Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy ...
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Gothically gorgeous, this follow-up to Wicked Saints (review here) was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the darker vibe, and the progression of characters. It took a little bit longer to really “get going” than the first book did, but the character-building made it worth it. All of the main players have had their world shaken in some form or another, and seeing how they handled it (or didn’t) was fascinating.

I enjoyed reading about Nadya’s crisis of faith (for lack of a better term); it was heartbreaking and interesting, all at once. As in Wicked Saints, Malachiasz was my favorite (I’ve nicknamed him “Mal” because there is zero chance I’ll ever read that name correctly). He’s such a complicated character; I love it!

Emily A. Duncan’s strength lies in her ability to create an atmosphere both dangerous and foreboding. I had no idea what was going to happen next, which was fabulous. My only complaint about this book is that I would have loved to have a summary from Wicked Saints in the beginning, simply because so much happened.

If you like a darker feel to your fantasy, this series is for you.

The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

Amazon.com: The Near Witch (9781789091144): V. E. Schwab: Books

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy. (taken from Amazon)

I’d been planning on reading The Near Witch for the longest time, but it took me ages to actually get to it. I blame the less-than-memorable cover. I’m glad I finally got to the book: it’s a blast.

The tale takes place in a puritanical setting and follows Lexi. She is a teen who chafes at the restrictions put upon her gender and age. Her family lives in a very small town where everyone knows everyone. When a strangers shows up and children start disappearing immediately after, the townspeople decide the stranger is to blame. Lexi decides to learn, beyond a doubt, what’s happening and if the stranger is involved.

This book has a fun campfire story feel to it. It’s just eerie enough to raise the hair on your arms, while never crossing over into being full-fledged horror. Schwab was easily able to craft a compelling tale out of superstition, focusing just as much on the atmosphere as she does on the characters, to great effect.

One of the things I appreciated was that I could relate to both Lexi and her superstitious uncle. He meant well, but he was constrained by his position as town protector, as well as his fear. Lexi was spunky and headstrong. Her character didn’t grow all that much, instead being the constant in the story. However, it allowed other characters to evolve and develop in interesting ways.

This book was a quick read and I recommend this book to readers who are already fans of this author, as well as to anyone who enjoys a good spooky story.

Books That I Think Will Be Future Classics

I saw this post on both Fictionophile’s and Orang-Utan Librarian’s fantastic blogs and I just had to take part. Credit for this fun post goes to Orangutan Librarian.

I like thinking about the books that will be considered ‘classics’ for future generations, and the reasons why. Here are a few that I think will fill that role in the coming years:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up. (taken from Amazon)

Aside from the fact that this is an incredibly moving book (it’s one of my top five favorites of all time), it’s an important book. Written solely through letters, this book covers subjects that are often considered taboo in the YA genre and it does it realistically and with grace. The simplicity of the writing makes it hit home all the more. I definitely see this one being considered a “classic” in the future.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (taken from Amazon)

Admission: I haven’t read this book. However, it think it fits the criteria: it discusses an important subject, is relevant to the time (sadly), and -from what I’ve heard- it’s well-written.

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The Harry Potter series

Okay, hear me out: I’m not adding this series because it’s immensely popular. I’m adding it because of the changes it inspired in children’s literature, the first being that this series crosses from being kid lit., to being middle grade about halfway through the series. This is the first series that I can think of that was written with the goal of having the audience get older in conjunction with the characters. It also spawned a change in children’s literature: the discussion of difficult subjects without shying away or “dumbing it down” to meet the reader. Plus, there are the numerous books that have been quite obviously inspired by the changes Harry Potter affected in literature.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years. (taken from Amazon)

While it’s never actually confirmed in the book, most people agree that Christopher is on the spectrum. The way the author explored this is astounding. While it changes how Christopher handles things, it in no way shows him as being incapable or “lesser than.” It’s amazing how well-written this book is. It really made me think and I would be very surprised if this isn’t considered a classic in the future.

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Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

This seems like one of those books that intimidates a lot of people. I highly recommend giving it a go. I believe that- aside from the themes explored in the book- its odd writing style ( the endnotes! Endless endnotes!) will both fascinate and confuse for many generations to come.

If some of these are already considered classics, then yay and my bad. It’s been longer than I care to admit since I’ve had required reading of “classics.”

What do you think? What would you add?

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Image result for chain of goldCordelia Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, a warrior trained since childhood to battle demons. When her father is accused of a terrible crime, she and her brother travel to London in hopes of preventing the family’s ruin. Cordelia’s mother wants to marry her off, but Cordelia is determined to be a hero rather than a bride. Soon Cordelia encounters childhood friends James and Lucie Herondale and is drawn into their world of glittering ballrooms, secret assignations, and supernatural salons, where vampires and warlocks mingle with mermaids and magicians. All the while, she must hide her secret love for James, who is sworn to marry someone else.

But Cordelia’s new life is blown apart when a shocking series of demon attacks devastate London. These monsters are nothing like those Shadowhunters have fought before—these demons walk in daylight, strike down the unwary with incurable poison, and seem impossible to kill. London is immediately quarantined. Trapped in the city, Cordelia and her friends discover that their own connection to a dark legacy has gifted them with incredible powers—and forced a brutal choice that will reveal the true cruel price of being a hero. (taken from Amazon)

Here’s the weird thing: the Shadowhunter books have everything I hate in a book. Annoying love triangles (or octagons)? Check. Constant clothing descriptions? Check. Angst coming out of the wazoo? Double check. So, why on earth are these books my guilty pleasure (except for Queen of Air and Darkness. That was an unmitigated disaster)? Two reasons: the universe Cassandra Clare has created, and Magnus Bane. Now that we’ve gotten that figured out, let’s move on to my actual review, shall we?

I was incredibly nervous about this book after reading Queen of Air and Darkness. Thankfully, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Cassandra was back in form for this book, and it worked very very well. There wasn’t anything earth shattering in terms of plot: there’s still angst, misunderstood and unrequited love, and brooding galore, but the sense of fun in previous books was back. There were many more fight scenes, which I loved. I enjoyed seeing the creativity used to describe some of the demons, and the seraph blades were in use again, which was something I’d been missing lately.

The characters were all a blast, although two stood out to me: Lucie, a spunky Shadowhunter who writes truly terrible fiction in her spare time; and Matthew, a ne’er do well with a sardonic sense of humor and hidden depth. The book centers around Cordelia, who has traveled from Idris with her mom and brother, in an attempt to ingratiate herself into London Society, the end goal being to help her dad who has been accused of a grievous crime. Of course, all chaos breaks loose, and the next thing you know, demons are running amok. There’s also a mysterious illness that is striking down Shadowhunters.

Cordelia, Lucie, and Matthew are joined by their friends, jokingly known as the Merry Thieves, as they try to do what the Clave can’t: save their friends. The storyline was a lot of fun because there was a bit of a mystery thrown in. I also enjoyed the Merry Thieves and their camaraderie. It felt very genuine. The James-Cordelia- Grace love triangle annoyed me, as love triangles always do. It wasn’t as bad as it’s been in the last few books, however; there was more to the book than just angst, which was fabulous.

Magnus made a short appearance, which I loved. The book is fast-paced, and once again the world itself is a load of fun. For those of you who haven’t read any of Cassandra Clare’s books, think Buffy with tattoos, and you’re close. I always enjoy seeing the vampires, fae, warlocks, Silent Brothers, and more that show up.

There were some things that I didn’t love, aside from the angst I’ve already talked about. Anna, for example. I wanted to love her, but the author had her constantly winking. It was weird. In every single one of her scenes, she “dropped a wink.” I ended up imagining a constant eye twitch. It made what could have been an awesome character fall a little flat.

I also didn’t love Tatiana, mainly because I wanted a more three dimensional character than what was written. There’s still time for development for her, though, so we’ll see.

All in all, I found Chain of Gold to be a blast to read. I’m looking forward to Cassandra Clare’s next book, something I wasn’t sure would happen again. Yay!

Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

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Together in print for the first time in this paperback bind-up, the dazzling prequels to the Three Dark Crowns series are finally available for fans to have and to (literally) hold. Uncover the sisters’ origins, dive deep into the catastrophic reign of the Oracle Queen, and reveal layers of Fennbirn’s past, hidden until now.

The Young Queens

Get a glimpse of triplet queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine during a short period of time when they protected and loved one another. From birth until their claiming ceremonies, this is the story of the three sisters’ lives…before they were at stake.

The Oracle Queen

Everyone knows the legend of Elsabet, the Oracle Queen. The one who went mad. The one who orchestrated a senseless, horrific slaying of three entire houses. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who could foresee the future…just not her own downfall. (taken from Amazon)

I love Kendare Blake’s writing. The darker tones present throughout her Three Dark Crowns series adds a glorious sense of the gothic. This book of two novellas was no different.

Both of these stories take place in Fennbirn, the world of the Three Dark Crowns. I would suggest reading at least the first few books in the actual series before picking these novellas up, because you’ll get spoilers otherwise. There are also things in this book that won’t make as much sense if you haven’t already read the others.

In The Young Queens, we get a bigger view of the queens’ lives before they were pitted against each other and the events of the Three Dark Crowns series unfolded. While I can see why this novella is so well-liked, I honestly didn’t feel that it added anything to the original story. In fact (and this is a weird opinion), I preferred getting only glimpses of the queens’ time together prior to their fight for the crown. This book was sweet in many ways, but it just didn’t do it for me. From a technical standpoint, the writing was as strong as ever, but this novella just felt…unnecessary.

The Oracle Queen, though! Holy Hannah, that packed a punch! Kendare Blake’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat is once again made apparent. The story of the last oracle queen is full of intrigue, betrayal, and more than a bit of violence. I loved every moment of it. Kendare Blake has never shied away from being mean to her characters, a trait that makes her books unpredictable and compelling. I suggest picking up this book of novellas for this story alone.

This was a good book, even though I didn’t love The Young Queens, and it’s definitely worth adding to your shelf.

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

 

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air Book 3) by [Black, Holly]

He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity… (taken from Amazon)

**Spoilers for books The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King below**


        Here’s the thing: I’ve read several other books by Holly Black. My son and I read the middle-grade Magisterium series that she co-authored with Cassandra Clare. We both loved it. I’m bummed to say that this book just didn’t butter my biscuit. Not to say that Holly Black can’t write: she’s a very talented writer. I just didn’t care for what she did with this book.

That being said, she did make a few choices that showed her writing chops. I think the best way to write this particular review is to list the things I liked, followed by the things I didn’t. Spoiler-free for this book, but it does have spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy. Here we go:

Things I liked:

-I liked the wickedness and capriciousness of Faerie. Faeries in lore tend to range between mischievous and downright nasty, so this sat well with me.
– I enjoyed the riddles and prophecies that needed to be puzzled through. It was fun trying to figure them out before the characters did.
-The nasty critter that showed up was pretty stinking cool (that’s all I’m saying, so as not to spoil anything).

Things that didn’t work for me:

-The mush, gush, and angst. Zoinks! It became very tiresome very quickly.
– Locke is my favorite character ( I know, he’s a jerk. But he’s an interesting jerk), and I wanted to see more of him in the series, not less.
– In many places, the dialogue was so bad it was ridiculous. It tended to descend into absolute obnoxiousness any time Jude and Cardan spoke together. If they were separate, it wasn’t too bad. Again, this goes back to the mush and the gush. It just became too much for me.
– There was a lot of time spent on describing different outfits and hairstyles. I mean, a lot. And since my idea of dressing up means wearing a skirt with ye random nerdy t-shirt, I got bored long before the descriptions stopped.

I’m assuming it’s obvious at this point that this book was not one I loved. However, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one.

Have you read it? What did you think?

The Royal Gift: 2019 Two Giftens Edition by Drae Box- ARC Review


                  Five days to save him.

Five days to find a thief, rescue her village’s one line of defence – a magic dagger – and return home. Could Aldora do it? She didn’t know the first thing about tracking a thief, and barely knew any of the kingdom’s geography.

Accompanied by a talking Prince of the Cats and a law enforcing soldier that’s a trouble magnet, Aldora’s future is forever changed. (taken from Amazon)

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This was an interesting experience for me. I did not care for it myself, but I think that the author will improve and the next endeavor might be really good. The ideas were creative, but the execution needed a little work.

First of all, the reader is dropped right into the middle of the story without any setup or explanation. I was actually confused enough to wonder if I’d missed a previous book that explained everything. While it does clear up as time goes on, it was a very disconcerting start.

I did appreciate the uniqueness of the book. The Prince of Cats was a fun character, although, like the others, he needed more development. It felt as though I was reading a first or second draft and not the finished book.

That being said, the premise is interesting, but the end product needs tweaking. I didn’t hate the book, but it wasn’t for me.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

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Jetta is a wanted criminal. The army wants her for treason against the crown, for the sabotage of Hell’s Court temple, and for the murder of General Legarde. They also want her for the power in her blood―the magic that captures wandering spirits to give life to puppets, to rocks, to paper . . . to weapons. They’re willing to trade the elixir that treats Jetta’s madness for the use of her blood. The rebels want her, too, to help them reclaim their country. Jetta may be the one who can tip the scales in this war.

But Jetta fears using her power will make her too much like Le Trépas, the terrifying and tyrannical necromancer who once held all Chakrana under his thumb―and who is Jetta’s biological father. She’s already raised her brother from the dead, after all. And scared off Leo, the only person who saw her as she truly is. With Le Trépas at large and a clash between the army and the rebels becoming inevitable, Jetta will have to decide if saving her country is worth sacrificing her soul. (taken from Amazon)

There are spoilers for For a Muse of Fire (first in the series) below. You can find my review for that book here.

                                                     ** Here Be Spoilers**

                          Oh man, I loved this book! From the plot-line to the characters, everything was done well. It was a worthy sequel to For a Muse of Fire, which was a huge relief after some of the sequels I’ve read lately.

Jetta is a great character. She’s tough without being cold and emotionless. In fact, her emotions are a big part of what makes her so tough. She has an illness that is most definitely bipolar (as confirmed by the author). I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but books that feature mental illness with consideration and respect automatically get extra points from me. This one in particular means a lot, since I also have bipolar. It is a mental illness that is rarely represented in YA, and even more rarely mentioned in the fantasy genre. Heidi Heilig’s choice to not only feature it in a fantasy, but to show both the positive and negative aspects of it is pretty stinking cool. But I digress.

In this book, Jetta has been offered a medication that will help with her illness, in exchange for the use of her blood by the crown. Whoever uses the blood can bind souls to inanimate objects, essentially animating-and controlling-them. The crown wants to use her power as a weapon against the rebels, who Jetta sympathizes with.

The rebels also want to use Jetta. Meanwhile, she’s afraid to use her power at all, worrying that it will make her like her biological father. He’s a monstrous necromancer, and everyone is afraid of what would happen if he- or another like him- came to power.

Of course, there’s also ye random romantic entanglement with Leo, another rebel. I’m not a huge fan of their relationship because it often came across as an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the plot, but I admittedly don’t like most dramatic bookish relationships.

I liked that Heilig didn’t pull punches. I was justifiably concerned about what would happen to some of the characters in the book. I like when an author gives things a sense of urgency, and she does that very well. I raced through this book, enjoying every moment of it.

I feel like this series is very underrated and deserves way more hype. It’s well-written and fast-paced, with memorable characters and an interesting plot. The mental illness representation just pushes it even higher in my esteem. I highly recommend this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


Devil’s Deal by Tessa Hastjarjanto- The Write Reads Blog Tour


Today is my stop on this blog tour, put together by the awesome Dave at The Write Reads. I’m excited to join other wonderful bookbloggers in discussing Devil’s Deal!

When two angels break their deal with the devil, he comes for the one thing they’re trying to protect.

All 16-year-old Nora wants is to graduate high school and visit her family in Italy. But when two boys transfer to her class, everything changes.

Danny steals her friends, Ben her first kiss.

When Nora finds out the boys are not who they claim to be, she faces a difficult choice.

Will she give her love or her life? (taken from Amazon)

I’ll be honest: I register a zero on the romance scale. It’s just not my thing. I was a bit hesitant to read this book because of it. However, this book seemed like it might have a bit of a Mortal Instruments vibe, and I have a weakness for that series.

I liked the supernatural aspects of this book. The opening, in particular, was very well written and drew me in. It was a very visual scene, which is always an intriguing start. It didn’t go where I expected, based on the opening, but that’s not a bad thing.

I really loved that the book is set in the Netherlands. The last few supernatural fantasy books I’ve read have taken place in the U.S. and it’s always cool to see a change. Nora did confuse me a bit: sometimes she was calm, reasonable, and mature ahead of her years. At other times, I struggled to understand why she was reacting in a certain way. However, both Dan and Ben were interesting characters, and Tessa Hastjarjanto has a very unique writer’s voice.

If you enjoyed TV’s Vampire Diaries, especially the relationship between the three main characters, you definitely need to pick this book up. It’ll be right up your alley.

Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

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A mother hanged for murder.
A daughter left to pick up the pieces of their crumbling estate.
Can she clear her family’s name if it means facing her own dark past?

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent―Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end. (taken from Amazon)

Not quite a mystery, not quite a historical fiction, this book was a combination of a few different genres. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Taken as a mystery, I wouldn’t have liked this book. When I read a mystery, I like going back and realizing the clues were there all along to reveal the “who dunnit.” The reveal in this book was a little too convoluted for that to be the case and there weren’t clues for the reader to follow. So…not a mystery. Maybe a historical fiction?

While the historical aspect was there, it really didn’t play too much of a role other than pointing out that the gentlemen visiting Valentine were pushing the bounds of propriety. So, I guess it wasn’t really a historical fiction. Gothic thriller with a hint of romance?

That’s probably the closest I can come to putting the book in a neat little box and it doesn’t really fit there either. Luckily, books don’t need to be categorized like that. Suffice it to say, it’s not the kind of book I normally read.

Valentine was an… interesting character. She went back and forth between wanting to solve the mystery of whether her mother was innocent of the murder that had cast such a shadow over Valentine’s life, to wondering if the boy she had a crush on felt the same way. I’ve never been able to switch gears like that, so I couldn’t connect with her at all, but I can’t deny that she was definitely a fully developed character.

I actually didn’t like the other characters much at all. Sam was a jerk, plain and simple. He was supposed to be a sweet childhood friend, but he was possessive and cruel. Rowan could have been very interesting, but fell a teensy bit flat. However, the story managed to draw me in anyway. Sometimes a book does that. I can’t put my finger on why I found it enjoyable since by all rights I’d normally dislike a book like this, but I did end up liking it. Go figure.

Would I suggest this book? Yes..maybe. I honestly have no idea. Ask me again in a month or two.