Book Review: King of Scars

king of scarsTitle: King of Scars
 Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardback
Page Count: 514
Publisher: Imprint
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Spin-off duology, exploring more with previously established characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of both Six of Crows and the Grishaverse trilogy–especially those that wanted more from the latter
Rating: ★★★★★

I was able to finally get to Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, and I’m so happy I did because she took my low but timidly hopeful expectations and delivered on them in the most delicious, agonizingly slow way.

Here, we follow Nikolai Lantsov, the king of Ravka, who is trying to keep his country from falling once again into a war with enemies surrounded on all sides, balancing the threads of power along with finding ways to protect his people. Perhaps his greatest challenge, however, is to discover a way to be rid of the dark magic the defeated Darkling left within him, turning him at night into a monstrous creature devoid of reason or thought. Grisha Squaller Zoya Nazyalensky must also find a way to protect king and country no matter what the cost, even if that means sacrificing Nikolai for the sake of her people. Meanwhile, Nina Zenick is undercover on a mission in Fjerda. Deep in enemy territory, she is seeking to bury her past and find meaning in the future by saving as many Grisha as possible.

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Book Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

a dangerous collaboration

Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
 Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian setting, Sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The mystery and adventure continue with A Dangerous Collaboration, the fourth novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It’s rare to find a series that maintains its charm, fun, intrigue, and accessibility, but Deanna Raybourn has done exactly that. I love that I gave this series and new author (for me) a chance.

After the almost-revelation that Veronica and Stoker had in A Treacherous Curse, Veronica takes a few months to go on her own excursion without Stoker. When she returns, she finds she’s struggling with dissatisfaction, and there’s a distance between her and Stoker that she doesn’t like but doesn’t know how to bridge.

Her slump is broken with the arrival of Tiberius, Stoker’s half-brother and the Lord Templeton-Vane, who invites Veronica to attend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party with him on a remote island off the tip of Cornwall. Sensing a new adventure, Veronica jumps at the chance, even as Tiberius convinces her to pose as his fiancée, to Stoker’s annoyance (oh, hello, trope I absolutely love with all my heart). But there’s more behind this invitation than just a house party, and Veronica and Stoker find themselves investigating the party-goers and their connection to Rosamund, Romilly’s missing wife who disappeared from her own wedding three years ago.

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Book Review: The Night Tiger

the night tiger

Title: The Night Tiger
 Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – Paperback
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Malaysian/Chinese characters and culture
Recommended Readers: Fans of rich settings, diverse characters, and a dash of the superstitious
Rating: ★★★★★

Both my roommate and I received ARCs of The Night Tiger, one an ebook from NetGalley and one a beautiful paperback edition from the publisher, so thank you both for each of these. This review is given in exchange and is my honest and true opinion.

Mark down Yangsze Choo as officially being one of my favorite authors. It’s unfair how wonderful her sophomore novel, The Night Tiger, is—or it would be, if it weren’t so apparent how much time, care, and hard work Choo put into her story. While I’ll go on record to say that her first book, The Ghost Bride, is my favorite of the two, there’s no denying how much I enjoyed The Night Tiger. It’s a book that will stay with me. Her style in particular is that perfect blend of historical fiction and magical realism that I love to death but is so hard to find, so this is definitely going on my favorites shelf.

The novel follows three protagonists: Ren, an 11-year-old Chinese houseboy; Ji Lin, a young woman who dreams of pursuing medicine but must work as a dressmaker and moonlight as a dancehall girl, both because of her gender and to pay off her mother’s high-interest Mahjong debts; and William, an Englishman with a murky past. Their fates and those of other characters collide as Ren attempts to fulfill the final request of his late master: locate his severed finger and reunite it with his body before 49 days are up, or his master’s spirit will roam the earth as a night tiger, unable to rest forever.

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Book Review: Shadow of the Exile

books october 2018Title: Shadow of the Exile
 Mitchell Hogan
Genre: Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 491
Publisher: 47North
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Demon protagonist, driven female character
Recommended Readers: Fans of epic fantasy
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC of Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan in exchange for an honest review. And sorry this wasn’t sooner!

Tarrik Nal-Valim, a demon of the 37th order, is summoned from his exile in the Abyssal Realms to human lands by sorceress Serenity “Ren” Branwen. Ren is the daughter of Tarrik’s former master, who he’d come to trust, but now it appears he revealed all of Tarrik’s secrets for his daughter to enslave him once again to do her bidding. Ren instantly commands Tarrik to protect her from her enemies, while keeping her own goals shrouded in secrecy.

Tarrik hates Ren for enslaving him and vows to get free of her bindings as soon as he can, but his urgency grows when he discovers she’s part of the Nine, a group of deranged sorcerers who have been broken and compelled to free the worst and most powerful demon who ever lived, Samal. If Samal is freed, the human realm will be wiped out and the Abyssal Realms enslaved to his will, and Tarrik finds himself facing increasingly difficult choices, especially when Ren’s path appears to deviate from this goal.

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Book Review: Illuminae

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae
 Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Horror
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 602
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Unconventional storytelling using unique formats
Recommended Readers: EVERYONE!
Rating: ★★★★★

My hat is off to Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for Illuminaewhat a beautifully ambitious (and ambitiously beautiful) book! Their brand of crazy can only be my brand of crazy because nothing less could make me fall head over heels for a book that contains literally all of my fears concerning space in one place—and making me desperate for more!

I’m so happy I made Illuminae my first read of 2019. Talk about starting the year off with a bang.

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Book Review: Blanca & Roja

blanca and roja
 Blanca & Roja
 Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Young Adult/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Latina protagonists, LGBTQ+ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of magical realism and fairytale retellings
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Man, am I ever disappointed at the rating I have to give Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. I’m certain it’s purely the result of “It’s not you, it’s me” combined with a healthy dose of “wrong book, wrong time.”

Let me preface this by saying there is nothing inherently bad about this book. In fact, McLemore’s prose masterfully captures the dream-like quality you expect of magical realism along with a dash of purple prose that maintains its beauty without being excessive.

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Book Review: Priest of Bones

books october 2018
Priest of Bones
 Peter McLean
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Fiction
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Distinctive first-person POV, LGBTQ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of gangster-esque novels, gritty stories, the Gentleman Bastards series
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you to NetGallery and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean promised old-school gangster activity in an adult fantasy setting, and it absolutely delivered. This story was gritty in all the right ways, politically intricate in terms of characters, and a complete romp all around.

Thomas Piety, an army priest, and his band of soldiers have just returned home from the war, only for Thomas to discover that his former businesses have been stolen out from under him. With his lieutenant, Bloody Anne, and his unpredictable younger brother, Jochan, Thomas is determined to reclaim his streets and bring back the prosperity his people lost in the course of the war.

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Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper
 Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction
Version: Hardback
Page Count: 326
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Yay, feminism!
Recommended Readers: Gothic readers and fans of mystery with a dash of horror
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I have been on such a journey with Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. When I first cracked open the book, I had low expectations, but it managed to surprised me with its keen heroine, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, and how delightfully descriptive it was with Victorian England’s way of handling cadavers. Throw in the Jack the Ripper mystery, and this was set to be a magnificent choice for Halloween-time reading.

But then things took a turn for the disappointing, and it all started with the introduction of Thomas Cresswell.

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Reread and Review: Wintersong


Title: Wintersong
 S. Jae-Jones
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Fantasy
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 511
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Feminism, LGBT characters
Recommended Readers: Y’all like Labyrinth, Fae, and villain love interests?
Rating: ★★★★★

What can I say about Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones that others haven’t already said before? It’s haunting, dark, mesmerizing, lush, spellbinding, and full of such melancholic longing that the feelings stay with you well after you’ve turned the final page. It’s hands-down one of my favorite novels ever written, in any genre, and I’m stunned by Jae-Jones’ craftsmanship. Every line within is such a treasure and a joy to read, and I’m in love with the beauty of her style.

Plus, I don’t often reread books anymore. I just don’t have time and my TBR pile is out of control. But exceptions were made for Wintersong because it just made me fall in love in a way no other book has done for me lately.

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Book Review: Twice Dead

twice dead

Title: Twice Dead
 Caitlin Seal
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Political Thriller
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Charlesbridge Teen
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Complex politics and characters; LGBTQ side characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of political thrillers with a dash of magic thrown in
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Twice Dead by Caitlin Seal is a slow-building political thriller masked as a fantasy story–and I mean that in a very complimentary way. This book wasn’t what I expected, and I ended up liking it better for it. Honestly, I’m very much side-eyeing the unflattering reviews and the amounts of DNFs I’m seeing for it.

When Naya is sent on a delivery for her merchant father, she is mysteriously killed and resurrected as a wraith, an undead being who doesn’t require food or sleep and who can change her form at will. The land of Ceramor is rife with necromancers and the undead thanks to a treaty that legalizes it, something that Naya and her fellow citizens of Talmir reject as being evil. It’s unheard of for a Talmiran to be resurrected, and now Naya has to struggle with accepting her newfound existence. At the same time, Talmiran Ambassador Valn entreats Naya for a special purpose: she must use her powers as a wraith to protect her homeland and spy on necromantic sympathizers who are bent on starting another war. However, all is not what it seems, and the closer Naya gets to discovering the truth, the less she’s certain where her loyalties lie.

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