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
Book Review

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

Rating: some intdeterminate number between 3 & 4
Audience: Young adult, no language, violence, a quad-love
Length: 432 pages
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: October 16th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It’s time for war.

After suffering terrible losses, Henrietta and Lord Blackwood have led their warriors to Sorrow-Fell, a vast estate where only those invited by a Blackwood may enter–and the ideal place to plan a final assault against the Ancients.

It’s time for a wedding.

Henrietta nervously awaits her marriage to Blackwood, but when the ritual to become his bride reveals a dark secret, she realizes that Sorrow-Fell is not a safe haven; it’s a trap. Convincing the sorcerers of this, however, is not easy. So with Maria, the true chosen one, and Magnus, the young man who once stole her heart, at her side, Henrietta plots a dangerous journey straight into the enemy’s lair. Some will live. Some will die. All will be tested.

In this stunning conclusion to the Kingdom on Fire series, Henrietta must choose between the love from her past, the love from her present, and a love that could define her future. While battles rage, the fate of the kingdom rests on her decision: Will she fall or rise up to become the woman who saves the realm?

It’s time for Henrietta to make her stand.

I’M AS INDECISIVE AS HENRIETTA AT THIS POINT.

I think it’s been a long time since I have been so razzled on what my rating should be (and how the review should go) as a whole. I ended up deciding to have an indeterminate number because depending on the day my opinion seems to change. I have so many thoughts over this book.  [If you’ve read this, comment/send e-mail! I’m curious what you thought of it].

First of all, I’ve probably mentioned this before…I rarely ever enjoy a love triangle; it’s probably my most hated trope. And in this case, it was a love…square? I think that’s what we’re calling it. This will be better as a list:

  • Rook — I never liked him honestly, felt he should have been a best friend, never even considered as a lover. He deserved SO MUCH MORE than he got in this book and his portions felt rushed to move the plot and Henrietta’s story along. Some pieces were meant to evoke emotion…but since I didn’t care for him anyways…I really wasn’t disappointed in what happened.
  • Blackwood — He also got the short straw in how his character behaved. I really loved him in the first two books! He’s been my endgame with Henrietta from literally book one. Then in this third book he became more than a “broody Mr. Darcy” type. He leaned towards villain and did things that I didn’t appreciate at all. By the end, I purely felt bad for him. Since he wasn’t in a good section of the book, it yet again felt hurried when he came in to settle things that I became cranky over it.
  • Magnus — the saint of boys…apparently. I’ve really come to enjoy his character over the series too. Sadly, he was a bit bland and never did anything wrong in this book. All past issues forgotten, he’s a man now *shrugs*. His portions with Hen are sweet, and I get it. I think this entire thing could have played out better.
  • Henrietta — because of all said above hills and valleys of the boys she loves because “each kind of love is different”, it really drove Hen’s personality into the ground. She was flighty and non-committal a hundred times over. I’m totally cool with a book presenting that a first love isn’t a true love, but it needs spacing. I [as well as she] need time to accept that first love for what it was THEN move on. Not hop, skip, and run to whoever was showing her the best affection at the time.

There were some twists in this book, THAT WERE SO COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. Alright, I’m really referring to one I am struggling to accept as a good piece of the story, but there were a few others that weren’t fun either okay? I saw them as a push to complete character arcs that had already burned to ashes in the first place, and adding such tid-bits only frazzled me more.

Note for the entire book: THE CHOSEN ONE DIDN’T DO A DANG THING. [also, if I heard one more character say that…] Y’all we’ve been learning about her for three books. And when it all came down to it, she was there, and did some stuff, but nothing “the chosen one” status. 

I felt like I was reading a hodge-podge of about a hundred different books I’ve read just this year. If you’re paying attention they’re so many elements that are in other current YA series that were thrown in here all willy-nilly!? Nothing was fleshed out because so much crap was added that they were only in the book for a page at best.

Now my ranting may seem like I hated it. Yet, in this weird way that I can’t figure out, it’s what made it a decent book too. The writing is pretty and the concept is different. The overall execution was a whole other story (see all paragraphs before this). I really think most people with LOVE it or HATE it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult, Victorian-era fantasy/historical fiction
  • No language (a feminine derogatory comment is made though)
  • Violence (mostly in the forms of magic; fire, wind, etc.)
  • One love scene, a little descriptive; some kisses and plenty of declarations of love for everyone

Book Review

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1) by Grace Draven

Radiance

 

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy romance, love scenes, minor language, violence
Length: 297 pages
Author: Grace Draven
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: January 13th, 2015 (first published Feb. 2014)
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

JUST WHAT I NEEDED.

This was exactly what I expected this book to be and exactly what I felt like reading! A solid fantasy romance that was unique in its own ways.

First of all, Brishen and Ildiko? They don’t hate each other. Yes, forced to marry, but both of them are actually decent creatures who decided to make the best of a situation they didn’t choose. Refreshing to say the least.

While I could have used a little more angst between the two (they almost got along too well) it was nice that they seemed to appreciate each other. It was charmingly funny that they initially thought each other absolutely hideous.  Of course it was a huge play on don’t judge a book by its cover, but I don’t hate that trope…when done well. The slow burn of Brishen and Ildiko seeing the potential of a romantic relationship had me saying, yaaass. 

Besides those points, it’s nothing new for the genre or ground-breaking in anyway, but I was craving a solid romantic fantasy that I could drift away into for a bit and this delivered. Some pieces of the story aren’t fully fleshed out (the magic system, the other kingdom, etc.). It didn’t detract from the story though.

I liked the side characters and thought they played their roles well. Each brought a different angle in the communications between Kai and humans. I was a little disappointed in the epilogue because I thought it would be a little more epic (if you’ve read it tell me!!) but I’m definitely interested in the next book for this series!

Overall audience notes:
– Fantasy romance
– Minor, barely there language
– Detailed love scenes
– Violence (arrows, knives, torture)

Publishing Day

Happy Publishing Day: The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt

I gratefully received this book as an e-arc from Bloomsbury USA Children’s through Netgalley and was taken on such a ride!

Here’s the synopsis:

Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.

In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

This a book where you can see the parallels between Romeo & Juliet. It was a unique, fresh take that I haven’t personally seen a lot of! The romance is well done for a stand-a-lone novel and the characters are a good mix of personalities.

You can find my original review here!

CROPPED

 

Book Review

Review: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

Girl in the Tower

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction fantasy, a little language, some violence, some kisses and lewd commentary
Length: 363 pages
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: December 5th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

OH THE ADVENTURE.

I read the first book in this series over a year ago and remembered enjoying it, but thinking, WHOA that was a lot of story. The Girl in the Tower exceeded my expectations for a middle novel. I was able to be even more immersed in the story because I understood the characters and plot much better after The Bear and the Nightingale.

Vasya is a strong heroine. Not letting her life be put into a box of marriage or a convent, she rides out for her own adventure. And what wanderlust she found! The prose and descriptions of vast Russia are beautiful. Arden interweaves world building and commentary so well you get swept away.

One of the few things I didn’t love was how much everything was Vasya’s fault. This death, that destruction, etc. She could’ve used a break, bless her heart. Vasilii the Brave is a heroine and deserved more praise under her guise.

The love tale woven throughout makes me giddy too. I look forward to more of Morozko and Vasya in the next book. This book isn’t heavy on the love either, and for a reader, I think that can sway them on way or another. I really appreciated the way it was set up. It stands apart from some novels too focused on the love. Vasya has so much loyalty and love for her family. It’s what makes the love with Morozko all the more sincere and tender.

Multiple POV helps you gain an understanding from many different characters. Vasya, Olya, and Sasha are a few on the group who get a momentary narrative. I always love when an author can handle so many characters at once because it enhances the story from all sides.

Can I almost mention MY LOVE FOR SOLOVEY? I want a magical horse that speaks to me. His fierce protection over Vasya gives me all the heart eyes.

I love the historical fiction aspect. Arden has degrees in Russian and tells the history and uses the aspects of names, times, and places to create a magic filled fantasy.

Overall audience notes:

  • A young adult fantasy book that could easily be enjoyed be an older audience
  • Sparse language, did not detract from the story
  • No love scenes, some kissing scenes (all safe for work)
  • Some lewd commentary about rape, and wanting to sleep with others
  • Some violence with minor gore