach cottage he owns with his husband, Walker, to keep his store running; he desperately needs the cash from The Nest to pay off his loans. And Bea, a once-promising author, can’t seem to get herself to publish another bestseller. Can Leo rescue his siblings ? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned?

After reading this novel, I’m still wondering what all the hype was about. What a tedious, flat read! There was nothing imaginative, nothing talented about this writing style or the book. There were so many characters’ perspectives (and usually I never complain about this!) but they all sounded the same. There was nothing interesting about any of the characters, either; they were all stereotypical and cliché. There were also so many draggy areas in the story that I lost focus on The Nest itself, and had to remind myself on what the novel is supposed to be about. I literally had to force myself to finish this book, and even then, the conclusion left me less than satisfied. If you want to read about a family that prides itself on its selfishness and whines about money all the time, then get this book. Definitely a shallow read!

Happy reading ~

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I was really hesitant to read this novel. It just seemed too … tragic. And I also don’t really like reading novels that deal with issues of race and culture and stereotypes. I think this hesitation comes from the fact that I myself had to deal with these issues as a child and would read a plethora of books on these topics back in elementary school. It never made anything easier and I almost began to resent the ease with which the main character solved their problems. But I knew I had to give this novel a try, especially after all of the raving reviews I had heard about it. So here goes:

In the 1970s, it is a rare thing to see Chinese Americans. It is even more rare to see a mixed family where one parent is Caucasian and the other is Chinese. Such is the case with the Lee family; Marilyn and James Lee went against the odds and got married, lived happily, and had three children. Their daughter, Lydia, is the apple of their eye and the child that they know will fulfill all of the dreams they were never able to reach. But when Lydia goes missing – and then is found dead – the Lee family is torn apart. Through this tragedy, we see a portrait of relationships between each family member to each other – and to Lydia, the child that made them all whole.

This novel was so sad. Very good but extremely sad. The story revolves around Lydia and is told from every family member’s perspective. It moves between different time points so that you have to put the pieces together to get the full story. At the end of the day, I just felt bad for every single one of the children. It broke my heart to see the ways in which James and Marilyn tried and failed to understand their kids – until the very end, when it was too late. This was a beautifully tragic novel and I can definitely see why people recommend this novel. If you are looking for something emotionally raw and beautifully written and incredibly deep, then this is the book for you!

Happy reading ~

Help For the Haunted by John Searles

I have literally been waiting for this book for close to 7 months, which is a VERY long time. Something about the idea of psychics and demonologists is just so enticing that I can’t help but grab any book on that topic. This novel is no exception.

Sylvie’s parents have an unusual career: they are demonologists. Aside from nation-wide conferences where they speak about their experiences, they also are called to help people who believe they or someone they live are possessed. It isn’t unusual to get late night calls so Sylvie isn’t perturbed when her parents take her with them to meet someone in a church. She is surprised when she hears gunshots – shots that kill her parents. Through a narrative that entwines the past with the present, Sylvie must uncover the secrets of her family in order to discover the identity of the killer.

At first, I thought this novel would be very much about possession and demons and exorcisms. It is not. It is about family secrets and ties, the way the media can destroy a family, and the power of belief. Although this novel deviated from my initial expectations, I still enjoyed it immensely. It was told from a naive child’s perspective, which made the novel that much more heartbreaking. The characters that I admired in the beginning were the ones I hated at the end and vice versa. The story was extremely complex and touched on a multitude of issues that really brought the story together. All in all, a great novel and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a complex thrill.

Happy reading ~

The Damned by Andrew Pyper

I FINALLY HAVE A LAPTOP!!! No more blogging on a slow tablet or on my tiny phone! Now, I have a proper keyboard with a proper screen for viewing and everything is so much easier! On top of that, I’m happy that I was still able to find the time to read even though I have exams coming up this week (although that may have been a bad idea….). Anyways, enjoy this review!

Danny Orchard and his twin, Ashleigh, are as different as could be. He is quiet where she is loud, he has no skills where she has many. But she is also a menace who terrorizes her family as only a budding psychopath can. After Danny survives a fire that claims the life of his sister, he writes a book about his experience of the Afterlife. But despite the success of his novel, he cannot be happy for Ash is haunting him. For 20 years, Danny has suffered because of his dead sister’s spirit and can’t seem to be able to shake her off. Until he meets someone and falls in love. Determined to ensure that his sister stays away from his new family, Danny has to venture back into the After to confront his sister – and make her stay there forever.

Andrew Pyper is a ridiculously good author. His books are compelling, scary, and strong. His description of the After in all of its forms were so believable that I really could see it. The thrill of the story, the suspense of what Ash wanted from Danny, all of it kept me going such that I couldn’t even put the book down. Ash is a terrifying character and was depicted very well. Danny himself seems to have less of a personality and is almost overshadowed by the strong personalities of those around him, but I quite like that; it makes it easier to enjoy the essence of the story. This book is just as good as The Demonologist so if you’re looking for something along those lines, then definitely check this one out!

Happy reading ~

The Quick by Lauren Owen

Lately, I’ve been really into Victorian-esque novels so when I read the description for this one, I thought it would be worth a shot.

Charlotte and her brother, James, have always been inseparable. Their mother’s death had led to their father spending more and more time tending to his business, leaving them all alone in their house save for a few staff. When their father passes away and their aunt takes them under her wing, their lives change considerably. James is sent to boarding school in the hopes that he will grow up to be  fine gentleman of society while Charlotte stays with her aunt to act as a nurse. As time passes, James yearns to go to London and explore life to its fullest. He gets his wish and is soon living in an apartment with his roommate and former classmate, Christopher Paige. For a while, life is simple; James spends his days writing plays and poems and Christopher entertains him with his hilarious adventures. Gradually, they end up in a clandestine love affair, one they know will be disapproved of by everyone. In an attempt to escape society, they plan to run away together to Italy. But misfortune strikes, and they are attacked by a stranger. Meanwhile, Charlotte is growing anxious and hasn’t heard from her brother. She decides to make the journey to London to find him, only to discover that there is much more happening than meets the eye.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well this was just the first part of the book. When the second part began, I was confused beyond belief. It felt so disjointed from the first part! In fact, the whole book seemed to be disconnected and in pieces. There were random journal entries that didn’t seem to make any sense at first and required a lot of patience on the part of the reader. To be frank, when the book ended, I didn’t see a point to it all. I was highly dissatisfied with the experience. This book let me down A LOT. I’m still in shock and can’t fathom what it was that I read.

Happy reading ~