Book Review: Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda Foody

Book: Daughter Of The Burning City by Amanda Foody

Published July 2017 by Harlequin Teen|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

This is a book I’ve had for ages, but it was something I hadn’t read…until it was selected for the #MGYABC.  I really wish I liked it more, because the cover is really pretty (and that shade of purple is amazing), and it’s a cool idea.

I don’t know that a stand-alone was the best fit for this world.  I thought the world-building was really confusing, and most of the time, I wasn’t sure if Gomorrah was a festival or a city or both.  Maybe I missed that part, and maybe it’s both, but I thought it wasn’t clear what Gomorrah actually was.  Also, we barely see the festival itself, other than Sorina’s illusions, and I honestly thought that we’d see more of the festival.

Honestly, this book was more murder mystery than fantasy, and I felt like it could have happened anywhere.  Other than the illusions, there really weren’t a lot of fantasy elements, and I was disappointed by that because for whatever reason, I thought it would be more of a fantasy.  I thought that the person behind the murders was pretty obvious, and I figured it out pretty early on, so that’s something to keep in mind.

I also felt like a lot of names were thrown at me.  I mean, Sorina has a lot of illusions, and I sort of liked that they were her family,  but it was hard to keep up with who was who.  What was interesting and cool and really different was that we get drawings and a description of each one throughout the book.  It didn’t really help me keep track of everyone, but it was an interesting way to go about it.

I did think it was a little sad that she’d rather be around her illusions than real people.  They get better treatment than a lot of the actual people in the book, now that I think about it.  I’m not sure what to make of it, but people clearly don’t think much of the people of Gomorrah.  There also seems to be a distinction between those who live Up Mountain and Downghill.

I had such a hard time picturing everything.  I had no idea where things were, especially in relation to each other, and I felt like we were at place after place, but for me, there wasn’t enough to distinguish each place from each other.  There were parts where I was skimming because the book was either painfully slow or painfully boring, so that’s something I could have missed as well.

And then there’s the festival itself.  Okay, Sodom and Gomorrah is one of two things I thought of when I saw Gomorrah (Gamora being the other, though that’s probably because I saw Infinity War while I was reading this book).  And that definitely brings a certain image to mind, but I didn’t expect to see much of the biblical Gomorrah, since this is YA.  But while there are mentions of sins and a woman-turned-pillar-of-salt and the history of Gomorrah, it’s not really explored in-depth, and I wish we got more of the Festival.  I was picturing something like the Night Circus or Caraval, but like I said, this book was more murder mystery with some magic than a festival in a fantasy setting.

I don’t think being a stand-alone worked in it’s favor.  I felt like it was too short page-wise to fully get immersed in this world, and I feel like this book being a stand-alone hurt it because we weren’t able to get more of the world Sorina lives in.

1 star.  I thought the world was really confusing and not explained very well.  The concept is cool, but I don’t think it was well-done.

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Book: Everless by Sara Holland, Narrated by Eileen Stevens

Book: Everless by Sara Holland, Narrated by Eileen Stevens

Published January 2018 by HarperAudio|Length: 9 hours, 59 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: Everless #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

I really liked Everless!  I really liked the idea of time being currency, and how how they go about getting time from people.

Some of the characters weren’t what I expected.  You think you know who the goods guys and the bad guys are, and then you’re taken off guard because people are not what you thought.  It did make the book interesting, because I liked that things weren’t what they seemed.

I also really liked the world-building.  It was a little confusing at times, particularly towards the end, but I think a lot of it is probably because I was listening to the audio.  I felt like I needed to write it down to figure it out, which would have been a bad idea because I was driving.  Maybe I’ll check out the print version and re-read it to see if it makes more sense.  Anyway, I did like that we learned things as Jules learned things, and I think that’s why things weren’t what they seemed.  At the same time, though, I think it also made things feel a little bit muddles because I wasn’t completely sure what was going on mythology wise.  And I think there is a lot to explore, so hopefully we’ll learn more in the next book.

Jules is definitely different.  There were times I thought she was really reckless, and she did put herself in harm’s way on more than one occasion.  I have the feeling not everyone will like her, and while I didn’t hate her, I also didn’t love her.  I felt bad for her, but overall, I think I’m neutral towards her.  I did like the friendship she had with Ina, and she didn’t seem jealous of her, considering Ina was set to marry Rowan.  That was nice for a change, because I feel like it would have been really easy to do the complete opposite.

The book did feel a little slow at times, particularly in the middle, but I got through it.  I thought Eileen Stevens did a great job narrating.  I did feel like she was Jules, and she did pretty well with the different voices.  While I’m not running out and adding everything she’s narrated to my audible wish list, I also wouldn’t mind listening to a book she’s narrated if it was something I wanted to read.

4 stars.  I really liked Everless, though I thought some of the world-building/mythology a little confusing. I’d still recommend Everless, and the concept is pretty cool.

Book Review: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza and Reign Of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Book: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Published February 2017 by Razorbill|314 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Empress Of A Thousand Skies #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

This was a book I was really excited about reading, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

The book follows Rhee and Aly, and their stories didn’t match up the way I thought it would.  I felt like the story in the summary was completely different than the story I actually read.  The alternating POV’s didn’t really work for me (which is usually what happens), and I didn’t care for either of their stories.  Also, I felt like it made things more confusing than they needed to be.

If you’re going for similar books, Carve The Mark and These Broken Stars come to mind.  Especially Carve The Mark, so I think if you liked that one, you’d probably like this one.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like Carve The Mark, so it’s not that surprising that I didn’t like this one.  It’s your typical lost princess out for vengeance who is also trying to re-claim her throne story.  It’s different enough, though, because someone gets accused of murder who didn’t actually do it- this happens pretty early on, so while it is a spoiler, I don’t consider it too big of a spoiler.

I did feel bad for Aly, because he really had to think twice about his behavior.  Things that other characters could do without a second thought, Aly had to think about because he faces a lot of prejudice.  There are some parallels to things we see, and I thought that part was really well done.

Overall, though, I just wasn’t into the story.  As pretty as the cover is, and as cool as the book sounds, I had a hard time getting into it.  I also had a really hard time picturing where all of the planets were in relation to each other.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of the book, but if fantasy in space is your thing, this is a book worth checking out.

Book: Reign Of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Published January 2018 by Razorbill|375 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Reign Of The Fallen #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

This was another book I was excited about but ended up not really liking.  It’s a cool idea, and the world was really interesting, but for the most part, I thought this book was confusing.

Though the world itself was interesting- and somewhat unique- I also thought it didn’t make a lot of sense.  Things weren’t explained very well, at least for me, and as the book went on, I had a hard time caring about Odessa and everything she lost.

The loss of a loved one in a world where the dead can be raised had a lot of potential, but I didn’t think the execution was quite there.  It was boring, and there were a lot of things I didn’t care about.  I felt like the things I did care about didn’t really come up or weren’t really explored, and the things I didn’t care about were coming up a lot.

I was bored.  I didn’t feel anything, though it seemed like I should have.  While I wasn’t expecting a lot of action, I still felt like I was struggling to get through it.  How I did, I have no idea, because this book seemed so slow.

Her grief and addiction were really well done, I will say that.  Her not wanting help from people after losing someone was easy to understand.  Part of me really wishes that my disinterest in the book was reading it at the wrong time, particularly because it’s about a character who is dealing with grief.  But I’ve read a few other books recently that have a character dealing with grief, and I was really invested in those books, so maybe this one just didn’t work for me.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s a cool idea, but it didn’t work for me.  I thought the world was interesting but boring, and while I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t.

Book Review: Shadowsong by S Jae-Jones

Book: Shadowsong by S Jae-Jones

Published February 2018 by Wednesday Books|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Wintersong #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. 

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

I really liked Shadowsong!  After reading Wintersong last year (and absolutely loving it), I knew I had to read Shadowsong.

Shadowsong is a very different book than the one that Wintersong.  It’s a lot darker than I thought it would be, but it’s just as vivid.  I didn’t like it as much as Wintersong, though.  It didn’t have the magic or dreaminess that I would have expected, and it didn’t have the poetic beauty that the first book did.

I hate to compare books, and they are intended to be two different books, if the author’s note at the beginning of the book is any indication.  I expected them to be different, but even with her note, I didn’t expect them to be so different.

I really appreciated that she had a trigger warning at the beginning of the book.  I really respect her for doing that, considering how this book is a lot darker and more serious than Wintersong.  We see characters struggle with addiction and self-harm, amongst other things, and even though those things aren’t triggering to me, I know that they are to other people.  I just really appreciate that she did this.

Still, I loved the world and the story, and how completely immersed I was in Liesl’s world.  It’s dark and twisty and haunting, and there were times where I understood why Liesl acted the way she did.  I think, if I were in her position, I would too.

I do admit to skimming over the letters at the beginning and ending of the book.  I have no problem with reading cursive, but this…it was hard to read, and so I ended up skimming.  I’m not sure if maybe I missed something in those letters, and that’s why I didn’t like it as much as I thought, or if maybe I loved Wintersong so much that nothing would live up to it.

This book is the perfect follow-up to Wintersong.  We see what happens once Liesl leaves the Goblin King, and what happened with the Goblin King ages and ages ago.  And we learn his name as well.  Though he is mostly absent from this book, I still feel like he was with Liesl, and there for her no matter what.

4 stars.  I really liked Shadowsong, though I didn’t love it.  I really appreciated the author’s note at the beginning, and I loved seeing how Liesl’s story ended.  There is something about this world that lures you in, and this book is very haunting, though some of the things I loved about Wintersong weren’t present in this one.  It’s still worth reading, though!

Book Review: The Shadow Hour And The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

Book: The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey

Published July 2016 by Delacorte Press|421 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Girl At Midnight #2

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

I liked The Shadow Hour!  Echo really comes to terms with being the firebird and what that means.  Things are certainly darker in this book, and I liked seeing Echo fight a growing darkness that came about when she became the firebird.

I didn’t really care for the love triangle in this book.  It made sense in The Girl At Midnight, but now?  It’s boring and unnecessary, in my opinion.  And I kind of hate that Echo didn’t say anything when she and Caius were talking with Rowan.  Echo is a great character, and she really does come into her own, but I still wish she had said something.  Wait, did I say love triangle?  Because I meant love triangles.  I don’t particularly care for Rowan and Echo, and I don’t particularly care about Caius and Echo, but better Caius than Rowan.  At least we actually spend more time with Caius.

And the whole triangle between Quinn, Jasper and Dorian?  I don’t get it either.  I can barely handle one love triangle on the best of days, much less two.  Something about Quinn really bothered, and I can’t quite place why.  Jasper is a little odd as well, but not to the degree that Quinn is.  I am not a fan, and that is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of Jasper, I really do love him, and he’s pretty awesome.  I think he’s my favorite character in the series, hands down.  It’s not that I don’t like the other characters, because I do (minus Rowan, because he just bothers me), but Jasper is the one I absolutely love.  Really, Echo has quite the group, and something about them reminds me of the group we see in Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

We do see a little bit of Echo’s life before she comes to live with the Avicen.  I was curious about what her life was like before Ala came into her life, and we get a glimpse of that.  I still wish we saw more of it, because for some reason, it feels like it should be a bigger deal.  I don’t know if it’s just me and my wishful thinking, or if I just want there to be more of a connection between her past and her becoming a firebird, but I really hope it goes in that direction.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I did like it, but at this point, I just want to finish the series to see how it all ends.

Book: The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

Published July 2017 by Delacorte Press|496 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Girl At Midnight #3

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The war between light and dark has begun. The sides have been chosen and the battle lines drawn.

After awakening the firebird, Echo is now the only one with the power to face the darkness she unwittingly unleashed upon the world…right into the waiting hands of Tanith, the new Dragon Prince. Tanith has one goal in mind: destroy her enemies, raze their lands, and reign supreme in a new era where the Drakharin are almighty and the Avicen are nothing but a memory.

The war that has been brewing for centuries is finally imminent. But the scales are tipped. Echo might hold the power to face the darkness within the Dragon Prince, but she has far to go to master it. And now she’s plagued by uncertainty. Is she strong enough to stare into the face of evil and not lose herself in its depths?

The war has begun, and there is no looking back. There are only two outcomes possible: triumph or death.

So, I was pretty determined to finish this series just to see how ended.  As the series went on, I lost interest in what happened, and while I’m glad I’m finished with this series, I’m also wishing (just a little bit) that I had spent the time I was reading this book on a different one.

It was such a cool idea at first, and I think, of the trilogy, I still liked the first one the best.  The way I feel about this series is the way I felt about the Golden Compass series- the first one was cool and interesting, but the following books were kind of unnecessary.  I hate making this comparison, but it’s like a boring version of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.  I was also initially reminded of that Laini Taylor series (I think it’s Daughter Of Smoke and Bone) but it’s been ages since I’ve read the first one, and I never finished the series, so I don’t know how accurate the comparison to that series is.  Maybe go with Laini Taylor or Leigh Bardugo, because I think I’d have to recommend those two series over this one.  Or even read The Girl At Midnight, but stop there.  I kind of wish I had done that.

Everything felt so drawn out, and it was a struggle to get through this one.  I thought there wasn’t a lot of action, and usually the last book is the most action-packed as we race towards a conclusion.  Not this book.  It was pretty much something to read while I was waiting for the laundry to be done (I am so used to having a washer/dryer around that having to go to an onsite laundry mat is a little weird getting used to).

It also seemed like there was a lot of filler, which I would expect from a second book- and maybe even bits and pieces of it in the first one- but certainly not in the last one.  There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary description.

The characters also seemed to be the same people that they were in the 2nd book, and I wanted a little bit more change and growth from them in this one.  Some characters (like Ivy and the Ala) are randomly mentioned but we don’t see what happens with them.  Things are mentioned once or twice, but never mentioned again.

And the ending was boring as well.  Things happened that should have gotten a reaction from me, but they didn’t because by that point, I just didn’t care.  And there was one moment that was a little bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of moment.  I should have cared, but like I said, I didn’t.  I think I was just so ready to be done with the book and the series that I found myself skimming over quite a bit of the book, especially towards the end.

I think one of the very, very few things I actually like was actually finishing.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I don’t care enough to give this book one stars, and I’m just glad I’m finished with this series and The Savage Dawn.  It was too drawn out and not enough action.

Book Review: Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Book: Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Published March 2018 by Henry Holt Books For Young Readers|525 pages

Where I Got It: I own it…in print!

Series: Legacy Of Orisha #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

If you read one book this year, please, please, please let it be this one.

Before reading Children Of Blood And Bones, my answer would have been American Panda or The Belles.  That changed, and while my answer could change (there’s a lot of reading left to do), I hope it hope it doesn’t.

Children Of Blood And Bone is absolutely amazing.  I was pretty excited about it, but I was more excited when I saw the book launch would at Mysterious Galaxy.  And after hearing the conversation between Adeyemi and Marie Lu about this book, I was even more excited.

It’s such an intense book, and even though it’s a fantasy set in West Africa, Zelie’s world felt so familiar to me.  There are a lot of parallels to our world, and the entire time I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think about oppression and genocide and injustice.

Zelie is amazing, and I really felt her heartbreak and sorrow at losing so many people.  Her heartbreak was real, and for some reason, it really made me miss my grandma, more than I already do.  Of course, the loss of my grandma, and the loss of her mom are very different.  Losing people the way the Zelie lost people…it’s not something that I have to think about or worry about, and I know I said this a couple of sentences ago, but you feel it the entire book.

The world…there are no words that are good enough to describe how amazing this world is.  The further I read, the more amazing Zelie’s world became.  There were no info-dumps, I could picture everything very clearly, and everything was explained so well.  This is not going to be one of those series where I never get the information I so desperately need and want.  The world building felt very natural and not at all forced, and everything we learn builds on what we already know.  It is so well-paced and there’s a lot of action, of course, but the book never drags or feels slow.

We follow three different characters in this book, and normally that’s something that is hit or miss for me- with a strong emphasis on the miss.  But it worked really well.  We follow, Zelie, of course, in her amazing-ness.  And while Amari seems naive, especially at first, she really proved me wrong by the end of the book.  I love the friendship that she and Zelie develop.  These are two people who I assumed would not be great friends, and yet, they have this really strong friendship by the end of the book.  And we also follow Inan, who definitely struggles between what he has to be and what he has to do, and also with who he really is.  Which I can relate to, and I feel like others can relate to as well.  But in comparison to Zelie, and even Amari, he kind of took a backseat.

Don’t get me wrong, his chapters are very important, since he is on…the opposing side…for a lack of better phrasing.  Even one of the three characters not narrating would take away from the story and the world.  There’s a really good balance between the characters, and I feel like you see so many different perspectives in this book.

The magic was really unique, and I loved that there were so many different kinds of magic.  I can’t wait to see more of the magic in the next book, and it’s going to be a long wait to see what happens next, especially with how the book ended.

I feel there are no words that are good enough to describe how much I loved this book.  I know it’s long and there’s a lot of hype, but it is absolutely worth it, and please don’t let that keep you from reading Children Of Blood And Bone.

5 stars.  This was a heartbreaking but truly magic fantasy that is completely deserving of all of the hype. If you pick up one book this year, this is the one to read.

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Book: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Published February 2018 by Disney-Hyperion|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Belles #1

Genre: YA

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

I was really looking forward to reading The Belles, especially since I really liked the Tiny Pretty Things series.  It’s really worth reading, and I really liked it.

I almost said that I really enjoyed it, but the word enjoyed somehow doesn’t seem like the right word.  I think it’s because the book was a lot darker than I ever expected.  I guess you could say it’s fantasy, but for some reason, I also got this whole dystopian vibe from it.  Which is strange, considering that dystopia (at least for me) always leans towards sci-fi and technology, and this book very much relies on magic and gods and goddesses, which is more fantasy than sci-fi.  It should be interesting to see how the book turns out genre-wise, because I think it could be an interesting combination for the rest of the series if there are elements of fantasy and dystopia.

I did picture a fictional New Orleans- which is probably because Camellia lives in a place called Orleans.  It’s like Victorian England meets New Orleans on either an island or a city right on the water.  I could picture everything pretty well, and it seems pretty vivid.

I was both fascinated and horrified by the descriptions of Camellia’s work with her clients.  It’s really descriptive, so I could see it really clearly.  It’s fascinating what people will do to be seen as beautiful but at the same time, it was horrifying because the people who make appointments with Camellia will do anything to be seen as beautiful.  Beauty really is subjective, and Clayton does an amazing job at showing that and how beauty standards can change.

It did start off slow, but it does pick up.  Things seem so innocent at first, but once you learn how the Belles came to be, and the further you get into the world, the less innocent it seems.  It’s a dark world, and yet, there are so many secrets.  We do learn some of them, but I feel like there’s a lot more to this world than we see.

I’m actually really excited about reading the rest of the series, because I want to know more about what’s going.  It’s going to be a long wait, but at least I can re-read The Belles in the meantime.

4 stars.  The Belles, while I really liked it, wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me.  I recommend it, and it’s a great book, but it just didn’t have that something that would get 5 stars.  Which does make me a little sad, because something about Camellia’s world was very, very familiar to me.

Book Review War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Book: War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Published November 2017 by HarperTeen|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Queen Of Hearts Saga #3

Genre: YA Re-telling/Fantasy

 The final book in the twisted YA trilogy re-imagining of the origin story of the Queen of Hearts.

Dinah has lost everyone she ever loved. Her brother was brutally murdered. The wicked man she believed was her father betrayed her. Her loyal subjects have been devastated by war. And the boy she gave her heart to broke it completely.

Now a dark queen has risen out of the ashes of her former life. Fury is blooming inside Dinah, poisoning her soul and twisting her mind. All she has left is Wonderland and her crown, and her obsession to fight for both. But the war rages on, and Dinah could inherit a bloodstained throne. Can a leader filled with love and rage ever be the ruler her kingdom needs? Or will her all-consuming wrath bring Wonderland to its knees?

This is not a story of happily ever after.

This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.

I’ve been with this series since the very beginning, and while I’m sad to see it end, I also thought it was a great ending to the series.  I remember reading ARC’s of the first two books on netgalley years ago, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book ever since.  I’m really glad I finally read it!

There were things I did not see coming, and I really felt for Dinah.  I have, for the entire series, and in particular, everything with Wardley and her (biological) father broke my heart.  More so with Wardley than anything else, because I was wondering how things would work out for them.

I really liked this take on the Queen Of Hearts, and while I’ve read very few Alice In Wonderland re-tellings, this one is my favorite by far.  The Queen Of Hearts is such a villain in the Alice In Wonderland story, and yet, Dinah doesn’t feel like a villain at all.  She’s a very sympathetic character, and I couldn’t help but want things to work out for her.

I did love how the original version of Alice In Wonderland was tied in to this story, and I thought it was very original and different.  I’ve read quite a few re-tellings over the years, and this one is the most connected to the original story that I’ve ever seen.  It was unexpected but also really cool, especially since I did have fun trying to figure out who was who from the original story.  Now I feel like re-reading Alice In Wonderland…

It’s definitely the strongest in the series, and Dinah has changed a lot.  You’d want (and hope) that the last book of a series would be the strongest, and this book delivered on that.  I could picture the battle so clearly, and yet, it was pretty gory, so keep that in mind if you decide to pick this up.

And the epilogue…I have mixed feelings about it.  I don’t understand why Wardley did what he did, considering how things went between him and Dinah, but there was something very hopeful about the epilogue as well.  Like things are okay, and will continue to be okay.  I’m glad there’s hope for Wonderland, and that the series ended with some hope that things would get better.

5 stars.  War Of The Cards is a great ending to a great series, and I absolutely loved the book and Dinah.

Book Review: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Book: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Published July 2017 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|465 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Court Of Fives #3

Genre: YA Fantasy

 The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy!

I’ve really enjoyed this series but I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the previous two.  I had a harder time getting into this book, and it seemed a lot more complicated than the previous books.  I did struggle to keep up with the characters, and what was going on, particularly with Prince Kalliarkos and his family.

I don’t think I read it at the best time, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a fantasy.  Still, I did really like it, and it was a pretty good ending to the series.

In particular, I really liked seeing how Jess dealt with both her Efean heritage and her Saroese heritage.  She didn’t really belong to either world, and it felt like she was very much torn between both.  You see what a balancing act it is for her, and how she ended up being part of the revolution.

I really felt for the Efean people, and the anger they felt at their land and their way of life being overtaken.  While it will take a long time for the dust to settle, things felt really hopeful, and I liked that there was hope that things would get better.

However, it felt like there were endless discussions about the revolution, and not a lot of action.  It made the book seem really slow, and there wasn’t enough conflict or struggle in this book to keep me really interested in what happened next.  It felt like this book lost the momentum that the previous books had built up.

I also wanted more magic, like the sparks we see in Court Of Fives.  Even though it’s fantasy, there weren’t a lot of fantasy elements.  The very few that we do see aren’t explored the way I thought they would be.

I was never a fan of the romance between Jes and Kalliarkos, and I thought their relationship ended with a whimper.  It seemed so strong in the first book, but by the end of Buried Heart, I found I didn’t really care.  He was put in a hard position and Jes also had some things she really needed to work out, but I would have been fine without it in this book.  It was also strange, because it seemed liked she wanted to be with Kalliarkos, and yet…it seemed like Ro was an option for her.  It felt very sudden, and almost like she settled for him because Kalliarkos wasn’t around a lot.  Maybe I’m misreading things, but that’s how it seemed to me.

4 stars.  I didn’t love Buried Heart, and it is my least favorite book in the series.  It is a pretty solid ending to the series, even if I would have liked a few things to be different.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Three

So, I’ve been doing a series of posts talking about some of the books I read that I never got around to talking about.  We are starting to get to some books that I’ve read a little more recently than some of the other books, so I have more to say about them…but also not quite enough to do a full review.  If that makes sense.

  • Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields.  I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.  It’s a cool concept, an assassin who can kill people by kissing them, but it didn’t work for me.  And that’s a little disappointing, because I really wanted it to work well.    I loved how Marinda looked out for her brother, and how much she cared for him.  It was really nice to see, but that was the only thing that I really, absolutely loved.  The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but things are magically explained at the end.  The thing that made the LEAST amount of sense was how another girl had to seduce the boys that Marinda kissed.  What’s the point of death by kissing if you’re not the one seducing them enough to get close to them?  And how do these boys even go from the one to Marinda without questioning it?  I do not understand this at all.  What, Marinda can’t seduce them or something?  Or this other girl can’t kill them?  This makes zero sense to me.  My rating is 2 stars for things that didn’t make a lot of sense and the lack of world building.
  • The Secret History Of Us by Jessi Kirby.  I used to LOVE her books, but the more Jessi Kirby books I read, the more I dislike them.  I don’t know if it’s because my interests have changed or I’m harder to please because I read a lot of YA contemporaries, but I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.  The pace was pretty slow, and I wanted more of Olivia dealing with her amnesia.  She does try to piece things together, but I wanted more frustration or something from Olivia.  I also wanted more with Walker, but instead, he barely made an appearance.  I wanted more of a reveal, and I felt like something bigger was going to happen.  But nothing bigger happened, even though the book made it seem like something mysterious was going on.  The Secret History Of Us gets 2 stars.  It was okay, but I wanted more than what we got.
  • American War by Omar El Akkad.  I really liked this book at the beginning, and it was really interesting.  But then it lost steam, and I lost interest by the end of the book.  Like The Handmaid’s Tale, the future we see in American War is one I can picture easily.  You do get a good look at what a modern war would look like, and it’s interesting that climate change is what triggers the issues between north and south.  I would have it expected it to be over something else, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights or something involving religion.  I know it’s terrible to make an assumption like that, but I do like that climate change is what triggers because it is different than what you might expect.   I felt like a lot of things weren’t really explained or addressed, and it felt like something was missing regarding the use of fossil fuels.  I don’t know if maybe Sarat’s perspective really limits what we know, since she was 6 when war broke out, but a little more broad of a picture would have been nice.  American War gets 3 stars.