Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury YA for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: It's 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl's display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella's mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all--and in the process, they learn that there's more to Cinderella's story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they've been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them. (Amazon)
I've never been a fan of the Cinderella fairytale. It's a lovely fairytale, don't get me wrong. And I certainly appreciate it. But it's not one of my favorites. “Why then would you read this book?” I too would ask. Well, it's a retelling, right? Retellings build upon the skeleton of the original and from there, the writer can go anywhere, do anything—create something new on that foundation. It's why I enjoy reading retellings. Cinderella Is Dead went past the early stages of the story we all know, and gave us a picture of the setting 200 years after Cinderella dies.
My biggest disappointment with this novel is how shallow it is as far as development. There is not enough depth to the world-building, or to characters, or to their actions. We know the bare minimum so that we can follow along with the storytelling. After Cinderella dies, Prince Charming angrily decides that women will stop having any rights because Cinderella did not love him as he saw fit, men will control them, and he gets his pick of the lot whenever he wants. These rules follow every king hereafter. In short, he's a spoiled brat and that's his drive. And by his decrees (because in this world it seems that most men are shaped with the same cloth that shaped Prince Charming) almost every male that our lead comes across (with the exception of just three of them) are all horrible human beings who just want to inflict pain on women, use them, and discard them as they see fit.
That line never sits right with me whenever an author uses it in a story.
Sophia, our lead... Well, I still don't know her. I know that she doesn't want to marry a man just because her king demands it (which is valid) and that she wants to get out of this situation. She's headstrong, and stubborn, and most of the time does whatever she wants without regard for anyone else, or much thought to her actions. That's all that I know about her. I neither liked her, nor disliked her, except to find her instant lust/love towards Constance to be one-dimensional and unbelievable. Sophia swears that she's in love with Erin, her sweetheart, and yet after just one night in Constance's presence, she starts thinking to herself
Her body, backlit by the flames, is like a vision. She is tall and strong. She's got her sleeves pushed up; a wide, jagged scar runs over the muscles of her upper arm. They flex as she stokes the flames. I imagine how they might feel wrapped around me, and I wonder if she can tell how enthralled I am with her.
You just met this girl. How can you be enthralled by someone that you know nothing about? Sophia's feelings towards Constance's and Constance's immediate reciprocation and constant flirting (see what I did there?) was hammered into me from their first meeting. And during moments when I wanted to be focused on the story, it would rear its awkward head up again and detract from the bit of plot that I wanted to follow.
It felt forced.
After a few chapters that dragged, and some planning by the characters to figure out how to beat the backwards system in the world of this novel, we finally come to the end of the story. It involved a lot of Sophia (who has run away from the “kingdom” so that she's not killed) waltzing right back into the palace, without any guard recognizing that this is the girl they're chasing after. Once that's done, and the king most obviously sees her among the other girls, the two engage in fairly poor comebacks against each other until she gets locked in a pantry-sized room to await his evil deeds against her.
I wanted to like the ending, because it was to be the saving grace at this point. But it was as bland as I found most of the rest of the story and ended in a predicable manner. King Manford doesn't really have a reason to be the way that he is, there's no point to his villainous nature, and I felt like the author kept pulling twists and turns and reveals from her sleeve at random to help make sense of things but they didn't add up. Sure, Sophia and Constance get what they want at the close, but we expect it. Nothing that came before it left a lasting impression.
Despite everything that I didn't enjoy, the twist given to Amina's role—our “fairy godmother”—was great. No, she does not have much development either, but I'm glad that her character was different from what we expected. I like that it drew from a darker source and gave her a slightly more sinister veneer. Who she is to Manford came out of nowhere, but I suppose it works. And while the king's history before Cinderella is flimsy at best, the way that he keeps himself going was intriguing, and definitely fits his role of antagonist, even if it's something that has been done many times past.
The writing touched the mere surface of the story and a lot more life could have been imbued into every aspect of it. It unfortunately fell very short from my expectations.
Thank you to Rachel Emma Shaw for this book. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: There's nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories, but the king forces her to do, just so he can keep his subjects in line. She wants to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into someone she would much rather forget.
Falon has a six-month void in his memories that he's desperate to restore. He doesn't know why they were taken or what they contained, nor why the man he loves is acting so cagily about what happened during that time. He hopes to use Sarilla to get back what was stolen from him and isn't interested in why she's so desperate to escape. She will help him get back what he's lost, whether she wants to or not.
Join Sarilla and Falon in this twisted tale about how sometimes good intentions aren't enough to keep the darkness at bay. (Amazon)
The idea of someone being able to steal memories is a fascinating one. The power that it would entail would not just make that person valuable, but potentially dangerous. Enter our lead Sarilla.
This story had a lot of promise.
The protagonist, Sarilla has been kept by the King of this realm and used for her abilities to take memories from his enemies. She escapes with her brother, whose own powers are similar to her own, and carries the marks of the tasks she did at her liege's hand on her skin. Alongside them is Falon with his band of friends, who come across Sarilla, and after finding out “what” she is, he decides to use her so that she can unlock his own lost/stolen memories.
There's a gloomy atmosphere to the story that I always fall in love with, and I was glad to see that a force such as the one that Sarilla has, has consequences, and is not something that she can simply use without it affecting her. That's the price that magic should exact on its practitioners—at least ideally, and as a preference for me, especially in a fantasy. Getting to know the Memoria and their ways, as well as seeing how they've been twisted by those who use them, made them more realistic.
But I had trouble forming an attachment to the characters—they sadly did not resonate with me as much as I'd hoped. And at the start, part of that had to do with how abruptly we're thrown into the midst of the novel without knowing which way is left or right. A little more direction, background, some easing into the action would have worked a lot more smoothly.
As soon as I noticed that these characters were bound to be on the road, I was delighted. Blame it on my love of The Lord of the Rings, but I like to follow characters on quest-like adventures of any sort. Sadly, a lot of it played out dully, with a lack of clear direction along the way.
It's the first in the duology, and Scars of Cereba might neaten the writing and cast a lot more by the time this is done. There are prospects to a strongly entertaining story here, but, unfortunately it lacked chemistry with me.
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Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god.
But “he” is in fact nothing more than a spark of idea, a character in the mind of Sylvia Harrison, 73, award-winning author of thirty novels over forty years. He has played a part in most of those novels, and in the recesses of her mind, Sylvia has conversed with him for years.
But Sylvia won't live forever, any more than any human does. And he's trapped inside her cave of bone, her hollow of skull. When she dies, so will he.
Now Sylvia is starting a new novel, a fantasy for adult readers, set in Thalia, the Florence-resembling imaginary city that was the setting for a successful YA trilogy she published decades before. Of course he's got a part in it. But he also has a notion. He thinks he knows how he and Sylvia can step off the wheel of mortality altogether. All he has to do is convince her. (Amazon)
When you read the work of a new author, you're about to step into a new and different world. You have no idea what you're in store for, not matter how interesting the synopsis of the story may seem. I find myself feeling both excited and wary, but with as open a mind as I can keep in all situations (which is rather open, I'm always pleasantly surprised to realize).
Before I read Or What You Will, I did not know what metafiction was. It could be that throughout my years as a reader I came across a story that had meta components, but I wasn't aware of it, or didn't look into it further enough to find out. I've always loved that about books, however: you're going to learn something new in each one, about the book or about yourself, even if it's the fact that you've discovered an author whose imagination you now enjoy. And regardless of any other factors, you're going to appreciate the book for that alone.
I certainly do.
I now know that I'm not a fan of metafiction. It's not my cup of tea and I accept that. Despite this, this book is worth the read. Not only is the writing itself fantastic, but the way that you are drawn into the story happens seamlessly. Yes, you're given a lot of information that is mingled in with the narrative—most of it historical details of Florence, which tie in with the rest of the book—and it can be quite a lot to take in. But as history stands, they're fascinating facts that will just make your life richer for knowing, especially if you're a fan of art and European culture; it's intriguing, and it does help in becoming further immersed.
It took me some time to go deep into the novel, but once I did, I did not want to come back up until I'd finished it.
Or What You Will won't be for everyone, but there's a special kind of magic that makes it irresistible to read. After all, as a reader, who doesn't want to explore a story about a fictional character coming to life?
Thank you NetGalley and Text Publishing for this book. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Anne Bonny was eighteen when she ran away from her violent husband, James, into the arms of pirate captain Calico Jack Rackham. Now she’s ensconced aboard Jack’s ship Ranger, passing as a cabin boy and playing her ruthless part in a crew that is raining down mayhem and murder on the ships of the Caribbean. But James Bonny is willing to pay to get his ‘property’ back. And pirate-hunter Captain Barnet is happy to take his money. The Ranger’s a fast ship: Anne might just be able to outrun Barnet. But can she outrun the consequences of her relationship with Calico Jack? (Amazon)
Anne Bonny is considered “one of the most famous female pirates of all time”, which in and of itself, would have been scandalous even in that group. While I've heard her name mentioned a couple of times, and seen her featured in TV shows like Black Sails, I didn't know a lot about her life. Readers may take historical fiction in different ways, but for me it opens a door through which I want to learn more about a time, place, or people once I've finished the novel.
Though taken with a grain of salt—because as Meg Caddy states in the Author's Note at the end of the book, “when it comes to Anne Bonny and her lads there is some difficulty sorting the historical from the fiction.”--Devil's Ballast was a pleasure to read. Not only is it an adventure ride from the moment that you start to read with Bonny on the deck of her Calico Jack's the Ranger about to take over the Kingston, but you can't help yourself from liking Bonny. She's sassy, she's whip-smart, she's got a mouth that won't shut up and gets her into more trouble than she knows what to do with sometimes. But she's also a woman who has suffered a lot of physical and mental affront in her past and is trying to build a new life for herself.
She's impossible to root against; the woman had tenacious strength, and I doubt that she would've been much different in reality considering that she managed to survive eighty-five years on this Earth. I imagine that that wasn't an easy feat for a person who partook in the lifestyle of a pirate.
Is the story of Devil's Ballast a romanticized version of piracy? I would say so. You're on the side of these hooligans from start to finish. At least I now I was! I'm well aware that they committed terrible acts of violence in their time, and there was a valid reason why those against them worked so hard to get rid of their kind. But as this novel stands, the characters are a delight. Bonny aside, I was so glad to see “Martin” Read featured and play such a strong—and crucial—role in the plot. His scene with Bonny below-decks on the schooner en route to Nassau, letting the vulnerability slip free on himself, was one of the best. In the midst of all the fast-paced action, the moments of strong emotion were all the more appreciated.
Despite knowing a thing or two on how history truly wrote itself, the ending to the novel was incredibly satisfying. I've never been one to root for the “good guys” all the time. It depends on the story, and it depends on the roles being played out. And in times like these, with a story such as the one written on these pages, that pays off. If there's one complaint that I have is that the book ended too quickly. For all the struggle that Bonny went through, for all the times that she had to fight tooth and nail through sweat and blood and tears, she made it worth the read. This woman was a badass in her time, and this here novel is a little treasure for fans of one such as her.
Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Like deep dark water, it pulls them down. The faint fire of magic within them flickers and dies. Their eyes turn black as night. They are nightborn now.
Grace Marchant has been many things: streetwise orphan, rebellious servant, and now beloved companion of Prince Bastien, heir to the throne of Larelwynn. But their sunlit happiness is not destined to last. The golden magic which brought them together in purest passion is threatened by strange and ancient forces. Innocent people are becoming nightborn – cruel, deadly, unrecognisable to their loved ones – and these two young lovers are the only ones with power enough to stop it.
In times of peace, striking a deal with their closest enemy would be unthinkable, but now their only hope is to ally with the neighbouring Valenti royal family: manipulative, cunning, and always with an eye on the Larelwynn throne. The partnership comes at a devastating price… if Grace wants to defeat the nightborn, she must watch Bastien marry a Valenti princess.
Grace knows she must make this heart-wrenching sacrifice for the good of the whole kingdom – but she also fears the magic in her veins, usually so warm and bright, is turning cold as deepest midnight. A beguiling darkness whispers to her from within. Is Grace herself becoming nightborn?
Time is running out. With Bastien promised to another, and a stony distance growing between them, will Grace find the source of the nightborn curse before every last soul is consumed by the darkness? (Amazon)
I liked Mageborn, it was a good story. But my attention and enjoyment of it wavered throughout the novel. With Nightborn, however, I was gripped from start to finish. I was thriving along that high tension.
In Nightborn, we pick up months after the end of Mageborn alongside Bastien, Grace, and the gang as they move into the Valenti Islands in hopes of an alliance against Rathlynn. One of the things that made me anxious about the synopsis of Nightborn was the premise that a love triangle might be found in the midst of this second installment. As a personal preference, I am not a fan of love triangles. They are cliché, they've been done a million times, and if I do read one, I hope and pray that it will be done in a way that will allow me to still enjoy the story while I attempt to manage my anxiety levels. I commend Jessica Thorne. Not only did she deliver on this fervent hope of mine, but she didn't give us the typical love triangle that I would expect in this scenario. The fact that she still gave the allusion of it, and then threw in a twist, made me like this book even more because I admire and appreciate an author who thinks outside the box. With just a little tweak of the characters and their personalities, the cliché was averted.
The plot of Nightborn was fascinating. We are given a hint as to what a nightborn is from the first novel—they are the reason that mageborn paid homage to Bastien. But without Bastien around, and with the Deep Dark disturbed after Grace's death and return in Mageborn, the nightborn now run rampant. Their magic is twisted, broken, and they are out to maim and kill and destroy. In mind of this, if you expect chaos, death, bloodshed and fear, you are not going to be disappointed. Nightborn more than delivers on this while the main cast of the novel runs for their lives in an attempt to not just solve this problem, but to find a solution for the way that the Deep Dark is affecting Grace.
If she played a strong role before, Grace steals the show in this book, and I am delighted by that. This is a case of me liking a character at first, but then really appreciating them the more that I get to know them. Grace is headstrong without being overconfident, and she is not immune from feeling the obvious fear that someone might feel when there is an ancient and powerfully magical force taking over you. She's more than willing to sacrifice herself for those she loves, but it's not a blind sacrifice. She wants to find a way to end what is potentially going to ruin an entire group of people, rather than blindly throw herself to the mercy of whatever god might make this happen and hope for the best. She was very human in her weaknesses and strengths, and her love for Bastien—and their relationship, in general—is not just stronger, but more deeply felt, and I couldn't help but connect with it.
There are going to be some surprises, many coming from the antagonists of this cast. Asher Kane is a delight to hate, and he almost overwhelms Aurelie in “bad guy” persona. Where Aurelie is hatred borne of pride and an ego the size of the entire kingdom of Rathlynn, Asher is smart. He uses that intelligence to his advantage. He certainly uses it a time or two here.
If there was anything that made me draw back in doubt about Nightborn, it was likely Kane and company's easy capture of Bastien and coercion into him going along with their plans near the novel's start. On one hand, I am not surprised. Bastien has been used before. But the ease with which it was done, while he still retained his powers at full strength and could defend himself, was unbelievable to me, rubbed me the wrong way, and left me dissatisfied. I'm still not wholly convinced, and in part feel that it was done so that the marriage with Rynn could happen. Besides, you would think that Bastien, who has lived in a nest of vipers for years, would know better than to go into another one, on his own, to reason with them.
You're lovely, Bastien, and I adore you, but that was never going to work out and you must have known it.
Book three must be coming next if the second's end is anything to judge by, and I want my hands all over it already. The ending to Nightborn was slightly weakened for me by Grace's neat salvation—again. It happened far too easily, although I'm sure that the Hollow King had/has a plan, and that we may (I hope) later find out about it. But I am eager, now that I find myself well and truly hooked into this story, to continue following its path.
I love book tags—they're some of my favorite videos to watch on BookTube. But, since I don't have a YouTube channel (at least not yet) I thought...”Why not. Let's make a book tag blog post.”
I'm sure this book tag prompt has been going on for a good long while, but I last watched it on >OhSoAbby's< YouTube channel. It shouldn't have to be said that this is my opinion, and others are free to disagree, but the enjoyment of books is a very personal thing and let's all respect each other's book loves. That said...
A popular book or series that you did not like. I have two answers for this question, actually. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Many readers claim that one is the fan-fic version of the other. I've never cared to look into it, but so I've heard. Regardless, I gave these books a chance, and sadly they did not do it for me. I love paranormal romance—I love romance, period—but I wasn't able to connect with these characters or stories. I'm not a fan of the controlling romantic “ideal” in Twilight, and the same goes for Fifty Shades..., plus, I don't like how the world of BDSM is portrayed in the latter. But the films' Christian Grey is yummy, so I thank you, Jamie Dornan.
A book/series that everyone seems to hate but that you love. ACOTAR by Sarah J. Maas. Anything by Sarah J. Maas, really. I know that no author's work is perfect—because they're human—and I've had issues with Maas' writing in the past (I'm looking at Hunt, madam), but I have noticed that there are some readers who seem to enjoy hating everything she writes. I personally love her work, it's a huge guilty pleasure of mine and she's an instant-read author for me. She just generally seems to attract as much negative attention as she does positive. The reading community is apparently divided on her.
Pick a love triangle in which you did not ship the OTP. [POSSIBLE SPOILER ANSWER] Mal and Alina from The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. It's a sweet couple, I guess. And it wasn't as if I was horribly disappointed in the outcome of them ending up together. But one of my favorite things about this trilogy is the Darkling, and the few moments that he and Alina shared that came even close to being considered intimate were full of ten times more chemistry than I felt between Alina and Mal. The Darkling was complex, had a rich history, and a delightful possibility for a future. I rooted hard for him.
A popular book genre that you usually do not reach for. Lately, romance. I'll still read it, I still greatly enjoy it, but I don't reach out for books in this genre as much as I did in the past. More than anything, I'm delightfully surprised if a book happens to have a romance, rather than be driven to read it because of that story-line unless the synopsis is radically intriguing.
A (popular) book character that you do not like. Audrey Rose Wadsworth, from Kerri Maniscalco's Stalking Jack the Ripper series. This young lady doesn't cut it. She was tolerable (and know-it-all) in the first novel, then began to grow on me in Hunting Prince Dracula, but dropped back down again at break-neck speed after I read Escaping from Houdini. She became insufferable, thoughtless, and she's the main reason I keep putting off finishing the last book in the series.
A popular author you can't get into. James Patterson. I've read a few books by Mr. Patterson, and it's not that they were bad (although I really did not enjoy Witch & Wizard), so much as the fact that I never want to go back for more. I've never understood his popularity (probably the same way that many don't understand Maas', now that I think about it).
A popular book trope that you're tired of seeing. The love triangle. I see it coming from a mile away, and it is exhausting to get through most of the time. It's rare that an author writes a love triangle in a way that I will tolerate, let alone enjoy. Because tied to that love triangle is usually the other trope that I dislike: the girl who thinks of herself as plain and unattractive/uninteresting, but more than one boy always falls for. Shocking!
A popular book/series that you have no interest in reading. The Selection series by Kiera Cass. There's something almost intriguing to me about these books. Almost. The synopsis is nearly interesting enough that I want to pick up the first novel. Nearly so. But if I ever come even close to doing so, I quickly dismiss the idea and decide on another story. It could be a series that I end up falling in love with, but there's just not enough pull in that premise to make me take the plunge.
An adaptation that you preferred to the book. The Great Gatsby, 2013. Now that I am a “grown up,” I should give this book a second chance. When I first read it in high school, it became one of the most boring novels that I'd ever had the misfortune of being forced to read by a teacher, so I got as far away from it as possible and never looked back. The 2013 film adaptation was gorgeous, wild, exciting, colorful. Everything one expects when Baz Luhrmann directs. It made me consider picking up the book again to find out if my opinion of it has changed some seventeen+ years later. Here's hoping.
Thank you NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for the opportunity to read this book. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Driven, talented, and determined to live up to her family's fame, Sasha Nikolayeva is ballet’s crown princess. But just when Sasha lands her most prestigious role yet, she falls prey to a host of disturbing neurological symptoms that threaten to end her career and her very life. As her mind and body deteriorate, Sasha spirals into a nightmare world where beauty and cruelty exist in the same breath and villains rule from the shadows.
In the glittering, sharp-edged City of Roses, Sasha is no princess. She’s a thrall, a slave. Thousands like her suffer in cursed silence while citizens enjoy the splendor of the City, blissfully unaware that their servants are anything more than living dolls enchanted to do their bidding. But the City's slavers know the truth, and they are always watching. One misstep could cost Sasha her life—or her soul.
Even as she endures the violence and indignity of captivity, Sasha can't help being drawn to the beauty of her nightmare world and the underground rebels who offer her friendship, shelter, even love. Before Sasha can break her chains for good, she'll need to choose between the life waiting for her at home and the countless lives she could save if she stays. To choose a nightmare over her real life, her future, would be madness...but maybe a little madness is just what it takes to change the fate of a city built on lies. (Amazon)
The synopsis for this novel is fantastic. As soon as I read it, I wanted to read the whole book. Here I thought I was going to read a dark and gritty story, perhaps sometimes uncomfortable and difficult to get through due to its content warning, but full of depth and deeply imaginative.
I know that pushing boundaries can be risky, especially in art forms. And writing certainly falls into that category. Backlash can happen, but sometimes risks are worth taking. A few quick glimpses of the lead in captivity before she is sold into slavery does not sell the premise of this story. I don't see how she gets there, I don't see her journey, and therefore I can't connect. If she is to struggle—as one would, in these circumstances—then I want to see that so that my emotions can be engaged. The most violent instance that I read in this book, human to human, was a whipping scene. Past that, things are lightly touched upon to give the idea of the risk and danger of this world into which the lead Sasha has been thrown into, but the reader never really delves into things.
Sasha is not a likable character. Considering the fact that she is the protagonist, and the one through whose eyes we view this story, that's a hard pill to swallow. If she's not throwing a tantrum, she's running away from a situation because she doesn't like what's happening or what she's told. I get it, this is a young woman who thinks she's suffering from a mental illness, she's scared, her life is in danger, she's confused. But she has these abrupt and rash reactions to moments that she's in, that she comes across as annoying and childish. Ironically, she acknowledges this in-story more than once. And then something else happens that she doesn't agree with, and she behaves the same way.
Abrupt. That's a great adjective to describe a lot of things in this novel. I see it too often, where two or more characters come together to have a discussion, they sit down, things seem about to expand... And then the “conversation” ends in less than ten lines. Everyone gets up, walks away, and it's over. This happens not only in times of dialogue, but in scene changes, in information familiarly mentioned in-story as if the reader is already supposed to know about it. Take your time, expand, give me something to hang onto so that I remember some of these moments, many meant to be full of emotion.
That emotion is missing from so much. The characters are, for the most part and with the exception of Sasha, one-dimensional. A lot of them are props to help the story move along, to make certain points happen, but they don't really contribute much else. They are easily forgettable. The bonds between them felt weak. Save for her friendship with Sadra, Sasha doesn't really connect, and a big part of that is the fact that the scenes between characters are hurried along. After a blatantly obvious moment of instant attraction towards Luca (main romantic interest), we don't so much see their growing romance as much as we are told that it's going to happen. She keeps insisting in her head that it can't for several chapters, meanwhile he makes moony eyes at her for just as long—which involves a lot of smirking and some blushing—and then we get smacked in the face with the hard fact that they slept together at the beginning of a new chapter. Well, that was an abrupt surprise.
The writing is very easy to follow, I gladly give it that. With every sit-down moment that I had to read, I raced through it. If nothing else, this is one of those books that you might not really enjoy in composition, but you still want to find out how it comes to a close. The very last scene in the book was sweet, and it was, at the very least, rewarding to see this novel end on a good note. But there were a lot of setbacks; I wasn't fully sold on the magic system—which was not expansive—overall the book was very weakly executed for me; and the two instances of animal abuse/cruelty that appear (though minor in comparison to the rest of what happens) were poorly forewarned, ultimately unnecessary to the story, and soured some of the experience.
The Chalice and the Crown has a great concept, gave me a lot of Alice in Wonderland and Swan Lake vibes, but it left me wanting a lot more than what it delivered.
Before I became addicted to NetGalley, I didn't read a book unless I was in the frame of mind for its genre. I used to be a die-hard mood reader, and straying from that path had catastrophic results. If I was in the mood to read fantasy, and I picked up a mystery book, the odds were stacked fairly high on me disliking the book or DNF'ing it. If I wanted to read romance and I pushed myself to read a horror novel, I would have the same results. This would all lead to unfinished and lowly rated books that I knew I would enjoy under my “usual” reading circumstances, until I would fall into an eventual reading slump that would last weeks, if not months.
I had been a member of NetGalley years back, but I'd never really given it the attention that it deserved. But once I started my reading blog, I picked up speed on my use of the site.
I've also dabbled in similar sites like Edelweiss+ and BookSirens, but NetGalley is home.
While the genres available in NetGalley are plentiful, I stick to my favorites of fantasy, mystery, romance, sci-fi, thriller, historical fiction and horror. The age group that a story is geared towards doesn't matter to me, but I poke along those seven groups as a rule.
Here's the thing, though: once you request a handful of books that you want, and they're different genres, and they're granted to you—which means that the publishing house is now counting on you to read that book, rate it, review it, and tells others about it—you no longer have the luxury of being a mood reader if you want to take this seriously and be trusted on future requests.
I keep a spreadsheet of all the books that I request and their release dates, so that if they are ARCs, I can try to read them then post a review on Goodreads and here on my blog. Since this means that I read them in chronological order, I might read a horror book today, and in two or three days when I'm finished, my next book to read might be a romance. Or a sci-fi story for middle graders. Or a historical fiction novel about WWII. If I want to get through that list of books to be read, I have to shove aside my propensity for being a mood reader and get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
My instant fear was that I wouldn't be able to do it. I figured—prematurely disappointed in myself—that this wouldn't work, that eventually I would have to get over the ARC requests, and that I would go back to living my common reader's life (it's a thrill to read a book before its release, I won't lie!). But, I challenged myself, and it worked.
Regardless of how much fun I have browsing through those newly listed books in NetGalley on a daily basis, keeping track of my future reads, internally freaking out about being rejected for a novel, writing reviews and being as organized as possible with it all...ARCs changed my reading habits. I don't know when it was that I picked up the pattern of reading a book only if I was in the mood for that genre—which lasted months sometimes—but I stuck with it for years. Often, this habit would keep me from reading books that I'd been wildly interested in when they released, because by the time that I was ready to read it, I no longer wanted to do so until I was “in the mood” for it again.
Now, I tackle my next read with the same enthusiasm that I did before, but without worrying about the category that it falls into. All that I care about is enjoying the book, finding its little special nugget of goodness that makes a story special, and letting others know about it so that they can hopefully appreciate it as much as I have.
Thank you NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Best friends have become enemies. Lovers have become strangers. And deciding whose side you're on could be the difference between life and death. For Eve and Lemon, discovering the truth about themselves--and each other--was too much for their friendship to take. But with the country on the brink of a new world war--this time between the BioMaas swarm at CityHive and Daedalus's army at Megopolis, loyalties will be pushed to the brink, unlikely alliances will form and with them, betrayals.
But the threat doesn't stop there, because the lifelikes are determined to access the program that will set every robot free, a task requiring both Eve and Ana, the girl she was created to replace. In the end, violent clashes and heartbreaking choices reveal the true heroes . . . and they may not be who you think they are. (Amazon)
TRUEL1F3 takes the reader on a roller coaster and brings the Lifelike trilogy to a bittersweet ending.
The dread that I feel at the end of a series is too real. I dread that a favorite character is going to die, I dread that the bad guy is going to win (although, my love of complex stories also believes this to be a great twist), I dread that a million and one things are going to go wrong. But, I push through it, read faster than I ever have towards the end of the novel so that I can just rip the band aid off, and come out at the end usually feeling a little worse for wear, but mostly intact.
Save for my emotions. My emotions always take a hit or two if I'm this invested.
All and any reservations that I felt about Eve's dark twist into hatred and vengeance in DEV1AT3 and the end of LIFEL1K3 were erased in TRUEL1F3. Thank you, Mister Kristoff, from the bottom of my bruised heart for giving Eve such a big part in this installment. I'm not going to say that I forgive her for everything she's done, or that I “like” her. I was rather fond of Eve when all of this started, but along the way she lost her charm and I still can't quite forgive or trust her. But given what she is put through, given how torturous she's treated and how justified her negative belief in humans has turned, and given the fact that you can see that she wants to change-- Yeah, I give her a break. She did good here, she has a chance, and the pull that I'd hoped Lemon would have on her came to pass. That bestest that let her down in LIFEL1K3 brought her back to herself, and it was a lovely moment to see.
I always like to touch on my favorite characters, those that stand out the most, because they make the story for me. Lemon Fresh, from the start, has been a star. This young girl shone in this third book, and she brought me most of the feels that I had along the way. I lost count of the times that she was struck down, either literally or metaphorically, but she got back up every single time. She kept fighting for what she believed in, for her friends, she never gave up. Lemon is the little spark of hope that can barely be seen waiting at the end, and she dragged herself to it by tooth and nail. Her spark, alongside Cricket's amazing little logika affection (I know, I know, “Don't call me little”) made me sit on the edge of my seat and hold on for dear life every time that they dove into danger.
And the danger strikes at these characters from all angles. It's something that one would think might make a novel drive forward at the speed of light from start to finish. But I found myself feeling the same thing that I felt in LIFEL1K3, where the beginning of the novel lacked something for me. There's a certain special touch of snowflake (you get that reference if you've read these books) that's missing almost until half of the book, and then it picks up fast and doesn't let you go 'til its fin. Just like in book one, this doesn't take much from the story's enjoyment, but it's enough to be noticeable. It's still merely a small point in the overall good of the plot, however.
There's plenty to make TRUEL1F3 worth the read, especially if you've already enjoyed the first two books: great friendships, beautiful romances, badass fights, more than a few good punchlines. And at the center of it all is a hell of a showdown during the last few chapters between humanity and those not quite. A battle that brings enemies close, fighting against a common foe—it's a rush to see that moment pull up in the pages.
The antagonists Gabriel and Faith... Eve joined their ranks, but these two have been the constants since the opening chapters, and the wrath that has driven them has been almost frightening. It's so easy to dislike them, but there's something about these lifelikes, just like there is with Ezekiel, that made me feel sorry for them. All they wanted was to be their own person, something that we all want. Something that we all get to have, elementally, as human beings. Their wants, and what drives them, never wavered until the very end at Faith's hand. They are horrible, they're wonderfully created in their perfect hostility, and I enjoyed them as much as I do every well-crafted adversary in a fictional tale.
There are times when you really do almost hope that the bad ones win something out of it.
And if you wonder “Did the good guys win? Did a favorite character die after all?” Well, let's just say that good and bad things happened, and this reader is still recovering from some of those moments.
This was a great ride.
Synopsis: On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn't looking for trouble--she's too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she's on the local gangster's wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she's discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she's ever had a worse day, Eve can't remember it.
The problem is, Eve has had a worse day--one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel--called a "Lifelike" because they resemble humans--will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie.
With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves...and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past. (Amazon)
Jay Kristoff wastes no time in DEV1AT3: the reader hits the ground running and there's barely a break until the end of this trilogy's second installment.
Picking up right where we left off in LIFEL1K3, the band of friends has split up and they all find themselves along different parts of the Yusay. Some are stranded on their own and forced to become partners with unlikely new “friends,” others are attempting to come together again, and one of them is determined to make a new path for herself.
The swiftness with which Eve went to the dark side felt off to me in book one, and it still rubs me the wrong way in book two. I know that this is a “girl” who has had her life dictated for her from the moment of her duplicitous creation, and she is entitled to feel resentment at that—even outright anger. But Eve took no shortcuts, she went from surprise and rage to outright evil-doing and a entered a bond with a group that want to destroy some of those that she held dear. It doesn't help that we don't spend a lot of time in Eve's mind in DEV1AT3, so it's not easy for me to even attempt to see things from her perspective. She's in the background, causing mayhem, and I see her through the betrayed eyes of those who are as shocked as me to see her murdering who are, for the most part, innocent bystanders in her quest.
And hot on her heels was Ezekiel with Preacher. Preacher has grown on me. He is a dastardly character, but an example of how one can still win you over through action and personality, through involvement into his way of being. I knew what he would do once he and Ezekiel reached the finish line, and still, I can't help but admire the resourcefulness of this man, terrible as it may be at times. As far as Ezekiel goes, a lot of the shine has been wiped from his eyes and they are opening up, he's growing, and it's good to see. Now, rather than driving himself forward for the mere sake of the love he feels for Ana, there are much bigger stakes to fight for and he knows it. This special snowflake is maturing.
My two favorite little ones continue to be Cricket and Lemon... Both of them, it the thick of the Brotherhood's circle were some of the best and most exciting scenes in this book, and I lived for them. Not only is the Brotherhood a perfect example of what happens when religious fanaticism goes a step too far and three steps around the wrong corner, but the fight that Lemon and her new crew put up against them is purely badass. These kids are gutsy, funny, full of life and ready to spit in your face if you try to keep them down. I am still sad about the loss in this new band, even though I didn't know this character for long, but that just goes to show how easily you fall for this cast.
Building up throughout DEV1AT3, the final chapters were nail-biters. The anxiety went up a few high notches, and I am still completely in limbo over what happened to some of these guys after that wild explosion may or may not have wiped out an entire settlement. Whenever you think you know how this plot is going to continue, whenever you start to see everyone get even close to reuniting, whenever anything seems to begin to be solved... You know nothing, everyone is torn apart again, and there are still so many pieces to gather before the full puzzle is completed.
If LIFELIK3 was intriguing, DEV1AT3 just takes things several steps further. At this point, I am not sure there are limits to the things that anyone is willing to do to get what they want, but I know that I want to find out.