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Ember Burning: Hello, Cliffhanger of DOOM!

bookreview

Ember Burning: Trinity Forest Book 1 Ember Burning 
(Trinity Forest #1)
by Jennifer Alsever

YA / Paranormal / Fantasy / Magical Realism
322 Pages
Sawatch Publishing
Publication Date: May 5th, 2017

Get a copy here!

BLURB:

Senior year was supposed to be great—that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember Trouvé spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids— from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers— that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are out camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself to the forest forever?

addtogoodreads

Oshun Rising–Trinity Forest #2 is scheduled to release this August!

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: WHAT EVEN DO I DO WITH THAT CLIFFHANGER?!; penguins, this book was gorgeously written–and SO unique!; I am glad the wait for book 2 isn’t long, because I’m desperate; awesome, well-rounded, complex characters; this read was WILD, and I adored every moment!; mild trigger warnings

So many huge thanks to Jennifer Alsever and Sawatch Publishing for sending a free egalley of this title my way in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, penguins, I need someone else to read this book RIGHT NOW so I have someone to commiserate with over that cliffhanger, because OH MY BEAK! It’s a good thing I don’t have to wait long for book two; you can bet your talons I’ll be picking it up ASAP, because I AM DESPERATE I NEED TO KNOW SOMEONE GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT NOW!

Seriously, though–all shouting penguins aside, this book is gorgeous. Jennifer Alsever’s prose is flowery, descriptive, and so easy to visualize/fall into. The addition of synesthesia (in this instance, seeing sounds as colors) brought a fascinating and unique new layer to the main character. But honestly, this entire title is unique–from the plot to the setting, and everything in between. I felt, from page one, that this was bound to be unlike anything I’ve read before–and I was right. There is so much to adore about this book–the gorgeously rendered, easy to visualize prose is only the very tip of a steep iceberg!

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The prose isn’t the only “deep” thing about this read, though. These characters are well-rounded, complex, and beautifully balanced. By this, I mean there aren’t any “special snowflakes”…but there are also, so far as I can tell, no one entirely nonredeemable either. There is a gorgeous tight rope these characters walk down, and they wibble-wobble with the rest of us. It is clear, early on, that Jennifer Alsever watches people on a daily basis–she writes her characters so realistically, so believably, that it’s easy to imagine they truly exist as opposed to just being printed words on a page. These characters do, however, have their fair share of demons–and I feel I should note that there’s a bit of triggering material touched upon. If you are a sensitive reader or are easily triggered, please keep this in mind when picking up this book–and keep yourself safe!

I am just SO glad I was given the chance to pick this book up, as I might not have discovered it on my own–and that would be SUCH a tragedy! This is a fast-paced read filled with muscle-clenching drama and unique, vibrant characters. The addition of synesthesia only helped to enhance the already gorgeous, flowery prose. I absolutely CANNOT wait to pick up book two this fall–that cliffhanger rocked my poor penguin brain, and I MUST know what happens next! I recommend this to lovers of uniquely crafted journeys, paranormal/fantasy settings, and realistically flawed characters. The cliffs are steep beyond the gate, penguins; watch your steps, and your souls.

4

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Darkly Haunting, Wildly Abstract

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Fantasy/Horror/Magical Realism
178 Pages
William Morrow Books
Publication Date: June 18th, 2013
Get a copy here!

4.25Penguins
Quick Reasons: Doctor Who meets Stephen King; this book is SO abstract and poetic and gorgeous; disturbing and beautifully haunting in a way only Neil Gaiman can manage; a complex, well-rounded examination of childhood, stories, and the truth about truths

I honestly don’t know why it took me SO LONG to crack this book open, penguins. I really have no excuse, and will therefore not attempt to make or fabricate any. This book has, at the end of it all, created something akin to what might happen if Doctor Who met Stephen King in a dark alleyway after midnight. Neil Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and this is a poignant, heart-wrenching examination of the ways childhood shapes us all.

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The characters are, as one should ALWAYS expect from the imagination of Neil Gaiman, both enchantingly vibrant and disturbingly horrific in turn. The poetic, lyrical prose is also haunting and creeptastic–both enthralling readers, and still pushing them away. I particularly loved the relationships born between Lettie, her grandparents, and our main character–they were so intricate, and hinged on something deeper than affection–something I couldn’t put a name to even if I tried.

Also, the main character? It wasn’t until just now, as I was attempting to write my review, that I realized we never ONCE are given a name for him. The book is written in first person POV (his POV, in point of fact)…and the rest of the world only ever refers to him as “him” or “he” or “the boy”…or some such other vague descriptor. AND OH MY PENGUINS, guys, I’m pretty sure I now understand exactly why this is, but Neil Gaiman is such a sly genius, I read the entire book before I even realized, before I even put it together. GAH! Neil Gaiman, you are just… you astound me. Sorry, I know that’s so super vague, but MAJOR spoilers afoot there–I can’t tell you, don’t even think to ask!

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Okay, okay. So moving right along. The prose is gorgeous–haunting, lyrical, with just a hint of something dark and otherworldly creeping through. (What is it with me and dark books lately, guys? I sense a growing trend here…) The plot itself is pretty abstract, though–sometimes the descriptions are vague and slip through your fingers like silk, other times they creep up on you only to tackle you HARD.

But it’s the subject matter that hits hardest, for me at least. There’s a poignant, startling examination of childhood going on throughout this book–a deeper look at the ways our experiences shape us, mold us, haunt us throughout our years. The question of, “who am I, and whose fault is it?” pervades the entirety of this journey. There’s also an experimentation with memories–how they change in time, how they shift and fade and rearrange–that had me pondering my own memories, looking back on them in reflection. This book makes you think, abstract as it is at times. This book makes you reexamine everything you think you know about yourself.

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This is a haunting, abstract read, and I am SO glad I finally found the time to pick it up. Neil Gaiman is a sly literary genius; this book took me places I wasn’t expecting, and had me questioning myself throughout the entire journey. I definitely recommend to lovers of lyrical prose, darkly abstract journeys, and close examinations of human nature/the human psyche. This may be my favorite Neil Gaiman book so far!

3

Book Tour (Review) and Giveaway: Girl in the Shadows

 

Girl in the Shadows GirlShadows
Gwenda
Bond

(Girl on a Wire #2)
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date:
July 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the
shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More
than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her
pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s
possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its
intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira
takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she
knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage
magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none
too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife
thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come
into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it
out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.

Goodreads / Amazon

 

 

Gwenda  Author Bio:

Gwenda Bond is the author of the young adult novels Lois Lane: Fallout and Girl on
a Wire, among others. Lois Lane: Double Down and Girl in the Shadows, a companion
novel to Girl on a Wire set in the Cirque American, are next up in 2016. She’s also hard
at work on some secret projects you don’t know about yet.

Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los
Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the
Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington,
Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe. There are rumors she escaped
from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her
childhood love of Lois Lane. Visit her online at http://www.gwendabond.com or @gwenda on
Twitter.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4Penguins

Quick Reasons: magical realism!; a stubborn, head-strong woman finds a way into her own; the snark and sass is spot-on; mystery, drama, and a flair for poetic prose; cute, realistic romance; a nod to female magicians through history; entertaining, quirky, and enthralling

HUGE thanks to Gwenda Bond, Skyscape Publishing, and Xpresso Book Tours for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way changed my read of or opinions on this book.

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So, first things first: I LOVE anything to do with the circus. I blame this entirely upon The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern–she kicked up an obsession I didn’t realize was lurking in the shadows, and I’ve been on a downward spiral ever since. So when I learned that Girl on a Wire was, in fact, NOT a standalone novel… I think I heard the book angels singing. There was a definite roaring in my ears. I rejoiced, screamed aloud, squealed a bit in the husband’s ear…and then immediately fell into despair, because I NEEDED book two and I NEEDED it right that second. Imagine my delight when I discovered a book tour for said book. Imagine my sheer MANIA when I found out I’d been accepted to be part of said book tour! I might have broken the husband’s eardrums a little bit more than they already were. Oops?

 

And this book? Brought the magic to life for me. I mean, obviously, it’s set in the midst of a traveling circus. Jules and Remy, our pair from book one, make some pretty low-key appearances, which I adored. But the biggest thing? There’s MORE magical realism than in book one, and that really helped to sway me to this book’s side immediately. I was drawn into a world of shadows, mystery, drama and magical flair…and kept captivated, much like the audience of an illusion, until the very end.

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Moira is a headstrong, stubborn, and sometimes foolish slip of a girl. She strikes out on her own to prove a point…and finds herself caught up in a fight for freedom, her life, and the love of a boy who doesn’t seem to care about anything. And where Moira is impulsive, reckless, and still calmly poised… Dez is a ticking bombshell of witty humor and sharp edges. The girl who always runs away…and the boy who gives up too easily. It’s an endearing, dangerous pairing–and I LOVED them together from the get-go. Of course, the rest of the characters easily stand on their own–and each has a role, even if minuscule.

 

The plot is, perhaps, just a smidge bit lacking in the dramatic flair department. There is a HUGE amount of focus dedicated to the world-building, the magical realism, and the nod to women magicians throughout the history of magic…but there are only a few truly “nail-biting” worthy moments. This is a soft sort of drama–a small blip here, a jump or two farther up the plot mountain there, before the final, HUGE moment. It is a quiet sort of action…but the prose is so poetic and gorgeous, I was captivated regardless.

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I really enjoyed this…continuation? Companion novel? Whatever it is–the journey was subtle, but full of magic. I love how much growth we see in Moira, her father, and Dez. I LOVE the “flowery” prose, the moments where wisdom was imparted, the fact that I had about ten different highlighted quotes to choose from for this review… Mostly, I love how much more magical realism played a part in this novel, in comparison with Girl on a Wire. I cannot WAIT to see what the rest of this series (if there is a rest of this series?! Or is it just a duology? Inquiring minds MUST know!) holds in store for us! I definitely recommend to lovers of all things circus, magical realism, and opposites-attract romances. Also, snark–because there’s a LOT of it in this book!

5

Shadow: This Circus is more than a Little Shady

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Shadow (The Romany Outcasts, #2)

The Romany Outcasts, Book 2
Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
400 Pages
HarperCollins/HarperVoyager Publishing
Expected Publication Date: June 2nd, 2016
Get a copy here!

When stone hearts break they shatter.

Sebastian Grey used to be a normal teenager. Now he’s a creature whose sole purpose is to be a guardian for secretive gypsy clans.

When the Romany gypsies claim him, Sebastian is given a second chance to protect Josephine Romany – the girl he loves. But some clan members would rather see a gargoyle in a cage than have one by their sides.

If Sebastian is to keep Josephine safe from the shadow creatures attacking her people, he might have to embrace his changes. Even if that means choosing between his humanity and becoming the monster everyone believes him to be.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: so much yummy drama and angst!; I can’t handle it, Sebastian’s too pure for his own good; realistic character relationships and motivations; an introduction to some of the other types of shadow creatures found in this world; interesting plot twist

Huge thanks to Christi J. Whitney, HarperVoyager Publishing, Netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Once again, Christi J. Whitney took me on a wild and unexpected journey with this book! I was at turns on the edge of my seat…and begging for more. There’s something both exciting and akin to coming home for me, stepping into this world—as if I’ve been seeking this series my entire life, without realizing it. It’s a beautiful feeling. I’m going to be biting my nails, anticipating the third book, until it’s in my hands!

 

I really love how much snark and unabashed sass we got from Sebastian in this installment. From the beginning, you can tell he’s in the middle of a journey—to self-acceptance, to self-discovery, to a sense of peace. Of course, this all comes crashing down with the events of this book (THAT ENDING! Oh man!) but still—he’s one snark-filled character, and I adored it so hard.

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The rest of the characters really leapt to life for me in this read, too. I really appreciate how realistic each character and their relationships/reactions were written—it’s clear Christi J. Whitney knows a thing or two about people, and pulled on this knowledge a LOT. The trial, especially, really brought home just how human the rest of these characters are—and how easy to manipulate.

 

We also got an official introduction to our “villain”…and let me tell you, he gives me the absolute creeps. He is, without a doubt, dead-set on revenge…and willing to go to any lengths to get it. There were some pretty awesome plot twists happening around his character and motivations throughout that spiced up the action and plot, not that they were lacking—this read is fast-paced and intense! The prose, also, is beautiful—poetic, atmospheric.

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Overall, this book has reminded me why I enjoy reading series—with a well-written plot and characters that stand on their own, I was immediately drawn in…and will now be pining for book three in the wait ahead! I recommend this series to lovers of fantasy/magical realism, books with pizzazz, and realistically-complex characters. Somebody, quick! Give me book three! I must know what happens next.

7

A Review of Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), by Sarah J. Maas

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“A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

– – – – –

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: yet more twists to this rollercoaster plot; characters that mend your heart and tear it out again in the same breath; awesome world-building; unique twists and unforseeable surprises; realistic, complicated web of relationships

I started reading this at least a week ago. One. Week. I don’t know, thinking about it now, why it took me so long to get through it—once I actually sat down and made myself read, it was a quick, heart-wrenching, and emotionally overwhelming book. Exactly my type, if I’m being honest.

“What does that mean?” he demanded.

She smiled sadly. “You’ll figure it out. And when you do…” She shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t say it, but doing it anyway. “When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. It’s never made any difference to me when it came to you. I’d still pick you. I’ll always pick you.”

So I guess I need to start with the obvious, huh? Sarah J. Maas…you. terrible. woman! You slipped that small sliver of hope into my reading world and then ripped it all away not even fifty pages later. How dare you break me like that?! I don’t think I can forgive you. You have a lot of sucking up to do in the future books. A LOT.

Seriously though, heartaches aside, this was a wild and entertaining read from the get go. I fell in love with Celaena in Throne of Glass—and while THIS version of Celaena is darker, more weighted down by her responsibilities and the realities of the world she’s facing, she’s still snarky (mostly) and kickass (always). Once again, she forced her way into my heart. When she was happy, I was happy. When she broke, I broke too. There aren’t many characters I can say that about so honestly.

But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.

This story literally seeps around you as you read. Once you dive into these books, prepare to finish them off in as few sittings as possible—they just won’t let you go. The scenes are action-packed, the foreshadows never quite match up (until they’re meant to), and the characters are so realistic and believable you’ll feel as if you’re sitting on the sidelines of some huge, dramatic production.

The plot is well-constructed and paced perfectly, as well, each “reveal” coming at just the right time, dragging readers deeper in to the mystery. If you go into these books with an open mind, you’re bound to be taken on an unexpected rollercoaster journey—and hopefully, love every moment of it. Because while the characters are realistic, they also break the mold. Celaena especially never quite does what you expect, always keeping you on your toes: much like the plot itself. From one moment to the next, you’ll never be sure exactly what’s going on, because you aren’t given all the puzzle pieces. Sarah J. Maas is an expert at crafting and lining up her puzzles in just the right ways to always leave you guessing and keep you wanting more.

Roland gave her a courtier’s smile. “And what sort of work do you do for my uncle?”
Dorian shifted on his feet and Chaol went very still, but Celaena returned Roland’s smile and said, “I bury the king’s opponents where nobody will ever find them.”

I really enjoyed this read, and can’t wait to lay my hands on the third book in the series! I’d definitely recommend these books to lovers of assassins, magical realism, and beautiful world-building. If that’s what you’re drawn to, you should give this series a shot for sure!

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A Review of Soul Breaker (City of Crows #1), by Clara Coulson

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There’s a hideous monster on the loose, crushing heads and taking names.

But Detective Calvin Kinsey is on the case

Two years ago, Cal Kinsey was an up-and-coming cop in the Aurora Police Department. But during a fateful nighttime stakeout in search of a prolific killer, Cal witnessed the darkest corner of his dreams come to life. A rogue vampire slaughtered his partner — to put it nicely — and introduced Cal to the supernatural world he never knew existed in the shadows.

Now, Cal is a newly minted detective at the often mocked Department of Supernatural Investigations. By day, the agents of DSI are called “Kooks” by local law enforcement. By night, they’re known as “Crows,” reviled by the supernatural underworld.

Mere weeks out of the academy, Cal catches his first real case, a vicious murder at a local college. An unknown sorcerer has summoned a powerful creature from the Eververse, a realm of magic and mayhem that borders Earth, and set it on a dangerous warpath through the city.

Between butting heads with his grumpy team captain, stirring up ill will with the local wizards and witches, and repeatedly getting the crap beaten out of himself, Cal must find a way to stop the Eververse monster and send it back to the hell it came from…

…preferably before Aurora, Michigan runs out of coffins for the dead.

– – – – –

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: quirky, snarky, awesome main character; a well-rounded cast of personalities in the rest of the crew; great build-up; detailed, enthralling action scenes; interesting magic, unique set of monsters; the creativity and fun is top-notch

Clara Coulson, you just landed yourself on my “new favorite authors” list… Which is saying a lot, because I don’t read books with detective/cop main characters. Like…ever. I avoid them like the plague, usually, because I know they’re just not up my alley.

Due to a pre-established “read to review” exchange with the author, I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is the the biggest reason I even read this novel (well, that and I trust the author to do right by her readers, and therefore wasn’t worried—honestly, this was the other big reason: I trusted the author to do this right). Huge thanks to Clara Coulson for this opportunity!

It’s always the little choices, isn’t it, that sneak up on you with the big damn consequences.

This read was absolutely AMAZING! Our main man, Calvin Kinsey, is the perfect blend of snark, naive dumbassery, morally sound, and traumatically-touched. Fresh off a stint with the local PD that ended very badly for his partner and brought Cal into the fold of the supernatural, he joins up the local branch of DSI—Department of Supernatural Investigations. For real, guys—this is hardcore detective work! And Clara Coulson has his character so patched-down and figured out, you won’t once doubt the validity of his existence in this world. His voice and personality shine off the page so brilliantly, you’ll think he’s nestled himself into the back of your brain to whisper his story to you. The world itself—filled with magic, hidden agendas, and dangerous monsters—leaps just as fully off the page from the get-go, dragging you into the murk and the mire and making you rethink your stance (whatever that may be) on believing in the impossible or unbelievable.

The rest of the motley crew don’t fall short, either! Each character, each monster, each moment jumps so fully to life around you, you’ll lose track of the real world while reading. Coupled with the snarky dialogue and sassy internal monologues of our protagonist is a mystery revealed in layers and crafted to perfection. There are moments, I admit, when you’ll find yourself spluttering, wondering how our characters could possibly allow something so stupid to occur…only to realize that everyone’s human. Nobody can be on top of everything all the time.

Calvin Kinsey, ballsy as hell, idiotic beyond belief, leaps through the portal into the Eververse, lands on his feet in the Etruscan Underworld, points a finger at a flaming skeleton, and yells, “Not so fast, motherfucker!”

In fact, I think this is one of Clara Coulson’s strongest writing talents: making even the most monstrous creatures, in the end, seem so utterly human. Our big bads are not there ONLY to wreak havoc on the city and leave a smeared mess of brain matter and blood behind, we find out…but there for a purpose. In the end, Cal Kinsey—ballsy, snarky, often naive and stupid in his quest for honesty and justice—even convinces them, somehow, to admit that not every shade of innocent or guilty is equal in the eyes of the law (no matter the law being called into question).

The creativity and whimsy of this read—to take something as blasé and everyday as detective work and mold it into a spell-binding, enthralling battle of magics and supernatural…and to make it work…is, I’m sure, not an easy feat. There are no loose ends in this read (except the obvious mysteries I’m sure we’ll be delving into in future stories from the series). There is a small cliffhanger at the end of the novel, but it doesn’t involve the potential death of characters (at least, not so far as we’re told) and instead focuses on a series of moments seen by Cal in the Etruscan Underworld. There is no big need to “hurry up and read the next one” in the sense that a character’s existence hangs in the balance; instead, the world and characters are so meticulously crafted, you’ll want to read the next one just to READ it. (That’s a very garbled sentence; I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.)

The gates of hell open up before me, a wave of heat, a wind of bile, a scream of agony in the night, and a creature from the black abyss steps out to greet me. It’s the personification of all that is unholy, all that is wretched, all that is wrong, all that tastes like salt and cyanide. All wrapped up in the form of a man in a long brown trench coat.

Overall, this fast-paced read of whimsy, magic, and the supernatural was entertaining, at times cringe-inducing, and wholly original. I’d definitely recommend to lovers of magical realism, big uglies who are * actually * villains (sort of?) and morals that you can stand behind. This was an awesome read; I can’t wait for the second book!

0

A Review of Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1), by Kelley Armstrong

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In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

– – – – –

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: unique and inventive world building; terrifying, dangerous creatures; snarky, fun characters; complex and intriguing relationships; tons of intrigue and suspense; a compelling story with a heavy sense of “need to know” placed on the reader

“Curiosity is what lets a young mind grow and keeps an old mind young.”

I bought this book… I don’t even know how long ago. It’s been sitting around on my shelves, gathering dust. I picked it up several times, intent on cracking it open and falling into the story…and found myself distracted with other reads, choosing other authors, always putting this one back. I don’t know what took me so long to finally get around to reading it.

The world building for this first novel is overall well-done, I thought. I’ve read a couple other reviews for this book from people on goodreads—a majority of them found this to be a slow, boring read with a lot of confusing world-building. I’m not so sure I agree with their assessment. On the contrary, I found the book to be overall pretty exciting and suspenseful (of course, this might be in light of some of the other books I’ve read lately, which WERE boring and slow by comparison). I was enthralled with the different creatures that made appearances throughout, and while I’d have appreciated a more in-depth explanation as to the why or how of it, I understand that our main characters were not privvy to this information and expecting to know things they do not is all together silly.

Keepers and Seekers were not permitted to do more than trim their hair to elbow length. Ashyn said they ought to be grateful they weren’t like the spirit talkers, who weren’t ever allowed to cut their hair or their nails. Personally, Moria would be more concerned with the “eyes plucked out, tongue cut off, and nostrils seared” part of being a spirit talker, but she could see that the uncut nails might be inconvenient as well.

The characters are all intriguing and distinct, in my opinion. While the twins are a bit more difficult to tell apart, there are some major differences—the biggest being Moria and her sharply barbed tongue. Also, her skills with a blade sets her apart. I found the two pairs to be entertaining and filled with witty banter and snark, which I always adore in characters. While Moria was more “poisonous” with her words, Ashyn acted as a sort of peacekeeper. It didn’t surprise me, then, to note the blossoming relationships between them; Gavril was the sort Moria could respect and lean upon, Ronan more suited to Ashyn’s sympathetic and caring nature.

While there weren’t many moments I found my heart breaking for the characters, I was still compelled and enthralled with the read. There are some world-building issues I wish had been examined more closely in this first book; it is not entirely clear what the difference between Seekers and Keepers are, or what the twins are expected to do (aside from Seeking out the spirits in the Forest once the year has passed, and Keeping them from entering the town and causing havoc. I guess that actually explains more than I thought.) I’d have loved more explanation on the magics of the world—right now, it sort of seems all up in the air. Perhaps this is because magic in this sense is no longer supposed to exist—our characters are only just learning of it themselves. I have hopes the second book will clear up any confusion or inconsistencies.

Night was her time. The Keeper. Bond-mate of the cat. Protector of the night. Daughter of the moon.

Overall, I found this an interesting and suspenseful read, and I can’t wait to dive into book two (hopefully I’ll be able to add it to my shelves soon, but I’m not holding my breath). I’d definitely recommend to lovers of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Chronicles or Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass –anyone with an interest in magical worlds and fantastical beasts will have fun reading this!

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A Review of Entwined, by Heather Dixon

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Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

– – – – –

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Quick Reasons: fairy tale…but not any fairy tale you’ve ever heard before; a Phantom-esque, mysterious antagonist; gorgeous, seamless prose and story telling; a cast of intelligent, snarky, and wildly individual characters; lots of magic, mayhem, and drama

Okay, first off: this cover?! Absolutely STUNNING. The silver foil leaves not only stand out, but FIT with the story—as does the rest of this cover. I’m not one, usually, for people on covers, especially facing AWAY from the reader…but this one! This one is just so gorgeously fitting for the story, I can’t fault it. It was brilliantly executed, and I just can’t stop looking at it.

What happened?” said Clover, wetting a cloth in the basin, and dabbing Azalea’s face.

“She had a sort of fit,” said the King. “I think her underthings may be laced too tightly.”

All the girls, including Azalea, blushed brilliantly.

Sir,” said Eve. “You’re not suppose to know about the U word!”

“Am I not? Forgive me.”

So, off the cover now: this story is so intriguing and mysterious! From the beginning, readers are given almost too many questions to possibly answer. Left in the dark much like the eleven sisters (yes, you read that correctly!) readers are never quite sure what to think or where to turn with their questions. Mysterious characters like the King and the Keeper are a stark juxtaposition to warmer, more open-with-their-emotions characters. The hot and cold of the relationships, reactions, etc are enough to leave a reader’s head spinning!

Despite this, Heather Dixon has a way of weaving a relationship into it’s best (or, in some instances, it’s worst) advantage. Where one relationship slowly, stutteringly thrives and grows and turns into something wonderful, another falters, sweeps into darkness, becomes violent—the whole time leaving readers on the edge of their seats, holding their breath! I think Heather Dixon THRIVES when it comes to creating characters and relationships and making them realistic.

You cannot dance up there,” he said, quietly. “I can see you are in mourning. But you are welcome to dance here, among the magic. Please. Come and mend you broken hearts here. Come back, every night.”

The story is so artfully woven, the world practically LEAPS to life. Heather Dixon took into consideration different societal norms and regulations of the time and was sure to pay attention to the conventions of the world while still maintaining a sort of magical, fairy tale enchantment. The dialogue is honest and realistic, colloquiallisms at once being sometimes mocked and often so well-done I didn’t notice them. And yet, Heather Dixon ALSO went out of her way to make this NOT the typical fairy tale we all know and love—by warping certain standards and outright breaking others.

I will say it took me about forty pages to TRULY get invested in the story and characters; up til that point, this seemed to be falling a bit flat. But once I really settled in for the read, the words leapt off the page and the fast-paced, enchanting, and at times whimsical story cloaked itself around me, dragging me deeper and deeper into the book. This was a quick, thrilling read, and I adore the many ways Heather Dixon played with and explored what “fairy tale” should be. Also, the character growth and the discovery of self—the coming of age journey—was subtle and brilliantly done.

He’s around the twist,’ said Azalea. ‘Breaking all the windows? He’s mad.’

‘Ah, no,’ said the King. ‘It’s only madness if you actually do it. If you want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don’t actually do it, well, that’s love.”

I absolutely ADORED this read, and will definitely be seeking out more of Heather Dixon’s work in the future! I’d recommend this to lovers of fairy tales, magical realism with dark undertones, and (just possibly) day dreamers of all ages. This whimsical read is one I’m glad not to have missed!

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A Review of Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3), by Cassandra Clare

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Danger and betrayal, love and loss, secrets and enchantment are woven together in the breathtaking finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

– – – – –

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: I’m not crying, you’re crying!; no, really, the emotional traumas of this book…I don’t know that I’ll recover; this is honestly the best of the three, I have no better way to describe the impact… I just… Let’s just do the review, k?

You don’t think I can fight.” Tessa said, drawing back and matching his silvery gaze with her own. “Because I’m a girl.”

“I don’t think you can fight because you’re wearing a wedding dress”, said Jem. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think Will could fight in that dress either.”

“Perhaps not,” said Will, who had ears like a bat. “But I would make a radiant bride.”

Oh, by the Angel, this book absolutely shattered me. I am much like the clockwork creatures—slain upon the floor, broken into pieces. Let’s hope I can find a rational, coherent way to formulate my review of this book; I fear I’m a bit overly emotional right now and might not make much sense.

I think this, out of the three in this specific trilogy, is the best book. It is by far my favorite of the Cassandra Clare novels I’ve read (which, I have to admit, are only these three). She pulled out all the stops with this journey; I was gripped with a fierce need to see this through, but stepping onto the first sentence of THIS book, I was swept away, unable to control my free fall. This book is a whirlwind of emotions—romance, drama, suspense. My heart was trapped in the eye of the storm, now left battered and bruised and entirely useless on the other side of a read I don’t think I’ll be leaving behind me anytime soon.

The characters, wrought and shaped so carefully in the first two books, come to a clash of different situations: personal growths, tragic losses. And readers are so ensnared by them, they will feel as if THEY are the ones experiencing the tumult of the storm.

“And now I need you to do for me what I cannot do for myself. For you to be my eyes when I do not have them. For you to be my hands when I cannot use my own. For you to be my heart when mine is done beating.”

The prose throughout is absolutely breath-taking; the scenery, the descriptions, all come glaringly to life to captivate and entrap readers, to make this story ever more realistic and reaching. Cassandra Clare definitely has a flair for the poetics, and she wields her words wisely with this book—the writing both awe-inspiring and heart-wrenching, both gorgeous and bitter all at once. Every moment, every second leading up to the harrowing and gut-churning conclusion… It circles back time and again. The foreshadowing was subtle and well done, catching me by surprise several times over. Everything about this book is crafted like a mosaic, lovingly and with such infinite care.

But beyond this, Cassandra Clare did something I was not aware was possible: she made me fall in love with a love triangle. She made me so torn about my decisions, so broken by the choices made and the moments lost, so willing to break my own heart in two just to see an ending that suited everybody… Never before have I been so confused about my feelings toward three characters. Never before have I wanted so fiercely such a complicated relationship as this to just work out for everybody.

You know that feeling,” she said, “when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing tight around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage and you cannot let go or turn the course aside.”

I just… I can’t describe how amazing this book is. It blew me away. I will be getting this trilogy in physical format as soon as I possibly can; I need these books on my shelves like yesterday. I’d highly recommend to lovers of steampunk, historical fiction, angels/demons/warlocks…and stories that break your heart so open, you’re not sure where the pieces fall. I LOVE this series; it’s more than enough to make me give City of Bones (which I tried before and couldn’t get into) another shot. Well done, Cassandra Clare. Well done.

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A Review of Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2), by Laini Taylor

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Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

– – – – –

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: fast-paced, intense, heart-pounding action; the exploration of what “traitor” means in a war between different societies—and what makes a traitor; angels, spirits, Frankenstein-esque monsters; the examination of love, destiny, strength, and right vs. wrong

Please excuse me just a minute. I seem to have left my heart shredded between the pages of this book; I need to put it back together before I can form coherent thoughts on what I just read. Have a quote while you wait:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living—one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

There is something enchanting, alluring, and utterly breathtaking about both Laini Taylor’s prose and worlds. She weaves intrigue so effortlessly, readers are sucked in and held hostage the entire journey—hearts breaking at every turn, hope dwindling and then spearheading again… It’s a wild rollercoaster, reading Laini Taylor’s novels, and she always finds a way to leave the wound gaping wide even at the closing of the last page. This sequel is no exception.

A LOT of things happen in this book, but every situation has a point, every moment has a purpose; nothing seems irrelevant, nothing is forced. Every word carries weight; Laini Taylor knows how to think of every loophole and make them COUNT toward the end result. Nothing should be taken for granted in her writing: she has an answer for every potentiality, and enacts them to their fullest, most lethal advantage. So while a lot of things happen in this book…you won’t feel unsatisfied, disappointed, or in any way lost on any of the separate story lines. It’s all explained. It all comes full-circle. It all pans out.

“As long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance things will get better.”

“Or worse,” said Liraz.

“Yes,” he conceded. “Usually worse.”

Hazael cut in. “My sister, Sunshine, and my brother, Light. You two should rally the ranks. You’ll have us killing ourselves by morning.”

I’ve only ever read these first two books by Laini Taylor…but I’ve fallen hopelessly, desperately in love with her words. She is the type of writer I strive to be in the future: the kind who can steal readers from their thoughts, close them off to the rest of the world, and sweep them along a journey they never foresaw or knew they needed. Her world building is pure gold, the details so exact and brilliantly imagined readers can’t help but feel as if they’re watching the action from the sidelines. The connection with the characters is instantaneous and powerful; it doesn’t take long to sidle into the story and pick a side, pick someone to root for, pick a dream to carry.

The prose is absolutely stunning. The scenes are clear, a mirage of words veiled over a reader’s mind. The characters are at odds both realistic and completely fantastical, human and utterly magic at the same time. Their dialogue is expertly crafted, a fine balance of honesty and total snark (in all the right places, and sometimes exactly the wrong ones). Every detail is so finely balanced, every thread sewn with such precision, it’s as if Laini Taylor has done MORE than just put words to a page. She brings an inventive, creative world of danger, war, and hostility to brilliant life—the morals she explores through the process, the different realizations we as readers are meant to reach and consider, only add to the overall result. It is a journey—not just of the world she’s imagined—but of oneself.

It was one of those dreams that invade the space between seconds, proving sleep has its own physics- where time shrinks and swells, lifetimes unspool in a blink, and cities burn to ash in a mere flutter of lashes.

I absolutely LOVED this read—it’s just as beautiful, just as ensnaring, as the first. I highly recommend to lovers of magical realism, fantasy, and books featuring angels (even not-so-great ones…) I can’t WAIT to dive into the third installment, and see what this captivating world holds secret yet.