Book Review | Shielded

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Shielded (Shielded #1) by KayLynn Flanders

Published July 21, 2020

Ebook 432 pages

4.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

Holy wow that was sooo sooo good!!!! I saw someone else say “for fans of Snow Like Ashes” (of which I am) … and also greatly agree.

The Story

A war looming, a second-born heir to the throne, a battle ready princess and a betrothal to a Kingdom on the other side of the Wild (a place where rouge magic abounds). Magic and intrigue and romance and family.

(Goodreads synopsis):

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

What I liked

Well, everything!

Seriously, I adored this book in its entirety. The world building was intriguing, easy to understand and unique. The political intrigue was spot on. There were twists and turns that I did not see coming (although I have some theories on a few things). And the romance was slow-burn “WILL YOU JUST KISS ALREADY” perfection.

I loved the magic system, though light. I feel like we are going to get a lot more out of the magic in the next book.

I love how strong the MC became over time, and how all of the characters had realistic strengths and weaknesses throughout. There were no “perfect characters” in this story (except Mari who should be protected at all costs), and that’s what makes them realistic.

There was action, there was tension, there was suspense, and the author was able to write excellent side characters who felt just as real as the MC.

What I Did Not Like

Which is really an inadequate tile for this section. There is nothing I didn’t like. The only real difference between a 4.5 and a 5 star review is an indescribable “more-ness”. This story captivated me, but it didn’t destroy me. It didn’t inhabit me. It didn’t quite have that extra something that only very few books ever really have. But that is not to say that this book isn’t a pure joy and a must read!

In Conclusion 

Absolutely wonderful read and I would and will recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy.

Book Review | Live Like Legends

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Live Like Legends by Kate Cornell

Published June 1, 2020

Ebook 400 pages

3.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

This was such a hard one to rate and review. I enjoyed it, but it could have been SOO much better if for one simple fix which I discuss below. All in all, not a bad debut.

The Story

Kalista is married off to a prince she did not intend to marry, to a Kingdom she knows nothing about, to fulfill a prophecy that will lead her into a world where a monster thirsts for royal blood. But who are the real monsters?

(Goodreads synopsis):

“Princess Kalista has known her role from birth. She’s spent her entire life preparing to be the socialite wife of a prince from a peaceful kingdom. But on her big day, she is shocked when she is instead forced to marry the warrior prince of a cursed land, who is as cold as the wintry kingdom he’ll one day rule.

Carson has a throne no princess wants to share with him. An immortal beast ravages their land, and he’ll do anything to stop it, even marry a complete stranger on the day she was supposed to wed her betrothed. Let her hate him for it, but Kalista is his only hope for peace.

Kalista knows she’s just a pawn on the chessboard of politics, but now she’s expected to kill an unstoppable creature because of some legend about her bloodline that Carson believes as truth. He trains her how to fight, and when lessons in swordplay lead to lessons in love, her destiny puts more than just her life at risk.

How far is she willing to go to save the prince she never wanted…but can’t imagine living without? 

What I liked

What I did enjoy was that the author explored the concept of cultural and language barriers … which tbh is something most fantasy novels don’t even touch and now that it’s been brought to my attention … it makes sense that there would absolutely be cultural and language barriers in these types of scenarios (arranged/forced marriages to faraway countries).

The concept and the world was very interesting. The characters were well written. And the plot was spot on. I also really enjoyed the romance. Toward the end, I was definitely invested in their outcome … buuuuut …

What I Did Not Like

Honestly, if this had been a duel POV book, it could easily have been a 5 star read. Such a tragic missed opportunity. I don’t think it completely works as a single POV story. Still enjoyable but for the most part uneventful and boring. I did finally start to emotionally attach to the romance in the last 35% of the story, but I feel like it could have been an incredibly emotional story if ONLY FOR DUEL POV!!!

Imagine how much more emotion there could have been. Imagine how many more encounters with danger and turmoil we could have had. Imagine how many more characters we could have understood the complexities of!

Unfortunately, because it was only one POV, the main character couldn’t understand anyone else most of the time and therefore any connection I could have had to any of those character was also lost on me.

In Conclusion 

I enjoyed this read. It was quick and easy and intriguing. but DUEL POV!!! I hate that it could have been such a simple fix 😭

Book Review | The Hollow Gods

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The Hollow Gods (The Chaos Cycle Duology #1) by A.J. Vrana

Published July 28, 2020

Paperback 409 pages

4.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

Guys, this book was so good though! Think a much darker Linger series by Maggie Stiefvater meets The Near Witch by V. E. Schwab. I Loved it!

The Story

At it’s core, it is the story of a werewolf and a girl. Or perhaps it is the story of a girl who is lost and then found. Or perhaps it is the story of a history that is doomed to repeat itself over and over again. I think it is absolutely a story of redemption.

(Goodreads synopsis):

A perfect story for contemporary fantasy readers who love their narratives razor-sharp and their secrets dark and deadly.

Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.

For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.

Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?

And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat? 

What I liked

I loved the characters, their internal struggles, their parts to play in a story that was also sort of reminiscent of the movie Inception.

Reading this story was like walking through a dense fog in the not quite night and not quite day. The way the past and the present collide. The way shame and guilt and fear collide. The way light and dark, sleep and wake, life and death all collide. It’s honestly a difficult book to really even describe. At it’s core, it is the story of a werewolf and a girl. Or perhaps it is the story of a girl who is lost and then found. Or perhaps it is the story of a history that is doomed to repeat itself over and over again. I think it is absolutely a story of redemption.

The way the author was able to create this air of suspense throughout the entire novel is incredible and definitely transported to me a world far away from my own (which of course is what a story is supposed to do). I was immersed and I never wanted it to end.

The characters are complex, shaded in tones of gray. Broken and battling with demons within and without … and perhaps in this way, this story is one giant metaphor.

What I Did Not Like

What keeps a book at a 4.5 vs. a 5 star for me really just comes down to the book’s ability to be MORE. Pull my emotions MORE. Connect me to the characters MORE. Connect me to the world MORE. And while this book had everything that a great story has … it just didn’t quite yet push that limit that I know this story can have. I hope to see this continue to develop in the next book in this series.

In Conclusion 

A truly wonderful debut! I can’t wait to see MORE.

Book Review | The Court of Miracles

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The Court of Miracles (The Court of Miracles #1) by Kester Grant

Published June 2, 2020

Hardcover 464 pages

3/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

Maybe it’s my own fault for having pretty high expectations with a blurb that reads “Les Misérables meets Six of Crows” … it’s not. I mean kind of if what we are actually saying is that it takes place in a French/Ketterdam style setting, with criminals and a revolution. But certainly I would not compare this book to either of these brilliantly crafted stories in the way of any real substance.

I say all of this to say … I was disappointed.

The Story

Girl tries to be Kaz Brekker, and fails.

(Goodreads synopsis):

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger. 

What I liked

Which is not to say that I did not enjoy this read. I actually did enjoy it, in the way I would enjoy a shallow easy beach-read while not having to get immersed into a world or emotionally attached to the characters. The story was fun and entertaining, the concept was very interesting and well executed in many ways. But the MORE of the story was completely missing for me.

What I Did Not Like

The story lacked anything of any real depth. Like I mentioned, it felt like floating through a light simple read … but that didn’t feel right either because the atmosphere of the story is actually quite dark. Because this story lacked that depth, the fact that dark horrible things were taking place failed to truly resonate in me any real shock or outrage. As a whole, this story failed to inspire any real emotion within me. I was not connected to any of the characters most of the time in the least. I will, however, say that there were moments … moments when I thought ah ha! Here it is … that thing … that strand that finally makes me feel … something … only to be severed just as quickly and I drifted back down to “don’t care land”.

And let’s be honest, I don’t even think the characters cared. Lets talk about the fact that off screen, hundreds of people died and no one seemed to care. Just completely glazed over … like “well a lot of people died and that makes us sad … is that a squirrel?”

I actually canceled my pre-order of the hardback copy because I simply don’t think this story was enough for me to need it on my shelves.

In Conclusion 

I know some of this sounds actually quite harsh. Again, perhaps my expectations were too inflated to give this book any real chance of succeeding with me.

It was enjoyable, but it lacked depth and detail. Connection and emotion. That being said, I will still probably pick up the sequel when it is released.

Book Review | Queen’s Peril

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Queen’s Peril (Star Wars Disney Canon Novel) by E.K. Johnston

Published June 2, 2020

Ebook 352 pages

3/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

When given the opportunity to dive into the life of Queen Amidala from the Star Wars megaverse, I was very intrigued.

The Story

This story follows Padma’s life as she wins the title of Queen and begins her term serving Naboo.

(Goodreads synopsis):

When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other. 

What I liked

This story was a quick and easy read, though I will say it reads for a much younger audience than I was hoping. Somewhere around the age of 8-14 would be ideal. I deeply enjoyed the camaraderie of the women of Padme’s court. I think it is extremely important for authors to highlight solid and positive friendships between women as a whole, and this book definitely delivers on this. And while I found the story interesting for the most part, it was not enough of a story to stand on it’s own two feet. It reads much more like a novella than a true novel.

What I Did Not Like

The story lacked … story. Again, it had its moments that filled in some interesting gaps behind the scenes of the main Star Wars storyline, but it wasn’t enough. I found myself very detached from the characters for most of the story in general. And when I did care, it wasn’t for Padme, she lacked any real development and felt extremely stale. Honestly, I cared the least about Padme as a whole. Although I will say that yet again, it had its moments where I did genuinely care for the other characters.

There was a lack of emotion, a lack of action, a lack of turmoil, a lack of tension. It read like a slow moving river that never really produced any rapids to keep me hooked. I think that if this book had not been such a quick and easy read, it would have been dnf’ed.

Furthermore, the writing was simplistic and juvenile which, of course, is why it felt more middle grade than young adult.

In Conclusion 

I may or may not continue the series from here. I do not know that it really gave me enough of a look into Padme that it really became necessary. Nice story, but not enough and very simple.

 

Book Review | Rivers Ran Red

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Rivers Ran Red: The Last of the Romans Trilogy by J. A. Grierson

Published November 1, 2019

Ebook 328 pages

4.5/5 stars

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an open and honest review

Can J. A. Grierson write all the History books from now on please?

The Story

An extremely well written and well researched historical fiction based on the events surrounding the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains and the Roman’s defeat of Attila the Hun.

(Goodreads synopsis):

“In a whirlwind of fire and carnage, Attila the Hun wheels half a million horsemen towards Roman territory. In his path, corruption and greed have undermined the ancient empire and the vacillating emperor, Valentinian III, has cut her legions to a sliver. But out of this smoke a wily, battle-scarred general, Avitus, rises in her defence. Making allies of his enemies, Avitus rallies barbarian warlords to fight for the Eagle and crosses the Alps to face Rome’s nemesis. But when Attila offers to split the Empire’s corpse with the Goths his march becomes a suicide mission.

One war will decide the fate of civilization.

The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains rages through the night. Individual acts of bravery and cowardice tip the final balance. Rivers run red and burst their banks with blood. Dawn draws a portrait of unimaginable carnage.

In a tale of epic deeds, heroes confront insurmountable odds, with honour and courage. Avitus faces a myriad of enemies, both Roman and barbarian but can one man save civilisation?

What I liked

Wow!

Just, wow. I could NOT put this book down. I am by all accounts a fantasy reader only. Sometimes when I am in a reading slump, I will pick up other genres … but typically it’s all fantasy, all the time. This reads like an epic fantasy. Extremely enjoyable, extremely bloody and entirely real. I was connected to all of the characters, their lives, their history and their events. I cried when they died, I cheered when they were victorious. This book did more than just chronicle the history of these individuals … this book immersed me in the world of military power, political intrigue, love and life and death. This book is everything books should be.

The historical accounts were well researched and didn’t feel like History class … and the fictional elements were believable and complimentary to the history of that day and the characters who would have existed.

What I Did Not Like

The beginning of this book was plagued by pretty purple prose … but this daunting adjective stuffing fell out of Greirson’s writing around the second chapter (once the dialog started) and the book became much more enjoyable to read.

In Conclusion 

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good Roman history, and for fans of fantasy with epic battle scenes and political intrigue.