Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a previous stutter start with this one, I have finally finished it and therefore completed the series! Again, I listened to the audiobook – the narrator is the same for all three and she just did such an incredible job – absolutely no complaints there. The first time I tried listening to this, I kept getting to the same spot and getting stuck and my mind would just be wandering away. This time around, I set out determined, I could do this and you know, I am glad I did. Also happy to be done with this series. I leave so many series unfinished so it feels like an accomplishment.

There’s no denying Laini Taylor is one hell of a writer. Her characters are interesting, the worlds are well constructed, there is humor and action – she is a true wordsmith. My problem I have finally decided was Akiva. I’m just going to say it – I don’t like him. Easy now, put down the pitchfork…

I just could not get into him. He was so bland and boring for me. Now Ziri, that was someone I could get behind. I loved his storyline in this one – he makes my heart sing. Then of course Zuzana and Mik. I adore them and was so happy they were along for the ride in this installment. My favorite addition in this book was the incorporation of the scientists. Adding the human element, what was going on around the globe after the angels arrived was just really, really cool. I loved that part. Eliza was a great addition as a character as well.

Overall, this was a good series. I am not swooning over it or anything but it was good and I’m glad I read it. I am going to read Night of Cake & Puppets for sure, as Mik & Zuz are some of the best side characters ever, IMO. I also will be reading basically anything else Laini Taylor writes because…beauty.

Previously:…trying again…I started this earlier this year and shelved it again after my mind could just not stay focused on it. This series has been a mixed bag for me but I REALLY want to finish it. I have heard that this is the best book of the series so am hoping it will really take off for me!

View all my reviews

Review: Empress Unveiled by Jenna Morland

Empress UnveiledEmpress Unveiled by Jenna Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5-stars

Empress Unveiled is a debut YA fantasy novel by Jenna Morland. This is the start to a new series and with that ending…I can’t wait to get the next one! This book was highly addictive. I am not sure what it was about it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was kind of wishing I was…but I was confused about it…I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was drawing me in.

Morland’s writing style does have a nice flow to it. It was a quick read that set the stage well for a continuation of the series. It left off on quite the cliffhanger actually. I would say as fantasy books go, this is a good beginner fantasy. Please note, that is not shade.

Fantasy is a genre, that to me, can be broken up into different levels: beginner, intermediate and high or advanced. Let’s clear something up, I am OLD. I have been reading fantasy for over 25 years and read a lot of epic fantasy and high fantasy – that is why I am calling this beginner. The concepts were very easy to understand and therefore accessible to younger readers or people who may want to try fantasy but are intimidated by complex magic systems, political systems, etc.

This story follows, Swazyi, a high school girl in ‘our world’ Alaska. When a portal to another world opens, that’s where the magic comes from. The portal leads to the world of Empress, home to many mythical/magical creatures and peoples that we all know and love, such as fae, vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. I think portal fantasy is a good way to introduce magic or magical concepts into an otherwise normal world and in fact, it is quite frequently used.

This story is heavy on your standard YA tropes as well. Most notably: instalove, angsty love triangle and the ‘chosen one’ trope. If any of these is not your bag you may not enjoy this as much. The love triangle was my least favorite aspect of the story but 16-year old me probably would have loved it. There are tropes for everyone, it’s all about finding the right books to tickle your fancy! I had a couple of other small, personal taste, things that weren’t quite for me but as mentioned earlier, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and that’s not a bad thing!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Oftomes Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my thoughts. For a debut book, this is solid. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to continuing with the series. Jenna Morland should be proud of her efforts and I look forward to watching her develop as a writer! The sky is the limit…unless you find a portal to another world in the sky…then there is no limit!

Previously: So happy to finally be starting this new YA fantasy! Also happy I get to marvel at the beauty of this cover every day whilst doing so… I mean, look at it!!! 😍😍😍

View all my reviews

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, okay. This. Book.

This was so good. I have been enjoying this series very much up to this point, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion this one takes it to the stratosphere. Whole new level here. I won’t make this too long as there probably isn’t much that I can say that would be new at this point. I will just let y’all know how this one made me feel and that would be freaking psyched. I am such trash for this series now – fangirling all afternoon long after I finished this. SJM is my Queen and I will read every single word she ever writes.

Seriously though, I felt that this developed the story so incredibly well. I loved the relationship development in this one and I don’t mean that in the romantic sense. For me, it was more the friendships, the loyalties that develop as these characters are basically pitted against the most evil forces in the universe; it was just a gorgeous, gorgeous thing.

Lysandra – my new love. Her story arc is just astounding – to see her strength, which obviously has always been there, but to see it come out and her assert herself and kick some serious ass was just so great to me. I loved hearing her backstory, learning her motivations, discovering her secrets – I can’t wait to see where her story goes in the next book. And of course, Manon, my book-BFF, so fierce and such a powerful bringer of change -I just adore her and pretty much every scene where she was even remotely involved in gave me LIFE!

I am very excited to get to Empire of Storms but I am going to take a one book hiatus before I start it because I do not think I am emotionally ready to move on yet. Still so much to process. I am beyond happy that I gave in and read this series; probably one of the best book choices I have ever made. Highly, highly recommend to all the world!

Original review: Chills. That was incredible! Full review to come. . . Stay tuned!

View all my reviews

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

HuntedHunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, it has now been close to a week since I finished this book and I finally feel like I can put my thoughts down into actual words. Let’s get the main grit out of the way = Hunted is the BEST Beauty and the Beast retelling I have EVER read. Guys, I know I am super late to the party on this one. I think I am probs the only B&B superfan left to read this. Why did I wait this long, you ask? Because I am horrible at life obviously.

I listened to the audiobook of this and I will definitely be buying a hard copy because I absolutely plan to reread this someday. The most impactful aspect of this for me was the atmosphere. It was so well written. Dark, gothic, dangerous – I felt cold, I felt alone, I felt hunted. It was spectacular. The setting is Russia and I definitely felt like it was a nice blend of the classic Beauty and the Beast with Peter and the Wolf. I used to have the record version of the Peter and the Wolf symphony as a child and I listened to it all the time. (I played classic violin, perhaps that makes that fact make more sense…) This book brought back strong memories of listening to that. It is such a feeling.

I loved the twists to Beauty’s character in this as well. That was another really strong aspect for me. I loved how independent, strong, willful and brave she was. She was not a damsel in distress. Nope, not our girl – she was a badass, who though scared, did whatever she had to do for vengeance and that’s the kind of heroine I live for!

Then, of course, we have the Beast. We get his perspective in small parts throughout the book and I found them very interesting. He was absolutely darker than the Beast of the Disney version but no less compelling in my opinion. Along with him, of course, comes the castle fallen into ruin and the hostage situation and the Stockholm Syndrome love trope…and it was so good. I just ate it right up.

I suppose for some this book may seem slow, it is not nonstop action, but for me the flow was absolutely perfect. The pace helped to set up the atmosphere – it contributed to the feeling and I felt it was flawless.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves retellings – particularly if you are into dark, gothic or stabby things. More stabby than lovie…than this book is for you!

Original Review: A classic tale of love via Stockholm Syndrome…

Seriously though – this book – my favorite retelling of all time. I was shocked by how much I truly enjoyed it…

Dark, dangerous, replete with myth/folklore – full review to come…stay tuned!

View all my reviews

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oates

Publication Date: May 3, 2016    |    Rating: 4.5-stars!!!

I enjoyed this so much – I listened to the audio to complete some challenges for Retellathon. This book hadn’t even been on my radar (and I LOVE retellings) but I needed an audiobook to get through the week and SCRIBD had this one. After seeing that the overall Goodreads rating was only around a 3.6, I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. I didn’t read any of the reviews in advance, so I have no idea what the issues are with this one after listening to it.

This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA, and who doesn’t love an origin story? This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy – blood, gore, torture – it’s all in here but not in an obnoxious way. IMO it all works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge.

I loved the relationship between Dinah (the Queen of Hearts) and her Father. He is a demonic, evil, spiteful little man and I really hope he gets his in the next book! Speaking of the next book, I ordered this and the second book this morning from Book Outlet and I need them like yesterday! This left off on such a cliffhanger – I cannot wait to see where the next book takes Dinah.

Another thing I enjoyed about this was Cheshire. He is an aide to the King and you can tell he is all kinds of devious. I’m not sure at this point what his true motivations are but he sure is a tricky one! He is described with similar qualities to the Cheshire Cat from the original, yet in this tale, he is a man. We also meet Dinah’s main caregiver, Harris, who is just such a sweet man, who loves her like her Father never has. He is just a pure and precious gem who I hope survives the wrath that is the King of Hearts! For Mad Hatter fans, have no fear, he is in here too; as are all the cards, the croquet games and general royal chaos.

Overall, I feel like this book needs some more love. I definitely plan to get the entire series and will probably even read this one again. I am majorly geeking out over this right now. I am going to go back now though and read other reviews; I am really curious to see what others didn’t enjoy about this one!

SIDE NOTE:Retellathon Book #3: I am using this to meet two challenges. The first is challenge #3 ‘Faraway Land’ (to read a retelling that is based off a story from your heritage) – I am choosing to go with my Irish heritage for this challenge. At the time Alice in Wonderland was written, and a time when my ancestors were still there, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so technically, this works. I am also using it for challenge #5 ‘Unhappily Ever After’ (to read a retelling with a dark twist) – as this is told from the villain’s perspective, the infamous Queen of Hearts, this works! BAM!

Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

Published: July 22, 2014   |   Rating: 2.5-☆s   |   Villains Series Book #2

Okay. This one was rough. There’s not a lot here and what is, wasn’t great for me. Ugh, this hurts my heart to write this. I have all the books in this series and am obsessed with the covers and naked books. I have read the first book in the series, Fairest of All, and gave it four stars. I don’t know if maybe the fact that Beauty & the Beast is my favorite fairy tale of all time made me judge this one differently -I just don’t know.

First, let’s get this right out of the way: I hated the Prince/Beast. There was nothing redeemable about him and his story arc was completely flat. I don’t feel he evolved as a character at all. Belle ends up with him and you’re like, gurl, NO! While reading his character, all I could picture in my head was Joffrey Baratheon, and any GOT fan knows that is not a pretty picture.

The story was all over the place. Some parts of the book were taken directly form the Disney movie (the original animated one that I have watched 2,568,401 times) which normally wouldn’t bother me, but the dialogue was exact and it didn’t explore any of the scenes at all. It felt so rushed and like there was no heart behind it at all. Picture: Beast saving Belle from wolves, here’s a library, Gaston & Beast fight, a kiss, THE END – in about 20 pages with no coherent connection or exploration of ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.

One thing I did enjoy was the friendship of the Prince and Gaston prior to him being cursed. That was interesting and I thought that added to the original story in a unique way. Even though this one let me down, I am definitely planning to read the rest of the books in the series. Maybe the others will work for me more as I am not as attached to the stories and characters. I would recommend this for a much younger audience; perhaps tweens wouldn’t feel so bent with it as I was! Thanks for reading my rant – I truly do not enjoy having to write a review like this. It makes me sad 🙁

As a side note, I read this book to complete one of the challenges for Retellathon, which I am currently participating in. I mentioned Retellathon in an earlier post – basically, the first challenge was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. That being said, I really wish I would have enjoyed this more.  What is your favorite fairy tale? Have you ever read a retelling of it that disappointed you?  I want to know! Leave a comment here or contact me through the comment links to the right >>>

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!