Up front. Talon is a title I have been beyond eager to get my hands on. Normally I don't to “pre-reviews” let alone ones with gifs. But I did, my CookUp front. Talon is a title I have been beyond eager to get my hands on. Normally I don't to “pre-reviews” let alone ones with gifs. But I did, my Cookie Monster burning his cookie/meth on his spoon mouthing “come on, come on” is exactly how I felt about a new Julie Kagawa book. I was jonesing for this book hard! Kagawa took fairies and rocked it! She took vampires tossed them into a futuristic dystopain causing my mind to: BOOM!
So imagine my surprise when I wasn't won over. The romance was handled well, and it was pretty intelligent for a love triangle even if all the pieces had to be shoved together in the first book. Though I was annoyed by the insta-attraction between Ember and Riley. Because their dragons have an instinct for each other. It was just more romance than I had expected. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the romance, swooned and liked that both Ember and Garret told the story. Giving me sooooo many swoon moments. Then Riley came in to tell his parts towards the end, letting readers no the triangle is not going to be set in stone. Fabulous job.
What detracted from Talon was that the world wasn't fully developed, and some of it was too contrived. Kagawa can deliver on amazing worlds, and that was what I was most excited about. How she would weave a world of dragons. Don't get me wrong I gave Firelight a pretty high rating, but I knew going in it was all about romance and very little world building up front. Dear Kagawa has forced me to raise my standards where she is concerned.
The world outside of Ember and Garret's star-crossed romance felt . . . choppy and lacking at best. The brainwashing aspects of Talon weren't explored enough. Dante and Ember as twins felt hallow. Plus, that mentioned brainwashing is supposed to really kick into affect when Ember gets her “training” and eventual placement in the Talon organization. (Her placement was sadly obvious, but beyond laughable. No she couldn't.) St. George, the dragon slayer organization, had so much potential and some world building could have been used! Nothing beyond that beautiful romance was fleshed out. Which soon brought down my enjoyment of the romance and it took me more then two days to devour a Kagawa book! What?
In the end I expected more from Kagawa. My anticipation of the amazing world she would build out weighed my interest in the romance. Too many missed opportunities! Which is what ended up dampening my enjoyment of Talon. Though that cliffhanger really was amazing. And as a side note I was surprised how many grammar errors there were. Hmmmm. Talon is a lot better then a number of YA titles out there. However, Kagawa set the bar. I have expectations now. I'll keep my faith alive for the next book.
Sexual Content: Making out, kissing, sexual humor, and such. Overall pretty clean.
3/5- Adored it, just a few minor details held it back.
****Copy received for an honest review through Netgalley.****
“If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.” - Nyx
It feel****Copy received for an honest review through Netgalley.****
“If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.” - Nyx
It feels so strange to finish a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and be so . . . awed. It's just that I haven't been this in love with a BatB retelling in forever! It was so nice not to simply read another version of the same story that had little tweaks, or a modernized version for the sake of modernizing it. No, Cruel Beauty was something wholly unique, and it borrows lightly from the classic BatB tale. There's a magical mixture of Greek mythology, questionable morals, and a beautiful world.
“I wasn't born to be saved.” - Nyx
Nyx is this stories Bell/Beauty. What I love is that Cruel Beauty doesn't attempt to make this story about looks, how she's so plain or really stunning. No. What the story tries to stay focused on is what's inside of Nyx. The daughter of a man who made a deal with the Gentle Lord (AKA Ignifex), and was chosen to pay the price. Trained to kill Ignifex who will one day be her husband. Nyx isn't a sweet and innocent girl. She didn't willingly go into this arrangement she did it out of duty. Like the original she loves books and knowledge, but for the most part that's were it ends. The references to the “poison” inside her that makes her a bad daughter for resenting her fate and family, and the anger that's a temperament to being human is very realistic. What's more is that Nyx recognizes theses faults, and constantly berates herself for not being more dutiful and self sacrificing. All of these emotions are so relatable and a lot of the time I kept wanting to shout at the poor girl that she was right to feel that way. Maybe she should question everything! In a lot of ways Nyx recognizing those flaws made her stronger and weaker. More naive at times.
“Because despite all the poison in my heart, I knew it was not Astraia's fault that Father had picked her over me.” - Nyx
Cruel Beauty plays well on the fact that not everything is black and white. From the fools who go to make deals with Ignifex in the hope that their selfish wishes will be granted. Even when one is to kill the husband of a woman a man wants, all to make her happy. Sure the husband was beating the woman, but what right did that man have to wish another dead. In the end he would get what he wanted, another mans wife. Would he have made the same deal if the wife wasn't being abused? The price of every wish granted always ends in tragedy, all of the stories and people know this. Yet Ignifex is the villain for having to make these bargains. No one is innocent and by the end of the book I felt every character had poison in their hearts. Even the beloved Astraia who was supposed the be the sweet innocent sister. A character I would have loved to explore especially when Nyx is finally reunited with her sister and it's so easy to see the cruelty spilling out. That just as Nyx had put on an act of an obedient daughter, Astraia pretended to be an angel.
“Don't look at the shadows too long, or a demon might look back.”
A father who could selfishly bargain for children because he believed it was his wife’s wish, never considering that there might be a reason she couldn't conceive. Then bargaining away the precious life of his own child, and eventually entering into a relationship with his dead wife's sister. Poison. Every character met it could be argued has some kind of poison. Or shadow. To me that's were the real depth of Cruel Beauty come into play. The people crying out monster, and the monster who understands what he is, may not have it all straight. Human is to have a little monster in us all, some bigger then others.
The world of Arcadia is fascinating. An island that is covered in a parchment sky and only a dark void below. The realization of the Greek mythology in this world is fantastic. The cruelty, cleverness, and prices of Greek myth has always been a huge fascination of mine. To see it fully realized in a BatB retelling is awesomesauce! Nyx is sent in to kill The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, and to free Arcadia. However, the very plan that her father has prepared her to use may not be the key, or are the monsters lying? . So begins the bigger riddle as to what truly happened and if killing Ignifex can free the people.
“And every other time I'd loved somebody, it had twisted in my heart. I couldn't risk it with him.” - Nyx
In the end any BatB story is about the romance. It's so wonderful how it all develops. At first I pissed and moaned because I thought another spotty love triangle had been stuck in a great book. It quickly becomes apparent it's not a true love triangle, it's a mystery. Nyx's eventual love for a “beast” is probably one of the best portrayals I've ever seen. Self-doubt, loathing, and finally acceptance tempered by shame. After all the beast of this book is a demon. Every emotion felt more vibrant then some of the adult love stories I've read. The fact that in most BatB retellings the beauty is completely fine with falling in love with a monster, that sweet innocence is charming. Cruel Beauty isn't about innocence. All of the shadows only enhance the passion, love, and choices. Would you take the seemingly perfect prince, or the beast who is the only one that can understand the real you? The one person you don't lie to besides yourself.
“I think I'm wicked enough to love a demon.” - Nyx
“I love you more than any other creature, because you are cruel, and kind, and alive.” - Ignifex
Readers will probably each take something different away. In fact, after talking with another reader about Cruel Beauty. I had come away with the message that no one is truly innocent and that even monsters can have kindness. She then told me that she hadn't gotten that at all. She was convinced the story was about how the innocent should be protected so that “poison” didn't slip in and harm them. Heck, maybe this book doesn’t even have message and we were both over thinking it! Either way Cruel Beauty gets ya thinking.
Cruel Beauty dabbles in inner monsters, nothing overly scary but more human. Showing that denial and how even a simple choice can have horrible consequences. The love story feels more authentic with both the beauty and the beast humanized. Showing that both have goodness and kindness in them. Cruel Beauty will keep you thinking about not only human nature, but the mysteries. If you're a good guesser, and you know your myths the plot will probably be easy to crack. Even with that it still manages to dish some tricks out. BatB has always been a story of how the girl saves the man, but what happens after a heavy dose of betrayal is thrown into the mix?
“But we'll pretend we know how to love.” - Nyx
Sexual Content: Kissing and making out. Classic we’re having sex, but it cuts out until after stuff. (Been a while since I’ve read YA books that still do that.)
****Copy received for an honest review through Netgalley.****
With the title and book summary I went into Defy thinking it would be reminiscent of Tamo****Copy received for an honest review through Netgalley.****
With the title and book summary I went into Defy thinking it would be reminiscent of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series. Epic/high fantasy gender benders are a guilty pleasure of mine. Up front I knew it would attack the genre from a heavily romantic angle. Sadly the world and plot ended up suffering greatly. Even worse is that the romance isn't good. After deluding myself for about 44% of the book I couldn't keep lying to myself. It was terrible. And Alex was a crap main lead. Girl be dumb.
Alex (AKA Alexa). The fact that she had to disguise herself as a man to avoid the king's Breeding House—which I'll get into—made me believe I'd get a strong female lead. Flawed of course, all great characters are. However, what I found was a man hungry ninny. Sure she's the best of the best with a weapon, and they say she practices like crazy. Yet I read more about her checking out all of the guards she worked with and Prince Damian. Even though Damian was nothing but a spoiled jerk, it's OK to admire the man candy. Then she'd constantly remind herself that she was a girl (yeah, doubt she or the readers could forget that). In the next breath would go: “I can't believe I was checking a guy out. I'd never allow myself to do that.” When she finally admits to herself she's checking certain men out the way a woman would, she calls herself a harlot. Alex is confused and doesn't no who she really is because she has to dress up as a man. Really!
It's understandable that any woman, no matter how booty-kicking amazing she is, wants to be looked at as a woman. What I couldn't understand is how Alex couldn't know how brave and strong she is. Larson did almost everything she could to turn Alex into a damsel. One who never even decided that she should question a King that would order orphaned girls to be raped again and again to make soldiers—and more breeders—for his army in the Breeding House. Or to try and figure out what kind of plots Prince Damian was scheming. Her brother Marcel said he was the brains of the twin’s operation, and he wasn't kidding. Which was probably why he got the axe so fast. The fact that Alex doesn't even properly grieve his death was just another killing blow against her.
Now for the love story, which is basically the entirety of Defy. Rylan. Oh, poor Rylan. He's given the role of best-friend. One that Alex trusts to have her back no questions asked. Even after it's revealed that he knew the whole time that she was a girl (no I'm not spoiling anything the book is that freaking transparent) Alex doesn't care one wit. Then Rylan is hot and cold, mood swings all over the place, and get's put in as the third-jealous-lame part of the triangle. Prince Damian of course starts winning over Alex from the get go. Because just after a few days Alex starts to see the true Damian. Or does she? Damian continually lies and holds back things, wants Alex to divulge her darkest secret and never really gives her anything that could justify the romance taking place. All of these sides of the love triangle have doubts about each other, can't seem to really share anything, and the mood swings started to make me dizzy. Most of the book takes place with Damian, Rylan, and Alex being kidnapped and dragged onto enemy lands. Of course Larson does everything to make Damian swoon worthy. In Alex's own words this is how that whole journey could be described:
“Every night I had to lie between the two of them, feeling like I was being torn apart inside.” - Alex(a)
No girl. I was being torn up. Scratch that. Shredded. It needs to be said that Defy makes an attempt to have an ambitious plot. All of the “nudges” pretty much give everything away and the real meat of the world and “defiance” part of the book takes place in the last 20%. The Breeding Houses were such a dark and daring place to go with this book, and they just felt like crutches to make readers dislike the evil king! When Alex finally has a chance to help her people Damian actually has to pull her aside and pump her up. Remind her that she lost her brother, her mother and father, and all the girls in those breeding houses to this war. *Palms face.* There was no world building or plot to hold up the rest of the book!
Maybe if the writing was stronger Defy could have held on by a thread. Alas, the writing was poor at best. It couldn't pull me in enough to care or get involved, especially with all the terrible characters. Standard fantasy cast? Check. Damsel warrior woman? Check. Two horrid sides to an undeveloped—and poorly thought out—love triangle? Oh, check. The problem is that Defy is at it’s heart a romance, relying strictly on the merits of a romance. As said the romantic story isn’t good! No world building and an after thought of a plot. In the end the writing couldn’t save the lack of all three of the key elements of a good story. There's no doubt in my mind that this series will definitely get a fan base. Heck, it's already slated for book 2. Though I can't see this story going anywhere. Even with hints that Alex needs to find out who really killed her parents. Yatta-yatta-yawn. For fans who live and breath this genre, it's best to stay away.
Sexual Content: Rape is talked about and mentioned, not in depth. Sexual humor and some mild making out.
Yesssssssssssssssss! Amen! All right! Beyond a doubt this is the type of fantasy I've been waiting for to enter the young adult genre. Don't get me wrYesssssssssssssssss! Amen! All right! Beyond a doubt this is the type of fantasy I've been waiting for to enter the young adult genre. Don't get me wrong I love YA fantasy. Yet so few barely ever can claim to be epic (epic/high) fantasy. Bless you Morgan Rhodes (AKA Michelle Rowen) for listening. Or more likely deciding that readers needed this! After reading Throne of Glass I feared this was just another attempt at marketers to hype up a book by calling it “the Game of Thrones for young adults.” Oh it is. In one shocking instant Rhodes killed one of my favorite characters and I was heart broken. And yet, happy to finally read a fearless YA author again!
There are four main characters that the POV changes between and I found them all fascinating. The spoiled Princess Cleo who's lived a sheltered life actually became my favorite. Rhodes does a wonderful job of showing how despite Cloe's wealth she's still trapped by her rank and apparent position. Her determination and hope is so powerful that I couldn't help but love her. Jonas is a strong willed lad who loses his brother. The injustices of the world cause him to become a rebel and lead his country into an uprising. Magnus is the first born Prince to a an evil king and ice cold queen. His journey was the most fascinating as he can either turn into the biggest hero or the most dastardly of villains. Lucia is the girl who finds out she's not only adopted, but has powers that are awakening. Her moral battle is just the beginning. The other minor characters that take turns with the POV are also just as interesting. At first they all seem like the stereotypical characters for the genre, but then readers go deeper.
The world of Mystica and the three kingdoms that comprise it. Spending time in each kingdom was a treat. From the lush and wealthy Auranos to Paelsia a starving and dying land. Even the violent and cruel land of Limeros is . . . chilling . . . but awesome! The historical points and lost magic is an engaging plot line as it’s slowly revealed. The idea of all these magical beings lurking in the background—supposedly good—waiting for the magical artifacts makes my High/Epic Fantasy soul rejoice.
YA Fantasy readers have been enjoying the genre, but we've been mixing the complexity of the epic! Readers can't snooze with this one! Politics, battles, backstabbing, death, moral gray areas, good and evil, love, horror, and so much more! This title and world is so well realized that I believe “adult titles” only readers will enjoy this one. If you were disappointed in Throne of Glass and Shadow and Bone to deliver High/Epic fantasy, don't worry. Falling Kingdoms is here to kiss your boo-boos and make it all better.
Sexual Content: References to sex, kissing, sexual humor, and such. This is not a clean YA title, it’s pretty mature. Dealing with death, sex, betrayal, and more.
This is a title I have mixed feelings on, and makes me curse my rating system. Because honestly it doesn't offer anything new to the fantasy genre. EsThis is a title I have mixed feelings on, and makes me curse my rating system. Because honestly it doesn't offer anything new to the fantasy genre. Especially the young adult section. This story has been told before. Yet as I sunk further and further into the pages I was transported. The setting is like an old world Russia that is just barely figuring out technology. Russia is actually one of the few explored alternate fantasy realms I've come across. Heck I can't even remember what book used it . . . so that's a good thing for Shadow and Bone.
It's funny that I enjoyed this title so much. Because the characters were all horrible. Alina alone made me roll my eyes at so many points. She wines constantly, lacks any self worth, for some reason is really picky about food despite being poor and probably starving most of her life. She has a crush on her best friend that she will never confess too, and would rather suffer watching him man whore himself out. When she finally starts to look beautiful because of her powers, and probably finally eating, she gets just as conceded as the other court imbeciles. Love interest/best friend Mal starts off cool, but ends up being a jealous idiot that only wants Alina after he sees that she's beautiful and the Darkling desires her. The Darkling is probably the only honest character. Even after the big reveal I preferred him over some of the other characters. At least he's honest and can look past appearances.
The character I loved the most was Genya, a beautiful court Grisha. Probably because of the hardships she's faced, and the fact that she doesn't have her head up her ass (yeah looking at you Alina) Genya is the most realistic character presented. She actually has a crush on a none attractive looking guy, which leads me to believe that she understands that real self worth is not looks. Then Alina ruins this by continually wondering how such a beautiful person like Genya could fall in love with a ugly person! Then if that happened Alina herself has a chance!
Alina. Alina. That self doubt poisons this whole novel. (Yes, I know that not every character can be sure of themselves. But her lack of confidence almost borders on abuse!) Alina has this amazing power that hasn't been seen for hundreds of years she finds that her worth is hinged upon how she looks. She doesn't want it, then she does when she loses it, then she's ready to throw it away again. Every woman in this book is obsessed with looks, what they have and wear, and they're all petty and jealous. Wow. To be honest I'm surprised that Bardugo allowed Alina to have a friend like Genya, and that Genya was so real. (AKA down to earth.)
Yes. Despite ALL of that crap, I was transported. Part of me accepted that Alina was stupid. After all the main reason for her blocking her own gift was . . . lame. Sweet when she was a child, but pathetic now that she's an adult. The thing is the love triangle. It was done well. Even though both male interests ended up being self-absorbed jerks. The Darkling is a scary guy. Despite the fact that he only wants to use Alina for his own gain, he falls for her. His anger over that and want is a . . . fiery. . . strange experience.
“The problem with wanting," he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak.” - Darkling
The uniqueness of it had me swooning. Mal was a slut from the get go with his extreme good looks. When he finally comes back and only wants Alina because of her looks (and other males now look at her) he wants her. Yet lines like this won me over to his side (but I'll save some of the better lines for reading enjoyment):
“I don't care if you danced naked on the roof of the Little Palace with him. I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him.” -Mal
“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.” -Mal
“Mal,"I whispered into the night. "What?" "Thanks for finding me." "Always.” - Alina & Mal
“Do you blame me for every mistake I made? For every girl I tumbled? For every dumb thing I've said? Because if we start running tallies on stupid, you know who's going to come out ahead.” - Mal
The writing is clever and very beautiful at times. There were plenty of humorous moments and when Alina wasn't putting herself down she was pretty witty. The overall adventure was fun and there were a few twists that took me by surprise. If I can put aside some of Alina's serious annoying thoughts. (Like being obsessed over looks and boys when there's a greater thing going on. Like impending war, a chance to get rid of the Shadow Fold, and so on.) The romance was fun. Between fearing the man who first sees you as a woman, and the childhood friend that only realizes how much you meant after you’re gone. This is a coming of age story that I'm generally fond of. The play on how one should sacrifice the man for the few comes up and might be a pretty big shocker for readers. Despite myself the addiction has taken root. Yep.
Sexual Content: Make out, references to sex and having it, and some sexual humor.
3/5- Adored it, just a few minor details held it back.
Fairytales are the timeless joy of the fantasy genre. Readers thrive off of tOriginal review on Book Whispers.
Genre: YA Fantasy (Classic Fairy Tale)
Fairytales are the timeless joy of the fantasy genre. Readers thrive off of them, whether it’s retellings or variations of our favorite stories. What gets readers into more of a frenzy then the classic Fairytale? Why, an original tale that is clearly worthy of the classics. That is exactly what Heartless is.
The beauty of Stengl’s writing style will please fantasy fans who hunger for the kind of quality found in Robin McKinley’s books. For those who find McKinley’s style too harsh and a bit hard to sink into, Stengl’s softer style will be a relief. The landscapes just flow up majestically and the emotions that consume the reader make the characters feel real. The story and plot sweeps across the page with a timeless grace.
Una is definitely a classic fairytale Princess. She needs to be rescued, and there are enough warnings given to her before hand that she shouldn't have fallen victim. Then again—that’s life—everyone has bitten and choked on the apple at some point. Una’s downfall is of the heart, a modern and historic story of how someone can give their heart to the wrong person. In Una's case it's a terrible price she pays for the nativity of her emotions. Unlike the classic princess, Una is strong and willful. She has enough spirit to make up her own mind, and in the end find redemption—even learning from her mistakes. (Of course Prince Charming still get to ride in and save the day.)
Dragons never quite get the attention they deserve in most fairytales. In Heartless the Dragon(s) finally get that time to shine—even if they are quite the villains. Anne has created a dragon mythology that sent my head spinning into giddiness. They're like vampires in the aspect that they must be invited into a dwelling, and that they can turn other humans into dragons. It’s breath taking, and terrifying, all at the same time. Heartless is such a tease as it reveals enough to get you there, but enough is left out to keep you crawling after the next book!
This is a win-win for Fairytale lovers! Dragon lovers will be smitten by the new mythology of the dragon. Princess Una will frustrate readers with the paroles of love, and have readers rooting for her (or wanting to smack her upside the head). This book deals with the modern day heartbreak on a grander scale only a Fairytale can exploit. The ending is just as practical and sweet as a Happily Ever After should be, so HEA readers should feel contempt. Keep an eye out for more by this author as there’s more world—and dragons—to enchant readers.
Sexual Content: Really clean. A few kissing scenes, some blushing, and some very vague sexual humor. Definitely good for the kiddies.