A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas | Book Review

31900679_1771391786260047_5221924107238506496_nBook: A Court of Frost and Starlight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

“To family old and new.
Let the Solstice festivities begin.”

I don’t even know how to start this review. This was everything I needed and more. A Court of Frost and Starlight was fluffy, it was seeing my favourite characters be domestic, it was the Inner Circle and their constant, hilarious banter, it was about family, love, lose, celebration, and heartbreak and I’m too emotional to know how to take that all in and process it. I didn’t write notes when I was reading so I have no idea what will pour out of me as I try to coherently write down my thoughts.

A Court of Frost and Starlight, which has been explained by Sarah herself as a long novella that acts like a bridge from the trilogy to the spinoff books, is a gift.

The war has ended, but everyone is still working hard to heal themselves and the world around them. There are so many things to right, to rebuild, to ensure. But with Winter Solstice approaching, it opens an opportunity for a well-deserved break. We follow the Inner Circle as they balance preparations being made for their intimate celebration with the call to right the effects of the war and potential poison brewing. And perhaps a broken soul who can barely hold herself together.

I can’t even tell you the amount of times I laughed, squealed, and put down the book to take a breath. My experience reading A Court of Frost and Starlight was truly a joy. I am counting down the days for the next book. The concept of it has me pumped.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

I want to start with the fluffy stuff.

“Dangerous words, Rhysand,” Amren warned, strutting through the door, nearly swallowed up by the enormous white fur coat she wore. Only her chin-length dark hair and solid silver eyes were visible above the collar. She looked— “You look like an angry snowball,” Cassian said.”

The Inner Circle has been, and I believe always will be, the best group of characters that I’ve ever read about. They are so loving and supportive of each other, but most of all, I love their banter. Yes, each one of them was responsible for making me laugh during this read. I’m always craving for more with these characters, and it was so refreshing to be able to read about them not going to war. To be able to read about their normal lives in Velaris was such a beautiful sight, and I’m so happy that Sarah gave us this opportunity to experience it.

One of the most fun parts of this to me was them gift buying and figuring out what to get everyone. I just saw my friends and I and how it’s sometimes a battle to figure out what to get each other. I just loved reading something so relatable.

Now this is the last time we will be reading from Feyre and Rhys point of view. We will of course see them again as side characters, but after reading their story for three book and a novella, this end to their chapter was bittersweet. I don’t have much to say about them that I already haven’t said in the past. But I feel so grateful towards them because they represent such a healthy relationship. It has really opened my eyes in that aspect, which is one of many reasons why Sarah’s books are so important to me. I really wish to see more healthy relationships in future books that I read.

“A memory. Of me on the kitchen table just a few feet away. Of him kneeling before me. My legs wrapped around his head. Cruel, wicked thing. I heard a door slamming somewhere in the house, followed by a distinctly male yelp. Then banging—as if someone was trying to get back inside. Mor’s eyes sparkled. “You got him kicked out, didn’t you?” My answering smile set her roaring.”

I’m sure the whole neighborhood heard me squeal when I turned to chapter three and saw that it was from Cassian’s point of view. As much as I love Feyre and Rhys, my interest has piqued immensely in regards to certain side characters and their journey, not just as background characters to someone else’s story. I think it’s no surprise that those characters, for me, are Cassian and Nesta. Of course I’m all for Nessian and they as a potential romantic couple has turned into my biggest priority, but it’s so much more than that. Them as individual characters, now there’s something complex to analyze. Especially Nesta. Especially after the glimpse we got into her new life and how her journey is about to develop in the next book.

Something that I’ve always appreciated about Sarah J. Maas and her stories is how she showcases and deals with mental illness.

Nesta broke my heart in this book. I was devastated to see her so isolated, unwanted, and hollow. Can I saw I was surprised by her coldness? No. I expected it. But I was surprised by how her loneliness, her PTSD, her depression, her addictions, were enabled, were not helped, were left alone in hopes that it would go away by itself. This was enabled by her own family. I know Nesta is not the easiest to deal with, but it won’t get better if they leave her alone. I mean A Court of Wings and Ruin is proof that it is possible to crack Nesta’s coldness. Unfortunately, the war made her retreat back into herself, perhaps even worse than before, and no one stepped up to help her. And I know first hand that this situation should not be dealt with in isolation. I honestly don’t know what they expected by leaving her alone, but,

“I want you out of Velaris,” Feyre breathed, her voice shaking. Nesta tried—tried and failed—not to feel the blow, the sting of the words. Though she didn’t know why she was surprised by it. There were no paintings of her in this house, they did not invite her to parties or dinners anymore, they certainly didn’t visit— “And where,” Nesta asked, her voice mercifully icy, “am I supposed to go?” Feyre only looked to Cassian. And for once, the Illyrian warrior wasn’t grinning as he said, “You’re coming with me to the Illyrian Mountains.”

As hard as this is, I see hope for her future. I see her gaining a purpose. And I’m beyond excited to read about it.

A concept in this that I thought was beyond beautiful and really impacted me in a way I can’t describe is the idea of creating.

“I have to create, or it was all for nothing. I have to create, or I will crumple up with despair and never leave my bed. I have to create because I have no other way of voicing this.”

It’s as if this is voicing something in the back of my mind that has never fully formed on the surface. I’m in a point in my life where I am desperate to keep busy and I’m scared if I stop. Because I don’t know what will happen, who I will be if I let nothing consume my life. I just really wanted to bring it up because I thought it was a good reminder of that.

I want to end this review with a highlight. The line that had be roaring with laughter. The line that forced me to put down the book and take a breath.

“Cassian had named about two dozen poses for Nesta at this point. Ranging from “I will eat your eyes for breakfast” to “I don’t want Cassian to know I’m reading smut.”

This was everything and more. Nesta reads smut and she tries to hide that from Cassian. This is the stuff I live for. Maybe Cassian and Nesta can have a romance book club in the Illyrian Mountains. I need the next book already.

Advertisements

And I Darken by Kiersten White | Book Review

31437282_1765251450207414_8085592250471415808_nBook: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

“The last time she was up here, she had been… staring up at the sky and dreaming of stars. Now, she looked down and plotted flames.”

Much of what I was expecting going into this book did not come to pass. This read was surprising, brutal, and heartbreaking. I’m excited for more.

And I Darken is the origin story of a gender bend Vlad the Impaler; Lada Dragwlya. A historical fiction where Lada and Radu, her younger and completely opposite brother, are neglected by their father and sacrificed to the Ottoman Empire. This is where they meet Mehmed, third in line to be Sultan, who quickly accepts them as friends. Together they experience the cruel world, together they cleverly learn to survive. But because of this they grow up too fast. Lada and Radu, in their own ways, are met with challenges to protect Mehmed at all costs, challenges that are capable of tearing down what they have built, challenges that are fated to destroy their relationships forever.

I guess I can explain here what I expected; the first chapter with little Lada, the second chapter and onwards, sixteen year old Lada ready to kill and destroy. But no, we got about two hundred pages of Lada growing up, alongside Radu, who also had his own chapters. At this point, while I was reading, it was like I was trudging through strong currents as I flipped the pages. Younger protagonists are not my thing. I rarely pick up middle grade because this age range for characters doesn’t appeal to me. But this was different. Sure, Radu acted like his age, but Lada was something else. She was a brutal twelve year old who said things like this:

“On our wedding night,” she said, “I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.”

I mean… Yeah I forgot she was twelve.

At the same time, the story picked up for me after two hundred pages, when the characters significantly aged to late teens.

The pacing of this book very much relied on time jumps to move the plot forward and get to the point. Time jumps that could range from a week to years. They were constant. Though as much as I appreciate not going on and on about plot points that don’t play a significant role in the story the author wants to tell, I felt as if certain points were a cop-out? “Oh it’s no problem that Lada was severely injured, let’s skip ahead a week to when Lada is way better. We don’t want to see her recovery, or anything crazy like that, we want to see her be her brutal self again.” Let us see her struggle, she doesn’t have to be strong all the time.

Not to mention, a lot of smaller issues throughout the story were being resolved fast. Lada walking into the Harem to “kill” Mehmed. No action. Lada proving she can lead seemed too easy. Lada and Nicolae wanting to run away because Mehmed was sick but he was actually there. They started off as “oh this is going to be good,” moments, but ended with nothing happening.

Both Lada and Radu idealized Mehmed, in their own ways, and ultimately romance was involved. I honestly don’t understand what they saw in Mehmed. Maybe he was the first person that ever made them feel secure, the only person who secured them a home. Though Lada was stubborn in that aspect. He is not someone who is easy to love, in the sense that being Sultan demands so much of a person, has expectations to have relationships with multiple people. They were setting themselves up for heartbreak.

It’s always difficult reading a book with dual perspectives because if you don’t enjoy one character’s chapters, in this case Radu, then there really isn’t a proper way to avoid it without skipping half the book. Yes I loved Lada’s chapters, I loved Nicolae’s character more than I was expecting, and yes I love his friendship with Lada.

“Do you want to kiss me?”
“Please take this in the kindest way possible, but I would sooner try to romance my horse. And I suspect my horse would enjoy it more than you.”
“Your horse deserves better.”

They are definitely the two characters I’m excited to read about in the sequel.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Book Review

29829194_1734968696569023_1874611559_oBook: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 2.25/5 Stars

“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”

*I was sent an e-ARC of The Belles by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Taken aback by the rich and vivid writing that Dhonielle Clayton weaved together in order to produce this story about beauty and what it means to a society obsessed with it, I was slowed down in my progress as I was getting used to the intense descriptions and imagery that Orléans had to offer.

In a society where people are grey, The Belles are a blessing to all as they are able to physically alter that fate and make people beautiful. Camellia Beauregard, one of six Belles from her generation, is vying for the position of a lifetime; the opportunity to be chosen as the Queen’s favourite. When her expectations are shattered, her talents gone unnoticed by the people who matter, Camellia feels a lifetime of preparation for that one moment was taken from her. She deserves to be on top. But there’s an eerie secret that has been going on without Camellia’s knowledge. A chorus of crying through the night, a sadistic princess, a cursed heir to the throne. It all begins to unravel as time goes on.

This book is about beauty, but it turned into something darker than I expected. It was contrasted with the innocence of the Belles, who only wanted to spread beauty to the people. Camellia grew throughout this book from an innocent giggling girl who danced in circles with her sisters, to a Belle who constantly had to deal with and discover evil at court.

In terms of my thoughts on this book, I quickly realized how much I was not a fan of this concept and obsession of beauty. In the physical sense at least. I was horrified at the mention of infants changing their appearances, at a little girl forced to endure the pain of change because her mother was desperate for her to be the most beautiful. It was hard to read about what people went through in order to portray and live up to their standard of “beauty.”

There was a chock-full of characters that contributed so much to the build-up and pacing of the story. My favourite being Rémy. I was not expecting him to have such a significant role in this story, which I was pleasantly surprised with. As the story went on, that was more and more apparent.

Then there’s Sophia, who surprised me in an unpleasant way. She added that creepy tone to the story, the kind that was chilling, unsettling, and difficult to read about. Her actions were manipulating, abusive, and just outright terrifying. But I must admit, it actually gave the story some substance, something that motivated me to want to turn the pages in order to see what happened.

Camellia, as I’ve said before, was motivated to grow into a less childish character as a weight of responsibility was put on her. She discovered the darkness hiding behind the flowers, Belle products, hair textures, fancy dresses, and overall creation of beauty. She was forced to perform acts that were wrong, forced to see the impurity behind her passion, forced to endure questionable relationships. Her development allowed me to like her character more, but she was honestly not the best protagonist I’ve read from. I feel as though she lived in a bubble until it was too late. I needed more action from her, so did the characters who relied on her. 

Overall, this book was not for me, but at the same time I’m happy I read it because it still moved me. Beauty is not something that is significant in my life. I rarely wear makeup, I rarely style my hair, I rarely buy new clothes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where the way I look on the outside affects me. Beauty is valued in one form or another to each individual person, we define it differently. And it’s scary to think about the lengths these characters went through to transform into their perfect look and how without it they were nothing, they were not valued. Their desperation was absolutely chilling.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

29133542_1714523955280164_3821196437195063296_n

Book: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades, #1
Genre: Sci-fi
My Rating: 3.25/5 Stars

“One cannot be brave who has no fear.”

Nova is an Anarchist. Adrian is a Renegade. A villain and a hero shouldn’t get along, but with the help of secret identities, such a thing is possible. Nova has spent the majority of her life as an Anarchist, seeking revenge on the heroes who failed to save her family. Adrian has dedicated his life to be a Renegade, a difficult title to avoid when his dads are part of the Renegade’s council, and he wants to be more than just a patrol. When Adrian adds Nova to his Renegades group he has no idea her true identity is the villain he desperately wants to find. This allows Nova to enter Renegade Headquarters, learn about their system, and plot their demise.

It’s difficult to go into a book by one of your favourite authors, anticipate the best, and come out feeling let down. The superhero trope is not something I enjoy to begin with, but of course I put that aside because of my love for Marissa Meyer books. It’s disappointing to realize that it’s not possible to love every book by your favourite author.

What threw me off was the amount of cheesy dialogue. That typical back and forth between a superhero and a villain.

“Your days of villainy are over, Nightmare.”

And their alias were on another level of cringe, to the point where I couldn’t take them seriously. It was hard to believe that they were set out to actually kill each other when all I was picturing were kids playing make-believe.

What I appreciated from the story though was how we got the perspective from both the heroes and the villains. This way it didn’t allow the readers to automatically pick the hero side. Going further than that, it also revealed how both sides were corrupt. I can say a lot about the Anarchists and their questionable morals, but somehow my heart was warmed when I learned about their family dynamic. Nova cared about her family, they raised her and took care of her when she had no one left. Even evil Winston gave me feels when he recalled the shows he would put on for Nova when she was little.

As for the Renegades, as a whole they weren’t the side I was rooting for or enjoyed reading about, what with the council never showing up when needed and being completely useless. Though I did adore both Adrian and Max. They were honestly adorable characters and I loved seeing how their relationships developed with Nova. I kept imagining what it would be like if we only read from Adrian’s perspective, not knowing Nova’s true identity, and how much of an intense plot twist that would create. Nova’s perspective held my interest more so I can’t imagine getting through the book without her. Though this would have significantly cut down the length of the book, which should have been considered when so many pages had nothing happening. 

Overall, I’m intrigued to continue this story in Archenemies and I hope my disappointment from Renegades does not make its way to the sequel.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

28380993_1690784727654087_1052668646_nBook: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grishaverse, #2
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

“Watch yourself, Nikolai,” Mal said softly. “Princes bleed just like other men.”
Nikolai plucked an invisible piece of dust from his sleeve. “Yes,” he said. “They just do it in better clothes.”

Going into Siege and Storm, the sequel in the Grishaverse trilogy, I had expectations that had me craving for every word, phrase, and chapter laid out on the pages. I was far from disappointed, in fact I was overjoyed to discover that Shadow and Bone wasn’t alone in making me fly through the book. It seems Leigh Bardugo has the talent to keep this characteristic consistent in her sequel as well. Of course it wasn’t entirely perfect, I had some problems with it that I will talk about below. Though I’m excited that I finally found a series I can obsess over, especially when it comes to the variety of characters who are both intriguing and complex.

Right at the beginning this book plunges into a new world for both Alina and Mal as they fight for as much normalcy as possible. They are eager to leave everything behind and begin anew, but that dream is short-lived when they find themselves in the hands of their enemy once again. Losing hope to ever be free, Alina and Mal are unexpectedly rescued by a privateer who leads them right back where everything began. Alina is left with a choice; run away to lead the normal life she fought so hard to maintain or fully embrace her role as the Sun Summoner and save the world.

This book was gripping from start to finish but I still had some problems with it throughout. Firstly, this happened in Shadow and Bone too, I’m growing tired of the slaughter of these beautiful, mythical creatures who don’t deserve to die so Alina can obtain more power. I imagine this will continue in Ruin and Rising with the Firebird, which I am already dreading. This leads me to another problem, Alina starving for more power. With the stag, I mean I can look past it because a lot of Grisha do get one amplifier. It makes sense that Alina would get one too. Then she claims the Sea Whip and continues to complain about the fact that she doesn’t have the Firebird. At this point I’m asking where is the limit here? When will it be enough? It made me nervous how power hungry she was and I was pleading with her not to turn into another Darkling, to not let this promise of unlimited power blind her. Then there’s Mal. Oh boy is he ever the definition of picking which parts of Alina to love and despising the rest. How is that healthy? How is their relationship going to last if this continues? I just need him to stop brooding, stop being selfish, accept, move on, and get a grip. Life is evolving, he needs to stop living in the past.

I know all that sounds like I’m giving this book a low rating, but that is far from the case. Moving past everything I just listed, I seriously enjoyed this book and I thought it was a great sequel to Shadow and Bone. It went beyond what the first book gave us in terms of world building and it introduced us to a new cast of characters that I’m so excited to talk about. The main ones being Nikolai, Tamar, and Tolya. Nikolai, the ever swoon-worthy privateer who had me laughing and hanging on to his extremely dramatic words and phrases but who also intrigued me because of the many layers to him that slowly were revealed throughout this book. As for Tamar and Tolya, they were just fun characters to get to know and I’m happy Alina and Mal have them as allies and friends now.

I have to say though, I wasn’t missing The Darkling’s absence one bit, which I imagine is an unpopular opinion. I guess I’m into the good guys in this case because once his sketchy motives were revealed my love for his character slowly ceased to exist. Though I am definitely anticipating the final book and how it will wrap up his and everyone else’s arcs.

 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

27659049_1674034185995808_1552350821_nBook: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grishaverse, #1
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

“The Darkling slumped back in his chair.
“Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.”

After months of having trouble getting into Six of Crows, believing I could never get through a Leigh Bardugo book, an unexpected motivation inspired me to pick up Shadow and Bone. So here we are. I not only finished reading the first book in the Grishaverse trilogy, but I ended up absolutely loving it.

The task to cross the Shadow Fold, also known as the unsea, is not one for the faint of heart or for the one who wishes to see another day. Yet Alina Starkov, as well as the rest of the first army, which includes her best friend Mal, has no choice but to join in this impossible journey. Alina is just an orphan and a cartographer, nothing more. Then the volcra, the monstrosities that live in the Fold, attack and Alina finds herself protecting Mal with a power that nobody, not even herself, knew she possessed. Alina Starkov is a sun summoner, the only one of her kind and the answer The Darkling has been waiting for for years. After her reveal, Alina is whisked away to the world of Grisha where she will train to use her power and hopefully be the salvation that Ravka has waited too long for.

What threw me off at first was that the beginning of this book made me think I was reading a dystopian, for some unknown reason, which immediately turned me off from it. I knew this was a high fantasy, but I was uncertain whether or not the rest of the book was going to give me these same first impression vibes. It was soon after, to my relief, that such an impression no longer existed as I continued to read. Would I say this is the best YA fantasy book I’ve read in awhile? No. But did I love it? Yes. Honestly the Grisha were interesting to learn about, but there was nothing that blew me away when it came to the elements that made this a fantasy. The plot made me feel as if I read this book a hundred times before, but maybe that familiarity allowed me to enjoy this book more. I can’t give it credit for throwing me in a world I believed to be unique though.

I’m a sucker for romance, but not only that, I’m a sucker for handsome dark haired male characters that have questionable morals and a closet full of black clothes. So you can imagine what kind of affect someone named The Darkling had on me. The romance, for instance, was strange. A mild love triangle existed, and honestly, I may have been fanning myself when Alina and The Darkling had their moments. Though I found that whoever Alina was drawn to more was fine by me, especially after some revelations were revealed.

The events throughout this book were slow paced, yet the way I read it was anything but slowly. I actually flew through the book, which is one of the reasons why I appreciated the fact that I finally picked it up. The simple writing style allowed me to easily get invested. I’m excited to continue with the trilogy and I’m excited to find out more about The Darkling’s motives and ambitions.

 

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty | Book Review

27045366_1660962330636327_735198237_nBook: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Genre: Historical Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

“A warrior. Oh, by the Most High… He was looking for her. Nahri was the one who had called him.”

It’s books like this that remind me why I love fantasy so much…

The City of Brass takes us through a journey from the points of view of Nahri and Prince Alizayd al Qahtani. In eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri struggles to survive. With no family and her desire to acquire enough money to move away and pursue ambitions to further develop her healing skills, her only source of income is obtained by the other skill she possesses, being a con artist. Her belief in magic is nonexistent, yet her whole life unexplainable abilities, such as the power of healing instantly and speaking a language that no one else knows, left Nahri constantly wanting answers regarding her origin. Though such a wish gets accidently granted when she unintentionally calls a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara who may know more about Nahri than she ever imagined. This begins their journey to Daevabad, also known as The City of Brass, where tribes of different magical abilities exist, where Alizayd is a prince, and where Nahri has the opportunity to learn more about where her life was supposed to be lived.

I have to say, I was absolutely in love with the Middle Eastern setting that this story took place in, especially since my background is from the Middle East. It’s sad to say that in the past I haven’t read a book with such a setting, and since finishing this book, I am definitely craving more. The experience of coming across Middle Eastern words that I recognized made reading the book so much more exciting.

With the story itself, I found a lack of balance between the first half and the second half. This means that, surprisingly, the first half held my interest more. It was a whirlwind of adventure, traveling, and encountering an endless cycle of trouble that had me invested in every aspect of the characters and the plot. Then Nahri and Dara arrive in The City of Brass and it really ends up being anticlimactic as Nahri begins an average day to day life in the palace. She learns her trade and Dara is nearly nonexistent, only showing up in Nahri’s life at random times. Though it did not entirely turn me off from finishing the rest of the book, it was still a little disappointing when the intensity and potential of the first half of the book ended up not being consistent.

It was definitely hard to read about certain aspects involved in this world. The discrimination against the shafit being one of them. I felt as helpless as Ali when such horrible actions and words were thrown towards these people. But it’s hard because no one is entirely good or entirely bad in this story. This is apparent with Ali, Nahri, and Dara. The main characters may have good intentions, may be fighting to survive, but I think it’s interesting that it does not necessarily mean they are solely pure and good. They have their flaws. Ali’s plea for no discrimination against the shafit was a mistake in the eyes of his family, but his intentions for equality are good, yet it pins him as breaking the law. Nahri’s need for survival caused her to become a con artist, to trick and steal. It was never really clear what Dara was and wasn’t. His past was barely revealed yet rumors of the horrible crimes he committed circled around. I honestly had a love hate relationship with Dara because his actions, words, and the claims of his past consistently had my feelings toward him all over the place.

As for the characters and their relationships, I adored the growing friendship between Nahri and Ali. It took me awhile to enjoy reading from Ali’s point of view, but I think once his friendship with Nahri took off I became more invested in his character. Romance in this book definitely existed though it wasn’t the focal point of the story and the characters. Even though romance is the main element of a story that I look for, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount this book had to offer.

Overall, I loved the setting and I cared about the characters, but it did not entirely meet my expectations. The ending left me more confused than reassured about certain aspects of the plot and I felt as if it was dancing around a huge reveal instead of giving it to us straight. Now I have to wait for the sequel to answer my questions.