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Photo Review – Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)

by Tomi Adeyemi

Summary: They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Source: I borrowed a digital copy from my library

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Review:

Children of Blood and Bone was one of the most disappointing books I’ve read this year. I It was incredibly overhyped, in my opinion, and my expectations were fairly high after seeing so much praise from other readers.

I borrowed the book from my library digitally and had been on the hold list for quite some time. It took me the entire 3 week time frame to finally finish it, which is saying something when I can normally finish a book within a couple of days. I almost DNFed the book at least a dozen times, only slogging through it because I had waited to read it and I knew if I returned it, it would be another few months before I could pick it back up again.

The book was very slow and underdeveloped. The characters weren’t very well fleshed out, making it difficult to care about their dire circumstances. There were different POVs from first person narration and all of them had the same voice. If I was reading, put the book down mid chapter, and picked it back up, I had to go back to the chapter heading just to figure out who was narrating or try to pick up some context clues, because aside from their immediate surroundings, there was little difference between each POV. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I don’t understand why authors don’t embrace third person narration if they can’t seem to get their character’s voices right.

I felt that Children of Blood and Bone was a mediocre YA fantasy novel full of the same awful tropes that seem to dominate the genre sometimes. Awful romance pairings, flat characters, repetitive writing, and the same story arc that I’ve seen so many times despite the unique setting and cast of characters. The book was incredibly long, yet it lacked world and character building. I almost feel as if this a big experiment to see if authors and publishers can get away with producing mediocre YA novels with simplistic themes if the marketing is right, but it’s probably more correct to say that some books just do well with the right marketing and others don’t and it’s probably difficult to even predict how it will go.

The only real positives that were brought to the table were the diverse cast of characters, the fact that the story wasn’t Euro-centric, that the author herself is from Nigeria, and the book itself is inspired by Nigerian mythology. I do understand why the own-voices movement exists and I’m glad to see more authors springing up from various backgrounds writing unique fiction, but it’s just unfortunate that it’s the only positive thing I can say about the book. (It is also quite disappointing to see so many reviews on Goodreads from Nigerian readers who claim she didn’t even get the mythology right.)

Reviewing books is sometimes difficult because it’s so subjective. I’ve admittedly given terrible books lots of stars because it was thoroughly entertaining or I could ignore some of the negatives. Other times, I’ve given wonderful books less stars because I expected more from it or something about it bothered me. I think perhaps this is one of those books that is important due to the audience craving a point of view they can relate to and understand and could perhaps be a part of something bigger, when publishers are actually attempting to give rise to more voices in fiction. This can be a breath of fresh air for some readers and perhaps that’s why it received the praise that it did. For me, there was nothing about the book that overcame my problems with it, so I can’t rate it highly.

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Star 2

 

 

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Photo Review – Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas

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Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7)

by Sarah J. Maas

SummaryYears in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

Source: I purchased a hardcover (Barnes and Noble exclusive edition)

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Review:

Kingdom of Ash was a giant epic conclusion to the Throne of Glass series. Just under 1000 pages of craziness from start to finish, another Empire of Storms in terms of plots and near misses and millions of POVs to keep track of.

I love this series and I’m glad it’s over. It ended well, but I’m also frustrated.

Something happened to the series after Queen of Shadows and I’ve been frustrated ever since. When I read Empire of Storms the first time, I was eager to get to a conclusion and there were just so many characters and plots and schemes to keep track of and I felt the same way reading Kingdom of Ash. There was so much happening and no conclusion in sight and POV switches and near misses and just.. so many pages of it.

I have to admit, I feel a little manipulated by all of the secrets and scheming and near misses, characters being saved just in the nick of time with more deals and sacrifices. The constant POV shifts felt manipulative as it was cliffhanger after cliffhanger, lives in the balance, schemes with different characters, back to battles, back to someone in danger, back to traveling.. dealing with it for 1000 pages just got frustrating.

I’m glad that the main characters are important and that we care about them and don’t want them to die, but I feel like Maas should’ve just upped the stakes and killed someone off or stopped throwing more obstacles in their way if they aren’t going to actually do anything to prevent said character from achieving said goal. I can’t even imagine how frustrated Aelin’s court must be if I’m getting frustrated as the reader by not being clued into certain plans time and time again. For real, it’s a good thing so many people are immortal because they should have gray hair and blood pressure issues at this point if they weren’t. If something is clever and it will work, can we just talk about it so I stop worrying so much instead of brandishing it at the last second like a “gotcha” moment? I would enjoy the plotting and planning sessions of the characters if they revealed said plans ahead of time. I’d even say that’s an aspect of reading fantasy that I enjoy.

Kingdom of Ash wasn’t bad and there was some pretty amazing moments. I wouldn’t be so frustrated if I didn’t care so much about the characters, but I’m just glad it’s over and I’m not totally convinced that it was a great book. I never accused Maas of being repetitive or over the top while everyone who dislikes her books did, but Kingdom of Ash was kind of repetitive and over the top and I just feel like Maas should’ve been getting better, not worse, with the writing. (seriously how many times can I be reminded that Rowan smelled like pine and snow?!) Prove your haters wrong, Maas, and stop the repetition. A lot of the phrases or repetition of phrases and overall gist of the story slid a bit into the ACOTAR series territory (which I do love, but recognize as a completely different type of series), as if she was being influenced by her other books. I miss the early Throne of Glass days when there was less Fae mating and matching everyone up and more heartache and loss and strength.

Overall, if you’ve made it this far, keep reading, it would be insane not to just finish it. It ends well, there’s a lot of wrap up afterwards, and it’s worth the page count to see it through to the end. But for me, I’m just glad it’s over and glad I don’t have to sit through another book like that because I’d lose my mind. And that’s ultimately why I’m only giving it 3 stars. Maybe if I go back and reread it now that I know what to expect, I’ll appreciate it more, but I shouldn’t have to feel that way, so I’m rating it with my gut now.

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Star 3

 

 

Photo Review – Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

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Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)

by Sarah J. Maas

SummaryIn the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Tower of Dawn was supposed to be a novella about Chaol’s adventures on the Southern Continent, but Maas just kept writing and had a novel on her hands. I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the book because I didn’t care much for Chaol as a potential love interest and was not nearly as heartbroken when things didn’t work out between him and Celaena/Aelin.

Surprisingly, Tower of Dawn was great. I found that I enjoyed reading about a different place with different characters. Empire of Storms was such an emotional whirlwind of craziness and I felt like Tower of Dawn was a breath of fresh air. It took place during the same time frame as Empire of Storms, so I wasn’t worried about the fates of Aelin and her companions, since I already knew what happened. I could relax and just let myself enjoy the story unfolding without being on the edge of my seat regarding a conclusion to all of the madness.

I like Chaol as a character and always have, I just never fully invested myself in the relationship between him and Celaena. I hate to spoil anything, but the synopsis already pretty much hints at it.. Chaol finds the things he needed to find in the healer. She heals him in every sense of the word and I enjoyed the journey. Chaol was a maelstrom of self loathing and hated to be weak and he faced the things that he did and said and failed to do in Aldaran during his healing.

My only real complaint about Tower of Dawn was that it probably didn’t need to be as long as it was and I also kind of dislike how everyone gets matched up throughout this series. Chaol hooks up with the healer, which left Nesryn without a companion, so it’s quite convenient the she also finds her place in the Southern Continent and falls in love. At the same time, I know that Maas is inspired by a lot of paranormal romance and having everyone meet up with their “mate” or soulmate is a common thing in most paranormal romances involving a lot of characters. I won’t fault the story for wanting to create a sense of fate for all of the characters when the world falls apart around them.

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Star 4

 

ReRead and Review – The Throne of Glass Series (Books #0.5 – #5) by Sarah J. Maas

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In anticipation of the finale, Kingdom of Ash, I decided to reread the series from the very beginning.

Throne of Glass was one of the first YA fantasies I’ve read to blend what I loved about YA with what I love about regular fantasy. A cast of characters, a bit of magic and clues, but with the identity, rawness, and passion of a teenage protagonist who will break rules without thinking about the consequences.

I love Celaena Sardothien because she’s everything that most readers want in a male protagonist and nothing like most YA heroines. She’s sassy and arrogant and unapologetic. She looks men up and down and smirks suggestively. She holds blades at your neck and doesn’t cower in fear.  It’s amazing to me how hated she is when the same people would swoon over a male character being exactly this way.  I also love that she’s girly, she appreciates luxury, and she feels her emotions.

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As my tastes change and grow and I move away from YA as a favored category, this reread was a little tough because I don’t know that I would continue to rate these books 5 stars if I read them for the first time now. I’d probably consider them solid 4 star books, but I also tend to get pretty stingy with my ratings these days. But I will stand by my previous reviews because I really do enjoy them and I enjoy the main character for all of her glorious flaws.

Previous Reviews:

Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5)

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

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Empire of Storms was the only book in the series that I rated under 5 stars. I did not reread the series, spent a year waiting on the release, and jumped right in not really remembering most of the plot, as my review stated.

There were a few reasons for not fully enjoying Empire of Storms.

I have to admit that, even now, I think Queen of Shadows could’ve ended the series. It had closure in regards to the evil that was Ardalan that we have been facing through the whole series. Yes, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows introduced a host of other things and other characters, but the original problematic things were kind of solved in Queen of Shadows (like the King of Ardalan and Celaena’s old master). I suppose it is an ending of sorts, as it was the ending of Celaena Sardothien, and the beginning of Aelin Galathynius.

I will also admit that the direction of Heir of Fire had me craving more of Aelin and Rowan accepting their relationship and intensity, so much so that I loathed the chapters of any other characters in Queen of Shadows. I recalled very little aside from the people physically near Aelin in Queen of Shadows. With this in mind, reading Empire of Storms for the first time, I was so lost and thrown into a mess with characters I wasn’t sure I really knew or cared about.

I’m thankful that I stopped reading the series and decided to dedicate some time for a mass reread once the final was released because, after the reread of books 0.5-4, I’m less concerned with the swoon-worthy moments between Aelin and Rowan and more concerned about the overall plot… and that’s the correct mindset to be in with the series. After the reread, I appreciate Dorian, Elide, and Manon (and the cadre of Maeve’s) and have grown to care about their respective roles in the book and Empire of Storms was much better as a result.

There seems to be a division when it comes to Empire of Storms. It’s where Aelin and Rowan actually have sex and the book doesn’t skip over it and those graphic moments really alienated a lot of the original fan base, who probably prefer to stick to PG YA. I have no such complaints. I didn’t think the sex was over the top, graphic, or all that frequent, so I don’t get the fuss. But I read paranormal romance on the reg, so this is still pretty PG for me. (I also cannot stand when sex becomes an issue in YA, but we’re all totally cool with brutal violence, which this series has been about since page 1… but that’s another argument…)

Also, I think Empire of Storms is complex, fast paced, and involves a lot of other people than just Aelin. I may have not preferred all of the complexity the first time around, but I appreciate it now. I want to know not just what happens to Aelin, but what happens to the world in general.

I am now ready to read Tower of Dawn and Kingdom of Ash!

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Photo Review – The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles #2) by Laurie Forest

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The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles #2)

by Laurie Forest

SummaryElloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.

With tensions heating up in Verpacia, more and more Gardnerian soldiers continue to descend upon the university…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the newly rebuilt Fourth Division base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm’s length, Lukas is determined to wandfast to her, convinced that she has inherited her grandmother’s magic—the prophesied power of the Black Witch. As his very nearness seems to awaken a darkness inside her, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she’s truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas Grey, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

Source: I preordered a hardcover

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Review:

I really liked the first book, The Black Witch, and was eager to read the sequel. It was awesome and very well done. Elloren was a much more likable character than she was in book 1 and she very publicly stood for what she believed in at the moments where it truly mattered. It took her forever to get there, but it was worth the wait, I think.

The story was full of action, politics that got even scarier than they were in the first book, magic, choices, and even some romance.

I have to say, the ending left me a little sad that I have to wait another year for the next book because it dropped some pretty hefty revelations, but I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I was also glad the naive but-I-don’t-have-any-magic thing finally came to an end as she DOES get to discover she has magical abilities in this installment! (Finally!)

I know I rated book 1 5 stars, but I did that mainly because I liked the book and felt that it was getting some pretty unfair 1 star reviews because people didn’t open their minds to the possibility that the author was trying to make a VALID POINT about prejudice and was building the blocks. I highly recommend this series so far for that point because the author does it well and it’s shocking. I added the star in order to help contribute to offsetting the overall average on Goodreads. The readers who have enjoyed the series or at least given it a chance have been pretty kind to the reviews for the 2nd book so I’m only rating it 4 stars because that’s closer to how I feel. It’s not without flaws and the writing isn’t super spectacular or anything, so it’s 4 star YA.

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Star 4

Photo Review – Rose Madder by Stephen King

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Rose Madder

by Stephen King

SummaryThe #1 national bestseller about a woman who escapes an abusive marriage is “one of Stephen King’s most engrossing horror novels. Relentlessly paced and brilliantly orchestrated…fueled by an air of danger immediate and overwhelming” (Publishers Weekly).

“What woke her up was a single drop of blood, no larger than a dime.”

After surviving fourteen years of hell in a violently abusive marriage, Rosie Daniels finally summons the courage to flee for her life. But leaving her husband, Norman, for a new city and a new start is a very daunting prospect. It’s hard for Rosie not to keep looking over her shoulder, and with good reason—Norman’s a police officer with the instincts of a predator, a force of relentless terror and savagery…a man almost mythic in his monstrosity. He’s very good at finding people, even if he is losing his mind. Rosie’s only hope for salvation may lie in a far more dangerous place, where she must become her own myth and the woman she never knew she could be….

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Someday, I’ll finally complete what seems like a never ending Stephen King to read pile. I picked this up at the store when I realized I hadn’t yet read it or owned it. I didn’t know anything going in, which I sometimes enjoy because then I have no expectations.

Rose Madder was a completely engrossing tale about an abused woman who decided to leave her husband one day. Her husband was a police officer and she was terrified of him finding her.

In a lot of ways, the plot is kind of similar to Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, but it’s much more horrifying and it ends a bit differently. Rosie was terrified of her husband, but eventually, with help from people she met in her new town, she was able to grow and flourish into an independent woman.

I loved the book because it was real life horror combined with an element of fantasy. It was incredibly well told considering the author has likely never been a battered woman, but I felt that Rose’s story was authentic and chilling.

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Star 4

Photo Review – Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

by Zoraida Cordova

SummaryNothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

I enjoyed the premise of the book and the culture and mythology surrounding the family. The story felt magical in a rich, dark, and beautiful way. I wished the main character would’ve immersed herself a bit more in her culture, but I could understand why she wished to be rid of magic and her abilities altogether.

I loved the book for most of the first portion as she met someone willing to help her give up her powers forever and she followed him through the rabbit hole and through a magical journey.

The rest of the book felt rushed and convenient, so much so that I’m surprised it was on lists for featuring LGBT or feminism. The main character turned her back on her culture, let someone she didn’t know guide her without once asking herself it was a good idea, and yet she seemed really headstrong and firm in her opinions. I felt like I knew her character, until the end when suddenly she was in a relationship that came out of left field.

I only gave the book 3 stars because I didn’t like how it all concluded. I have read that the second book follows someone else in the family and is better, but I’m not sure that I’ll continue reading.

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Star 3