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
Book Review

Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: No language, epic fantasy, a tiny bit of romance, some violence
Length: 541 pages
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: July 17th, 2006
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

OFFICIALLY A SANDERSON FAN.

I’ve been really weary of reading anything Sanderson, NOT because I ever heard anything bad, but I was weirdly concerned that it was so loved that I would not enjoy it myself. I stand here today saying [so far]: I am wrong! 

This was a great introduction to the Cosmere (Sanderson’s world; there’s a handful of series you can start from, but this is most often cited as the best option). The world building is intense and fulfilling. He’s known for his lengthy books, and I can see why. There is such an effort to how he portrays the universe and I loved it all.

First off, the sass level of Kelsier had me in giggles. While he definitely has some fatal flaws, he was a great character POV. Caring, sensitive, and loyal he took care of his thieving crew the best that he could.

Vin took some warming up for me. By the end I was totally all for her. It takes a while for her to open and come out of her shell, but the moment she clapped back at Kel I had my hands in the air. YES GIRL.

Can I just say, I died when Elend and Vin met? I’m sorry, total goals to find a man reading books and then throw some witty banter in there and I swooned. I definitely laughed out loud listening to them. I could not even handle their cute, soft, amusing interactions. If they aren’t endgame, you won’t be seeing another Sanderson book in by TBR. 

Also, y’all, these magic laws are intricate. What’s great is the author really spends time explaining them (not in a boring, skim the paragraphs way either). I can sit here and still remember what most of the metals are AND what they do. This is truly an epic fantasy with a lot of pieces to hold the Final Empire together. 

Note: I listened to this on Audible (Michael Kramer is the narrator) and it was really easy to listen too! Occasionally I had issues figuring out what names were said, but once I got that it was fine. He does voices for each character and it is a smooth sound. Definitely recommend. 

Overall audience notes:

  • Epic fantasy
  • No language
  • A kiss (all “romance” scenes are the aforementioned lively conversations)
  • Lots of violence, some detailed and gory
Book Review

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

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: One derogatory word, Fantasy/historical fiction, lots of violence, some love scenes
Length: 527pages
Author: Signe Pike
Publisher: Touchstone
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Mists of Avalon meets Philippa Gregory in the first book of an exciting historical trilogy that reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a powerful and, until now, tragically forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legendary character of Merlin.

Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.

Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch’s wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.

The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of the most enduring legends of all time.

GOOD FOR WHAT IT IS.

I really enjoyed devouring this book! Though, based off of the description you might believe it to be historical fiction based. While yes, the places, people, and other things are in history, the entire story is essentially fantasy.

Pike did a lot of research and wrote a great Note about the book at the end. It helped me understand her decisions in how she chose to take the book. Lets face it, there really isn’t a way for us to know if Langoureth had a lover on the side, if she truly loved her husband, what her relationship was like with her family, etc. So the author had to make a lot of choices in how to write her story. All in all, if you go into this wanting a fantasy with romance, duty, war and plenty more I think you’ll really enjoy it as I did! If you’re seeking more historical with language, and the time period you might be a little disappointed (as I have noticed in other reviews).

The book is a bit slow at first, it’s broken up into sections of Langoureth at 10, 14/15, and then in her early 30’s. The last gap was a big jump for me, but it did further the story and plot. Maelgwn and Rhydderch (though really, Maelgwn) are essentially the book boyfriends everyone is fond of. I was totally involved in their stories with Langoureth and am curious where it could lead. It’s less of a love triangle than it appears because of the push of duty as a princess she didn’t have a choice.

There’s a lot of characters (where I had to spend a chunk of time re-reading how to pronounce everyone’s names; so happy she added that) and they all had their narrative. Whether or not we know exactly what they were like, I did feel attached to these people. They must have gone through the trials depicted in one way or another. 

After the first 1/3 of the book it retains high action. A lot is happening as Christianity makes an appearance and threat on the Old Way. It was a unique perspective in watching this religious war play out (and will continue throughout this series it seems). Lailoken (the person believed to be Merlin) is rising in ranks and it ended on a cliffhanger that I’m very worried about. 

Langoureth is a work in progress as a Queen (as she is not Queen at this time). I only gathered the pieces of her growing up, so I believe further books will really let her shine. She’s strong willed and makes difficult choices to protect her family and her faith. 

Overall audience notes:

  • Fantasy, based off of historical people
  • No language, except for one very derogatory word used once
  • Lots of blood, gore, and death
  • A few love scenes, a little steamy and descriptive