Review: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 6, 2018   |    Rating: 3.5-stars

Dark and lyrical, Shadowsong, brings to a conclusion the story of Liesl and her Goblin King. This second book in the Wintersong duology picks up a few months after the conclusion of Wintersong. Although I selected 3-stars, I would actually give this a 3.5-star rating if given the option. This is a tough book to describe and I definitely don’t feel it is for everyone. For me, it works; I love S. Jae-Jones writing style. She has a way of weaving together an eerie tale where you struggle to piece together reality and unreality.

Our MC, Liesl, is not really a likable character but somehow I still found myself caring about her. I wanted to shake her out of her funk multiple times but I know, with depression and other mental health issues, it is not that easy. She really struggles in this one, more so than the first, with her decisions, her past, her family relations. She is moody and brooding and honestly, kind of a dark cloud over the whole story, but in a way that contributes to the overall story line, in my opinion. I would say trigger warning for suicidal thoughts and ideation.

I love the atmosphere of this book. In Wintersong, we were pretty sedentary in our action; you were either at the Inn owned by Liesl’s family, or in the Underground. Here, our characters travel from home to find their brother Josef, who resides in Vienna. The city life is quite a change for Liesl and being far from the Goblin Grove certainly doesn’t enhance her mood any. After a swift turn of events at a masked ball, Liesl and Josef, are swept away to Snovin Hall. Their relationship has been under extreme duress and they do begin to form a reconnection of a sort whilst at Snovin.

I loved Snovin Hall – the gothic vibes were a plenty and some of the scenes written while our characters were there gave me chills. Joseph playing in the mirrored ballroom…it still gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it! However, this aspect of the story did get a little confusing in places. There is a fine line between being intriguing and being confusing and this one swayed into the confusion zone more than once. That being said, the overall feel of the book was dark and creepy enough for me to enjoy and keep me invested. The last 15 or 20 pages were excellent – I enjoyed the ending and felt that S. Jae-Jones wrapped up a complicated story quite fluidly.

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book for review. It is greatly appreciated!

Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: November 6, 2012

4-strong stars for Days of Blood and Starlight.

This is the second book in Laini Taylor’s hugely popular Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the first of which I have reviewed previously on this blog. The good news is, I did enjoy this book a lot more than I enjoyed the first one.

In this book, we find Karou thrust into the role left vacant by Brimstone, her father figure and one of the higher-ups in the Chimera society, and it is one she definitely grows into as the story unfolds. She is suffering with grief and loss and because of this her character is raw and has an overwhelming need for vengeance. I like this Karou. I feel like her finally knowing who she is and what she is allows her to gain more strength than she had in the first book.

We still follow along with Akiva’s story as well as he re-immerses himself into the Seraphim regular life – training, fighting, politics – we see it all here and meet a lot more very interesting characters along the way. The world building in this book is really strong. The world we saw in the first book is built upon and built upon in this one until you feel like you are looking at this vast empire of angels v demons. It is truly astounding!

I also like how the romance of the first book really takes a back seat in this one. There is really no ‘romance’ storyline here in an obvious sense, although some may be lingering just under the surface. This book is packed full of action and you definitely can feel that the whole storyline is rushing towards a final, conclusive battle. We see old side characters reemerge here; including my favorites, Zuzana & Mik. (of note: I am so excited to read, Night of Cake & Puppets, now that I know what it is actually about! This is a companion novel to this series that follows Zuzana & Mik as their relationship first begins.)

I listened to this one, as I did the first, on audiobook and I think the narrator just does a spectacular job bringing this incredible world to life. I have already started the third book and it is even more action-packed, picking up right where the second book leaves off. I am sure I will be shook by whatever the conclusion to this is going to be! 

Fierce Competitors

Hey bookies!  Happy Hump Day (…and I’m already ready for the weekend!) – this has seriously just been such a busy week and I have barely gotten any reading done which makes me sad.  Since I have no books currently to review, I figured I would write a post today showing some love for fierce competitors in books.  I love competitions in books – they are actually one of my favorite plot lines.  Not sure what that says about me but I am Slytherin after all and I can admit to being a fairly competitive person. In addition to the competitions themselves, I also really enjoy the training that oftentimes leads up to those competitions.

What got me thinking about this is one of my current reads, Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen. This is a fairly recent YA sci-fi novel that I am absolutely loving! It was published in September 2017 and although I do not see too much buzz about it through social media channels, it definitely deserves some. The book is set in the near future where this huge corporation, Babel, picks ten teenagers to go to space and compete for a chance to be sent to the planet of Eden to mine a new miracle substance called, nyxia. The characters are very diverse, coming from countries all over the world, and the competition is fierce. The author, who is a teacher, writes teens very well- the dialogue and how they relate to one another is spot on.  I am about half way through and the gist at this point is training, training and more training. These kids have so much to prepare for, being sent onto alien soil, that is in fact inhabited by aliens! A lot of the training takes place in VR (virtual reality) which adds a super cool gaming element to it as well!  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great sci-fi story with teenage protagonists!

Of course, one of my favorite books of all time featuring a fierce competition would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This book is pretty much the epitome of competition narrative. When this book was released in 2008 it quite literally took the world by storm.  Everyone of every age seemed to be reading it. The story takes kids seriously and puts them into a competition where the ultimate goal is to be the last man (or woman) standing – it was gritty and ground-breaking at the time and has seriously inspired a great assortment of other similar stories in YA-literature.

One of the main reasons why I love The Hunger Games so much is Katniss Everdeen.  I absolutely adore Katniss as a protagonist due to her smarts, her strength and her ability to overcome any obstacle set before her.  Her will and drive is unsurpassed and although at times aloof, I feel her character is one of the most likable around.  After she volunteers to be a tribute for her district, in order to save her younger sister, Prim, Katniss is swept away to the Capital for training. She is definitely in the position of underdog going into this competition. Firstly, she is a girl which people tend to underestimate in competitions of strength and survival, and also because she comes from one of the poorer districts. Once the media coverage for the games begins however she is quickly able to transform herself, owing especially to a cleverly plotted ‘romance’ with her district’s male tribute, to a crowd favorite. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, at least watch the movie! A very well done adaptation in my opinion.

Now, I couldn’t possibly write a post about competitions in books without mentioning Harry Potter! Although a vein of competition runs throughout the series, through everything from Quidditch games, to the House Cup, my ultimate for the series would be the Triwizard Tournament. The Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in J.K. Rowling’s epic fantasy series, has always been my favorite and I think a lot of that is due to the competition itself. In The Goblet of Fire, we get to meet wizards and witches from other schools, which is also very cool and unique to this book. Even the legendary quidditch player, Viktor Krum is in residence at Hogwarts for this one! (swoon) The Tournament itself, well, it is by no means an ordinary competition – the level of danger and mystery is unequaled and this one, I know, will always stand on a pedestal to me!

Another book with an intense and highly satisfying competition element is, Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the first book in Sarah’s hugely popular Throne of Glass series and it is where we meet 18-year old assassin, Celaena Sardothien. Celaena is a great character and has quickly taken a place on my ‘favorites’ list.  She is snarky, bold and haunted by a violent and mysterious past. In this start to the series, you learn that Celaena has been a prisoner at a labor camp, a mine to be exact, and she gets pulled out by Prince Dorian who offers her a chance to win her freedom.  In order to do so, she must act as his champion to compete for the chance of becoming the royal assassin. She agrees to his conditions and travels to the capital to begin her training. Once there she meets all the other champions, all strong, murderous burly men – okay, she is definitely an underdog but does she let it get to her? No way! Not Celaena – this girl is fully confident in her abilities and indeed they seem to be unmatched. She begins training with Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guards and Prince Dorian’s long-time friend. No matter what he throws at her she never backs down.  I love this girl! The competition is brutal and it pushes all contestants to their limits. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a hearty competition!

Finally, the last book I would like to mention in this fierce competitors post is, Warcross, by Marie Lu.  This YA sci-fi novel was released in September of 2017. I pre-ordered a copy of this one for the cover alone but it ended up being one of my favorite books of 2017! The competition in this book is the International Warcross competition – what is Warcross you ask? In this story, Warcross is a VR game that essentially has taken over the world. Everyone in this story plays or at least it seems that way. Set in a rather bleak near-future, Warcross isn’t just a game, it is a way of life.  Our main character, Emika Chen, is a brilliant computer hacker who makes her living as a bounty hunter tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When she uses her hacking skills to actually glitch into the real Warcross games she attracts the attention of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, and our main course of action begins there. The gaming elements and competitive feel of this book keep it rolling along nicely with plenty of action. The final two chapters left me with chills. They say so much about our times, real life issues and philosophical ideas that could be hotly debated.  The second book in this duology is being release on my birthday this Fall (September 18th) so how perfect is that?  I will definitely be pre-ordering this one as well!

Do you know of any books with a strong competition element to the storyline that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, let me know about them! Comment here or message me on IG – I want to know and add them to my tbr! Cheers for now and happy reading!

 

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 17, 2011

Rating: 4-stars (I really liked it) 

Obviously, I am extremely late to the party on this one – I have been hearing for years now how great this book is, how great the series is, how I MUST read it. I finally decided to give it a go (on audio) and I wasn’t disappointed…but, I wasn’t blown away either. It was good but I think, for me, it fell victim to the hype – I was sort of expecting the best book ever written and although the writing style is gorgeous, the plot was lacking for me, particularly through the beginning. I did feel the second half of the book was much stronger in the ‘plot’ department and that ending crushed me.

As with other first books of a series, so much character development and world creation can occur due to it being an introduction that it can end up retracting a bit from the actual story. I will say that Laini Taylor’s writing itself is very strong. The flow and her choice and use of words is flawless. I absolutely loved that part of it and am excited to read her other series, Strange the Dreamer, as well. I also really enjoyed a lot of the characters, particularly Zuzana and Madrigal. I am excited to move forward with this series and to see what the ultimate outcome will be for Karou. I have already begun the second book, as of this morning, and already feel much more invested in it than I did with the first book!

*As a side note, for the audiobook, the narrator is excellent and I would definitely recommend it in this format! 

Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Publication Date: February 9, 2016

Rating: 3.5-stars:  This was a good book. A fun, fast-paced, easy read. I made the mistake of reading some Goodreads reviews before I started it, which I generally try to avoid, and kept waiting for the terribleness to set it. It didn’t for me. I had a great time reading this. Granted I didn’t go into it expecting Pulitzer Prize for Fiction quality so maybe that helped.

This story is a retelling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel. In this very dark world, where an eclipse of the sun has darkened the land for almost two decades, we meet Luna, now 17-years old, having lived in the tower since the day of her birth. She is sweet and innocent and obviously dreams of the world outside her tower walls. There is a boy, Fowler, who ends up at the tower and yes, there is instalove on her part. In some reviews people were quite negative on the instalove but I say in this case, it actually kind of works. I mean, the girl has legit been locked in a tower her entire life with only the two adults who have raised her for human interaction. I do not find it surprising or cliche that when a young man her age finally comes into her life she would be instantly attached to him. I mean, when I was 17, I could see a guy for 2-minutes and be smitten and I certainly didn’t grow up in a tower.

The action really picks up when Luna and Fowler are forced to leave the tower and try to make their way to the island of Allu where they anticipate safety. This world is really scary, dangerous and literally dark so they come to rely on one another and over their long journey do grow to love one another. The book left off on an amazing cliff hanger and I am excited to start the second book.

So, in conclusion (hehehe), was this book perfect? No. Were there parts I rolled my eyes at slightly or noted that the author had used the same exact phrasing in previous paragraphs? Sure. Did I have a heck of good time reading it? Yes.
If you are looking for a dark fairy tale retelling that you can read quickly and just forget about life for a while, I would definitely recommend this book!

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Publication date: February 7, 2017

Stunning – 5-stars – I loved this book.

For pretty much the entire book I was thinking I would be giving this one a 4-stars (which is a great rating, it means, I really liked a book) but then I reached the last portion of the story and it stripped my breath from me. So enchanting, so beautiful, so heartbreaking. I will admit that the first 50 to 70 pages of the book, I really wasn’t sure what to think; if I liked it, didn’t like it, what was going on, how the heck do I pronounce these names…but eventually, with a little patience, it started to weave together the most intricate, spellbinding story of forbidden love I have ever read. Perhaps it makes sense to view it as a musical composition, timid at first as the story begins to unfold, solid and constant through the middle then a crescendo as we rush towards our ultimate conclusion.

I do not read a lot of books with a strong romance element, and this story is definitely all about the romance, but this one touched me deeply. I was surprised by how quickly it turned steamy actually and believe I even blushed once or twice! The love between Elisabeth and her Goblin King is somehow fractious, violent and childish all at the same time. Their connection is so tangible, I felt it in my heart; the ups and downs of their lustful and rough coming together. The musical elements of the story were beautiful – they bring it alive – if this were to be turned into a movie, I believe it would have an absolutely revolutionary soundtrack! Overall, I felt drawn into the story, slowly but surely and once I was in, I was in, entire. I cannot wait to read the next book of the series which is titled Shadowsong and was released on February 6, 2018. I actually received a free copy of Shadowsong from the publisher in exchange for an honest review – so, time to get start!

Happy reading bookworms!

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Yesterday I finished up listening to the audiobook of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.  This book is the first of The Wayward Children series – the 3rd book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, was just released on January 9th so there has been a lot of buzz on bookish media outlets regarding this series. After listening to a few different booktubers proclaim their love of these books, and their excitement for the final book, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! (and I’m glad I did)

I decided to give this 3.5-stars but rounded up to 4 on Goodreads because for me it was closer to a 4-star than a 3-star read. My favorite aspect of the book was the incredibly bizarre cast of well-drawn characters. This is definitely a character piece. The setting for the book is Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.  Magical and dark, I loved hearing the different stories of each character’s times and travels prior to moving to the Home. There is a lot of great rep in this book and it just seems like a fun and comforting story for any young person who has ever felt misunderstood (which is probably all of us!).

I will continue with the series, as from what I have read, the books get better and better. I definitely enjoyed the author’s style, there just wasn’t as much action as I normally enjoy.

Cheers to the weekend everyone – this week has been exhausting! So ready for a book-filled next few days. What’s everyone reading this weekend?

Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Expected Publication: January 23, 2018

Oh my goodness did I love this book! I just finished my e-ARC this morning and am so excited about the fact that I have already completed one book this year that is an early contender for ‘my favorite book of 2018’! Reign follows the story of a strong, independent female protagonist named Odessa who is a master necromancer in the kingdom of Karthia.

This books starts out quickly and in my opinion really never lets up. I read it so fast, racing to the conclusion – throughout the course of the story my pulse was raised many times, my heart crushed and my spirits soared over a full range of emotions. The magic system is very cool – I loved the necromancers, healers, beast masters, royals, etc. – and the world creation was vivid and believable. The characters were very likable (I have a few different faves) and the Shades (the monsters of our tale) scary enough to keep you glued to the pages. I would recommend this book all day long to anyone who loves YA fantasy and look forward to seeing what new horizons will await us in Book 2!!! A big thank you to the publisher, Razorbill, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early!

Has anyone else finished any fabulous new books this year? I have a strong feeling 2018 will be a great year in all things book!

Happy reading friends  : )

*Please note, I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Hearts We Sold

Happy Monday bookworms! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend – it is always a little sad to head off to work on a Monday morning – back to the grind! I had a great bookish weekend – I finished up three books, organized my living room bookshelves and started two new books! For new books, I started The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman (the prequel book to Practical Magic) and The Echo Killing, by Christi Daugherty, which is an e-ARC I received from the publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Today I wanted to review The Hearts We Sold which is one of the books that I finished up this weekend.  The author for this book is Emily Lloyd-Jones and I received this book as part of one of my OwlCrate boxes. If you have never heard of OwlCrate, it is a YA book subscription box that you receive monthly that has one new release hardcover YA book along with a host of other bookish goodies and merch. It is a super fun way to bring new, surprise books into your life every month!

Okay, so back to THWS, this book surprised me! It is a very fun, quick YA fantasy book set in an ‘our world’ Portland, Oregon, where demons have shown themselves to exist and now make ‘deals’ with humans for a variety of different purposes. I really enjoyed the main character, Dee, who had some struggles but was on the way to finding her freedom and herself. She feels compelled to make a deal with a Daemon and trades away her heart – hence becoming one of the ‘heartless’.

My favorite character was her roommate, Gremma, who I could totally relate to and who added a bit of humor to the sometimes dark and desperate storyline. I found this book to be fast-paced with some interesting fantasy/science fiction elements weaved nicely into the plot. I would recommend this to anyone just looking to forget about life for a while and have a fun time doing so. Below is a passage from the book that I think sums up the mood of the story nicely:

“She had walked willingly into a fairy tale, into a world where she could trade her heart for her freedom. She may as well have donned a red cloak and strode into a darkened forest.
She had always known there would be wolves.
I chose this.”

Do you read YA fantasy books? If so, what are some that you would recommend? I would love to hear!

Happy Reading!

Review: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)

Happy Sunday book loves! I hope everyone has been having a productive, yet relaxing, weekend! I have finished two books so far this weekend -the first being, Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare. This is the first book in The Infernal Devices series originally published in August of 2010.

I was taken aback by how much I loved this book. I have never read any books by Cassandra Clare but after hearing of her everywhere I turned (GR, Bookstagram and Booktube) I decided I needed to try one out for myself. I chose to begin with this series, the prequel to her super popular Mortal Instruments series, because I tend to gravitate towards anything set in Victorian London – a setting I absolutely prefer to urban fantasy (I believe Mortal Instruments could be classified as an urban fantasy). I was immediately swept up into the world of Shadowhunters & Downworlders!  Truthfully, in the beginning I was apprehensive about being able to follow it all (she has created quite the world here) but once the story got into a groove I didn’t find that to be a problem. I got way more wrapped up in the characters than I anticipated and have already bought the box set because I know I could read this whole series again (one of my parameters for judging fiction as 5-stars is if I would ever read it again). I am so excited to get going with the second book….I just need it to arrive! So glad I finally decided to give this one a go!
Have you ever been surprised by how much you enjoyed a book? If so, what was is? I would love to hear!
Happy reading!