Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Review of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Rating: 5.0/5 Stars

“Let’s have a toast. To the incompetence of our enemies.”

Oh Jude, you cruel, wicked thing. Will you pledge yourself as my spirit animal?

The Cruel Prince has been one of the most explosive and hyped releases of 2018 and I felt it was a masterful work of twists and turns. Many recent YA fantasy releases have blended together in my mind, reusing many of the same plot devices and tropes. That doesn’t make them any less enjoyable but it is SO refreshing to read something that takes everything you’re used to and flips it on its head.

That is how The Cruel Prince felt to me. Jude’s plotting and scheming makes her one of the fiercest female characters in recent years and Cardan’s indifference and cruelty makes him a formidable opponent … or perhaps ally? I COULD NOT get enough of their complicated relationship and I swear I may have died from asphyxiation every time they shared a scene.

“He looks like a faerie lover stepped out of a ballad, the kind where no good comes to the girl who runs away with him.”

Going into this, I expected your typical enemies-to-lovers trope (which is my favorite, don’t get me wrong), evil royal that must be dethroned and courtly intrigue would ensue to make things happen. THAT IS NOT WHAT I GOT. I got so much more. Every. Single. TIME I thought I had Holly Black figured out when reading this, she pulled a fast one on me. I could barely keep up with every crazy thing that was happening and I LOVED it.

THAT TWIST AT THE END, plus Jude and Cardan’s conversation!? I don’t even know what to do with myself, other than read this again. and again. and again. The Wicked King cannot come any sooner.

Thanks for reading my crazy, fangirling and mostly incoherent “review.” 

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Don’t forget to check out the sequel, The Wicked King!

Release date: January 8th, 2019

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Look at how beautiful this cover is!

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Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Review of Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

I received this copy from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“The blue of the day’s sky and the black of the night’s are different, but one is not better than the other. We need both.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this one, I found the story to be so satisfying. It ended up being exactly what I needed to read! If you’re looking for a fantasy novel that pushes the boundaries of young adult into new adult without being overly explicit, this is the book for you. And that cover!? Look at how beautiful that cover is!

This story follows two main characters, Jasminda and Jack. Jasminda, half Elsiran and half Lagrimari is an Earthsinger. All she desires is to live a life of peace, away from others on her homestead in the wilderness. Jack is an Elsiran soldier, disguised as the enemy, desperate and in seek of a way to end the centuries old war between Elsira and Lagrimar. Chance will bring them together, but it seems as though destiny keeps them there.

The first third of this book was somewhat slow. I was a little unsure of what I was getting into and had a lot of questions. I liked the story and found it interesting, but it really didn’t reach out and grab me. However, after that first third, the ball really gets rolling. The setting, pace and feel of the story changes tremendously and I read nonstop until I finished it, I couldn’t put it down!

The world created in this story is rich and vast, I hope we get the opportunity to learn more about the lands beyond Elsira and Lagrimar in future installments. Additionally, one of my favorite parts was the “Collected Folktales” included at the beginning of each chapter. They were very reminiscent of Aesop’s Fables and were so unique, clever and even charming. I looked forward to reading them as each chapter ended and another began.

The story itself includes many elements I absolutely adore and I was very proud of the characters regarding most of the choices they made. Each of them stuck to their convictions and never followed paths that I felt were out of character. Jasminda and Jack are both very admirable in their actions, despite a few moments I was irritated with them for avoiding what was staring them straight in the face, but hey – that’s what makes books interesting! I *really* wish I could give you more about the story and my thoughts on it but I would be spoiling a major reveal by voicing half of what I want to say and it’s just not fair to do that!

So I’ll just include a few elements I loved: traveling, courtly intrigue, mysterious histories, forbidden romance, and more!

Also, WE NEED MORE POC fantasy and sci-fi main characters written by POC authors!

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Release date: May 1st, 2018

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Review: The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Review of The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Rating: 4/5 Stars

“I came up feared and hated for a thing I had no control over in a world divided.”

I thoroughly enjoyed The Diminished and found it to be a solid debut novel that had me on the edge of my seat by the final chapters!

The Diminished follows two main characters, Vi Abernathy and Bo Trousillion. Vi is one of the diminished, having lost her twin at a young age and raised in the temple amongst other diminished and orphans. Bo, on the other hand, is single-born, destined to be named heir to the crown of the Alskad Empire. The Diminished is truly a tale of two cities – despite growing up within miles of each other – Vi and Bo have been dealt very different hands. However, their lives will come to twine around each other in ways neither would have expected.

I did feel that the pacing was a bit slow at first, as the story’s premise was gradually set and the world was built. I was a little weary as I felt as though there wasn’t a whole lot happening during the initial chapters, but the story makes up for it later on. Stick with it!

There are several societal and historical elements touched upon in this book and I enjoyed the way the author related each one, even if only subtly. First, was the LGBT representation. One of the main characters is gay, but it’s never made into a big deal, it doesn’t overtake the storyline. It’s totally acceptable in this culture and I loved the way it was handled. Second, women in traditionally male roles. Again, no big deal. If anything, it was mentioned as odd when a man held a traditionally female role in this world. That’s just how things are (right on!). Third, the racism connection. In this world, people are not mistreated for the color of their skin, but instead the status of their twin (or lack thereof). Those who have lost a twin are treated as dangerous scum, followed by the superstition that they could succumb to the grief of their loss at any moment and essentially go postal on those around them. I felt like this representation connected well with the racism seen in the world today. Fourth, the connection to the slave trade. There is an island colony in the Alskad Empire where the impoverished travel to find work. While they are not necessarily forced to travel there – their contracts (typically sold via a “broker”) last years at a time and many are sent to work on the plantations across the island. Many never live to see the end of their contract. In general, the author has done a fine job taking very real elements and weaving them seamlessly into this fantasy world.

Lastly, this is a novel driven by its characters. While Vi and Bo’s stories are thoroughly interesting, they meet some fantastic secondary characters along their journeys that help to fine tune this story into the gem it is. I loved the banter and relationships built between Mal, Quill and Swinton – plus there are other characters I just need to learn more about and discover the status of! There is a healthy dose of mystery to this story that is very central to the characters and I cannot wait to see where things go!

I received this copy from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Release date: April 10th, 2018

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Review: Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

Review of Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Hello. Let me introduce you to my newest OTP.

“And so it was, and so it shall be, for the Age of Man is over, and the Age of the Horseman has begun. They came to earth, and they came to end us all.”

Sweet baby Jesus this was everything I needed, hoped it would be and more. Laura Thalassa sprung this one on us last minute and she has done it again. Nobody quite does enemies-to-lovers stories (best trope ever) quite the way Laura does and boy did she hit the mark this time. I think this may be tied for my favorite 2018 read now.

First of all, I love the originality of this story. Four Horseman of the Apocalypse? Yes, please and thank you, take my money. The plan is for there to be four books in this series, each one focusing on one of the horseman in a world caught under the wrath of God. This first book focuses on the first horseman of the apocalypse, Pestilence and his duty to spread plague across the world.

Enter Sara Burns, a firefighter living in British Columbia with a penchant for cussing too much and the will to save the world. It’s in her selfless act to stop the horseman that she instead finds herself an unwilling passenger with a front row seat to his apocalyptic quest. As they ride across the land, Sara finds that she may be the only one who can save humanity, even if she must suffer for it.

“His eyes find mine, the flames dancing in them. Even lit by fire, he looks like an angel. The devil was also an angel.”

Did someone say slowwwww burn? I thought I may die of anticipation. Let’s face it, that’s what we are here for, right? Boy, does it pay off. You will not be disappointed. However, there is so much more to this story than the romantic aspect of it.

It’s rare for me to feel such a range of emotions for a character like I did for Pestilence. There were many times I felt nothing but contempt for him, but I also felt sympathy and he found ways to make me laugh, cry and feel giddy. There were times I was right there with Sara and wanted that “infernal fucker” to burn for everything he had done. On the other hand, there were times I just wanted to stare at the fire and share my pie with him. It says something when an author can make you feel so much for a character. His transformation through this story is both a beautiful and tragic thing to witness. Eventually, I found the fondness he expressed endearing and came to love his gallantry, no matter how troubled he was.

Sara herself was funny, somewhat crass and totally relatable. I mean, I get it girl. He sucks big time, but damn … we can still enjoy looking at him. I loved how she slowly corrupted Pestilence (as he would claim), introducing him to human pleasures such as alcohol, poetry and … more. I also found it interesting how Sara herself changed throughout the story, finding humanity where it shouldn’t belong and inhumanity where it should. There were times I felt as though Laura must have been living inside my mind because I’m pretty certain Sara had the same reaction I would have had to every situation she found herself in. Sara isn’t perfect, she’s normal. And I loved that about her.

This book has few secondary characters, with the story focusing primarily on Sara and Pestilence’s travels together. However, each of the secondary characters left a deep impression and each helped to transform the two main characters. I’m certain the words unicorn pajamas and the names Ruth and Rob will forever cause a tear to well up in the my eye when I hear them. This story does not hold back and it will tug on your heartstrings until they are frayed.

The atmosphere was also befittingly apocalyptic, right from the first chapter. Laura set this book and series up perfectly and I still feel the ominous and chilling nature of it. There were times my emotions were running on high and I had to set the book aside to collect myself. After all, while Pestilence and Sara are learning more about each other, he is also killing humanity off by the thousands. There is no sugarcoating the brutality of what is happening and how wrong it feels. Nobody is safe from the suffering Pestilence has to offer up.

All of that said, this story depicts a love of epic proportions. One I will endure for!

AND THAT EPILOGUE! My heart is frozen in anticipation for what is to come. Holy cheeseballs, this is one of those books that you need the sequel to immediately. Please?

I received this copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Release date: March 20th, 2018

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Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

Review of Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: 4.0/5 Stars

I’m just a sentient being existing in the world right now. I know I can think and feel. But I’m not sure how to ultimately feel about this book. Did I like it? Absolutely. Did I love it? Only parts of it.

First, let me start off by saying that I’m sure its not easy to come back to a series years later and try to reconnect to the story and the character’s minds. I feel like Mafi did a good job, though some things felt amiss and out of place to me. All of that said, I’m going to attempt to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but will add warnings if I feel something spoils the book.

Let’s talk about the story itself. This is a very character driven book. The plot driven parts are really only the result of new characters being introduced to the story. The story mostly follows Juliette adjusting to becoming supreme commander and how it affects the lives of those around her. That said, I felt bored for the first half of the book until some new characters got introduced and some big revelations came to light. I felt as though the story was going nowhere until that point. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to reconnect to the characters, but there was a lot of running in circles during the first half.

Speaking of the characters, I hope I’m not the only one who felt like Warner really wasn’t Warner enough in this book. As I said, I imagine it is very hard to write a character you may not have planned to continue the story of. Plus, I felt the anxiety rep was a pivotal point in the book and made Warner so much more real. He struggled so much in this book and I really really just want to give him a hug. However, I felt as though Warner’s reaction to some scenarios felt too soft, not like the very extreme Warner we came to fall in love with. I did enjoy Warner’s POV and his inner monologue was great – but it sure felt like his character changed a lot in two weeks. I did however, enjoy Warner’s interactions with Adam (can you believe I actually enjoyed the very few Adam scenes in this book?) and Kenji (my brotp dreams are coming true!).

AND HOLY COW PEOPLE, COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER. I felt like half of the problems in this book would have been solved if people would just talk to each other. That was another thing that felt out of place. There are certain characters who are afraid to bring things up/ask questions and I felt as though that did not fit their characters at all. I cannot tell you how much I was frustrated with that whole plot point. After everything a couple of the characters have experienced together, they feel untrusting of each other and freeze up at the thought of actually talking?

Also, Juliette annoys me. Despite a handful of times, she has no spine and half the time she does she is also having an epic meltdown. I just have a lot of trouble connecting with her character because she feels very outlandish. Don’t get me wrong, I love this series and was so excited to see her character change at the end of Ignite Me, but lets face it – I’m here for Warner and Kenji. Nevertheless, there was a specific scene with Juliette that I loved toward the end of the book. She has just gone through a massive ordeal and meets a handful of new characters. Her personality here is exactly the Juliette I know she can be, then another conflict comes and its ruined.

Now, let’s talk about two things I loved in this book. A) Kenji is the best bff ever and I love that he continues to be supportive (and funny!), but we also get to see a serious side to him and get more BACKSTORY! I felt as though Kenji was the closest to himself of all the characters in this series. I live for the Kenji and Warner scenes. B) THE QUEEN OF SAVAGERY, NAZEERA. Holy crap girl. I love the way she handled Kenji and the other characters in this book. The whole head covering scene was golden and I enjoyed the way Mafi directed that whole scene.

Also the transphobia rep? Can I just drown that character in a river of Warner’s rejection?

Finally, the ending. What the heck happened? I cannot say much without spoiling it, but it does remind us just the state that Juliette was in when this series first started. However, everything felt so out of left field, it was hard to keep up with why things happened the way they did. I’m not sure how to feel about the direction this story is going, but my feelings about this book will not keep me from continuing it. That said, I felt a little disappointed in this one. I still feel as though Ignite Me is the best book in this series, even if it ended abruptly (as Restore Me ended as well).

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Review: Traitor Born by Amy A. Bartol

Review of Traitor Born by Amy A. Bartol

Rating: 5.0/5 Stars

I read this book three months ago and STILL cannot stop thinking about it. I am not kidding when I say it’s my favorite 2018 release so far, nor can I wait any longer to share my thoughts with you.

”I believe dawn is the violent overthrow of night. But night is always still there – just on the periphery – waiting … and at the end of the day, it comes to claim us all.”

Be still, my beating heart.

This sequel was everything I had hoped for and more.Secondborn was a good start to this series, but Traitor Born has really blown it out of the water. If you were unsure of whether you wanted to start or continue this series, do it for this book alone.

The story picks up right were Secondborn left off, with our main character, Roselle St. Sismode finding herself in the Fate of Virtues, under the protection of Fabian Bowie. After the first installment, I was very curious about where the story would go, not sure who could be trusted and who was really the enemy. In the Fate of Virtues, Roselle is reunited with old friends and foes. Roselle discovers that she has been at the helm of other’s plans for much longer than she had anticipated and some will stop at nothing to see those plans fulfilled or fail – no matter her opinion.

Despite the protection afforded to her, both in plain sight and in secret, danger finds its way to Roselle’s doorstep. Othala St. Sismode is on a warpath and will stop and nothing to remove the threat she sees Roselle to be. Change is coming and it is more infinite than Roselle had foreseen. It’s up to Roselle to decide what kind of change she stands for. Change the leadership or change the world?

Some of my favorite parts of this book were: Reykin, Roselle and Dune’s relationship, Grisholm’s pettiness and essentially every interaction between Roselle and Reykin. Roselle and Reykin develop a friendship based on mutual trust and a deeper connection stemming from their encounters in Secondborn. Reykin is intense and fiercely protective of Roselle because of the role the Gates of Dawn want her to play in their rebellion. That said, one begins to wonder if his actions originate from somewhere more profound.

“If you hurt her, I’ll rip your heart out.”

“It’s already gone.”

Our beloved Clifton and Hawthorne are back, though intermittently. Roselle and Clifton continue to collaborate on new weapons and technology to support the war effort, in addition to garnering more support for the Rose Garden Society. I’ve always loved Clifton’s character, he is charming,  and though his ongoing pursuit of Roselle can get tedious at times, one cannot deny the chemistry between them. Roselle and Hawthorne explore more of their relationship and its future, with the events of the last several months being at the forefront. Roselle discovers she is surrounded by supporters that do not necessarily have the same future envisioned. Part of Roselle’s journey is finding the future she envisions for herself and the world.

The character development in this installment was spot-on. I highly enjoyed seeing Roselle continue to grow into the woman she has become, hardened by war and her upbringing. But my heart also broke for her as she struggled with the pressure placed upon her and found the strength to seek the help of those around her. There are a handful of secondary characters we learn much more about, something I was highly anticipating. I probably most savored learning more about Reykin, his hard exterior, his place in the Republic and the secrets he holds.

The story itself moved quickly and I felt as though something was constantly happening. There is a lot of plotting and action happening. The romance aspect of this installment was much different than that in the first book and certainly for the better. I remember feeling as if it was seemingly forced in Secondborn, but that never came to my mind in this book. Instead, it moved along at a steady pace, with distinct ups-and-downs. It’s progression felt natural and never overbearing upon the story itself. I’m still reeling from the ending and the admission during the final moments. Let’s face it, we all knew it, it was obvious, but that was INTENSE! The desperation in those moments was almost too much to bear! My heart broke a little and I’m ready to further delve into those stars and darkness.

The final chapters of this book moved at lightning speed and I did NOT see what developed coming at all, despite the hints dropped here and there. It’s clear that something is coming, but what happens was so out of the ballpark – OMG. My review copy included an excerpt from Rebel Born and let me tell you – the next book will jump right into explaining some of the biggest questions Traitor Born will leave you with. Hold fast! There is a big storm coming and I need Roselle to burn the place to the ground! Needless to say, this may be Bartol’s best book yet. Bravo!

There is much more I want to say about Traitor Born, but I can’t without spoiling it for you! But I will say this: if you don’t have one distinct ship by the end of this book we can’t be friends anymore. You all know I love myself morally grey anti-heroes and this book certainly has a very Rhysand, Aaron Warner, Desmond Flynn-esque character. #TEAMREYKIN

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Release date: April 17th, 2018

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Review: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Review of Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had no idea Six of Crows and Caraval were seeing each other, but they were and this is their baby. I was totally mesmerized by the world of debauchery, seduction and mysterious card games within Ace of Shades and cannot wait to get more! This is one to check out.

The book starts off with Enne Salta travelling to New Reynes, the proclaimed “City of Sin” in search of her missing mother. Her only lead is the name of a street lord, Levi Glaisyer. From there, future lady-to-be Enne, is swept down a path that grows to feel increasingly outlandish, yet intimate, as the story continues. She uncovers secrets about her loved ones and herself she never believed possible.

Some of the best aspects of this book were the world, its history and the way magic is handled. I LOVED the blood and split talent aspect and it opens a universe of possibilities when it comes to the types of talents that exist. Additionally I found the history and lore (eg. the Mizers) of the world very interesting and hope to learn more about volts, how magical talents came to be and how the Mizers fell. I mean how cool is it that the main form of currency is orbs filled with (essentially) electricity? Hellooooo Nikola Tesla. Speaking of that, I got a very strong vibe of a late 1800’s-early 1900’s setting and oh man am I here for it. Street gangs, mafia families, acrobatics shows, gambling dens, I live for fictional worlds that are painted so brightly and fascinating as this one.

I also got a kick out of Enne and her propriety at the start of this novel and the way she began to unwind and let go of her inhibitions as she became more comfortable being herself, rather than always putting on an act. Her horror at certain circumstances was humorous and the way she began to take control and feel good about herself was empowering. Her character grew by leaps and bound and I expect we have much more growth to come.

Then comes Levi, the best (and most precious) card dealer in the City of Sin. Seriously, I just want to bundle Levi’s tortured, mischievous soul up in a blanket and carry him around with me. Levi’s situation is a prime example of being between a rock and a hard place. Levi only wants what is best for those he feels responsible for, but he cannot do that if he cannot save himself first. I loved Levi’s desire for greatness, yet never got the sense that he had lost his humanity. Oh – and Levi is a totally bi and a POC and I’m supporting you honey, keep up the good work. Really – what I need is for Enne and Levi to burn New Reynes to the ground together.

Overall, this is a really unique story with a great world and a fun cast of characters. I cannot say too much about the plot and search for Enne’s mother without spoiling the story for you, so just take my word for it and check it out!

Also – where’s mah fan art at!?

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Release date: April 10th, 2018

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