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Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

****

4/5 Stars

“Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold and it was dark – in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight – but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.”

The first paragraph of this surprising book only hints at what Laini Taylor masterfully crafted. I don’t know why I was surprised with the quality of this story, as I had absolutely loved Strange the Dreamer, but here I am, sitting here, struck by astonishment.

I began this book about a week after I had a bad riding accident, which resulted in a severe concussion. I couldn’t do much of anything, let alone read, and by the time I stubbornly returned to books, I was ready for an internal fight with whatever innocent plot I chose.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone erased my grumpiness and craftily hooked me into its world of angels, demons, goulash, and teeth. Oh, and Prague. I’ve always been mildly curious about Prague, but now it’s high up there on my list of potential travel-destinations.

Karou, with her blue hair, waltzed on into my life and smacked me with her sketchbook. There’s a lovely cadence to this story that echoes Shakespeare’s beloved Romeo and Juliet. I enjoy a gritty, forbidden love story, and Taylor delivers it on a fiery platter.

I have two small complaints about this book. The first one I can’t get too detailed about, as I hate spoiling anything, but let’s just say that I prefer the old Karou to the new. Something about her spirit within the realm of…uh, let’s stick with demons… was so much stronger and electrifying for me.

But new Karou still holds her own.

My second complaint is that Taylor is far too good at world-building. So much so, the plot felt lackluster in comparison. I wanted more history, more background information rather than the story itself.

Overall, however, this book is a delicious read.

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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*****

5/5 Stars

I spent a few months raving about The Bear And The Nightingale to my reading friends. Many of them took my recommendation, and in turn, recommended Uprooted to me.

I am so glad they did. Uprooted was absolutely enthralling. Intricately written, lushly described, and so enriched with the concept of the natural world fighting back against the terrors of civilization, I found myself lost within the pages in seconds.

The complex and achingly beautiful magic that was painted in this book was done in delicate, absurdly expert brush strokes. I never truly understood how it worked, but I knew and understood enough, and was intoxicated by it. Learning alongside Agnieszka was an enriching experience. You feel like you’re gaining a powerful knowledge as she grows into herself. You start to feel like you, too, can dig within the wells of magic and wield it.

The gradual, almost reluctant romance nestled in the heart of the story was such a pleasure for me to read. I don’t like romance that’s too forced, or too cheesy, or the focus of the whole book. I like romance that meanders along the main plot, that teasingly whispers at you while your heart calls for more. And then when it comes to a satisfying conclusion, it’s heady, and feels much more powerful than if it’s shoved in your face nonstop.

In total, this book was absolutely stunning. If you read Katherine Arden’s The Bear And The Nightingale and loved it, give this book a chance. It’ll astonish you.

Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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****

4/5 Stars

Are you a sucker for fairy-tales? How about cheese? And crazy, nearly all-powerful magic?

If you said yes to any or all three of the above, make sure to add this sweet book to your reading list.

It wasn’t mind-blowing, and it didn’t bring that much new to the table. It was a lovely read, filled with romance and neat magic, but I wasn’t slammed by a book hangover once I was finished with it.

I picked it up simply because it’s a rework of the Aladdin story. I really enjoyed how Khoury told her version of this tale. She has a dulcet tone within her narrative voice, one that smoothly carries the reader through the plot.

Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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****

4/5 Stars

So I’d first like to mention that when I decided to read this book, I was just finishing my play-through of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I had spent nearly 80 hours gallivanting through Ancient Greece as the passionate, wickedly strong Kassandra. I was riding high on the tide of female warrior women.

Now, this book is far from the keen blade I wanted it to be. It’s very YA, very modern for its setting, and the narrative is not that complex. However, it was a pleasant read, done well enough that I’m looking forward to the other books in the trilogy.

I tore through it fairly quickly – again because I was very much enamored of the character type and the setting (although Valiant is set in Rome, not Greece) – and released a happy little sigh of satisfaction after I turned the last page. So it deserves a solid 4-star rating.

If you’re looking for a fun read that is quick, simple, and curiously intriguing, give this book a try.

Review: Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

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****

4/5 Stars

Mmm. A delicious, stunning read.

The first few paragraphs hooked me immediately – a refreshing thing, as I’ve been struggling with getting captured by books right on the get go. Sure, I stick with most and end up really enjoying them, but lately it takes some time before I sit up and get invested.

Rogerson’s delicate descriptions and emotional narrative spun a lovely tale that, to me, is a poetic endearment to books. This is a love song. A dreamy bow to the magic that books wield.

There’s also everything else a YA tends to have – romance, action, ‘the chosen one’ kinda vibe (although Rogerson refreshes the chosen one trope by explaining it through coincidences). Happily, she does the YA genre well, to the extent that I didn’t grow bored.

Now – plenty of reviews I read were a bit unsatisfied with the ending. I was not. I was completely and utterly content.

Sure, I see the point they were getting at…but I politely disagree. The climactic moment of this story wasn’t supposed to be the final moment with the big bad. Nope, it was the moment of keen awakening by the protagonist and her beloved books.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so that’s where I’ll leave it.

Overall, Rogerson deftly created a sumptuous world and a sharp magic system. I didn’t hate the main character, and I enjoyed the romance.

 

Review: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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*****

5/5 Stars

I found myself melancholic and weighed down by a strange heaviness once I got to page 100 in this intense, darkly seductive novel.

This is, by far, the strangest, most painfully romantic read I’ve experienced. The pieces of me entirely devoted to books and reading sighed in both approval and heartache the further I ventured into this story. It is a clear masterpiece, honed to a deadly point that’s meant to mark you forever.

I’m not sure if that makes sense, but perhaps, once you’ve read this stunning book, you’d understand what I’m trying to say.

This read was many things. Thoroughly intriguing, masterfully Gothic, and utterly astounding. It slowly feeds you hope, only to dash it to the ground in a fit of harsh reality.

The author gives you bits of information slowly enough to make you assume one thing, guess another, and find out with cold shock that you were so very wrong on both counts.

I’m a notorious re-reader, but this is the kind of story that flourishes in the mind of someone who has no idea what they’re getting into. I may never pick this book up again, but only because I don’t ever want to tarnish the grim, oddly satisfying memory I have of it.

 

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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***

3.5 Stars

Okay. Ooookay. I give this 3.5 stars.

First things first – the premise of this book is outstanding. The magic, the culture, the themes that are so painfully relevant to today…all of this is utterly astonishing.

There were snippets throughout the book that gave me chills. Made my heart race. Made me wish I had the ability to soothe all of the very real pain that gave this story its life.

Now…the bad. Adeyemi definitely has some strength to her writing. However, the plot felt jumbled, rushed, and a little like she tore through the story in her mind and never reeeaally went back to give it some much needed fattening up.

The amount of times I had to read “ugh!” and “agh!” made me wince a bit. As a fellow writer, I sympathize. One of my lovely professors pointed out to me that my characters tend to bite their lips a lot. He was shocked that they even had lips left (heh). Needless to say, I tore through my drafts and eradicated the offending phrase. I think Adeyemi’s go-to ugh’s and agh’s could have received the same treatment.

There is SO MUCH potential within this world. The characters deserve to be fully fleshed out more. I craved more languorous building – in both the world and the characters.

Overall, I struggled to keep up with the wild pace. Don’t misunderstand me – I love a hefty, fast-paced plot. But when it’s organized and solid. This book felt like it was missing some crucial pieces, like it was a train steaming down a mountain on broken tracks.

Again, the culture behind the world and the themes the author embedded within her work are excellent. Literature needs more of this kind of story. I think Adeyemi’s just figuring out her stride in her writing, in my unimportant opinion! I will definitely give book two a read one day.

Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

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****

4 Stars

Ooof.

Just, oof. My poor, unsuspecting heart.

I say unsuspecting because I wasn’t particularly enamored of the love development. I mean, I was…but sometimes it was just too much, too soon. I love me some sap, but it has to come with proper build-up. Yet I still felt all the things the author wanted me to feel. Frustration, confusion, shock, annoyance, sorrow, heartbreak, disgust….and not in that order.

Jinghua is a character that fits into her story exactly the way she’s meant to, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Bits and pieces I found myself thinking, “YES. That’s better.” But not as often as, “ugh. ”

I definitely ached for something happier after I turned the last page. I had a few tears rollin’ down my cheeks. After my initial reaction of, “I hate this,” the emotions consumed me.

Let me clarify: I didn’t hate the book. I hate the sorrow it made me feel. Books that end this way tend to knock me to the ground for a solid day or two. When I was younger, I used to mope for WEEKS if I read a book that made me sad (Firewing, I’m looking at you). I generally avoid any sort of entertainment that sends me into heartbreak-land.

But a historical romance set in the Mongol Empire? I couldn’t pass it up even though I knew it was going to shred my sensitive soul.

Overall, The Bird and the Blade was stunning. The careful construction of Jinghua’s relationship with her old goat was flawless. The meticulously researched setting and time was a joy to read (although, as the author does openly say, there were some liberties taken with historical accuracy). While I’m feeling slightly tired of first-person narrative right now, Megan Bannen’s ability to plug her reader into her character’s mind was excellent. This novel is a solid 4 stars.

Review: Starless by Jacqueline Carey

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****

4 Stars

This book taught me some things I didn’t fully realize I needed to learn.

I’ve always been a full ally for the LGBTQ community. I’ve always viewed love and attraction and identity as something that is wholly up to the individual.

I just never fully understood the complexity behind such matters. I will never know what it’s like to be attracted to the same sex, or what it’s like to not know what gender I feel most comfortable identifying with.

But! This book intensified the empathy and support that’s always been ingrained in me. Through the eyes of Khai, I felt confusion, betrayal, heartbreak, wonder, and delicate passion. He (sometimes, briefly, she, or the Elehuddin word for both), is a strong, tightly woven character who I connected with almost instantly.

What does it feel like to think you’re a boy, but then find out you’re a girl? What does it feel like to want to be both? To feel shame over such confusing thoughts? Again, I’ll never be able to say that I fully understand such pain and emotion – but this book illustrated to me just how intricate and, at times, wonderful such personal journeys and discoveries are.

Why only 4 stars? This tale is a sweeping story set in a gorgeous world fraught with exiled gods and clashing cultures. My favourite part of the book was the beginning – Khai’s slow development in the desert. The lush and languorous pace, the keen intensity of fate and looming destiny.

The middle of the book was also lovely, though some of its strength was lost. The third and final part was fast-paced and intriguing – it just felt a little flat and a little rushed. Not by much, but enough that I was unsure how I felt about the ending.

Overall, this was a stunning read that I am so, so happy I experienced and learned from.

Review: Dating In The Apocalypse – Sarah “The One” by Christopher John Carter

***

3/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

This review is going to be short and a little sweet.

Overall, this book was some fluffy fun. I personally wasn’t glued to the page, but the antics of the main character had me chuckle a couple times.

The concept overall is a funny and unique one. There’s a nice lightness to the story that’s rare to find in this genre.

The author has a strong wit, and his dialogue is sharp and naturally flowing.

The story just wasn’t my kind of story. It was too comedic. I had some fun with it, but I feel like I’ll forget the majority of the plot after a few days.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad book – far from it. It’s great for people who want something easy to read, something that is almost like a guilty pleasure. Heck, this kind of book tends to fly off shelves!

That’s all I have to say, anyway.