Review: Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost

Elysium GirlsElysium Girls by Kate Pentecost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Ten years ago, the Goddesses of Life and Death decided to play a little game. Their game board, a settlement town called Elysium, set amidst a stark desert landscape.

The inhabitants, the game pieces, scurrying around like the ants in A Bug’s Life, trying to gather up enough sacrificial materials to please the Goddesses once the ten years are up.

Within the settlement, an elder witch, Mother Morvena, seeks her replacement. She is nearing the end of her life, and as the settlement’s unofficial leader, someone needs to take over her duties.

Sal Wilkerson has never quite fit in. She’s different than the other girls and has few friends. She lost her mother to the Dust Sickness and has found it hard trying to make it on her own.

She knows she is meant to be a leader, but getting others to see her as such will be a battle. Her recurring false visions of rain aren’t helping matters.

But when Mother Morvena selects Sal as her successor, things change. Sal begins to see how she can truly contribute and discovers her powers as a witch.

Her new found celebrity is dimmed, however, when a new man arrives in town.

A magician named, Asa, who happens to be a Daemon in disguise! All the townsfolk are completely enamored with him and constantly after him to perform tricks.

When a magical duel between Sal and Asa goes horribly wrong, the entire fate of the game has been ruined. Blamed for the catastrophic result, they face excommunication and Asa disappears.

Now alone, Sal is tossed outside the border wall and forced to survive in the desert, where cannibals are said to lurk.

When all hope seems to be lost, Sal finds her salvation. A badass group of girls, the leader of which was also kicked out of Elysium for bad behavior.

The group takes Sal in, along with Asa, who just couldn’t keep away from those darn humans. They form a beloved found family that was an absolute delight to read.

Together they plan to get back in the game and save all of Elysium from the clutches of Death.

Y’all this book was so much fun to read. Super unique and absolutely full of action. I loved the setting, a sort of magical Deadwood meets Mad Max: Fury Road, and if that isn’t reason enough to pick it up, I’m not sure what is.

I loved both Sal and Asa, as well as many of the side characters. They were full of grit and fun to follow. I really started rooting for this girl gang.

They were smart, tough and never afraid of a fight. The giant mechanical horse on the cover is in the story as well, so there’s that!

The whole way through I was so into it. Thinking all along, this is a 5-star read, but then, the last 20% sort of lost me.

I found it confusing, it was going so fast and there were multiple twists thrown in right at the end. I still don’t really understand the conclusion. I guess if I would have had more information on the world outside of Elysium, it may have solved some of the uncertainties.

With this being said, this is still a highly enjoyable read. One that I can treasure for its magical narrative and captivating setting.

I would urge anyone who finds the synopsis interesting to pick it up. I do not think you will be disappointed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had so much fun with it and look forward to seeing what Kate Pentecost dreams up next!

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Review: Conceal, Don’t Feel (Twisted Tales #6) by Jen Calonita

Conceal, Don't Feel (Twisted Tale)Conceal, Don’t Feel by Jen Calonita
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s ratings for The Twisted Tale series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
5. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
6. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

I was greatly anticipating the release of Conceal, Don’t Feel, the Frozen retelling of my dreams!

I love the story of Anna and Elsa. There’s so much about being true to yourself and being who you are no matter what others think.

The loads and loads of humor and fantastic side characters is another strong selling point for this story.

In this installment of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, we are proposed the twist of Anna and Elsa never knowing one another.

In this version, after Elsa’s magic harms Anna, their parents give Anna away to a family in the village to raise her. The girl’s memories are wiped and they grow up with no knowledge that they even have a sister.

It started out a little slow for me, but did pick up towards the middle and the conclusion was lovely.

Although slightly underwhelming, most likely because I had hyped it up so much for myself, this is still a good book. It was fun to spend some time with all of these dynamic characters again.

After this though, I am very happy the girls grew up the way they did in the movie and not some other version. That was sad enough!

Am I right?!

If you enjoyed the movie version of Frozen, you should definitely give this one a shot! Let Anna, Elsa, Olaf and all the rest, take your mind off the world for a while.

You won’t regret it!

I love the whole concept behind this series. I am always checking to see what tale Disney is going to twist next!

I am looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the books!

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Review: The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray #2) by Christine Lynn Herman

The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray, #2)The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With the events of The Devouring Gray behind them, and the Beast seemingly subdued, May, Justin, Harper, Violet and Isaac, are left to lick their wounds and repair their relationships.

Old anxieties remain and as the teens move forward, they find themselves continuing to seek solace in one another as the town at large feels hostile, especially for Justin.

Things are far from over, however, as a mysterious corruption beings to seep from the Gray, infecting those citizens it comes in contact with.

The Founder’s children seem to be immune, so again it is up to them to save the fate of Four Paths.

May seems especially tuned in to the changes around her as she continues working on her powers dealing with the Deck of Omens.

As her relationship with her mother, Augusta, remains hella strained, she reaches out to her estranged father for guidance.

Obviously her mother is less than pleased when he arrives, thus deepening the hole May is already in with her.

Speaking of people returning to town, Isaac’s older brother, Gabriel, makes a sudden appearance as well. Thus forcing the Sullivan boys to have it out once and for all.

As the Gray continues to destabilize and the corruption begins to get out of control, the town leaders have no choice. They must evacuate the town’s citizens for their own safety.

The Founding Families remain, preparing themselves for the ultimate showdown.

This second book of The Devouring Gray duology continues the themes of long buried secrets and heartbreaking deceptions.

The truth about the Gray and its early beginnings are revealed and it flips everything you thought you knew on its head.

You may think the most dangerous thing in Four Paths is the Beast, or the Gray, but you’re wrong!

Guys, I enjoyed this story so, so much! Once I started, I absolutely could not put it down.

While with the first book, I felt that a lot of the plot got bogged down in the details, I didn’t feel that at all with this one.

The town of Four Paths has a complex history and there is a lot to learn in regards to the Founding families, their powers, the Gray and the Beast.

I think, for me, I let myself get too caught up with all the details in the first book and it ended up losing some of its fun.

With The Deck of Omens I went in with that foundation and was just able to relax into the story.

I loved the relationships and how they grew and changed as the teens gained more knowledge about their own family histories. At this point, I am so attached to these characters, I can’t believe it is over.

I am so satisfied with the conclusion. If it has to end, I am happy with this result.

The ultimate showdown was pure nail-biting fun, which is another strong selling point, it was fast-paced the WHOLE way through! There was never a lull in the action.

I am beyond happy that I continued on with this duology and send a very hearty thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing with a copy to read and review.

It’s so far one of my favorite reads of the year! Well done, Christine Lynn Herman!

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Review: Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Diamond City (Diamond City, #1)Diamond City by Francesca Flores
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being orphaned as a young girl, Aina Solis spent a portion of her life living alone on the streets.

It was a rough time for her, one filled with fear, hunger, drugs and no hope.

As she slid toward rock bottom, a guy named Kohl Patel swoops in and provides her with a way out.

Essentially a crime lord, Kohl trains Aina to be an assassin, a trade at which she exceeds all expectations. Overtime, she becomes known as one of his sharpest blades.

On the side, she sells illegal diamonds and harbors ambitions of one day opening her own trade house.

Although he doesn’t appear to know of her peddling diamonds behind his back, Kohl does support her ambitions for her future. He tells her he’ll support her moving on after she performs one more high profile kill for him.

When that kill doesn’t go as planned, she is shocked by Kohl’s reaction and now fears for her life.

Running out of time, Aina and her best friend Teo have one more opportunity to make things right or pay the ultimate price.

Diamond City definitely surprised me and exceeded MY expectations. Francesca Flores has created an interesting world here with some very likable characters.

I enjoyed Aina the most, who reminded me a lot of Celaena Sardothien, and the plot was fast-paced with high stakes.

If you like stories with street gangs, or crime lords, and corrupt politicians, you should definitely check this one out!

It also reminded me a lot of Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody. And like Ace of Shades, I was a little confused by the magic system and slightly disappointed it wasn’t built out more.

There is blood magic in this story, and magic involving the diamonds, but I am not clear on how that works. I am hoping that is something that could be built on in the continuation.

Fortunately, the action was compelling enough that I actually sort of forgot there was suppose to be magic at all.

I really enjoyed Flores examination of different relationships. I thought that aspect was really well done, particularly that of Aina and Kohl.

She definitely has feelings for him that go above the mentor/mentee level and when he turns on her, she feels betrayed. She struggles with having felt so strongly for him and then learning he wasn’t what she thought.

I think many of us can relate to being let down within a significant relationship like that, especially relationships with an age gap. I really felt for her while that whole dynamic played out.

I also was pleased with her growth as a character as she came to grips with that new reality. Even though she was heartbroken, she didn’t let it bring her down. She kept on fighting for a cause greater than herself.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Aina and Teo, her best friend. I always like to see a platonic male/female relationship and this one was strong.

Although Teo is pretty dreamy. How is she not swooning over him?

Leaving off in a great spot for the sequel, I am hoping for all sorts of revenge, as Aina moves forth with new enemies and new allies. I am really looking forward to continuing with this story!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it so much and had a lot of fun with it.

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Review: Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa

Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox, #3)Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

((sobbing))

Oh, my babies! My poor sweet babies! Why must you leave me so soon!?

I never wanted this to end. I tried to drag it out as long as possible, but sadly, it is done.

My favorite YA Fantasy trilogy has come to an end. It is time for me to leave Yumeko and the land of Iwagato behind. The spirit will live in my heart for a lifetime.

Julie Kagawa has blessed us all with the Shadow of the Fox triology and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Sure, I may be dramatic, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Have y’all started this journey yet?

As a conclusion to the series, this gave me everything I wanted and more. All of the loose ends were tied, lessons were learned and so many feelings were felt.

The final few pages of this legit shattered my heart into a million pieces while simultaneously putting them back together again.

The entirety of this installment is packed full of action. There was so much on the line and our protagonists did not have it easy. There was no easy way out in this story.

The world creation skills that Kagawa displays are simply top shelf. I was completely immersed in this world. I saw it all playing out in my minds eye like I was actually there. It was so impressive.

I don’t know what else to say. I am speechless.

I loved all of the characters so much. I loved the world. I loved the quest. I love the Japanese inspired folklore and feeling of it all. Just an overall incredible story from beginning to end.

If you have not given this series a shot, I really hope you do. For me, it’s pure perfection, one I will read again in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Inkyard Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was easily my most anticipated YA Fantasy of the year and it did not disappoint!

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Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of BackThe Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

In the Author’s Note to this enchanting tale, Marie Lu tells of her real-life inspiration for the story. A book over a decade in the making, you can tell that she has poured her heart and soul onto the pages.

Lu, known for her complex and forward-thinking YA science-fiction, takes a sharp turn with The Kingdom of Back, a dark fantasy with lyrical prose.

Even though this is not the typical story for her, I think it shines a bright, bright light on the level of her skill as a writer.

I am the first to admit that I am a big sucker for any story involving music or musicians, particularly classical musicians.

Growing up, I played classical violin, piano and dappled with the clarinet. I was in multiple orchestras, yes, first chair violin, and I think that world always remains a part of your soul.

Lu mentions that she too was a musician in her early life and after reading a biography of Mozart developed the idea for this story.

Unlike my normal reviews, I am not really going to give details as to what this story is about. I feel strongly that it is best if you go into this not knowing what to expect.

Mainly following Mozart’s unknown sister, Nannerl, this story quickly transforms from a historical fiction account of the Mozart family’s life to a dark fantasy with a portal to another world.

In addition to the fantastical elements of the story, there is also a great examination of the role of women in this time period and the affect that society’s expectations had on their productivity and spirit.

If you do pick up this book, I implore you to please, please, please read the Author’s Note at the end. Hearing Lu’s words and thoughts on this story and why she wrote it, bumped this up from a 4, to a 5-star read for me.

I was so impressed with this story. It was a dark, delicious delightful read and further solidifies my belief that Marie Lu is an absolute treasure!

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Blog Tour: Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa

Hello, my lovely book friends. I hope you are all doing well in these troubled times. I hope you are safe and healthy.

As we are all aware, the world is suffering through a pandemic at the moment and many of us have been asked to shelter in place in order to help stop the spread of this virus.

Because of this, many schools  and workplaces have closed. Additionally, a lot of events that a great many people were looking forward to have been cancelled.

In the book world, author tours have been cancelled, along with bigger events such as NoVaTeen and Book Con either being rescheduled or called off entirely.

One thing we can all count on however, is new books being released on Tuesdays. Oh, how I love Tuesdays!!!

This coming Tuesday, March 31, 2020, my most anticipated YA book of the year is set to be released: Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa!!!

Night of the Dragon is the third and final book in the Shadow of the Fox series, a Japanese-inspired fantasy series that literally stole my heart when I first picked it up last year.

From the very first chapter of the first book, Shadow of the Fox, I was hooked. Kagawa’s writing style is so pleasing, the lush world, the cleverly crafted characters, all of it combined to be a recipe for an absolutely engrossing tale!

At this point you may be thinking, yes, this sounds great, but what is it about?

In the land of Iwagoto, the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, has the power to bring forth the Kami Dragon.

The dragon is capable of granting the summoner a single wish. If they are pure of heart, theoretically, all is well, if they are not, all hell will break loose.

In order to protect the land, the scroll was divided and the separate parts hidden away to prevent such disastrous consequences from happening, as it had in the past.

People are always searching for the parts, however, as combining them again could grant the summoner unrivaled power.

Yumeko, has been raised in the Silent Winds Temple where one piece of the scroll has been hidden away. When the Temple is attacked by demons, Yumeko is forced to flee, with the scroll.

She promises the monks she will transport it to another temple, where she will then receive further directions. Trained her whole life to hide her Yokai nature, half kitsune, half human, Yumeko is a master of illusion and mischief which obviously aides her in her travels.

Some clarification if you are new to Japanese Fantasy, a Yokai is a type of supernatural being in Japanese folklore. A kitsune, is one type of Yokai, a fox spirit that frequently appears in such folklore.

In the past couple of years, I have read a few different books with kitsune main characters and I feel it is a very fun perspective to read from!

On the run, Yumeko meets up with Kage Tatsumi, a samurai of the mysterious Shadow Clan.

Tatsumi has been sent out in search of the scroll. He finds Yumeko close by the now destroyed temple and promises to get her to her destination safely. Of course, he has no idea, she actually carries what he seeks.

They meet up with another character along the way, Okame, a ronin, basically a traveling samurai without a master. He begins to travel with them and quickly became my favorite character. A source of almost constant humor, I just cannot imagine this story without him!

In addition to the lush world and fantastic characters, this triology also has one of my most loved tropes in literature: A QUEST. A ragtag group of characters trying to get from Point A to Point B, overcoming obstacles along the way, nothing keeps me turning pages faster.

At its heart, this is a fantastic quest story.

The stakes, the secrets, the magic, the world, I think you can tell I fell head-over-heels for it all. And don’t even get me started on the hella SLOW-BURNING romance!

The second book in the series, Soul of the Sword, continues directly on from the events of the first book, doing what it should: upping the stakes and continuing to build out the complexity of the world.

Another way I like to describe this entire story, if you aren’t sold already, is anime come to life. The atmosphere and tone of this is so dynamic, it leaps off the page and into your minds-eye so clearly. It’s honestly tremendous.

I am currently halfway through the final book. Honestly, I am taking my time with it. I don’t want it to end!!!

So far, this story, again, has continued to build, I know the final scenes are going to be epic. Kagawa has such a beautiful way of showing you the world. I have never felt confused. In fact, I am completely immersed. When I am reading it, the rest of the world could stop and I wouldn’t even notice.

During this difficult time, if you need a way to escape, something to immerse yourself in to forget life for a while, I cannot recommend this series strongly enough.

Now is the perfect time to get lost with Yumeko and Tatsumi, to go on that adventure and maybe save the world. Who knows?

I want to thank the publisher, Inkyard Press, for blessing me with an early copy of this book. I am thoroughly enjoying it and plan to finish it later today. Make sure you check back in for my full review. Also, if you have read these books, let me know your thoughts in the comments below or contact me through any of my social media links.

Where ever you are and what ever you are doing, I hope you are doing it in good health and happiness. Love you all!

Cheers & happy reading!

 

 

 

Review: The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is done.

In this, the final installment of The Folk of the Air trilogy, we find Jude back in the mortal world, trying to recover from the events of The Wicked King.

Her heart is hurt, but as our girl Jude is apt to do, she is still focused on getting back what she has lost.

Unexpectedly, her annoying sister, Taryn arrives, pleading for Jude’s help. She has done something terrible and sees Jude as her only path to salvation.

How convenient for her.

This help comes in the form of Jude sneaking back into the Faerie Court under the guise of being Taryn. What could possibly go wrong?

Once there, Jude finds Elfhame on the brink of war with the political class and society in general running amok.

Can Jude save her sister and her power before everything is ruined?

I’m sad, man. Yes, everything was wrapped up, but this felt so quick. I needed more time with my babies!

Why you play me like this, Holly Black?

I’ll be honest, I feel like I didn’t retain much of this story. Completely not the book’s fault, I was just so anxious to know how it was going to turn out, I flew through it.

I definitely plan to reread this entire series at some point, to really soak it in. With this being said, I do wish this had been a little longer.

I came away feeling a lot of the story felt very surface level and I wish it would have gone deeper. This could be me just being hurt that it has come to an end however.

Either way, a great series overall. So glad that I read it and looking forward to reading more by Holly Black!

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Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Louise Le Blanc is a young witch who knows a few things about the world. Witches are good and the Chasseurs are bad. Good versus evil. There’s no in between.

But when her own mother tries to kill her, she is forced to flee her coven and the world suddenly seems a very different place.

Reid Diggory has lived a very different life, abiding by the creed ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ Working for the church as a Chasseur, literally a witch hunter, he has been raised to see the same black and white world that Lou has.

When Reid and Lou are hastily forced into a marriage, he isn’t aware that she is a witch but she’s definitely not his type.

What could possibly go wrong?
Short answer: pretty much everything.

Guys, I was so pumped to read this book based on early reviews but admittedly, in the beginning, I wasn’t sold. The pacing was super off for me and it took me until the halfway point to really become engaged with the story.

This book is over 500-pages so that means I spent 250-pages trudging along just hoping it would get better.

Luckily, for me, in the end, it did come around and I turned out enjoying the last half quite a bit. The final group of characters who joined together to battle the baddies was fun and I look forward to reading more of them together in the second book.

That’s right, I will definitely be continuing on with this series!! In short, I wish I could give this a higher rating but personally, I felt the beginning portion could have done with some more editing.

Again, however, the second half was strong and I am intrigued enough to return to this world and see what happens with Lou and Reid!

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Review: A Violet Fire (Vampires in Avignon #1) by Kelsey Quick

A Violet Fire (Vampires in Avignon, #1)A Violet Fire by Kelsey Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Wavorly Sterling was a child, a vampire attack decimated the population of the town in which she lived. In fact, she is known as the only survivor, rescued, or captured, depending on your perspective, and brought to live within the Vampire Stratocracy of Cain.

Set in a dystopian world, where the blood supply is low, the Stratocracy has developed a vast and interesting system for raising ‘human supply units’. These supply units are eventually chosen and bound to a master who they vow to serve, and feed, for the duration of their lives.

Wavorly is brought to a sort of private school where the girls are raised together and taught how to please their future masters.

The majority of these girls were born within the Stratocracy so have never tasted the freedom of the world outside as Wavorly has. This sets her apart from them and she struggles trying to understand their seemingly docile personalities in the face of what lies ahead of them.

In fact, when we first meet her, she is in the midst of executing an escape attempt. Although it may not go as planned, you have to give the girl props for her strength and determination.

No matter how hard she fights back against the powers that be however, Wavorly is ultimately selected to go live in the castle of Lord Anton Zein and act as one of his supply units. They have a complicated history and you just know something’s going to go down at that castle!

I really enjoyed this, you guys! I do not read a lot of vampire-related content, really my only experiences being Salem’s Lot, NOS4A2 and Doctor Sleep, so I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this or not. Apparently, it’s my new thing!

I loved the dystopian feel of this story. The world-building was excellent in my opinion and I cannot wait to learn more in Book 2.

I also really enjoyed quite a few of the side characters, they added depth, humor and challenging personalities to the story. There were people you really wanted to get behind and people that were a joy to hate. Yes, that is a thing.

Although the plot got a little jumbled for me towards the end, I was still on board for all that was happening. There were revelations and betrayals, a lot of excitement.

I think this left off in a great spot for the continuation of series and I definitely will be continuing. This was one of those books that when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and wishing I was!

Overall, this was an impressive debut. I feel confident this author has a bright future ahead of her. If you are looking for an inventive and captivating, fast-paced read, you should definitely pick this one up!

Thank you so much to the author, Kelsey Quick, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I have since preordered the paperback because I love the cover and also, have no self-control.

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