An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A copy of the audiobook was also won from the author. ThAn advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A copy of the audiobook was also won from the author. This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Star-Touched Queen is a story of many things: love, loss, redemption, revenge, learning and knowing oneself...and then some. The heart of the story finds its origin in the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, but I also found myself captivated by reminders of other favorite tales, like that of Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast and even The Neverending Story. Basically, this novel combines so many aspects from my favorite stories and yet somehow manages to remain unique and compelling.
And it's a stand-alone!! That, like, never happens anymore: a fantasy novel that comprises the pages of a single book and yet manages to convey the magic of three. The magic was all over the pages of this story, and what a lovely story it was. I'm actually kind of impressed with myself that I was able to savor it, rather than devouring it in one sitting. The first time I read it, anyway. ;-) I won a copy of the audiobook from the author and that I did devour immediately upon receiving. And if possible, the story is even more majestic, nay hypnotic, on audio.
The narrative is simply gorgeous and poetic, no matter which way you experience it. I could lose myself for days in a story of this caliber. It felt like a story of before and after, and yet it spans so much more than that: a love that will not be denied, a betrayal that unbalanced the worlds, and a need for vengeance so deep that it threatened to destroy the worlds completely. I cannot fathom how Chokshi could fit so much into such a tiny book and have it turn out so lovely. She must have a bit of Otherworldly magic of her own.
She so seamlessly weaves the Indian culture and the mythology in this story. It's a true work of art. And gorgeous to behold, from the descriptions of life in the palace of Bharata to the incandescent beauty of Akaran. (I'm actually super glad I listened to the audiobook because I was saying practically every proper noun incorrectly. And it sounds so much lovelier in Priya Ayyar's velvety voice.)
The characters were all so full and bursting with vitality. Yet, I never imagined that a flesh-eating demon horse would become one of my favorite characters, maybe of ever. But somehow, Kamala wormed her vicious way into my heart. Honestly, this was the aspect of the story that reminded me most of The Neverending Story because I felt like Kamala was akin to Falkor, joking about eating the main character and becoming a source of companionship and encouragement throughout the story. I've always wanted my own luck dragon, but now I kind of want a demon horse, too.
Which is probably the best testament to how amazing and compelling this novel is. You're living and breathing the story right with the characters, and then you're wishing you were part of the story, too. Funny how that happens. I've read this book twice now and I still can't get enough of it...
GIF it to me straight: First Falkor, now Kamala. I'm going to need a zoo for all of my favorite imaginary friends....more
I'm ready for The Raven King now. NOT. I don't think I'll ever be ready for this series to end or to say goodbye to tRe-read via audio (#3!) complete.
I'm ready for The Raven King now. NOT. I don't think I'll ever be ready for this series to end or to say goodbye to these characters. But I am ready for them to find Glendower and for answers to all of the questions their search has raised. And to see if ANY of my theories pan out. :P
It's seriously amazing the nuances you pick up on in the audio version versus your first read-through of the text. Even several years later. And severIt's seriously amazing the nuances you pick up on in the audio version versus your first read-through of the text. Even several years later. And several listens later.
My 5th re-read and probably the last time I'll ever re-read the series before #GanseyDies. Probably. I mean, there's still a month until The Raven KinMy 5th re-read and probably the last time I'll ever re-read the series before #GanseyDies. Probably. I mean, there's still a month until The Raven King, and as quickly as my audio re-listens go, I could probably re-read all three books ten more times before the final book releases kills me dead. But it honestly doesn't matter how many times I re-read these books before then because I'll never be ready.
I'm already succumbing to all the feels! This series is going to be the death of me. But I'm loving expeThe re-listen continues! Original review here.
I'm already succumbing to all the feels! This series is going to be the death of me. But I'm loving experiencing it again, noticing subtle nuances I missed in my first, second, and third readings. Oh, the anticipation for that final book!!!...more
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. This review can also be found at The StarAn ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
This was a strange little book, but in the best possible way. The "is this real or all a dream?" aspect had me captivated. I just love a good psychological thriller, where you're never sure if the narrator is reliable or not...when you don't know if you're dealing with magical realism or something more sinister but wholly of this world.
I wasn't expecting the story to go in the direction that it did, until a comment was made by one of the characters and then I was sure that what I was dreading was coming to fruition...or had already. At that point, I liked the situation less but not the story. The narrative, as a whole, was pretty compelling, and I found it hard to find a good stopping point when reading. And if I'm being completely honest, I didn't stop reading until I reached the end.
The possibility of changelings and ghosts and ghost houses is what really kept me intrigued. I love that those things kind of kept me off-kilter the entire time I was reading, mostly because I was hoping this was that kind of book...that like The Darkest Part of the Forest, it would leave me uncertain for the entirety of the book, wondering if anything was what it seemed.
I'm not going to beat around the bush: this book was confusing as hell most of the time, but that's what I loved about it. Well, besides the characters because they were so vibrant and I couldn't not love them. These kids were just so engaging and they all but leapt off the page at me. Their friendships and relationships, their trials and tribulations, those are what I found so captivating, even without the potential for supernatural goodness.
There is some romance in this story -- actually, a couple of them -- but they are so far from the main focus of this book as to be almost inconsequential. Except that they are important because they are quirky and adorable and not without their problems. It's difficult to talk much about those, though, because SPOILERS but it is worth mentioning that these are not what some might call traditional romances, though that fact bothered me not one iota. I loved them because they were far from easy or typical.
I do wish there had been a little more attention on the Accident Season as a whole and not this one specific Accident Season because I still have questions about the whys and hows of it. It was explained but it was such a small bit at the end that I felt a tad unsatisfied. Still, the writing was stunning and very visual and it more than made up for those teeny, tiny questions I had at the end. And being the over-thinker that I am, I'll probably always have questions when it comes to a story like this, which is partly why I read them...I love it when an author makes me work for it, doesn't spell it all out and leaves me demanding more, even if I know I'll never get it. So, basically, you should read this book so you can be just as confused and full of wonder as I am, and then we can compare notes.
GIF it to me straight: It's a head-scratcher of the best sort....more
Loved it just as much upon the second reading. All the Wen and Melik feels right now. CANNOT WAIT to start Of Dreams and Rust! And I'm mulling over whether to read Of Shadows and Obsession, but I'm not sure yet. After re-reading, I'm still kind of pissed at Bo, though I know he redeemed himself in the end......more
I think I'm finally going to read the rest of this series since it's been sitting on my shelf for ages and I did like this first book. But I need a reI think I'm finally going to read the rest of this series since it's been sitting on my shelf for ages and I did like this first book. But I need a refresher. Too bad the rest of the books aren't available on audio. :(
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review; however, this review is based on the audiobook version. My thoughAn ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review; however, this review is based on the audiobook version. My thoughts are my own. This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
I like a good revenge story. I like a good story featuring assassins. And I liked this story a lot more than I expected to, based on early reviews. Maybe those same reviews tempered my excitement for such a novel and thus I was able to enjoy it on its own merits? I mean, it wasn't a perfect story, but I appreciated the spirit of it just the same.
So maybe there wasn't all that much assassinating going on past the annihilation of Lea's family, but the revenge scheme carried the book for me. Or, more accurately, Les and his involvement in the half-baked revenge plot did. Lea was alright...a little too preoccupied with her former lover and each of their roles in her family's fall, but she realized the error of her ways and was more tolerable for it.
My biggest complaint would be how religious and fanatical the whole story is. I mean, for families who commit murder for hire, it seemed...odd...to be so beholden to a specific deity, but it's not as if I haven't seen something like this before. I did find it intriguing how the religious aspects came into play later in the story, though, so I guess since it was central and necessary to the overall plot, I'll allow it. :P
It probably also helped this story that Khristine Hvam is the narrator. She's an absolute favorite of mine, and I rarely pass up an opportunity to listen to one of her audiobook performances if I can help it....more
I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and IRe-read/listen. Original review here.
I know I just read this, but I was perusing my library's website for my next listen and this was available and I already missed Blue and the gang, so I thought why not. Plus, Will Patton WINS at narrating this series...I can't believe I ever doubted him. I mean, he was in a movie about fast cars...Maggie enjoys cars and driving fast...it just doesn't get more perfect than that. =)
ETA: This book was phenomenal the first time I read it, but the audio is even more so....more
A ranty, snarky, SPOILERY review follows. Read at your own peril.
I wasn't interested in reading this writing duo's Beautiful Bastard series because erotica really isn't my thing, so I don't honestly know what made me think I'd like their foray into young adult. Well, besides the fact that I do have a lot of Goodreads friends who seem to like this pair's work, so I thought, Maybe this will be more my speed, and I can still see what all the fuss is about without venturing into that territory.
And it starts off fine, with a character that doesn't know who or what she is, only that once she sees Colin, she knows she's here for him. Their romance went from 0-to-90 in no time, and that's with Lucy revealing that she's a ghost and Colin discovering that he couldn't physically touch her without causing her some discomfort. Insta-love: boo. Romantic complications: intriguing.
Here's where things getinteresting weird. Completely by accident, they discover that putting Colin at the brink of death lets him hover between this world and...well, whatever lies after. While he's in the in-between, he and Lucy can make physical contact. The places there "relationship" couldn't go before are suddenly possible and they're ready to explore them. Even though they've known each other mere weeks and she's a freaking ghost. Whatever, teenagers have done crazier things, right? /sarcasm
So, the pair calls on Colin's best bud to help them continually test the limits and leave Colin in this in-between state for as long as possible before true death sets in. They do so by recreating the same circumstances under which they discovered this miracle that very first time: dropping Colin into a frozen-over lake -- the very lake Lucy actually haunts -- and inducing hypothermia. Oh, they take precautions to make sure Colin always returns, but really, this is just about the dumbest idea I've ever heard. I get that both Colin and Jay are adrenaline junkies, but realistically, who would go to such lengths just to be able to touch his girlfriend? Move on, buddy.
With all the attention on these two gettin' it on -- and the fact that the authors write erotica for a living -- you'd have thought that when it finally does happen, it'd be more than just a fade-to-black sex scene. I don't have a problem with sex in YA, as long as it's not gratuitous and it's portrayed realistically. Nothing about this story was realistic, though, so I guess I should have expected this.
Going into this story, I knew it was unlikely I'd get a HEA. A ghost and a real, live boy, falling in love? Yeah, that's never going to work out. Not in any good way, anyway. Since everything else in this book was so utterly wrong, it shouldn't have surprised me that Colin made one final, stupid last-ditch attempt to be with his ghost girl by throwing himself back into that frozen lake. Without anyone knowing. And without any aide. This boy's survival instincts are seriously on the fritz. But the "walkers" like Lucy were known to take people with them, so maybe it was more Lucy's influence than the fault of Colin and all his risk-taking. It was clear to me that Lucy was draining a bit of Colin's life force each time they met in that overlap between their worlds, and so maybe some of his sanity left with it. I don't think it went to Lucy, though, because I'm pretty sure she was convinced that she was becoming less of a ghost because of Colin's presence in her afterlife, not because of anything she might be doing to him, whether intentional or not.
Pretty much, this book is only getting a star because I listened to the audio, and it features the voice of Elizabeth Louise for Lucy's chapters and Cal Wembley for Colin's. Louise has repeatedly lent her voice to one of my favorite new adult series, and considering what she had to work with, I thought she did a fair job on this audiobook. Cal Wembly sounded an awful lot like Kirby Heyborne, and when I did some research, I found both names listed as narrators for this book-- somewhere, but I can't find the link now that I'm trying to write up my review. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if he were one and the same, as a lot of narrators have pseudonyms they record under based on the genre or type of book they're recording. When I first started listening to audiobooks, I couldn't stand Cal/Kirby, but his voice has really grown on me. But maybe it's those first stories that I initially disliked because I discovered that, as Colin, I found Cal's narration a bit annoying. That's a good sign that Cal becomes the character, but it doesn't bode well for the overall experience. Still, I probably wouldn't have even finished this book had I been reading a physical copy, so there's that.
I've read a story like this before, and I had a much better experience with that one than I did here. If you're curious, it's Hereafter by Tara Hudson. Mind you, that link takes you to my review, one of the very first ones I ever wrote here on the blog, and by my reviewing standards now, I'd probably only rate the book three stars. That's still much better than Sublime rates, though. And Hereafter's premise revolves around more than endangering one's life for sex -- like, saving a boy's life. Imagine that.
GIF it to me straight: I don't even...what the...what the hell did I just read?!?...more
When Sarah sent this to me, there was a warning not to view the two post-Chaos scenes until I'd actually read the final book because they were very spoilerish. So, I'm warning you now. I waited and read this collection of journal entries and short stories last, and I think that's the best order, especially when it comes to the short stories themselves.
I'd read some of Malachi's journal entries here and there over the years, but never have I sat down and read them all back-to-back. It was insightful, to say the least. Also, there are entries that have never been shared before, from during the time period that Fractured covers, and those are well worth reading, especially if you know what transpires in that book. Very entertaining and very enlightening.
I knew there was so much more of Jim's story that we weren't getting in Fractured, and I'm glad that Sarah decided to write it and share it with all of us, especially since she fed us more of Henry's story in Chaos. As both were part of Lela's team of Guards in the Land of the Living, it's only fitting that both of their stories be told.
I am so thankful for this bonus content because after I finished Chaos, I was kind of a pile of goo and yet still wasn't ready for the final goodbye. It was nice to get even more from Malachi and Ana's perspectives, though I think my favorite part of this book was having all of Malachi's journal entries in one place finally. This collection is a must-have for any fan of the Guards of the Shadowlands series....more
I haven't read the other novella in this series entitled Captive, but I'm here to tell you that you absolutely should read Vigilante prior to starting Chaos. It's told from Ana's perspective and it gives you a ton of insight into her mindset going into Chaos. Otherwise, you might be a little...thrown by some of her actions at first, especially considering what you already know about her character from the previous books.
Also, you get to meet Takeshi. At least in Ana's flashbacks, anyway. And you'll get to see some seriously swoony parallels between their relationship and that of Malachi and Lela. Plus, you'll meet someone only vaguely referenced in a previous book, and things will all start making sense finally. Or at least as much sense as the will of the Judge can ever make to us mere mortals.
Vigilante is short and sweet and, in my opinion, totally necessary for full comprehension of these characters and what they mean to each other. It was free with your preorder of Chaos, but I'm not sure if that's a thing after the fact or how you can go about getting it now. :( I'll try to find out, if anyone's interested....more
An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based upon a purchased copy ofAn advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review, however, is based upon a purchased copy of the audiobook version.
I put off reviewing this book, well, because I'm lazy. And honestly, that summary does a great job of telling you what you're going to get with Jackaby. When it says Doctor Who meets Sherlock, it means it. You've got the paranormal aspects of Doctor Who set as the backdrop for a murder mystery the likes of which Sherlock would love to get his hands on.
Just like the two BBC shows that seem to be at least partly the inspiration for Jackaby, this novel includes a healthy dose of humor to the story to lessen the effects of the grisly tale held within its pages. I love a great mystery novel, but it can't always be murder and mayhem, especially when there's little to no romance to be had to distract you from the gruesomeness.
Much like Sherlock, Jackaby is the type of character to find romance a very unnecessary diversion from the matter at hand…even a complication. So, the romance is left to young Abigail, who seems to have struck the fancy of Detective Cane. Though the thought has been planted, it's unlikely we'll see any real swoons until later in the series. And I applaud that…this isn't really the type of mystery novel to really call for a love story.
Ritter has created such a rich world in Jackaby that I found myself immediately immersed in it, as if I, too, were walking the streets of New England, trying to crack the case. Set near the turn of the century, the depiction of New Fiddleham and what lurked there was elaborate and breath-taking. The story was unique in its execution, and I found myself at the end of the story before I knew what had happened.
Jackaby does, however, remind me of another series I started listening to right around the same time: The Paper Magician trilogy, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. If you enjoyed those books, you'll likely enjoy this new Sherlockian series and vice versa. Also, Nicola Barber is a fantastic narrator for this series. I've listened to many audiobooks performed by her, and I've never been disappointed. Her accent also lends an air of authenticity to the story.
And what a story it was! I've always been a fan of Sherlockian-type mysteries, and William Ritter's Jackaby is no exception. I just saw that the cover for the sequel was revealed while I was on vacation last week -- that or I missed it recently -- and I might love it even more than this one. Which was why I was finally inspired to write my review for this amazing book.
All it took for me to add Compulsion to my TBR was a look at that gorgeous cover and seeing a Southern gothic romance tag. I loved how this story started out, too...with Barrie who has a gift for finding lost things becoming a lost thing herself. What I didn't love was the fact that when I added this book to my must-read list, I was under the impression that it was a stand-alone. I should have known better, right? And maybe it's been a series since I first heard about it, I don't know, but I don't think Goodreads mentioned that at first or I wouldn't have been nearly as excited about the book. It's not that I didn't enjoy the novel -- I most definitely did -- but I'm trying to keep the number of new series I start to a minimum these days. Also, I read in the acknowledgements that the author had so-and-so to thank for helping her turn this into a trilogy. So, it wasn't a planned series to begin with. And I still don't think it needed to be. Anyway, that's more my issue than any fault of the story's.
Compulsion embodied everything I love about Southern gothic romances: the eerie setting, complete with old, decrepit mansions; restless spirits; peculiar townsfolk; and a romance that seemed destined in the stars. This book also includes a centuries old curse, warring founding families, and psychic abilities that have been passed down for generations. And yet, even with all of that, the story dragged its feet for the first half of the book or so. Not to the point that I was considering not finishing the book, just in the way that many a story from Southerners tends to require a lengthy build-up before getting to the good stuff.
That said, the romance took no time at all to develop between Barrie and Eight. But, I wouldn't exactly call it insta-love because their attraction is pretty much fated. While the Colesworths have always been feuding with the Watsons and the Beauforts, the latter two have always been drawn to each other. It's all curses and magic, but that doesn't make it any less real for these characters, despite how much Barrie fights her feelings for Eight. She's already lost so much before making it to Watson's Landing, and she doesn't want to add Eight to that list. Because of Eight's gift, Barrie can't be sure that what's going on between them is real, and she's just so afraid of being hurt, of being left behind. I did find Barrie's back-and-forth feelings -- her constant wavering and wondering if loving Eight would be worth it -- to be somewhat annoying in the beginning, but I forgave her that when it seemed like she was legitimately starting to trust him. Barrie just wouldn't allow herself to fall for Eight's Southern charm...at least not at first.
It impressed me how comfortable the author made these two with each other, despite their misgivings, even from their very first encounter. They just conversed so easily, had that easy banter of a couple who'd known each other all their lives. And I think that's part of the reason that this didn't seem like insta-love to me. The characters may have been initially attracted to each other, but they spent the entirety of the book getting to know one another. While I didn't immediately connect to these characters, I felt their connection.
I enjoyed all of the backstory for these families, even if it was slow-going getting to the bottom of the curse and how everything fit together. But it gave me time to get to know the side characters, as well, even the ones that weren't physically present. It was better that I was slowly introduced to them all because admittedly, the family histories were a tad confusing at times. Lots of brothers and sisters and betrayals and missing people to worry about. And after discovering all of the secrets and magic that had been hidden on Watson's Landing all those years, I thought the ending would be more suspenseful, but I guess that's where the beginning of a "spellbinding new trilogy" comes in.
I think that as far as meeting my expectations goes, this book succeeded. Based on my initial reasons for wanting to read Compulsion, I got exactly what I was hoping for. I really enjoyed this story, but I was hoping for a really compelling resolution in this book. Honestly, my biggest complaint is that I don't think a series is warranted here. I would have much rather gotten my ending here in this book and then moved on to read the next awesome story from Martina Boone.
GIF it to me straight: Yep, that's what I'll be doing for the sequel since this is not the stand-alone I was hoping for. :(...more
I was hoping that the story behind that gorgeous cover would be equally enchanting, full of the revelry I've come to associate with the Roaring 20s. What I got instead was a story of necromancy, debauchery, and revolution. Not that I'm complaining...the story as a whole is quite intriguing.
Dark Metropolis was a much darker read than I had been expecting. That might come as a shock to you considering the word "dark" is right there in the title, but as I said, I was hoping for more decadence, less dead things. I was also hoping for a bit more world-building. I had read in a couple of places that the setting was based on Berlin in the 1920s, that period between the World Wars, and the war-torn vibe was there on the pages especially toward the end of the book, but it never felt like we were in Germany. Maybe I just don't know very much about Germany during that period -- or even now -- but I needed more from the setting. It also would have been nice to understand the Valkenrath brothers and their plan to utilize Freddy to help the country survive the aftermath of the war.
It felt as if this book began as Thea's story but quickly morphed into Freddy and Nan's story, with Thea included as just a bit player until nearly the end. And it's probably for this reason that I never felt very connected to any one character. I don't mind a switch in perspective in the narrative, especially when it makes sense to do so -- as in this story -- but before the transition, I'd like to connect to the last person whose head I was just in. The closest I came to this was with Thea in the first 50 pages or so, before it felt like she was ripped away from me in favor of Freddy's story. I suppose this sort of parallels how the families of the undead in this story probably felt, but I'm not inclined to appreciate that possibility right now.
The three main characters were great in their own right, though. Each was honorable, strong, and rose to the challenge set before them. Thea is the demure girl just trying to make her way as a plucky Telephone Club waitress while also taking care of her mother, who is ill due to a magic spell binding her to her missing husband. On the outside, Nan is Thea's closest friend and fellow Telephone Club waitress. On the inside, she is empty and unfeeling...until she solves the mystery of her special gift. And rounding out this trio, we have silver-haired Freddy, who has more control over life and death than he ever thought possible. Together, these three seek to put an end to the injustices being forced upon their friends and family.
I respect the author's inclusion of two very different romances in this story but also the fact that she didn't allow them to saturate the plot. They were very subtle, and I quite liked that. Also, yay for diversity! Even if that's another aspect that I would like to see expanded further. Not sure how many books will follow this first one, but I'm sure we'll see more of these two couples in the sequel -- and see if their love can withstand.
The thing that disappointed me most about this story, though, was probably how neat and tidy the ending was. I never wish for a cliffhanger, but I at least want to be intrigued enough to return for a sequel, and I'm not sure I'm at that point after finishing Dark Metropolis. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, atmospheric and equal parts gory and enchanting, but there was just something missing.
GIF it to me straight: It started off well enough, but the book lost its stride somewhere along the way....more
I find it really interesting to listento anthologies these days. I still want a physical copy of this book for my shelves so I can leaf through it andI find it really interesting to listen to anthologies these days. I still want a physical copy of this book for my shelves so I can leaf through it and re-read my favorite stories when I'm in the mood for a little horror or need to share a good scary story. But there's just something about hearing these creepy tales from some of my favorite authors…and having some of my favorite narrators give voice to the things that go bump in the night...
The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma - 3.5 stars I think using this story to kick off the anthology was a brilliant idea. Nova's writing style is always eerily beautiful. It's not gory but still just creepy enough in the most human way. I don't know if it would have had the same impact if I'd read it after some of the others in this collection.
In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan - 5 stars This story was inspired by Alice in Wonderland and it was epically epic in its creepiness. It seems like one thing and then morphs into something else, and I kind of loved it. The use of flashbacks only served to make the story seem even more otherworldly. Dat white rabbit, tho!
Emmeline by Cat Winters - 3.5 stars I liked the writing style in this one, but I just found it too predictable. I just didn't connect with it, though the French accent the narrator used was lovely. I'm also not all that familiar with the stories that served as the inspiration for this piece, so that could have been responsible for some of the disconnect.
Verse Chorus Verse by Leigh Bardugo - 2.5 stars I thought for sure this would be one of my favorites of the collection because of who the author is, but I was underwhelmed. It was eerie to an extent, but it never gave me chills or anything like so many of the other stories did, and I know that Bardugo can write such darkness into her story if she deigns to. Maybe it was because she was tackling a contemporary setting instead of her usual fantasy? Whatever the case, this story left me feeling very meh.
Hide and Seek by Megan Shepherd - 4 stars I have a thing for Death personified. Or harbingers of Death. Really, anything where Death or the Afterlife is involved. And games of chance. This story was kind of fun, all things considered, but it was also dark, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The Dark, Scary Parts and All by Danielle Paige - 4 stars I didn't know what to expect from this story because I read the prequel novella to Dorothy Must Die and I enjoyed it so little that I didn't continue the series. But I actually found that I enjoyed this addition to the anthology, despite the fact that I figured out the twist pretty early on. But I do tend to connect to characters who embrace both the light and dark within. ;0)
The Flicker, the Fingers, the Beat, the Sigh by April Genevieve Tucholke - 4.5 stars Tucholke really knows how to build up to the creepy after just a hint of it in the very beginning of the story, especially with all the talk of "best scary movies", etc., between the characters throughout. That only adds to the atmosphere and sense of foreboding. And the not knowing...eeek!
Fat Girl With a Knife by Jonathan Maberry - 3 stars Typical zombie story. I haven't read anything by this author previously, but I'm interested...mostly because of the character development. Dahlia was fierce but compassionate in spite of all of the bullying she'd succumbed to, and she makes a frighteningly good zombie killer.
Sleepless by Jay Kristoff - 5 stars Dude. It's scary to get inside the head of a killer. Even scarier that Kristoff does it sowell. Though, he did have a hand in creating the homicidal AI in Illuminae, so it shouldn't come as a surprise. I liked the inspiration for this one, as well, though I was also reminded of that Supernatural episode Houses of the Holy with the supposed avenging angel.
M by Stefan Bachmann- 3.5 stars M is for murder. Mwahaha. I didn't get any creepy vibes from this story...just an urgent need to help Mischa discover the murderer's identity before it was too late. The story felt very much on the surface, like I could have read an entire book based on this premise and still never connected with it more than I did in this short story. It was rather bland to me.
The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu - 3 stars I love stories that totally lead me astray in the beginning, only to throw the shocking truth at me later. I also like stories where characters get their comeuppance. Marie Lu has proven to me time and again that she can write characters who are unaware of what they are, who struggle with right and wrong. But I most enjoy the characters who leave me on the fence, deserving of my contempt but also strangely deserving of my appreciation.
A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow by McCormick Templeman - 3.5 stars Short, sweet and to the point. There are those who think that one sacrifice is worthier than another, and this story serves to highlight that fact. Magic, sacrifice, hunters...I can't pinpoint what exactly helped me to connect to this story more than others in the collection. I just know that I did.
Stitches by A.G. Howard - 4.5 stars Most Frankenstein retellings I've encountered -- and I haven't read all that many -- focus on the brothers' relationship to validate the need to revive a person using some crazy science and medicine. This Frankenstein story, however, stems from a family's need to survive a tremendous loss that leaves them broken beyond repair and another family's need for redemption. Equal parts tragic and eerie, this story reminded me of why I like Howard's writing so much. She touches on many of the same themes as the original tale, from inconsolable grief to what makes a person human.
On the I-5 by Kendare Blake - 2.5 stars I just did not connect with the voice in this story. Not as the main character described the monsters and not when it became apparent that she was a monster herself. I expected the anthology to end with a bang of a story, but it sort of just fizzled. Maybe I'm biased, though, because hitch-hiking seriously weirds me out. :P
I am sososo glad I listened this anthology. I may never look at some of the narrators the same again, but that just means they did their job thoroughly. ;0) I mean, obviously it appealed to every little evil bone in my body, but it's just such a good collection of stories. There's really, truly, honestly something for everyone in this anthology. And now I reeeeeally can't wait for April's new book in 2016 -- Wink Poppy Midnight -- because she makes reading creepy, abhorrent things such a delightful experience.
I could not have asked for a better ending to one of my favorite series...seriously. Some things went the way I'd expected, but there were a lot of surprises, as well...and not all of them welcome. But I can honestly say that this final installment was everything I was hoping for, and then some.
Obviously, with the way Fractured ended, we knew Lela was going before the Judge again and that she wasn't going to let Malachi go without a fight. Lela's fierceness and her willingness to sacrifice herself for those she cares about are what I like best about her, and that hasn't changed. And now she's got Ana -- or rather, Ana's got her -- as they trek through the Mazakin realm to rescue both of their loves.
This novel is kind of split between the Mazakin city and the rescue attempt and then what happens after. This final book is fraught with emotional moments: tearful reunions -- and amorous ones! -- heartbreaking goodbyes, daring escapes and startling realizations. It wouldn't be any kind of finale, though, if it didn't make you feel the whole gamut of emotions. I've always felt that there was a good balance between the darkness and the light in this series, though, even if it didn't always feel like it at the time. And nowhere is this balance more evident than in the dark, chaotic atmosphere of the Shadowlands and the nearly palpable romantic tension between Malachi and Lela.
I love happy endings as much as the next girl, but I'm also okay with a realistic ending, one in which the hero doesn't get the girl or the world isn't saved. I honestly couldn't tell you which type of ending I prefer because it really depends on the story thus far. But I can tell you that it is much easier for me to let go, to say goodbye to characters if I see them on their merry way before doing so. With this series, though, I don't think either ending would have made saying goodbye any easier. (Make of that what you will.)
I will say that this conclusion to the Guards of the Shadowlands series was completely satisfying. And it made everything these characters have been through totally worth it. This series has been so intense and so emotionally draining at times, but it has also been completely lovely at times, too. I cannot fathom never having experienced this world or never having met these characters.
GIF it to me straight: I don't want it to be over. :(...more
I've only read one other book by Jodi Lynn Anderson, and that was Tiger Lily, which I rather enjoyed. I found a lot of similarities between The Vanishing Season and the other book, including Anderson's narrative style and her propensity toward leaving her readers' hearts shattered, both of which make for a very compelling read.
This audiobook is lovely...deceptively so, for there are strange things happening in Door County. Oddly enough, the Tiger Lily audiobook was also narrated by the very capable Cassandra Campbell. I didn't fully enjoy her voice the first time I heard her narrate an audiobook -- and it may very well have been Tiger Lily, in which she used a very childlike voice -- but now I can honestly say her approach to the books she narrates has really grown on me. (ETA: I totally just realized I was confusing two Cassandras. But still, Cassandra Campbell is a fabulous narrator.) With 380 titles under her belt on Audible, I'm obviously not the only one who appreciates her performances. In this novel, her voice is haunting and sad and lends an eerie sense of calm to the story. Whereas the narration in the audiobook detracted some from Tiger Lily, here I think it is essential. At least, that's how it was for me.
The story is told from the perspective of an unknown narrator. Perhaps the house turned sentient or the ghost of a past resident...or maybe even the Door County Killer. It's not made clear until the story comes to a close and everything has come full circle. I, for one, loved not knowing who was behind the keen observations in The Vanishing Season. But that did not stop me from hazarding guess after guess.
This novel won't be for everyone, as evidenced by the many mixed reviews I've seen come across my feed over the past few months. But the same was true of Lucy Christopher's The Killing Woods, and I rather enjoyed that book, as well. In fact, I'd liken the two stories due to the air of mystery and danger, as well as the fact that the settings in each book seem to come alive and become characters in their own rights.
I'm not going to sugarcoat things: this novel is absolutely depressing. But it's not always depressing. It's rife with longing and loss and betrayal and love. It will leave you loathing some characters and crying for others, but in the end, you'll find that none of it matters. It's actually really perplexing to me how much I liked this story despite all of that...or in spite of it all. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this story to because those that I expected to love it didn't and others who I didn't even expect to read the book ended up liking it as much as I did, if not more. The Vanishing Season is really one of those books that you just have to try for yourself.
I didn't have very high expectations for Endless Knight after being pretty disappointed with Poison Princess. So why, then, did I pay good money forI didn't have very high expectations for Endless Knight after being pretty disappointed with Poison Princess. So why, then, did I pay good money for the audio of this book? Good question. I think I just really needed to prove to myself that this series was not at all for me. Also, I wanted to see how the author continued with the tarot card aspect.
Alas, what I got was a lot of Evie lamenting about the sad state of her love life. I did not like Jackson Deveaux's character in the first book, and I liked him even less in this installment. He now knows the truth of what Evie and his other traveling companions are, and he's understandably freaked out. He rather quickly comes to terms with Evie as the Empress, though, and starts up with propositioning her again. And this time, he's successful. As I alluded to in my review of the previous book, this girl apparently thinks very little of her virginity. And her indiscretions may cost her...and those she cares about.
Because no one in this story is trustworthy, and because Evie is naïve and trusts everyone, Evie ends up being abducted by the enigmatic Death. She can't deny her physical attraction to him, though she wants nothing more than to escape and return to Jack. But there's a history between Death and Evie, and when it finally came out, I can't say I was all that surprised. Besides the tarot aspect, the only other thing that sounded even remotely captivating about this book was the promise of Death as a character. (I am a sucker for Death personified.) But even that wasn't enough to hold my attention, though he is an intriguing character, but that's probably just because he's such a freaking mystery.
And although I did like Death's character, I still couldn't get on board with the direction the romance was taking in this book. Sure, I dislike ole Jack and everything he stands for and I'd like nothing more than to push Evie into Death's arms -- whether to be killed or not is an entirely different conversation -- but regardless, Jack is still in the back of Evie's mind. Despite certain betrayal, she still wants to give ole Jack the benefit of the doubt, give him a chance to explain himself. And she doesn't want to continue whatever this is with Death until she's talked to Jack. But that thing she let Death do...I think the Cajun would still frown upon that.
I finally think I have a better understanding of this world, the Arcana, and the characters themselves this time around. I think in the last book, I was trying too hard to make the focus on the post-apocalyptic setting, and though that's important to the story at times, it's not the main focus. It's actually just the precursor to the game the Arcana are playing now, just as it has been for centuries. I still find the game itself and the roles of the Arcana fascinating, but I grow tired of the key players and would like to see the focus shift to the rest of the Arcana.
I think the thing I dislike most about this series is Evie herself. The author has chosen to write the most obnoxious, self-centered, and ill-informed character, and I think her innocence is supposed to overshadow those terrible qualities, but in the end, all it does is make them more pronounced. I'm not a fan of the narrator for this series, either, but maybe that's because she makes Evie sound even more immature than I'd probably read her character myself. Emma Galvin does great accents for the Cajun and for Death, but that can't make up for the rest of the book. I think this series kind of ruined this narrator for me, unfortunately.
The one thing I'll give the author is that she can write a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting more. This should have been a DNF for me, but having paid hard-earned money for it, I couldn't give up. And then I was presented with a cliffhanger to rival the one at the end of the first book. And yes, crazy as it sounds, I want to know what happens. Not enough to buy the next book myself, mind you, but I can't help my curiosity.
Holy evil cliffhanger, Batman! Why you make my heart hurt so much, Sarah? Whhhhhhhyyyyyy???
I was late to the Sanctumparty last year, but once I did diHoly evil cliffhanger, Batman! Why you make my heart hurt so much, Sarah? Whhhhhhhyyyyyy???
I was late to the Sanctum party last year, but once I did discover the book, I was head-over-heels for the story...and Malachi. Not only is the romance in this series swoon-worthy, but the world-building is absolutely phenomenal. It is so easy to immerse myself in this world and let reality fade away, and that's really saying something considering the awful things waiting for me in these books. But this world and the characters...there's just something addicting about them.
This sequel started off exactly where I was hoping it would: with Malachi and Lela deeply entrenched in their love for each other, preparing to seek out the Mazakin who had escaped the Shadowlands. And then things get complicated. To say that the romance took a frustrating turn is putting it mildly. Malachi, being the capable, duty-bound guy that he is, decides that his job must come first and thus begins pushing Lela away. I'm usually not a fan of this approach, as it's usually for the protagonist's "own good". But in this case, Malachi is making the decision to turn off his feelings for Lela for the good of humanity and the safety of the other guards on this mission.
Naturally, this is hard on Lela, who cannot understand his decision. She's been rejected and felt unloved her entire life, and for the one person who'd admitted he loves her to push her away, too....it's almost more than she can handle. But the more desperate the situation gets with the Mazakin, the more Lela realizes that maybe their relationship was distracting them. It's almost painful to read, but she and Malachi each seek comfort elsewhere, though the dreaded love quadrangle doesn't really feel solid. Although we don't know Malachi's heart, it's easy to see in his actions and mannerisms that he very much still cares about Lela, and we know Lela is having a hard time overcoming her feelings for Malachi.
But they have responsibilities. Both guards have a duty here on Earth, and with Lela as Captain, they seek to destroy the Mazakin who are running amuck. Even if Lela wasn't sure she deserved the title of Captain, she really proved herself worthy. She is even more lethal, more dangerous, more fierce in this second book than she ever endeavored to be in Sanctum. But that's probably because there's even more riding on the line this time around. She's not fighting for the future of just one friend but all the new friends she's made, plus the whole of humanity. Besides the formidable Malachi, she's got backup from Jim and Henry, both of whom are from different sectors of the afterlife. It was easy to empathize with each of the guards and their backstories, and it made it that much more difficult to watch the hard decisions Lela was forced to make on their behalf.
In addition to her guards, there are others who help Lela...maybe not in the same way, but they give her a little dose of normalcy in her otherwise chaotic life, and she soaks it up. I appreciated that this novel highlighted some of the social stigmas that Lela was facing and focused on her overcoming some of them. It was also nice to see Lela reflecting on her typecasting of Nadia's old group and coming to realize that not everything or everyone is black-and-white.
All of the story in this sequel occurs in our world, away from the dark and terrifying Hell we witnessed in the first book. But that doesn't mean this book is any less intense. This story was fraught with danger and high emotions, and those were reflected in every aspect of the setting and characters, from the would-be crack den Lela finds herself trailing a Mazakin to, to the homeless ex-nun swinging a baseball bat at Lela in the midst of a Mazakin attack. The situation seems hopeless, but I guess that's one of the reasons I find myself so invested in this series: no matter how dire everything seems, these characters never stop trying.
That being said, even *I* wanted to give up hope when I got to that ending. There are cliffhangers and then there are "just toss me over the cliff because there's no way we're ever coming back from this" cliffhangers. The ending in Fractured was the latter. I want to remain hopeful, but in the face of all of this devastation, I'm not sure that's possible.
A sequel should leave you balancing on a precipice, begging for more while fearing the worst. And that's exactly what Fractured did. This book is full of twists and turns, some you see coming and some that completely blindside you. It's raw and exhilarating and everything I hoped it would be after such an impressive start to this series. I wish the next book wasn't another year or so away, but I have no doubt it'll be well worth the wait. This sequel definitely was.
Thanks to Amazon Children's Publishing/Skyscape for the ARC for review.