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Review – The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)

By Mary E. Pearson

SummaryA princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

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Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

Review:

I really enjoyed The Kiss of Deception. It was recommended to me in the Owlcrate Society Facebook group, but I had my doubts because I didn’t quite enjoy The Winner’s Trilogy nearly as much as everyone else in the universe seemed to and that was also recommended at the same time. But I wanted a good YA fantasy that wasn’t Sarah J. Maas because I know she’s not the only great author. I wanted something I could kind of fall into that didn’t make my eyes roll. I wanted a heroine who wasn’t this whiny teenager who had the fate of the world in her hands. I’m so sick of that. 

I admit, once I read the beginning and the character went all woe-is-me and ran away from an arranged marriage on like page one, I put the book down and read some other books. It wasn’t looking to good on the whole quest to find a main character who wasn’t a whiny teenager. But I finally decided I could deal and picked it up again. I’m glad I did because it was really good.

The world building is kind of slow. I like how the author just sort of stuck me in the story and slowly began to explain the regions and the religions and what the main character was really running from. Although Lia is important to the fate of the world somehow, it’s not really clearly how or why just yet, so I’m happy with the direction of the story. I felt like I needed a story where the main character was someone I could respect and her decision to just be a normal person in a small town was exactly what I needed. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and be a regular person. She didn’t mourn the loss of her station, her power, her money, or anything like that and wasn’t any sort of whiny princess. Still, she was a bit misguided about her thoughts on the whole arranged marriage thing, but she kind of realized how immature it was to just run away from her problems and I liked that. Lia felt like someone realistic and I really liked her character.

The story was mostly from Lia’s point of view, but there were two other POVs as well. The prince, the one Lia ran away from, searched for her. Mostly out of curiosity. It seemed perhaps they’d have a lot in common about the idea of arranged marriages. His POV was simply labelled The Prince. Another POV was from The Assassin. He was sent to kill Lia. It’s what he was trained to do. 

The cool thing about the other POVs was that there were also chapters from the POV of Kaden and Rafe, two men who came to the town Lia stayed in. It was clear that one of them was the prince and the other was the assassin. Some POV chapters were from their POV. Anything that was specific to the thoughts of the prince or the assassin was separated from their named chapters, so we really didn’t know who was who. It seemed like it could possibly venture into love triangle territory, but it wasn’t annoying like she was trying to gain both of their affections or anything. Lia knew something was up with both of them, but she started to kind of connect with Rafe. I think she liked the way they viewed her because it was the first time anyone had ever truly looked at Lia and saw her and not the princess. 

All my thoughts about who was who ended up being way off, but I enjoyed not knowing who was who. And I’m glad that we did finally discover who Rafe and Kaden were. It was like the author knew just how long to drag that on for before moving the plot forward. 

I really enjoyed the story and I’m eager to see what will happen next. I’m next in line on the wait list for book two at the library and I’ve been on it for like a week now, so I’m at the point where I have no idea if I will break down and buy it or just be patient. 

I definitely recommend The Kiss of Deception!

Star 4

 

Review – The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski

 

The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2)

By Marie Rutkowski

SummaryBook two of the dazzling Winner’s Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

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Review:

Everyone raved about this trilogy and I enjoyed book one, but I wasn’t completely sold on this story just yet. The Winner’s Crime was almost like a totally different story as Kestrel was set to marry the emperor’s son and she attempted to stay in her place, ensure Arin was able to keep Herran as the independent territory, and spy for Herran. 

Here’s the thing. I like the plot, I like the idea of this whole game being played and Kestrel trying to balance both sides as a strategist. But I still just feel like something is missing, things are kind of glossed over, and it’s just way too easy for Kestrel to succeed. And when she doesn’t or other people don’t, people die, and it still doesn’t even feel like it’s dangerous. I don’t know. I’m just missing a crucial piece here and I can’t seem to really care about the characters because I don’t really know them. I just felt like I was watching a show that everyone else has been watching for seasons and I just don’t know who any of these characters are supposed to be. 

It seems like I’m in the minority for not liking this book. I needed the story to not switch gears so much and start doing some more character development. The walking-on-eggshells in the court to stay under the emperors radar would have been so much more satisfying if I was more involved with who the characters were. The fact that the events in the first book happened so quickly just made me skeptical about everything involving the political plot. 

Honestly, I think maybe it’s me. For some reason, I’m not connecting the way I feel like I should’ve and I’m not quite certain why it fell so flat for me. 

Star 3

Review – Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

 

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

By Sarah J. Maas

SummaryThe long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

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Review:

 I started Empire of Storms realizing it had been way too long since I read the last one and so much happened and I wasn’t prepared for there to be more books and I forgot nearly everyone’s name and only vaguely remembered the side characters and their plots.

That was not a good place to be.

I brushed up on the previous book’s plot and felt a little better, but the first half of the book was also slightly boring and confusing since I was trying to jog my memory.The second half of the book was amazing. I’m once again invested in all of the characters and their doomed fates and tangled web of connections. 

It’s hard to review the book because I love Sarah J. Maas, her writing, her complex plots, amazing side characters, and well developed characters in general. I love everyone not just despite, but because of their flaws, even the smirking Aelin. I really do love this series, but I need it to be over. I need closure. I need the books to be twice as long if that’s what we have to do to get the plot rolling and some conclusions forming without waiting a year. I should’ve just let Empire of Storms sit on my shelf until the series ended because I already know I need to reread the entire series again just to really experience it all happening. There is already one fantasy series in my life that is never going to end with a character list a mile long no matter how many of the main ones the author kills and I don’t have room in my life for another extremely complex never ending series. 

What’s weird is that my frustrations with the series don’t appear to be everyone else’s. I’ve always loved the main character and as she changes, I like her even more. I like that she’s arrogant because girls don’t often get to be that way and guys get away with being that way all of the time without nearly as much criticism. I love how people change and grow in the series and love other people. The romance that everyone is cringing over doesn’t bother me, either. I’m used to reading adult paranormal romance and that can be quite cringeworthy, but the sex scenes that everyone said were all over the place (but only happened in one chunk) and outrageous weren’t even really bad, super descriptive, or inappropriate. I’m not a teenager or the parent of one, so I guess maybe I’m in a different place, but if that’s the outrageous content that shouldn’t be in YA, I think we need to rethink ourselves as a society because that was a coupling of love and respect and I’ll never see anything wrong with teens being exposed to that. (And let’s not get started on why brutal violence is okay in YA fiction but a little bit of sexy time makes everyone get their torches out). 

I love this series, but I don’t think I’m going to read it anymore until it’s over. I’ll buy the books and let them sit and just do one binge read because it’s just too much to try to remember all the details and get invested all over again only to have it end and still not be over.

Star 4

 

Review – Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1)

By Ryan Graudin

SummaryHer story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Wolf by Wolf was such a great book! The premise is what hooked me at the bookstore. I don’t read a lot of alternate history, but the idea intrigues me, especially when it comes to WWII. I love stories about Hitler, the Holocaust, and the various assassination attempts. 

This book rolled all of those ideas into one. In Wolf by Wolf, the year was 1956 and the Nazis won World War II. The Axis powers were ruling most of the world. Each year, the motorcycle race celebrated their victory. The year before, Victor Adele Wolfe stole her brother’s racing papers and entered the race as him and won. Instead of being mad, the Third Reich celebrated her victory. This year, Adele would compete again, but not as herself. Yael, a death camp survivor and experiment, had the ability to change her appearance. She studied Adele, practiced everything she’d need to know and do, and took her place in the race. If she won, she would be close enough to Hitler to execute him. 

The book took history and fact and morphed it into a thrilling alternate history story involving a little bit of fantasy, since Yael had such a unique ability. I loved the mixture and I loved being thrown into the chaos of the race. Yael occasionally thought about her past and we learned a lot about her as a character, her mission, and the importance of it all. We also got to know Adele, despite her not actually being in the race, because of the interpersonal connections between her and her brother, her and Luka, and even some of the other racers. Yael was a little out of her element because no amount of studying prepared her for the possibility that there were unreported incidents between her and the other racers and she had to struggle to maintain her identity and be believable as Adele.

I thought Wolf by Wolf was the perfect blend of history and imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to pick up the conclusion, Blood for Blood. I highly recommend Wolf by Wolf. It ends in a satisfying way so that I crave the sequel, but don’t feel like I got a cliff hanger ending or anything, which is always a plus. It was imaginative in a realistic way. Despite Yael’s ability, it felt like a believable story. I could tell the author was well researched based on the setting he weaved. And while it wasn’t the first book to pull off a What if the Nazi’s won the war train of thought, it was unique. The motorcycle race was fast paced and ruthless, giving a little grit to the story. It was well done and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Star 4

Review – A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1) by Morgan Rhodes

 

A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1)

By Morgan Rhodes

Summary: Modern-day sisters discover deadly ancient magic in book 1 of this Falling Kingdoms spin-off series!

Worlds collide in this suspenseful, page-turning Falling Kingdoms spin-off series, which explores a whole new side of Mytica—and an even darker version of its magic.

Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….
Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I purchased this book because it stood out on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know it was a spinoff of the Falling Kingdoms series, which I had been planning on reading after hearing so much about, but I knew it was the same author, so I figured I’d give her other series a shot.

Since buying the book, I have read up the current book of the Falling Kingdoms series. I decided to pick it up after finishing Crystal Storm. I am enjoying the series, but it is a bit dramatic and ridiculous, so I was eager to see how the author would handle the present day Toronto world and that of Mytica, the setting of the Falling Kingdoms series.

I think there are aspects of A Book of Spirits and Thieves that I like much more than the Falling Kingdoms series. I read a lot of fantasy and the author’s writing is a little modern and a tad juvenile, making her Falling Kingdoms series a bit of one of those popcorn-munching guilty pleasures that I don’t pick up for the writing itself. Her writing works a lot better in the modern world where I expect characters to act a certain way and care about certain things, so I felt like I “believed” in the characters a little bit more than I do the characters of the Falling Kingdoms series. 

I liked the area of the book that was set in Mytica and I’m glad it didn’t really tie into anything with her other series at all as far as time period or characters or anything. It was just a magical plane of existence that worked in the modern world and Maddox’s struggle didn’t seem to fit in, but I knew it would tie in at some point and it did towards the ends. I know see how the two worlds are linked and I liked that whole set up.

I think I’ll likely continue the series, but I’m not rushing out for the next book because it’s still in hardcover. I feel like the author writes great YA fantasy fiction, but I feel like it’s one of those borrow instead of buy situations. I’ll wait for the library to stock the next book and go from there. This spin off series is fun and entertaining with a cast of characters you can’t help but care about. There is drama, relationships, mystery, betrayal, and secret societies. I definitely recommend reading, even if the Falling Kingdoms series isn’t for you. The setting in A Book of Spirits and Thieves changes the overall feel so that the writing fits a lot better than it does in an ancient world. 

Star 4

 

Review – Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5) by Morgan Rhodes

 

Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)

By Morgan Rhodes

SummaryThe ruthless Empress Amara of Kraeshia has taken the Mytican throne, and now uncertainty looms over the three kingdoms. Since Lucia unleashed the fire Kindred, wreaking havoc throughout the land, Myticans have been looking for someone—anyone—they can trust. They believe in Amara, not knowing her grand promises are built on lies.


In Paelsia, Magnus and Cleo reluctantly follow King Gaius to the home of his exiled mother, Selia. Selia is a powerful witch and claims she can help unlock the magic of the Kindred—if the visitors agree to her terms. When Jonas arrives from Kraeshia, he is shocked to find that his rebel army now includes his sworn enemies. Along with Nic, Felix, and the mysteriously resurrected Ashur, the contentious group agrees to cast aside old grudges—for now—and united against their common enemy: Amara.

Meanwhile, bearing the child of a Watcher and feared by all, Princess Lucia travels across Mytica to find her family. But time is running out. The impending storm signals the dark prophecy Timotheus warned her about. Her fate is written, and it includes none other than the rebel Jonas. When their paths collied, Jonas and Lucia must decide between blindly following their destiny or fighting for their own free will.

The battle for power culminates at the Paelsian palace, where Amara resides. Rain pours. Blood spills. And soon all will discover that the darkest magic comes at an even darker price.

Source: I borrowed a digital copy from my library.

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Review:

Crystal Storm was full of twists and drama between all of the characters, which is quite honestly the main focus of the book. If I could describe this series in a few words I would call it a soap opera YA fantasy. It’s back and forth with the villain of the story changing and teams coming together, breaking apart, and unlikely allies form. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a little aggravating that each book introduces major plot twists and unlikely partnerships and crazy news and there’s never any actual closure with anything.

I think this book is on par with the other books in the series, so if you’re been enjoying the series so far, then I definitely recommend this book. 

While I don’t really understand a lot of the hype or the comparisons to Game of Thrones, I will give the series credit for being so deliciously entertaining. It’s still not the best written or most complex or even well developed, but it’s addicting enough to keeep me hooked. I already can’t wait for the next book. I flew through it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I feel like Crystal Storm was a roller coaster when I really wanted the story to wrap up, especially after the last book. It feels a little frustrating because even more major surprises were revealed and I think some of the characters keep flip flopping and forming new connections and, while it’s always happened, I guess I was hoping we’d finally settle down, get the teams formed, and battle for the future of Mytica instead of more back and forth. I can see why the book has some mixed reviews, so I’d warn anyone invested in the series.. it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon and this book is another sequel, not a book that brings any sort of closure yet.

Star 3

Review – RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

 

RoseBlood

By A.G. Howard

SummaryIn this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. 

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

Source: I received a hardcover in the January 2017 Owlcrate.

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Review:

RoseBlood was the chosen book for the January Classic themed Owlcrate box and I was really excited to read it. I almost picked it up at the bookstore before realizing it might be the book in the Owlcrate box, so it was definitely a book I wanted and would’ve bought myself. The cover was gorgeous and when I opened it up, the ink was a dark red, which was stunning! It wasn’t difficult on the eyes, either. The book promised so much beauty and was based on The Phantom of the Opera.

Unfortunately, RoseBlood wasn’t as good as I expected. It had a lot of potential and drew inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and other dark classics. Each chapter heading had a quote, with most of them from a pieces of literature that also dealt in dark themes. I was eager to escape into a rich fantasy world in a dark setting. 

Instead.. I was completely disappointed.

My first issue was that the main character, Rune Germain, was such a YA main character stereotype. (Don’t even get me started on the name Rune…) She was “cursed” with the ability to mimic opera. She could, without any practice, stand up and sing the most complicated of operas in the their original language and render a crowd speechless. However, her gift came with a price and it drained her almost completely and made her sick. She couldn’t stop the song from wanting to burst out of her, so it wasn’t an ability she could avoid. Anytime an opera caught her attention, she’d vibrate with the need to sing it. I probably should’ve just put the book down at the beginning that that was revealed. I mean, really? A poor girl with a woe-is-me attitude who is gifted with the ability to just flawlessly belt out tunes that others train years to do? Why would anyone even make a character do such a thing? I don’t even feel bad. The sickness she felt is probably still not nearly equal to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears a truly talented opera singer puts into one piece. And then she was going to go to a private school for gifted musicians and of course, didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to fit in, so of course she would gain the attention of the catty competitive girl, and bat her eyes at everyone about how it’s not her fault she’s stealing the limelight, she doesn’t even actually WANT it. That’s not a conflict I can be on board with. It’s overdone and it steals from the rest of the book that has to deal with fantasy and the paranormal.

My second issue was the narration. The book was mostly in first person narration from Rune’s point of view. I didn’t care much for her character, but I thought her narration was good and believable. But then the book shifted unexpectedly to third person POV to the mysterious gardener Rune glimpsed in the garden in the beginning. Suddenly, we were privy to his actions as he went on to reveal who he was and who he was working with. I think that immediately made me sigh out loud in frustration. I HATE when books do that. It’s so cheesy. If you cannot build a story from first person narration and make it still make sense and still reveal whatever it is you need to reveal, than don’t do first person at all. Do third person and then everyone is okay with the camera coming off of the main character and showing something she doesn’t know. But ripping me away from first person POV to show me something someone else is doing because it builds the story is lazy and I absolutely hate it. I think the entire book was written in a way that was overly descriptive, so I know the author wasn’t lazy, but her storytelling techniques were not up to par. It ruined all of the mystery and intrigue of the character!

My third issue with the story was the plot. (This is perhaps a spoiler, but let me explain why I don’t think it is.) From the very beginning, Rune’s mom takes issue with Rune being overly susceptible to superstition and nonsense and her mom doesn’t really understand or believe Rune’s talent is more of a curse or even a gift. Rune’s father was superstitious. The mom just jabbered on about it, so the whole concept was hammered on just about every page from the beginning when they were driving to the school for about the first third of the book until Rune’s mom finally left. So, Rune’s ability having a supernatural element was no surprise. And of course, it’s the key to everything. I mean, it wasn’t even unexpected. 

And of course, because the book is full of YA tropes, Rune noticed a mysterious boy who just happened to be a part of everything and together they would create a plan and fall in love and.. are you rolling your eyes yet?

What frustrates me the most is that the book had so much potential. The pieces were all there. In fact, if Rune’s gift/curse was done in a better way that didn’t spit in the face of people who hone and practice their real talents and the POV didn’t switch, it wouldn’t have been half bad. If the author didn’t rely on familiar YA tropes to draw her story together, it could’ve been really stunning. There were bits of great writing peppered throughout the book, so I know the author can write well. I suppose I just wish the story was well written as a whole. The book was not creepy or thought provoking or mysterious because it was over-told and written in a way that told instead of showed. There was no mystery, the plot was literally just written out in front of me plainly. 

I don’t recommend RoseBlood unless you’re new to YA paranormal stories that begin in some sort of private/boarding school and therefore aren’t going to notice the familiar tropes as much.. or if you just absolutely love The Phantom of the Opera enough to ignore the tropes and you just want something that isn’t the same book but contains the elements of the story you love. If none of those apply to you, it’s best skipped. I don’t regret having it, though. It’s a beautiful book that I do like looking at, so it’ll be a great Bookstagram prop. 

 

Star 2