Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Review of Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Series: Serpent & Dove #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (One of my favorites of 2019!)

Review copy provided by HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.


REVIEW

HELLLOOO MY DEAR BOOK AND WELCOME TO MY ALL TIME FAVORITES.

This book guys. THIS BOOK. It is exactly what I look for in a fantasy novel and has pulled me out of my YA slump. It’s looking to get super hyped and I’ll be joining in on that hype for the rest of the year. Brace yerselves.

Shelby Mahurin has created an enrapturing fantasy firmly rooted in the history of European (particularly French) witch trials. I absolutely love how she took this dark time in history and weaved her own story out of it.

In Belterra, witches are hunted and burned at the stake by order of the king via religious zealots. In turn, many witches have taken to hiding in plain sight or secluding themselves in a hidden location.

After fleeing her coven, Lou is forced to hide her true nature and resort to thieving on the streets. When a burglary goes awry, she is forced into marriage with a Chasseur named Reid, a witch hunter and her mortal enemy. Seeing this as a potential source of protection against the witches who seek to harm her, Lou struggles to hide her magic from her husband. However, as they spend more time together, she finds she wishes she could share her every secret with him, including her growing feelings, which he seems to return.

This book has so many plot elements I love but particularly fake/forced/arranged relationships, enemies to lovers and forbidden love. YES, this one is heavy on the romance and there are mature scenes and elements (reminiscent of ACOMAF, folks) but that only added to the relationship and personalities of Lou, Reid and the other characters.

Some books can easily lose their way amongst a romantic plot but no such thing happened in Serpent & Dove. We were constantly reminded and shown that Lou was constantly at risk of discovery, by the Chasseurs and her others enemies.

Additionally, I love the magic system created in this. I’ve always been a fan of systems in which magic has a cost to the user. In Belterra, the use of magic requires a balance and strategy. A memory for a memory. Vision for vision. A broken bone for a broken bone. A life for a life. It’s clear that Mahurin sought to create a complex, yet intelligent magic system and she surely succeeds in doing so.

Overall, this is a new favorite of mine and I don’t know how I’ll wait for the next book. There is NO CLIFFHANGER but the characters are definitely in a situation in which their next moves must be well calculated. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

View Review on Goodreads


Order Serpent & Dove from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Review of House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I listened to the finished audiobook, but also had a review copy provided to me by Delacorte Press in exchange for and honest review.


DESCRIPTION

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.


REVIEW

LOVE LOVE LOVED THIS. AH! I have so many thoughts. House of Salt & Sorrows swept me off my feet and into a waltz worthy of a masquerade.

I love the way Erin blended the stories of Twelve Dancing Princesses and Annabel Lee into this. I loved the decidedly Crimson Peak and Agatha Christie vibes. This book has an undeniably eerie and gothic atmosphere and I was absolutely living for it.

The story’s narrator is Annaleigh, one of twelve daughters of the Thaumas family. Annaleigh has five older sisters, however only one is living. The story begins with the funeral of her sister Eulalie, the latest tragedy in a string of untimely deaths that claimed four of Annaleigh’s older sisters and their mother. The people of the Salann Islands have begin to suspect the Thaumas family and their manor at Highmoor are cursed, and the family has begun to suspect so themselves.

However, Annaleigh will not settle for that answer. Curse or not, she believes there is a reason for her family’s terrible luck and seeks to discover why. This story blends fantasy, mystery and mythology, with incredible and atmospheric world-building to create a story that will constantly have you swept up into its wondrous landscape and asking “whodunnit?”

As Annaleigh searches for answers, she is joined by her sisters, childhood best friend and a mysterious young man new to the islands. After so many years of mourning, their family seeks a way to move on without seeming callous to their beloved lost and the communities of the islands. Under secret, the sisters attend peculiar balls of grandeur where they dance their shoes to bits and as her sisters become increasingly obsessed, Annaleigh begins to suspect all may not be as it seems.

In addition to the mystery surrounding the Thaumas family deaths, the sisters feeling increasing pressure to find a suitor and marry. Annaleigh herself finds love may not be as unobtainable as she had previously suspected. I thoroughly loved the romance sub-plot in this book and found it interesting and charming, especially as more light is shed about the mystery at the core of this story.

One should know this story depicts some horror elements in possible poltergeists, gore and talk of murder/suicide. I didn’t find this to be too much, personally – if anything it really added to the atmosphere of the story, however those that scare easily may want to skip a few paragraphs here and there.

Overall, this story had be guessing until the end. I suspected some of what came to be, but much of it took me by surprise – hat’s off to that because I was certain I had it figured out!

And even then (hover for SPOILERS for the ending!) >I have to wonder if Annaleigh is truly a reliable narrator. Near the end she is questioning what is real and whether she may truly be mad. While I want to believe her story truly ends the way it’s spelled out on the pages – one could believe that the HEA was all truly a vision and that Annaleigh is locked up in her “sepulchre there by the sea” (the lighthouse) because she has gone mad.

Finally, after reading or listening to this – definitely reread Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. You’ll be in for a treat when you see all of the ways Erin was able to inject the poem into this story.

View Review on Goodreads


Order House of Salt and Sorrows from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Review of The Raging Ones by Krista and Becca Ritchie

Series: The Raging Ones #2
The Raging Ones Review (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Review copy provided by Wednesday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me a physical advance reading copy as well!

Visit my recent blog post to read an excerpt of The Last Hope.


DESCRIPTION

A stunning conclusion to the sci-fi romance duology by writing duo Krista & Becca Ritchie, The Last Hope is filled with twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Sacrifice all you have to survive.

Imprisoned for weeks on an enemy starcraft, Franny, Court, and Mykal have sat with an unfathomable revelation. But as they fight to stay alive, escaping prison means trusting a young mysterious stranger. He knows everything about their lost histories, and when answers aren’t given freely, the bonded trio are forced to join a mission. One that will determine the fate of humanity.

Legend says, a baby—the first of her species—has the power to cloak and teleport planets. Tasked with retrieving the infant, Court fears the baby is just a myth, and if they fail, they’ll never find the truth about their origins.

As Court and Mykal grow closer, their linked bond becomes harder to hide, and dynamics change when Franny begins to fall for someone new. Vulnerable and with no choice, the hunt for the baby sends the trio on a dangerous path to Saltare-1: a water world where their enemies can’t die and survival comes at a high cost.


REVIEW

One of my favorite releases of 2018, The Raging Ones, had me at the end of my seat and screaming for more. It’s sequel and conclusion, The Last Hope, is quite the fitting end to Court, Mykal and Franny’s story. If you haven’t read The Raging Ones, beware of possible spoilers to that book ahead.

I can do a lot of things terribly and a whole lot of things decently and then very few things miraculously.

This duology has always been a little bit science fiction and a little bit fantasy. I think that’s one of the reasons I love it. The Last Hope absolutely expands upon the world-building presented in the first book, as well as the history of the Saltare planets and Earth. We get answers about the link and why Court, Mykal and Franny are the only ones with this bond. We also see and learn more about fan favorites such as Court’s brother Kinden, Zimmer and the Soarcastle sisters. Finally, we are introduced to a new character, Stork, who is by-far my favorite of this book. He has a huge role to play in the story, despite his somewhat mysterious obligations and origins.

The Last Hope picks up very soon after The Raging Ones ended with that epic cliffhanger. Thank goodness for that! I can’t get into too many details of what happens without spoiling the story, but the trio is in dire straights and near the end of the line. They meet the character Stork, who has been searching for the trio. He has the answers they seek, but to earn those answers he needs their help with what is essentially a search and rescue mission. A mission the whole human race is dependent upon.

“You’re not my prisoner. I’m not your captor. If you ever want to leave, you can walk out of your own accord. I’ll encourage you to stay. It’d be the smarter choice, but I’ll never force you to stay here.”

As the trio traverses their newfound identities, they also further build their friendships and find romance. This story has always been largely character driven, while taking place in an imaginative and unique setting. The trio is regularly faced with tempering their emotions for the sake of others, while learning how to use their link to their advantage.

I wouldn’t say this sequel had a different feel than The Raging Ones, but it certainly opened the story to a far grander world and history than I had originally anticipated. I really, really love how this ended too. Seriously, happiness galore.

Overall, this is definitely still a favorite of mine and I highly recommend this duology!

View Review on Goodreads


Order The Last Hope from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Review of The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Series: The Kiss Quotient #2

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thank you to Berkley Publishing for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.


REVIEW

Please don’t let there be two of them. He didn’t know what he was going to do with one woman. If his mom had acquired him an entire harem, he needed therapy. After a heart-pounding second, logic returned to his brain, and he concluded she must have adopted a Western name to help her in the States. He did not have a harem. Thank God.

I blazed right through this one and had an incredible amount of fun returning to the world of The Kiss Quotient.

The Bride Test follows Michael’s cousin Khai and a new character, Esme, a Vietnamese immigrant. Khai is intelligent, logical, intense and autistic. He’s also single. The latter of which his mother plans to remedy by inviting Esme to stay with Khai for the summer. Esme desires a better life for herself, her daughter and their family. She reluctantly sees this opportunity as a stepping stone to said life. She isn’t searching for a husband. But how hard could it be? Go to America and seduce this man. Perhaps they would fall in love. And if she didn’t succeed, she would at least be paid for her time. Both Esme and Khai certainly have their work cut out for them.

I really enjoyed this story and found it to be sweet and funny, while also carrying a fantastic message about grief and maneuvering one’s emotions. Esme’s character is truly the bright spot of this story and I admire her hard-working nature and tenacity. She is truly the type of character I could aspire to be more like.

And if she asked, he knew he would give her anything. If he could.

The romance in this is slow to blossom, of course. Khai has never had a non-platonic relationship with a woman in any form. Esme’s past relationships have been wrought with bad experiences. Watching these two navigate their relationship from roommates, to friends, to more was delightful. I especially found a part in which Khai criticizes junior high sex education and seeks advice from Michael and Quan to be hilarious and true in so many regards. (Seriously folks, sex education in its current form is atrocious and so misinformed.)

All of this said, Khai and Esme have big secrets they are keeping from one another (because of course) and must decide how to approach these subjects, or lose one another completely. Khai is in new territory, with Esme constantly in his personal life – whereas before he could ignore phone calls and lock himself inside his house. As they grow closer, Esme finds she doesn’t know how to share the most important part of her life. She fears it’ll shatter her chance of a different life.

It’s important to note that The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test are #ownvoices novels. The author Helen Hoang and the characters Stella and Khai have autism spectrum disorders. Helen has clearly infused both of these stories with her own experiences and struggles. As the parent of a child on the spectrum, I feel the difficulties Stella and Khai have in traversing emotional and social situations deep in my bones. Its something I struggle to help my own child with on a daily basis. I applaud Helen for bringing us these characters and their stories to us readers.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed The Bride Test and his predecessor, The Kiss Quotient. Definitely keep your eyes peeled for Helen’s next novel, The Heart Principle, due out in Spring 2020!

View Review on Goodreads


Order The Bride Test from these booksellers

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound

[Blog Tour] Excerpt: The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Review of The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

thelasthope.jpgThe Last Hope by Krista and Becca Ritchie releases next week on August 13th and I am so thrilled to share an excerpt of the first chapter with everyone! The Last Hope is a sequel and conclusion to Krista and Becca’s 2019 release, The Raging Ones, one of my favorite releases of last year. You can read my review of it here (five stars!). The Last Hope is nothing short of fantastic and everything I had hoped for in a sequel.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for sending me a copy of The Last Hope in exchange for an honest review and for inviting me on the blog tour!

View Review on Goodreads


DESCRIPTION

A stunning conclusion to the sci-fi romance duology by writing duo Krista & Becca Ritchie, The Last Hope is filled with twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Sacrifice all you have to survive.

Imprisoned for weeks on an enemy starcraft, Franny, Court, and Mykal have sat with an unfathomable revelation. But as they fight to stay alive, escaping prison means trusting a young mysterious stranger. He knows everything about their lost histories, and when answers aren’t given freely, the bonded trio are forced to join a mission. One that will determine the fate of humanity.

Legend says, a baby—the first of her species—has the power to cloak and teleport planets. Tasked with retrieving the infant, Court fears the baby is just a myth, and if they fail, they’ll never find the truth about their origins.

As Court and Mykal grow closer, their linked bond becomes harder to hide, and dynamics change when Franny begins to fall for someone new. Vulnerable and with no choice, the hunt for the baby sends the trio on a dangerous path to Saltare-1: a water world where their enemies can’t die and survival comes at a high cost.


EXCERPT

thelasthopeexcerpt-page-001thelasthopeexcerpt-page-002thelasthopeexcerpt-page-003thelasthopeexcerpt-page-004thelasthopeexcerpt-page-005


ABOUT THE AUTHORSkristabeccaritchie

Krista & Becca Ritchie are New York Times Bestselling Authors and identical twins, one a science nerd, the other a comic book geek. With their shared passion for writing, they combined their mental powers as kids and have never stopped telling stories. Graduates from the University of Georgia in Biology and English & Journalism, the twin writing duo now lives in Atlanta. The Raging Ones is their first young adult novel.


Order The Last Hope from these booksellers

Release Date: August 13th, 2019

Wednesday Books | Amazon | Barnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound

[ARC] Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Review of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Aurora Cycle #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.


REVIEW

And though this pack of losers and discipline cases and sociopaths might’ve been the last picks on anyone’s mind during the Draft, turns out none of them are bad at their jobs.

FLOORED. I am floored.

Zila would say it’s statistically impossible for Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff to continue putting out these amazing stories (both together and individually) – one after the other. But in truth, they’re just THAT good. Kaufman and Kristoff (sounds like the name of a law firm) are back to scatter our minds across the ‘Way with more unthinkable twists and to wrench our hearts out of our chests with more romance, tragedy and soul-stopping moments.

Its hard not to compare this to the Illuminae Files but besides an amazing cast of characters and space setting we’re going to stop the comparisons there (other than to say both are great, read both!). I recently attended a panel in which Jay Kristoff was present and one of the questions was, could you change the genre of your book from sci fi to fantasy or vice versa? He answered yes and it couldn’t be more true. Aurora Rising has a sci fi setting but will absolutely appeal to fantasy fans as well – due to many strong fantasy elements (magic kinda stuff, mythology AND QUESTS). A friend recently called it “scifantasy” and I’m going to do the same because IT FITS.

We the Legion
We the light
Burning bright against the night

Aurora Rising made me so nostalgic for stories I love: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Serenity/Firefly, Starship Troopers, Defiance, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy … elements from each are there and waiting for us to indulge in them.

And Squad 312 … this squad is so disjointed and an utter disaster in its infancy. Hold onto your butts though, folks. This is a squad we can all stan. There is witty banter, established and budding friendships, romance (insert googly eyes) and a genuine kinship between Tyler and Scarlett. I loved witnessing Squad 312 go from reluctant allies to working together as if they already know each other’s next move. I wont say much about the individual characters as I feel you just need to read the book and meet them, but the authors have done such a fantastic job of creating a team that is well balanced in knowledge, personality and background. As well as representation of sexuality, disability and ethnicity. ALSO. SPACE ELVES ARE A THING.

Do moons choose the planets they orbit? Do planets choose their stars? Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than any constellation in the sky?

The story itself will keep you on the edge of your seat with it’s constant motion. The world is vibrant and well developed in ways I haven’t experienced lately. This book is one hell of a ride and you won’t be able to set it aside once you start. I was captivated!

View Review on Goodreads


Order Aurora Rising from these booksellers

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound

Blog Tour (Q&A + Review): Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

wickedsaints.jpgWhat is your most anticipated 2019 debut?

Well, I’m here to introduce you to mine. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan is a seductively dark and entrancing new fantasy novel, kicking off a series that will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about for years to come. I devoured this book in less than a day and you WILL NOT see the plot twists coming until they’ve knocked you off your feet and are standing over you. Make sure your sitting for the last chapters of this one!

That said, I am so thrilled to be apart of the Wicked Saints blog tour and had the chance to ask Emily A. Duncan herself some questions. Continue reading for our exchange, my review and more information on this enticing new story.

I love how Wicked Saints combines Slavic folklore, morally grey characters and even a nod of Joan of Arc. How was Wicked Saints born?

Procrastination, Skyrim, and a lot of metal music. There was actually never any Joan of Arc — that came later, as a marketing comp — I had more in mind Dungeons and Dragons clerics when I was forming the magic system and the world.

Which character surprised you the most during the writing process?

Malachiasz. I didn’t plan for him. He was never in early drafts. He was supposed to be in the book for a grand total of three chapters before he went off to do his own thing but then he refused to leave. Not only did he refuse to leave, he pulled the whole story out of my hands and decided to put himself at the heart of it. I adore him, he’s the worst.

(We all adore Malachiasz.)

What book would you recommend to each of your three main characters?emilyaduncan

Oh, man. Malachiasz needs a self help book… Actually… they all need self help books. Oh, god, someone help them.

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.


DESCRIPTION

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.


REVIEW

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

HOT DAMN THIS WAS INSANE.

Launching myself into the sun would be less stressful than reading the final chapters of this book. Emily A. Duncan is the maestro of dark boys and probably evil gods. Emily is a bloodmage and this is her spellbook, I am entranced.

Wicked Saints is a bold and creative novel that takes some of our best loved themes and flips them on their head. This remarkable dark fantasy debut is rooted in a Slavic inspired world that will hold you hostage. Once you get started, you won’t be able to look away.

This is the type of story that will seek deep into your bones and consume you. I’ve seen it compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and while there are similarities and certainly appeal to fans of the aforementioned, Wicked Saints is wholly and uniquely its own story. There is nothing quite like it that I’ve read.

The story follows three characters – a young cleric and conduit of the Gods, a runaway heretic magic and a sassy alcoholic prince. These are the characters I didn’t know I needed. These are the characters you didn’t know you needed.

Full of witty banter and a chilling atmosphere, Wicked Saints soars to the top of my favorite debuts list. The hype is well deserved, you need this stunning book (inside and out!) on your shelf.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review and inviting me to be a host on the blog tour.

View Review on Goodreads


Order Wicked Saints from these booksellers

amazonbarnesnoblebookdepositoryindiebound

goodreads