Book Review

Review: The Caged Queen (Iskari #2) by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Audience: Young adult fantasy, no language, a little romance, violence
Length: 400 pages
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. When they were angry, mirrors shattered, and when they were happy, flowers bloomed. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen.

Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa and her people waged war and deposed a tyrant. But now Asha is on the run, hiding from the price on her head. And Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people continue to suffer.

Then a chance to right every wrong arises—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Reliquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY.

I was missing a lot from this book, namely DRAGONS. WHERE WERE THE DRAGONS? A few cameos was not enough! That’s why I loved the first book. Along with the dragons missing were Asha and Torwin. I was all for them and thought that maybe they’d play a bigger role.

[Actually, I wished this book had continued their story…]

Rebekah was actually a good evil character, she totally went through with her plans! *applause* My emotions were definitely tied up in how much I hated her bitter, self-serving soul.

Y’all. Dax is my precious cinnamon roll no one will hurt. He was better than our main character: Roa. Dax was not a fool. I loved how conniving and heartfelt each action was. He continually sought a better kingdom and if someone *cough cough* Roa *cough cough* would give him half a second she would’ve seen that from the start.

Now on to Roa. I really dislike when it is SO OBVIOUS that one simple conversation could change the entire course of the book. If Roa seriously asked Dax, Hey what’s up?, we wouldn’t even have a story. She was so focused on Essie (understandably to a point, but also this was her major downfall) and Theo (don’t even get me started on how much I don’t like him). I also have a huge issue with anyone sleeping with someone to gain an advantage. It put me off from her entirely. 

This book wasn’t as epic as the first. I couldn’t fully immerse myself in this new story and unfortunately was an outsider looking in. I know some people were really interested in her character from The Last Namsara. So don’t let this deter you if you’re on of those! Each book can be read as a stand-a-lone or together. It’s still pretty writing that is full of court politics and a friend-to-lovers trope.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • No language
  • Violence (swords, physicality)
  • A love scene that is barely there; an intense kiss or two
Book Review

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Adult contemporary fiction, trigger subjects, violence, sex, language
Length: 416 pages
Author: Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that is not meant to be read…

My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you have built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX.

And apparently only that.

That’s about all I remember from this book honestly. And what made me even more sad about it was that it wasn’t romantic sex. It was just eh. Most of the characters were practically consumed by their sex life. I will be the first person to say I love a good love story, but not in this way. I’m not even sure what kind of story it was? Middle-class women with a lot of issues was about all I gathered.

Now those pieces are written well. The author gets that psyche down and each character was struggling with some tough issues. Murder, grief, depression, guilt, looming divorce, affairs of the heart, Mom-shame, and a lot more. 

This book has a lot happening at all times. Enough so that I flew through it, but was left with a bitter taste. The “epilogue” didn’t solve any problems, and left things kind of frazzled and somewhat open-ended (in my interpretation).

I will say, the ethics of this book got me thinking. What would happen if a letter like that had come into my life, ya know? It is a lot to contemplate, but the secret was seen from way over a mile away so take the story as you want.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult fiction mystery
  • Language
  • A lot more talking about sex than actual sex, but they’re some mild-detailed scenes
  • Violence (murder, car wrecks)
  • Trigger warnings: grief, depression, murder
Book Review

Review: Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) by Cassandra Clare

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy, love scenes, violence, some language
Length: 912 pages
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: McElderberry Books
Release Date: December 4th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Dark secrets and forbidden love threaten the very survival of the Shadowhunters in Cassandra Clare’s Queen of Air and Darkness, the final novel in the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling The Dark Artifices trilogy.

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks. 

Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

NOT TOO SHABBY.

Note: While the review for QoAaD is spoiler-free there might be a piece or two that isn’t to those who haven’t read TMI, TID or the previous two books of TDA.

This wasn’t everything I wanted a finale book to be, and at times seemed like it was trying way too hard, but it got better as I went. And don’t worry Queen of cliffhangers, CC, definitely left us hanging.

The first 200 pages or so draaaaaged. I’m talking, I could easily put the book down and walk away, kinda drag. It was all politics and love stories (which I love, but I was really looking forward to some action). Yes, the Livvy funeral was heartbreaking, but after that [and thanks to Julian being a fool] I was down-trodden with the initial premises of the plot.

There were DEFINITELY SOME BOMBS DROPPED. While I was completely floored by them, a handful of them didn’t come to any fruition…in this series. There’s clearly a set-up for her next books, which kinda bums me. I want the Shadowhunter world to keep going, but I hate feeling like book worlds just keep going and going and going. It’s okay to end things.

I often chuckled at multiple scenes throughout. The anecdotes of fairies trying to handle the normal world is so precious (I love you Kieran). And anytime we talked about the swagger/confidence of Jace was fun too. There’s a lot of good scenes in here that’ll make anyone smile.

I also lived for all the romance. Emma and Julian are some of my favorite shadowhunters. They both have so many good qualities that I can overlook their flaws. Them finally figuring things out was dramatic, but not the dramatics I thought it would be? When we learn about parabatai bonds, my initial inklings had me thinking we were going somewhere else with the plot. When that didn’t happen I felt things exploded in the wrong direction and was let down. It’s cool, not stabbing Jace to save his life cool, but cool. The rest of the gang: Kieran/Mark/Christina, Aline/Helen, Magnus/Alec, Jace/Clary, Diana/Gwyn [and I know I’m forgetting people at this point] were all developing and progressing in beautiful ways. It was wonderful to see relationships develop all over the place.

Y’all, one of my least favorite tropes is the addition of a portal/alternate universe. I know her books have had them before, but I was hoping this one wouldn’t be like those as well. It feels like a cop out to pieces of the plot that weren’t quite fitting. We learned some, had some fun, finally had a battle scene, and moved the plot along. But I’m pretty sure that the alternate universe didn’t have to happen. Secondly, Annabel [who, for reference, is on the cover] is hardly in this entire book. She wasn’t even truly part of the plot if you ask me. A small side character who’s initial damage to the Blackthorn family didn’t cause the riot I was hoping for.

Now, the “post-last-battle-everything-is-okay-for-now” scenes were longer than most books, AND I AM HERE FOR THEM. I love a good few chapters at the end where things are peaceful. GUYS GUYS GUYS, CC GAVE US A WEDDING *cue happy tears*. A lot of things happen from bittersweet, to romantic, to making your heart swell, and also feel like crying sad tears. 

It was an interesting ending to say the least. I never saw the full structure coming (because I didn’t realize we had even more books to continue with). This book almost leaves you asking more questions rather than solving them.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy (magic, warlocks, vampires, demons, werewolves, etc.)
  • Some language (more than usually in her books)
  • Romance ranging from a peck to a mildly-detailed love scene or two
  • Violence (battle scenes)
  • Trigger warnings: suicide, depression, guilt
Book Review

The Song of David (The Law of Moses #2) by Amy Harmon

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult contemporary/paranormal, some language, some violence, a bit of romance
Length: 284 pages
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: Hyperion Books 
Release Date: June 13th, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

She said I was like a song. Her favorite song. A song isn’t something you can see. It’s something you feel, something you move to, something that disappears after the last note is played.

I won my first fight when I was eleven years old, and I’ve been throwing punches ever since. Fighting is the purest, truest, most elemental thing there is. Some people describe heaven as a sea of unending white. Where choirs sing and loved ones await. But for me, heaven was something else. It sounded like the bell at the beginning of a round, it tasted like adrenaline, it burned like sweat in my eyes and fire in my belly. It looked like the blur of screaming crowds and an opponent who wanted my blood. 

For me, heaven was the octagon.

Until I met Millie, and heaven became something different. I became something different. I knew I loved her when I watched her stand perfectly still in the middle of a crowded room, people swarming, buzzing, slipping around her, her straight dancer’s posture unyielding, her chin high, her hands loose at her sides. No one seemed to see her at all, except for the few who squeezed past her, tossing exasperated looks at her unsmiling face. When they realized she wasn’t normal, they hurried away. Why was it that no one saw her, yet she was the first thing I saw?

If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.


HAUNTINGLY POIGNANT.

Yet again (and not surprisingly) Amy Harmon has thrown me a book that I couldn’t put down. This book is small, but packs a punch [ooo, pun alert] and I finished this in an evening.

The Song of David is a standalone with a character from the original Law of Moses. David is tough, resilient, and stubbornly hard to handle. Watching his character struggles had me wanting to back-hand him a few times and then cry with him the next. I CAN’T HANDLE HOW SWEET HE IS. 

Millie is a beautiful character. She never takes her trials laying down. Always facing adversity daily as she truly marches through life. I loved watching her take down David’s heart in an achingly masterful way.

Henry is also one of my top favorite side characters from a contemporary. He is funny, gentle and made we want to sob right along with him. He’ll win your heart so fast with his unique ways of viewing the world. 

This book read mostly as a mystery where I seriously could not figure out what happened. My theory changed every chapter and I was getting so upset thinking the WORST had happened. It was skillful story-telling at its finest. These character were raw and real. 

Amy Harmon is also one of my personal Queen’s of the slow burn. Her romances draw you out and leave you breathless. The ending leaves you begging for more answers yet grateful for the story that unfolded beforehand. 

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary (with a little paranormal [ghosts])
  • Some language
  • Violence (David is a MMA fighter)
  • Romance is some kissing/make-outs, a love scene (but Harmon is my favorite because these are so beautiful, and cleanly written!!)
Book Review

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Audience: Young adult fantasy, no language, some implied romance, kiss/make-outs, some violence
Expected Length: 586 pages
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion Books 
Expected Release Date: September 24th, 2010
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret. 

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen. 

Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.

I AM ENJOYING THIS SERIES SO MUCH!

What started out as a bit slow as our characters made their way to Oden’s Ford gradually became an intense, couldn’t put down ending.

I DON’T KNOW WHERE WE GO FROM HERE Y’ALL.

Well, actually, I have a tiny bit of an idea. But so not sure on how this collision will work out. I have faith all goes well!

I promise you this: I will not be a captive Queen.

All hail future Queen Raisa. She is strong, stubborn, and unwilling to compromise her values. I love that she won’t give up on what she truly wants until there is no other option. I appreciate that she’s small and is actually not [that] great at sword-wielding. It makes her character more human and lets us see how her mind often comes up with a better solution.

Han, I love him even more this time around. He’s my little reformed thief wizard extraordinaire. I think our sweet soul is in for a rude awakening soon. His tenacity is about to bring his world really crashing down. I can’t wait to see what this does for his arc overall. 

I felt there was too much time spent in classes. It was lookin’ a little HP-esque and I was a bit bored listening to the ramble of professors. It did help the plot, but it’s also book two (of four) so there was unnecessary fillers.

A lot is happening with so many characters and I’m totally enamored. I love having a lot of story lines as long as they keep weaving back into the main plot. And this book is giving everything and more of that.

All the magic is enchanting and Oden’s Ford grew on me as time went on. There’s a lot of traversing through the countryside as well. I love how well the world is built and the map in this book definitely helps! 

Overall audiences notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • No language
  • Some vaguely implied romance; kisses/make-outs, a little descriptive
  • Some violence
  • Trigger Warnings: attempted assault
Monthly Wrap-Up

November 2018 Monthly Wrap-up!

The best month of the year!

My birthday is November, so clearly (and everyone should agree) that it’s the best month. Fall is my favorite time of year and in Texas we finally got a good dose of cooler weather. I’m a firm believer in letting Thanksgiving have its day before Christmas starts so now that December is here, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Here’s what I read this month: 

Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3) by Rachel Caine

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

Archenemies (Renegades #2) by Marissa Meyer

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1) by Grace Draven

Smoke and Iron (The Great Library #4) by Rachel Caine

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling (Kingdom on Fire #3) by Jessica Cluess

The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima

The Lost Queen (The Lost Queen Trilogy #1) by Signe Pike

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Favorite book: The Final Empire (Mistobrn #1)

Least favorite: Archenemies

How many books did you get to? Did you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review

ARC Review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Romanov

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Audience: Young adult historical fiction/fantasy, no language, a lot of violence, a kiss or two
Expected Length: 352 pages
Author: Nadine Brandes
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Expected Release Date: May 17th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov.

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in the review are completely my own. Thank you for the opportunity to read Romanov! Publication date, length, etc. subject to change.

HISTORICALLY MAGICAL.

Second note: some of this may seem like a spoiler, but Brandes does a wonderful job of intertwining history WITH the magical pieces. Anything I bring up historically, really did happen and shouldn’t be a surprise at all. 

I think [know] I let myself get too hyped about this and was a little disappointed overall. It was still a good standalone that had the historic story as the basis with magic woven in so well that I was intrigued from the start! Some kinks left me wanting more.

I read this digitally, so let’s see…it took til 54% through the book to FINALLY GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I know we’re in exile, but I was dying to see something else in my mind. There wasn’t a lot of world building. I felt that I was expected to know what Russia and these other places looked like already so I missed out on the detailing of it all.

What I found really interesting was how Brandes gave the Romanov’s such humanity. History dictates that this 300+ year old royal line was all kinds of crazy cruel (and that’s putting it lightly). Now, I only know so much, this last group with Nicholas II as tsar could have been a more decent family than I’m aware of. It made me stop and think that all in all, this was a family. And this family was brutally murdered without trial.

This gave the whole family a lot more depth as “characters”. They prayed together, were sincere to their captors, and were only wanting to be released somewhere together. Anastasia was fiercely loyal and protective of her brood. There was a huge emphasis on forgiveness from her character. This ideal repeatedly comes up as she struggles (rightly so) accepting her new fate. 

My biggest loss was the magic system. I have no idea how it works. Very little was ever explained. There’s spell masters, spell ink, some can use it, some can’t, how is it made, can anyone be a spell master, how does this spell work, SOMEONE HELP ME. I am so confused. Since this was the fantasy portion of the book I was looking for a more detailed story-line of why magic was the target of the Red Army in the first place. 

I am frazzled with one piece of the ending and booed at my book when it happened, but besides that this was the best ending for this book. And I mean that in a good way! Since it follows history, there’s an assumption of what could’ve happened. I thought it was sweet and hopeful that fates cards were dealt differently for the Romanov’s than what history served them.

One of my favorite parts of books are the Notes from the author (yes, I totally read those). When fully explained, they can really enhance the book! There was a wonderful explanation of what was true, what wasn’t, and why she made certain creative decisions. It honestly made me like the book even more. I was totally surprised about some pieces actually being true! It helped me better understand the plot and the addition of some characters. 

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction/fantasy
  • No language
  • A little love story that leads to a kiss or two
  • Violence: y’all there is a lot so everyone is aware, it is the Russian Revolution and historically on point; plenty of blood and fairly detailed
  • Trigger warnings: contemplation of suicide, gun violence