Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Image result for dark and deepest red by anna-marie mclemoreSummer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes. (taken from Amazon)

     Here’s the thing: I love The Red Shoes. The original story that I know, for those who aren’t familiar, goes a little like this: there’s a girl who’s adopted by a rich family. She’s very spoiled and she thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips. She’s given a pair of red shoes, which only adds to her arrogance. After wearing them to church, despite being told not to, she’s cursed by an old man (I think who does the cursing varies). The curse is that, once she starts dancing, she won’t be able to stop (also, the shoes will superglue themselves to her feet). Of course, the inevitable happens. She even chops off her feet- which stay dancing in the shoes and bar her way into the church. Eventually she learns her lesson, prays for forgiveness for her arrogance, and her heart bursts. It’s a real upper. Deliciously morbid.

The Red Shoes  movie is more about an obsession with dance (the ballerina is performing the Red Shoes ballet). Think The Black Swan, but done first, with better acting and no sex stuff. It’s brilliant.

Since I love this fairy tale so much, I had to grab this retelling. However, I wasn’t feeling it. There are several reasons for this, although I’m sure at least a couple of them fall into the “it’s not you, it’s me” category.

First of all, the chapters are incredibly short. Because of this, it feels like small staccato bursts of storytelling and it didn’t give me a chance to connect with the story-line at all. I don’t necessarily want super long chapters in every book I read, but more than a few pages per chapter would have helped, doubly so because there were multiple points of view.

The first point of view was that of Rosella, who makes herself a pair of red shoes using fabric left from her grandparents. The shoes take hold of her and she can’t control herself or stop dancing. There wasn’t really all that much to her personality, however.

Emil was Rosella’s sort-of boyfriend. He knows the history of “the dancing fever” because his ancestors were in Strasbourg in the 1500’s when a mysterious mass hysteria (curse?) caused many people to dance uncontrollably until their hearts gave out. Because of this, he is the only one able to help Rosella.

The third point of view was that of Lavinia, a girl from the 1500’s who is blamed for the “dancing fever” that grips Strasbourg. She’s blamed because she’s different, which is what this book boils down to; accepting and celebrating diversity. It’s an important message, but not one I was wanting in my fairy tale retelling. It eclipsed the actual plot of the book and, because the book focuses so much on Lavinia being “different”, she’s not given much of a personality. She’s a plot device instead of a character and I feel like that was a real missed opportunity.

Anna-Marie Mclemore used colors to great advantage in telling her story, and was able to paint a vivid setting for the dance fever, but the story in and of itself never felt fully realized to me. It turns out I’ve read another book that this author’s written, and that one wasn’t my bag either. I think it’s just one of those things where my reading personality and her writing just don’t mesh.

I have a feeling this book will get good reviews and become very popular, but it most definitely wasn’t for me.

I do highly recommend watching the 1948 movie, however. It’s fantastic.

If…Then: In Which You Get a Terrifying Glimpse Into How I Come Up With Book Suggestions

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that my train of thought often jumps its tracks. Usually (but not always) these random jumps make perfect sense, but only if you’ve had a rather terrifying look into my thought process. Seeing as that can get a bit hairy, I suggest you proceed carefully, as I’m about to give suggestions of books to read next, based on books recently enjoyed. I will try my hardest to explain why, but…yeah.

If you enjoyed: The Starless Sea

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Find my review here

Then read: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Find my review here

The reason I suggest The Ten Thousand Doors of January is that both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have an incredible way with words. Their prose is so gorgeous, it’s like enjoying a decadent treat. If you enjoy one of these two books, definitely read the other. Of course, other than that, the books are completely different. They make sense together to me, though. In fact, I seem to think that Alix and Erin went on a book tour together? All I know, is they didn’t come to a bookstore near me. Sad, sad, sad.

If you enjoyed: The Wheel of Time series

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Then read: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

Find my review here

The reason behind this recommendation is that they have a similar feel. Both are high fantasy, both have complicated characters, both take you on epic adventures. Both will keep you guessing. If you enjoy one, then you’ll like the other. Actually, this thought process kind of makes sense.

If you enjoy: The Invisible Library

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Then read: Jackaby

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Find my review here

Here’s where my brain goes a little wonky. I have no idea why The Invisible Library series makes me think of the Jackaby series. Jackaby himself channels a Doctor Who-meets- Sherlock type of vibe. At any rate, it’s really good and I think readers who enjoy The Invisible Library need to check this one out. Incidentally, readers who enjoy Jackaby should absolutely read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! Both Jackaby and The Crocodile on the Sandbank feature intelligent, incorrigibly curious female characters.

If you enjoy: City of Ghosts

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Find my review here

Then read: Anna Dressed in Blood

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The thing with both of these books is that they have a bit of a “fun ghost story” feel to them. Neither of them is actually spooky (although both of them would scare the living daylights out of my middle-grade reader), but they come across as Supernatural light.

If you enjoy: The Name of the Wind

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Then read: Master of Sorrows

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Find my review here

Justin T. Call is a wordsmith, the kind that only comes around once in a while. Just like Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind, Master of Sorrows drew me in immediately. This book is excellent, and definitely needs to be read by everyone.

There are several others that I’m not including because the way I’ve likened them will make absolutely no sense to anyone sober. Hopefully, the connections for these make pretty decent sense. Enjoy!

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 Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

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Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures. (taken from Amazon)

                               A friend of mine loaned this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. Entertaining, a bit silly, and full of things that explode, this book is a ton of fun.

What first interested me in this book was the steampunk aesthetic although, after reading it, I’d call it steampunk light (that’s a term, right? Well, it is now). The Friday Society follows three incorrigible ladies as they attempt to solve a murder.

The plot was the weakest point in the book. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, just that the twists weren’t all that twisty, and the perpetrator was easy to call. That being said, it didn’t dim my enjoyment in the slightest. In fact, it allowed the characters to shine through.

And what characters! Some of the situations these girls got into were hilarious. It did get a bit over the top from time to time, but it never went into full-blown ridiculous mode. Nellie was the most charming of the bunch, and also a magician’s assistant. Michiko was training to be a samurai (probably the hardest part of the book for me to believe), while Cora was the lab assistant for a scientist. She was my favorite. She was snarky and sarcastic, but also competent and confident in her abilities. It was a good mix.

Another thing that I appreciated about the book was the lack of over-the-top, saccharine romance. There were ye random love interests, but they kind of hovered in the background, instead of taking the focus away from the main characters. I’m glad it didn’t descend into mooning over potential boyfriends, since I truly hate that sort of thing.

Be aware that this is one of those books with a vaguely Victorian English flair that’s layered under decidedly modern vernacular. It was a bit jarring at first, but once I stopped thinking of this book as attempting to be a period piece (it’s not), the juxtaposition worked well.

Altogether, this was a fun romp of a book. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read, this book is for you.

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.

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake (Spoiler Free)

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It’s incredibly difficult for me to do a quality review of a final book in a series without spoilers, but I’ll do my absolute best. Here we go!

It was amazing. I could honestly stop writing after that sentence, but I don’t have a mic to drop and I’m a bit wordy anyway. For those of you who haven’t read any of Kendare Blake’s books, I suggest you remedy that horrible problem immediately. Quit your job, stop paying bills, don’t bother making dinner. Just immerse yourself in Kendare Blake’s fantastic writing and let everything else take a back seat. Okay, maybe don’t go that far, but seriously put her on the list of authors that need to be read.

I was originally introduced to Kendare Blake’s writing by a book called Anna Dressed in Blood. How cool is that title? It was creeptastic, and drew me to check out the Three Dark Crowns books. I’ve already written about the others in the series ( you can find that post here), so I won’t go into the plot of the books again in this post. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed in the culmination of all that came before.

The book did not end the way I originally wanted it to, but it ended the way it should, which is even better. I love how different each character is. There are no superfluous red shirts, written in simply to kick the bucket. Each death (and there is definitely death and violence in this book) meant something. Each political move, each twist in the story, was obviously thought out long before it was written.

Raves can be so difficult for me to write, because it’s less than helpful to just write “happy screams” on a blog post. I loved every moment of this series. I can’t wait to see what Kendare Blake comes up with next. She has secured her spot as one of my favorite authors.

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…

Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?

In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…(taken from Amazon)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say: I did not finish this book. However, since I made it over two hundred pages in before calling it, I’ve decided that I’m an expert on the subject of this book. Okay, maybe not, but I’m still about to spew my opinion. You have been warned.

This book reminded me of a less mature version of Penny Dreadful (basically, the author adios-ed the nudity) smashed together with The Blair Witch Project. It did not work for me at all.

First of all, the present day part of the story bored me. I couldn’t find it in me to care one iota about Zoey, or her friend. The whole video diary thing is been there, done that. I’m assuming that if I finished the book, there would be some reveal about who she is and how she’s involved in the hauntings (I’m assuming she’s related to Roan, one of the main characters from the 1851 storyline), but…so what?

The 1851 storyline, involving Roan, was so choppy that there were several occasions where I was convinced I’d skipped pages, only to find out that I hadn’t. There was one part where Roan told a character she needed to speak to him as all the other characters left the room, only for that talk to not happen until much later.

The switches between the different timelines were done in a way that felt very odd to me. Chapters didn’t seem to end naturally, as much as just stop almost mid-thought. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was interesting. I just didn’t enjoy the execution at all.

After I decided that there was no reason for me to continue reading a book that is most definitely not for me, I read the author bio in the back. It turns out that she’s the author of another book that I did read all the way through, and didn’t care for. So, I guess it’s just a matter of her writing style not working for me. And that’s okay. But, seeing as all the reviews I’ve read of this book are raves, I thought I’d post my flip-side thoughts, just to see if anyone else had the same experience.

Have you read this book? Did you think it lived up to the hype?

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The Necromancer’s Prison by Alec Whitesell

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She wanted to find her place in the universe. She never imagined it might not be on Earth.

When Emily Murphy over slept the morning of her college entrance exam, she thought missing her test was the worst thing that could happen. She never expected she would wind up lost halfway across the galaxy, battling aliens with laser guns and mages hurling lightning.

Like most seventeen year olds, Emily’s main concern had been navigating the perils of high school, not surviving shootouts and sorcery. That changed when her school was attacked and a student was kidnapped. While everyone else smartly fled from danger, she recklessly ran toward it mounting an impossible rescue that would lead her on a journey unlike anything she could have imagined.

Dropped into a strange world teeming with merciless criminals and ruthless aristocrats, surrounded by violence and betrayal, Emily must untangle a web of intrigue and deceit to solve the mystery behind the abduction, save her classmate, and discover the destiny which awaits her.

It is either that, or die trying… (taken from Amazon)

 Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This was a great read! The characters were extremely well written. Emily, while not my favorite character, was brave and had a strong moral compass. That she rushed into danger to save someone made her immediately likable. She had a tough exterior that masked a lot of emotion and made her very interesting.

She was joined by another classmate, Mason, who was my favorite character. That guy was just trying so hard. He was way out of his depth but didn’t let that stop him. It was also great to see a nice guy in a book, instead of the usual “bad boy with a heart of gold” cliche.

There was a small moment that I kind of loved: the humans are asking one of the residents of the planet they’re on about the “aliens”. The character they’re speaking to point out that technically the humans are the aliens on that planet. I don’t know why, but that little back-and-forth really stood out to me.

The entire book was incredibly creative, one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve read in quite a while. The fact that the main characters are human was perfect: there was just enough familiarity to give the reader a strong jumping off point to everything new and extremely different.

I definitely recommend picking this book up.