It has been a long time since I've read a book before there was even a cover. Hell, it's been a long time since I've read a physical book. (AudiobooksIt has been a long time since I've read a book before there was even a cover. Hell, it's been a long time since I've read a physical book. (Audiobooks have been my jam since Life has gone crazy.) But this book. This. The Continent. It reminded me of why I'm a reader. I got adventure and escape from the unpleasantness and monotony around me. I got to hang out with a tough girl named Vaela Sun who should get the Survivor of the Decade award.
There's NOTHING better than finding a book to make you fall in love with books again. The Continent rekindled that romance.
Since I've fallen off of the reviewing bandwagon in the past year, I was a turd and forgot to write down all of the various names of things from the book. Yes, they are important in the Grand Scheme of Things, but if I make up how something is pronounced in my head, what is written doesn't stick. I'm warning you before I start with the plot and stuff.
The first thing I loved about this book is Vaela wasn't some wretched, angst-ridden teenager waiting on some sparkling vampire to come along and Change Her Life. No, she had a great relationship with her parents, she had an apprenticeship lined up, and she was a happily normal young person. That's rare in YA, and I didn't even notice that until I read this book. Well, anywho, Keira Drake decided to shake all of that up because Vaela didn't get to float on Cloud 9 for long. She got to know the natives a little better than she would have liked. There are two tribes, and only one of them is civilized.
I'll leave it at that.
I appreciated the world Drake built in The Continent. I won't lie - I was a little confused by the Spire and Continent thing. I read so much science fiction that I assumed the Spire was some manufactured or magic kingdom in the clouds. They took airships to the Continent, so that made perfect sense to me. As I read the book, I started to realize that maybe that's not how things were. I didn't dwell on it, though - I was too interested in what was going on with Vaela. That's saying a lot because I'm usually picking these things apart. *shrugs* I'm hoping for a map with the finished copy so I can get a better idea of what is going on. (And yes, I plan on reading the finished copy or at least listening to it if it's on Audible.)
I don't want to get too spoilery, so I'm not going to subject you to the made-up names. I'm going to stop. But first I'm going to say just this - if you're looking for a book to be excited about reading this winter, The Continent is it.
Angelfall by Susan Ee has been on my radar for a few years now, but I avoided it because I haven't had a lot of luck with self-published novels. Honestly, I probably would have taken my time in getting around to reading it, despite the fact that I owned it on Kindle and Audible, if not for many reviewers that I trust raving about it in anticipation of its sequel, World After.
I'm so glad that I got off of my ass and read it.
Angelfall is one of those rare books that captures you so completely and makes it impossible to devote any sort of time or attention to work, children, bathing, sleeping, etc. Sadly, I'm not really exaggerating. From the moment that Penryn happened upon Raffe being dismembered by other angels, there was no getting away from it.
Angels really aren't my thing usually, but Angelfall makes them into badass warriors instead of the friendly Renaissance beings that we're more familiar with. I mean, even the Bible says that carry flaming swords and bring destruction in their wake. They are vicious, thus making Angelfall a very dark book. And awesome.
Equally badass is the main character, Penryn Young. No, she doesn't wield that famous flaming sword, but she can kick ass and take names. Her paranoid schizophrenic mother has made her take multiple forms of martial arts for five years because she was afraid that something would harm Penryn. (Apparently paranoid schizophrenics have a leg up on the competition in the apocalypse.) Back to Penryn - she's a girl that I really dig. She puts her family above everything, even her moral hesitations about beating up on an injured person for information. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Anywho, she will kick your ass and take your name.
You guys, I also need to tell you about Caitlin Davies. She is the narrator for Angelfall, and she made the story explode from an overload of fabulousness. Susan Ee's writing is awesome on its own, but Davies really brought the characters to life. The voices of the various characters were diverse without sounding silly, and there's not much I love more than listening to a narrator and being able to tell which character is speaking without the "_____ said" nonsense.
It has taken me weeks to find the words to do justice to Angelfall, and they still aren't enough. This is a book that I will forever be a champion for, and it still won't be enough. I've already bought several copies for my friends and family as gifts, and I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy, too. You won't regret it....more
The Kiss of Deception is a YA epic fantasy by Mary E. Pearson with a strong heroine and a great journey story. Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan (and main character of the book) chooses her own life as just "Lia" than the one planned out for her.
The Kiss of Deception reminds me of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword more than any other book that I have ever read. Lia is like Harry Crewe in that she does not allow her situation to overwhelm her and does what is necessary for herself and her people. I rooted for her throughout the novel, even though I did not agree with some of her choices.
You know how I said this was an epic fantasy? Well, I mean business. The Kiss of Deception's finished copy is 544 pages long. However, the large size should not dissuade any reader because it can easily be read one chapter at a time. (They average about 10-15 pages each.) There are not many cliffhanger chapter endings or events that move too quickly, so reluctant readers who like fantasy television shows (no name-dropping, kids) will enjoy reading The Kiss of Deception at their leisure.
Before you start thinking that The Kiss of Deception won't draw you in, you're wrong. Just because you're not at the edge of your seat does NOT mean that you will lose interest.
The Kiss of Deception does have a bit of romance, but it's a very realistic, slow build. It's also clean. I suppose that I should tell you that, yes, there is a love triangle, but I think it's necessary for the story. (You won't hear me say that very often.) I'm neither "Team Kaden" or "Team Rafe" because both guys have their positive points, and they are well-constructed and sympathetic. I will be happy with whichever guy that Lia ends up with at the end of the series.
The world-building in The Kiss of Deception was epic. (Yes, I already used that word a few times, but it fits, okay?) There are three countries mentioned a great deal in the world of this book - Venda, Dalbreck, and Morrighan - and they're all described in a way that makes them seem very real. Anywho, these three countries exist in a post-apocalyptic world, though it's not really ever said outright whether it's our world or another. There are characters from each of the three, and the characters travel in two of them. I won't tell you which ones or why because Spoilers. (view spoiler)[Just kidding, I'm really not telling. (hide spoiler)]
The Kiss of Deception is a fantastic book that is probably my favorite so far this summer. In fact, you should head to your local library or bookstore to pick up a copy. I promise you'll thank me later.
- 5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book for reviewing purposes from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected the outcome. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Ring and the Crown is a YA fantasy novel by Melissa de la Cruz that I would love to see more books like. It is a well-constructed blend of historical fiction, alternate history, fantasy, and romance. The characters are all fascinating and demand your interest, keeping you glued to the pages. By the way, did I mention that there was royalty, scandal, and swooning? No?! Well, there is, and it is glorious!
The main difference between our world and that of The Ring and the Crown is that Henry VI inherited the throne of France from Charles VI, while he also held the British throne. Other differences were that magic existed, the United States lost their Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution did not occur as in our reality because of magic. There is a lot going on, but wasn't anything overwhelming. It seemed like an extended daydream of "What Ifs" that the history major in me had a tremendous appreciation for.
There is a pretty huge cast in The Ring and the Crown, but there were not any characters that were lacking in development and were surprising. The ones who really stood out to me were Ronan Astor and Wolf. I suppose they're considered secondary characters to Marie and Aelwyn, but they were my favorites to read. Their flirtation and the parallel of their relationship with the relationships between other characters was the best part of the book. However, all of the characters are very important to the story.
The writing of The Ring and the Crown was a welcome surprise for me because I did not enjoy my first de la Cruz book at all. She was able to weave together a magical world very nearly like our own and a huge cast of characters in a way that was not confusing. The writing was tight, and there wasn't a lot left hanging. With the scale of everything, there was a lot that could have gone wrong, but it all went right. Well, for the book itself - not the characters. But I won't go there.
The Ring and the Crown was an exceptional read, not only because there aren't many young adult books like it, but it is well-written, well-researched, and smart. I hope The Ring and the Crown becomes at least a trilogy, and I'm tempted to check out de la Cruz's backlist now. I will for sure be looking for future books by her.
- 4.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
You're going to want to watch your feet while reading my review of Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen because I fear my gushing may stain your shoes. You've been warned. Yes, Stolen Songbird is that good. Strange Chemistry was kind enough to send me an ARC, and I swear I'll hug anyone from that publisher whenever I meet them. Seriously. But you're not here to read about my awkwardness - you want to read about how awesome this book is.
If you're anything like me, when you come across a book this good, you really don't want to point out any faults. Stolen Songbird has faults, but the story is so damn good that I'm willing to mostly overlook them. I shall explain.
Cécile de Troyes is a spunky, sassy heroine who was so much fun to read about. She's a commoner who is kidnapped by an acquaintance and sold to trolls for her weight in gold. However, Cécile never once gave up or in on anything, stubbornly biding her time and pushing for things to be on her terms despite being terrified. Tristan, the troll prince she marries under duress, is the typical brooding YA love interest except, you know, for the troll bit. Once you get beneath the surface with him (hardy har har), you'll find complexities that are not as typical.
The crowning achievement of Stolen Songbird is the magnificent world-building. As I was reading the book, I was in Trollus with Cécile and Tristan. I could picture the underground city and really felt like I was watching the story unfold firsthand. It was easy to follow Jensen's troll mythology, too, and there weren't many holes or gaps in my understanding of why everything was whichever way. It was richly described and cleverly imagined.
My problem with Stolen Songbird, though I hate to say there was one, was the pacing. Parts of the story felt very rushed while there were others that were a bit slower than I liked. I never wanted to stop reading the book, but it was inconsistent enough that I would be remiss in my review if I did not point it out.
I do want to bring up Stolen Songbird's romance, but only momentarily because there wasn't much of it (thank Bob). Being as I prefer a slow burn, the two lovebirds were alright. Yes, I call shenanigans on it (finally) coming almost out of nowhere, but whatever. I was all for it by the end.
Stolen Songbird has one of the most unique fantasy worlds and probably one of the best ones I've read yet this year. If fantasy is a genre that you enjoy reading, YA or otherwise, I totally recommend that you get your hands on this one.
- 4.5/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own....more
I've been reading a lot of fantasy lately, and it's very easy for me to get burned out on the genre, though it's my favorite, because writers tend to stick to overused formulas and plot devices. Johansen's Queen of the Tearling did indeed put some of those fantasy formulas to use, but the writing and characters were so good that I was willing to overlook it.
I'll try to be as spoiler-free as possible, so I'll only tell you about one of the plot devices that is used in Queen of the Tearling. (It comes up very early in the book, so I swear I'm not ruining anything for you.) The book is set in the future, though the lifestyle has reverted to medieval (of course) because knowledge and technology has been lost. This is probably my least favorite of the overused plot devices, but it didn't bother me so much in Queen of the Tearling because Johansen didn't spend too much time on it or expect it to be some sort of shocking twist. To be fair, I know the majority of the population doesn't read as much as I do, so the whole "Surprise, it's the future!" thing is a pleasant surprise to a lot of readers. I've just seen it so much that I'm surprised when it's NOT used.
In no way does Queen of the Tearling read like a debut novel. Johansen's writing and world-building was executed well, and I was able to learn about the history of Tearling and the neighboring realms without info-dumping. The formation of the kingdom and its interaction with its neighboring country of Mortmesne was fascinating to read as well. What I had a problem with is not knowing where these mysterious countries are. There was The Crossing, initiated by William Tear and his followers, but where did they go? There's nowhere else on Earth that we can go (that I know of), and the very earliest that they could have left for Tearling is 1909. You see, pennies with Lincoln on them are mentioned, and they were first minted in 1909. Maybe I missed something or it'll be in a later book, but that kept me scratching my head. However, kudos to Johansen for making me think super hard about how this happened, even well after I finished the book. (I love riddles.)
As for the characters in Queen of the Tearling, they were interesting and engaging, but not quite worthy of the A Game of Thrones comparison. I liked Kelsea, Mace, and the Fetch, but they're nowhere near as complex as the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. Kelsea, the main character, is a teenage girl who is due to take over the Tearling throne. And she's just that - a teenage girl. She's also plain and a bit chubby (I think?), and everything about her is on the surface. Thank Bob she wasn't some secretly beautiful snowflake that had men falling over themselves to get to her.
Queen of the Tearling is a very long book, but it was one that I enjoyed immensely when I forgot about the hype (that I mostly ignored) of what it should have been. I think fans of fantasy novels will love this book, and I can't wait to read more books by Erika Johansen.
- 4/5 Stars -
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me....more