Book Review

Book Review: Deathcaster (Shattered Realms #4) by Cinda Williams Chima

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 656 pages
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

SPLINTERED ALLEGIANCE.

Warrior Alyssa ana’Raisa would do anything to protect her home, the Fells, and her legacy, the Gray Wolf Line. But as a prisoner of Empress Celestine, Lyss is forced to turn her fearsome talents as an army commander against her beloved homeland. Refusal would swiftly lead to her death, and her death would end the Gray Wolf Line.

ANCIENT DANGER.

In Lyss’s absence, Fellsmarch Castle swarms with intrigue, deception, and a primordial threat. Destin Karn, a Southern spymaster with a hidden agenda of his own, might be the queendom’s only hope of defeating the forces aligned against the Seven Realms… as well as the enemies within the castle.

THE DEADLY COST OF PEACE.

Master storyteller Cinda Williams Chima delivers spellbinding action, bittersweet reunions, and dazzling revelations in this indispensable conclusion to the Shattered Realms series. 

FANTASTIC FINALE.

Oohhh this book was so good. I am distraught that this world is at last at an end. I enjoyed the Seven Realms series more, but I definitely had a good time reading through Shattered Realms.

I love that I couldn’t figure out who the traitor was. Every time it would lean one way and I was convinced they were the culprit more facts would be laid out and I couldn’t believe it! Well, I believe the character who committed the fraud is capable of such a thing, I was hopeful that they were better than that, but GUESS NOT.

The ever changing POV was on point. I was left feeling suspense on a feeling of suspense but also that the scene had finished. It was smooth and easy transitions as things were utterly ruled by chaos before the last moments of battle.

“He cocked his head, grinning charmingly, exposing teeth the size of rock slabs. Flame female?

Y’all, dragons. Dragons. And, oh, did I mention dragons? There was a whole cadre vibe with the family of dragons and there interaction and dialogue was seriously the best. I’m so happy they played a much bigger role and dealt out vengeance to all.

The plot was heavy story driven vs. character driven. I wished there was a bit more relationship building among the couples, friends and the like. It would have really put the whole book over the top.

The characters all stepped up their game too. Each reunion scene has me holding my breath. Shouting, AT LAST!! I needed those scenes, and I got those scenes. Destin was one of my favorites. He was sassy and conniving, but also could shed some tears, and when he saw Evan again? I couldn’t even handle it.

Getting Lyss and Hal back together was also momentous. Their final scene was the nice little cherry on top. I love happy endings. I like knowing where things are going. All the questions I had were answered and I fully understood the angle of the antagonists and well as our heroes.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: a handful of mild words
  • Romance: two glossed over love scenes, some kisses
  • Violence: knives, poison, fire, physical
Book Review

Book Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy, Historical fantasy
Length: 576 pages
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?

 Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

HAVE MERCY.

Someone please tell me they got that reference.

I picked up this book based off of the hype for the new series, Courting Darkness. The hype train got to me, but it worked! I really had a great time reading this thought it was quick and endearing.

I loved the pacing and felt there was a steady amount of action. I thought there would be a bit more murder because the whole concept is that Ismae is an assassin for the god of Death. There was quite a bit, but I was missing a bit more stabbiness. This concept was great though. Reminded me a little of ToG (because of the assassin idea, but that’s it).

You can see who the traitor was from the first moment they stepped onto the page. Even with that being the case there were still a handful of twists that I didn’t see coming. I was kept on my toes and very worried about how the duchess would fare.

The romance between Gavriel and Ismae was SO GOOD. The romantic tension between them was driving me crazy. I loved Gavriel and thought he was a strong and steady presence. He was continually faithful to his family and was preciously tender, and fierce. Goodness, seriously, the best.

Ismae on the other hand was fine. As the main character I expected a little more from her, but she wasn’t spectacular. I thought it was great how trained she was because girl could hold her own. Other times she annoyed me a bit and her thoughts her repetitive.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy & historical fiction
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses, a love scene so vague I’m pretty sure nothing actually happened
  • Violence: domestic abuse, knives, poison, physical (it is a book about assassin’s so expect lots of death)
  • Trigger warnings: domestic abuse, sexual assault
Book Review

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary fiction
Length: 327 pages
Author: Gail Honeyman
Publisher: Viking – Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

I’M FINE.

I wasn’t sure what kind of book I was diving into when I picked this up. Just that Reese Witherspoon had it in her book club, so I should read it too (I love her y’all).

It was different than I imagined, and I had a hard time getting into it. I still was invested and finished the book and liked it overall.

The biggest meaning of Eleanor was the struggle that is, mental health. This was hard to read at times as Eleanor had to first, deny then confront her demons head-on. I thought the author approached this really well. I had a lot of empathy for her and so deeply understood how the past can try to hold you back.

Her personality was directly affected by all that she had locked away in her mind. The quirks she had (such as talking so formally and maybe a touch too blunt at times) made her, her. I thought she was clever and funny in her own right.

One of my favorite portions was that there was no romance. Yes, maybe a hint in the future at the very end, but that was not the point of the book. Raymond was the friend Eleanor needed and I LOVED IT. He was kind, caring, and understanding in so many ways. I adored watching their friendship blossom and seeing Eleanor open up to what a good relationship looks like in her life.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Eleanor’s boss. Whenever she had to take time off of work for her mental health she wasn’t resented for it. He made sure she took her time and came back when SHE was ready. This seriously needs to be a world wide example.

I felt like the book was missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it honestly might be for the fact this isn’t my usual genre. I was missing the portions I generally seek out in reading in this book. I still appreciated Eleanor Oliphant as a whole and enjoyed the story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult contemporary fiction
  • Language: a few strong words
  • Romance: none
  • Trigger warnings: domestic abuse, verbal/emotional abuse, discussion of suicide, alcoholism, depression, mentions of rape, animal abuse, survivor’s guilt

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Book Review

Book Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying. 

RESONATING.

“Each scar marks me as a survivor. A warrior of the wild.”

This was a book that really caught my attention. A lot of powerful phrasing that really hit home for me. I love this authors writing and the way she builds her characters and the story as a whole.

I absolutely love the dialogue throughout WotW. It was impressive. It felt real and had me flying through the book. I didn’t want to put it down! I vaguely figured out where the book was going, but loved the progression all the same.

I appreciate that the romance was believable. That can be a hard task in a standalone. I adored Soren and his practical, loving nature was precious. Things moved at a steady pace and never went too far, which made absolute sense for the time frame/plot. The banter between Sorren and Rasmira had me chuckling and begging for more.

Each of the main characters (Rasmira, Sorren & Iric) all went through these characters arcs that dove into deeper waters. Conquering fears, realizing one’s true nature and abilities, and learning to communicate were just a few of the aspects broached. I feel like I really got this book. Which is probably why I’m gushing over it now.

The only “eh” thing was the god Peruxolo. There wasn’t much to him so he wasn’t a completely believable antagonist. The scope of the story was so much broader than him that his background took a backseat. I was at least satisfied in the fact that the truth was fully explained at the end.

“My soul has worth, and I won’t let it depart this world just yet.”

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy (vikings)
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: light kisses to barely intense make-outs
  • Violence: ax, knives, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: Stormcaster (Shattered Realms #3) by Cinda Williams Chima

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 535 pages
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 3rd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The third book in the thrilling four-book Shattered Realms series from New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima

The empress in the east—the unspeakably cruel ruler whose power grew in Flamecaster and Shadowcaster—tightens her grip in this chilling third installment in the series.

Vagabond seafarer Evan Strangward can move the ocean and the wind, but his magical abilities seem paltry in comparison to Empress Celestine’s. As Celestine’s bloodsworn armies grow, Evan travels to the Fells to warn the queendom of her imminent invasion. If he can’t convince the Gray Wolf queen to take a stand, he knows that the Seven Realms will fall. Among the dead will be the one person Evan can’t stand to lose.

Meanwhile, the queen’s formidable daughter, Princess Alyssa ana’Raisa, is already a prisoner aboard the empress’s ship. Lyss may be the last remaining hope of bringing down the empress from within her own tightly controlled territory.

Multiple intricately interwoven storylines converge in this gripping novel about a brave, coordinated effort to undermine a horrific tyrant.

I LIKED MOST OF IT.

Unfortunately, I think this will be the weakest book in the series. My biggest issue is that each book has started with a new character. Then we spend 100+ pages going over their back story while I’m impatiently waiting to get back to the main story-line, stopping the empress.

The problem with beginning with the back-story is that it makes all of the love interests seem quick and insta-attraction (even when the story talks about time jumps). I love the opposite attraction of Evan and Destin. Evan is striving to right wrongs and save not only his Kingdom, but the Seven Realms. Then we have Destin, a complex, morally gray character who I LOVE. I never know what kind of move he’s going to make.

I think all of these relationships are going to have a major reckoning in Deathcaster. I can’t wait to see how everyone comes together since literally every pair is one opposite sides of the realm currently.

Now there’s so many POVs and so many things happening that I was missing some characters. Lyssa and Ash, for instance, were hardly in here, even though they are super critical to the finale.

While I had some issues, this authors writing is still entrancing. I find myself flying through the book. I love all of the politics and world-building. Everyone is crossing paths and then double-crossing their actions. It’s really exciting and I love all the twists and turns. I definitely have a lot more questions and am so excited to finish this just in time for the release of the last book!!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: knives, physical, poison
  • Trigger warnings: domestic abuse

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary
Length: 304 pages
Author: A.K. Small
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected Release Date: May 21st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

SURPRISINGLY DARK.

I went into this book blindly reading because the synopsis was intriguing and I haven’t read any dance books before. I was really happy with how much I enjoyed it! I devoured it in hours.

This is one of those very rare instances where insta-love works. Dear independent Kate, really struggled in the boy department. And I was so angry and upset at her and for her. Her mental health is so poor and turning to boys only made things worse and this broke my heart.

Marine is the softer of the two and is completely wrapped up in her own grief. I liked how she overcame her personal struggles and allowed love into her life. Luc was way too precious and I LOVE him. He was the real hero of this story if you ask me.

On the other hand I’m going to personally destroy the snake, Cyrille. While I think the nickname “The Demigod” is a bit lame it made sense from a teen perspective. He was seriously the worst though y’all. Don’t even get me started.

The real danger is when passions rule your life. This ballet school is a deadly mash-up that kept me on my toes. I legitimately was concerned that this book wouldn’t have a happy ending. I’m grateful that the story was wrapped up and everyone went the direction they needed to.

One of the few issues I had with it was the amount of unexplained dance phrases. Anyone without a full knowledge (like myself) would be a tad confused with the dance scenes. I gathered enough, but I did get confused on occasion. The transitions to flashbacks was also a touch perplexing. I often didn’t realize we had gone to the past when the book had already come back to the present.

Overall audience notes:

Second Note: The Trigger Warning section will contain mild spoilers. I generally try to keep it free of those, but I feel it’s important to know what you might stumble across because this book has some difficult themes that shocked me and I would want others to know before reading.

  • YA Contemporary: difficult themes, please see Trigger Warning section
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: lots of kisses/make-outs, a few very little detailed love scenes
  • Violence: personal (detailed in trigger section)
  • Trigger warnings: anorexia, general obsession with weight, smoking, drug-use, underage drinking, self-harm, abortion, sexual exploitation, and suicide

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Book Review

Book Review: Shadowcaster (Shattered Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 551 pages
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 4th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A lifelong war.

Alyssa ana’Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn’t pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.

A life in peril.

Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.

The shadow of defeat.

GOOD.

It’s simple. This book was good, not great. I still was captured into the story by the writing and characters, but it was still missing that last little oomph that makes it a 5 star.

I love love love Lyss. She is a beast. A warrior. Independent. Lyss doesn’t even own a dress! And she has muscles! Oh how I adore the way the author portrays her heroines. I can’t wait to see how Lyss grows into the future Queen of the Fells and rules her Queendom. This is a big reason why I continue to love this (and her previous) series.

The love story is cute, definitely not insta-love like it was in Flamecaster. A little more slow-burn, with my favorite trope: enemies to lovers. Hal is caring and enigmatic. I really want more of his back story. I think there relationship is going places and I am here for it. He only annoyed me when he became a little too love-struck and that literally all he could talk about.

I was a bit confused that we only saw a few characters from the previous book. As a series it was strange to change to essentially a whole new cast. The two stories with Ash and Lyss haven’t combined yet so I’ll see what kind of answers I get in the next installment, Stormcaster.

The plot is engaging and continually moving forward. The antagonists are closing in from both sides on the Fells. And the action kept me on my toes. I’m definitely still interested in continuing this story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: an intense-ish make-out
  • Violence: arrows, knives, poison, explosions, physical

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