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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

****

4/5 Stars

Though lovely, she wasn’t as devastatingly beautiful as I had imagined, wasn’t some goddess of darkness and spite.

Here’s a very pretty book with sharp edges that sliced me open to the bone…but then dulled the wounds a bit as some cheese seeped through.

Which is fine. I like cheese. I’ve said that many times. It’s just…this cheese dampened Feyre’s ferocity, and I did not fully approve of that. At least she kept herself ferocious with Rhys. I also, alas, have some spoilers for future books, so perhaps my opinion is tempered by them.

Outside of the realm of cheese, I must say that Maas did a lovely job creating a chaotic fae world. It’s wickedly delightful.

The plot, while interesting enough to keep me reading, was too much like Beauty and the Beast for me. I’m glad to know that the story shifts in the next few books.

Maas has a smooth narrative tone that paints her stories wonderfully. Her confidence is framed delicately within her writing, and her imagination is boundless. Her characters are complex and well thought out, and I look forward to getting to know them more.

Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

****

4/5 Stars

I didn’t think I’d be able to finish this book.

The first twenty or so pages were so befuddling and over-wrought with odd word choices that my eyes felt strained in moments. I felt like my brain had been tossed in a boiling soup and smashed around with a spatula.

I pressed on, O reader, I pressed on.

Thank the gods I did.

Either I grew accustomed to Kristoff’s writing style, or it found its rhythm, but eventually my brain stopped working at a high gear and settled down. The world began to make sense, the culture started to kinda smooth out for me, and I finally grew an odd, confused sort of connection with Mia, the protagonist.

The plot eventually folded me into its bloody embrace and I found myself whipping through the pages, intrigued and mortified by both the gore and the sensuality.

I think Kristoff’s books have weak beginnings. I attempted to read Stormdancer a few years ago and tossed it aside after twenty-ish pages because the writing was a slog to get through. The concept was there, but the writing was far too heavy. Nevernight had the same issue in the first chunk, which makes me think I should try Stormdancer again to see if it grows on me, too.

Anyway, I can’t give this book 5 stars because I nearly gave up on it. If you like the idea of a gory, erotic, assassin-style Hogwarts that’s attended by a girl with a shadowcat and a massive chip on her shoulder, then you’ll love this.

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

****

4/5 Stars

Vicious was a pretty excellent match for my grumpy self lately. The book didn’t bewitch me like it did others, but I still quite enjoyed it. It was bloody, flawed, and as vicious as the title wants you to believe.

I really enjoyed the morally gray characters, how you didn’t really know which character was good, or bad, or either. You had to decide for yourself who had the best idea – and even when you managed to make a decision, you knew you could be very wrong, since there are still some mysteries that haven’t been told to you yet.

Are certain characters missing something vital? Are they monsters? Or are they simply lost within this new that they are experiencing?

Anyway, I prefer Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy, but back when I had first read those books, the first one didn’t make me feel any extreme emotion either. The second book is what hooked me – perhaps this series will do the same. Maybe that’s just how my reading relationship with this author is going to be. Meh to book 1, ooooh to the other books.

So if you like gritty violence, flawed, morally gray characters, and undead dogs, pick this story up. You’ll like it.

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

*****

5/5 Stars

This book made me feel equal measures of shame, astonishment, and respect.

I’ve learned snippets of Korean history throughout my life, but I was never aware of the full extent of suffering they went through.

Pachinko helped wake me up.

After I turned the last page, I felt numb. That’s what happens to me when I read stories that really peel back the layers of human society and history and loudly announce, “learn this NOW, feel these emotions NOW, and NEVER forget.”

From a story-telling point of view, this book was almost perfect. I really enjoy generational stories. Moving through a family’s experiences and growth is something else. I just felt like there was no true climax or ending…but I guess that’s intentional. True generational stories are just that – they keep moving forward, and never actually end. There are multiple moments of rising action and climaxes that consistently take place, which takes away the need for that ultimate moment of closure.

The narrative reads bluntly. It’s not framed richly. It’s not laced with pretty words or lengthy descriptions. It hands you the facts with a cool tone. It’s a confident voice that can successfully tell a story in this way, and Min Jin Lee nails it. She doesn’t get in the way of the characters. As someone who loves intricate description, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book because of its direct voice. But I loved it. Every single bit of it.

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.