Thank you NetGalley and Harper Voyager for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .
As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.
To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.
So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love. (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 31, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 2 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
Nothing can push fairy tales off of their own classic shelf. They've evolved and grown over the years, and nowadays we have plenty of retellings to fill our reading preferences. I am, however, not sure if that's what was attempted with The Sisters Grimm.
The concept for this story is fantastic, but we are never given enough explanation into it to make it well understood. As a matter of fact, a lot of things are not explained. We know that there are soldiers, who are originally stars and somehow are either born into human bodies on earth or appear, and as they grow they are somehow trained to one day kill Grimm girls once they turn eighteen or they will stop existing since the death of these girls/women replenish their light...
Throughout this novel, I felt that I was ambivalently moving along while waiting for action to jump into the moment, any moment, and save the day. And the constant jumping back and forth from past to present made for an uneven, bumpy switch in narrative.
Books are often either character-driven or plot-driven. Were I to choose one, I would go with plot. And in the moments when the author gives me both, I find myself on cloud nine. The Sisters Grimm is extremely character-driven, which works for a lot readers. As that, it is a very well written. But because it is so character-driven, sometimes in mundane ways, most of the novel moves along at the pace of melted molasses. There is barely any action to be seen, save for the end, where we are subjected to the longest chapter in the novel so that the reunion of the four “sisters” is packed into one lengthy stretch to allow us the outcome of them returning to Everwhere.
That last chapter gives Bea, Goldie, Ana and Scarlet a brief section each, where they then all have the opportunity to defeat the soldier that is meant to kill them. I will say, I was surprised to find out who the soldiers for both Bea and Scarlet turned out to be, but that doesn't take away from the fact that even once they get to their father, it's all lackluster. Even their defeat of their father is lackluster. These girls have a spark of magic that grows and forms mostly in dreams, and suddenly it is all re-awoken, embraced and used so very knowledgeably.
And as for Wilhelm Grimm... I am still confused as to his character. Is this one of the Grimm brothers turned demon (somehow), or is this a demon/devil who happens to be named Grimm and commands all of these girls who happen to be part of fairy tales? His existence, as is the brief and repetitive view that we get of Everwhere, are not expanded enough for me to feel any impact from this character or setting.
A setting, which, given the type of story this attempted to be, could have been so powerful and beautifully dark.
The writing itself is good, and I am thankful for it. But I was far too confused in things that I wanted more understanding of, as well as lacking any real investment in the characters and the pace at which they moved, to be fully immersed and enjoy the tale.
Thank you NetGalley and Tyche Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: A car accident shattered sixteen-year-old Morgan's family. Now her brother’s dead, her mom's paralyzed in more ways than one, her dad lives at work and her seven-year-old sister Amy tries too freaking hard to salvage everything. What’s more, high school is its own special kind of hell, where her ex-boyfriend delights in spreading rumors that shred her reputation and make her feel like a loser.
When she finds an old camera in a creepy abandoned hospital, it seems like her luck is finally changing. And it is changing--from bad to worse. Because of course it is. Each time Morgan photographs one of her classmates they become corrupted versions of themselves. It's like the camera steals their goodness, their essence, and leaves them hollow.
Then her sister uses the camera to take a selfie.
No matter what the cost, Morgan will find a way to reverse the effects of the cursed camera and save Amy, before her already-fractured family completely self-destructs. (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Genre: Horror / YA
Rating: 2 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
At the center of Hollow is Morgan, our lead and the character through the eyes of which we witness the story unfold. After the death of her little brother, Aric, in a car accident where she, her mother and younger sister were also participants, Morgan copes with not only the deep depression that stems out of this traumatizing experience and the strenuous relationship she now has with her mother. But she also has to deal with the assault that she went through at the hands of her ex-boyfriend not long after said accident.
For those who may feel triggered by stories in which rape is a component, please tread with care before picking up this book.
While Hollow is presented as a horror book, there is very little to define this story as such. Other than the creepy presence of an abandoned hospital near Morgan and Sevren's house (her best friend) and it history, little else happens in this book to portray it as such.
The camera that she finds in this hospital, which begins to negatively affect those photographed, is a rather vague part of this story. We never find out where the camera comes from, why Morgan was meant to find it, or what its origin is. There is a “portal” through which Morgan enters that allows her to travel through the different limbo-like lands that hold the “good” parts of the individuals whose pictures she took, and while these moments are tense, they still don't shed a lot of light.
The book is very short, which makes it a very quick read, but it also means that there is not a lot of room for in-depth development. Not only is the camera one of the things that I wanted to know more about, but I was expecting more suspense in-story as a result of the characters that are photographed with it and how twisted their personalities appeared to become. And I would have liked to know what becomes of them after the camera was destroyed.
Morgan's depression, however, is well portrayed not only internally but in the way that she relates to those around her. Especially with her mom, the person that she seems to have the most rocky of relationships post-accident. Sevren's and her friendship is a nice boon—as usually is the case whenever we have a best friends' dynamic in a novel—and the magpie psychopomp was quite adorable.
I would have loved for there to be more story, more details, more exploration into the hospital and a way to bring that out into the present day of the plot so that it could connect with everyone in it and expand it. It would have certainly added that creepy kick that the premise promised.
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: "Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting."
What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it's a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill ... or else everyone dies.
Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they're all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor's ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die? (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Genre: Mystery / YA
Rating: 3 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
Years after her death, Agatha Christie continues to inspire murder-mystery novels, and years from now we will still see the legacy of her writing in other authors' works. While it doesn't stand out as a full retelling, All Your Twisted Secrets shows enough similarities to Christie's And Then There Were None to make it noteworthy. It was easily the hook that drew me to the story.
The premise is easy to grasp: six teenagers, who attend the same school and are connected—if not by friendship then certainly by past circumstances—are invited to dinner with the ruse of a $20,000 scholarship win, and become locked in not long after they all arrive. Soon after, tensions arise, secrets come out, and the six teens begin to turn against each other while racing against the clock to either choose one among themselves to kill, or succumb as one to the threat that is posed against them by the person that locked them in.
You can't help but race through this book, it's compulsively easy to read and entertaining. I appreciated the way that the chapters were set up, at once going into the past to show how characters related to one another depending on where they were in the present, while the clock counted down their hour locked together. But there's a usual sense of urgency that captures moments like these that I did not feel while I read this book. While it's a great novel with which to pass the time, I wasn't as invested in the characters' determination to get out as I should have been. Sure, yes, they are clearly aware that they need to escape, but there's a lot of repetition from them that something bad is going in, and it didn't really reach a high emergency level until halfway through the novel.
One of the best chapters in the story is the revelation that Sasha was the girl who bullied Maggie, Amber's sister, and who was inadvertently the reason why Maggie hit such a dangerous level of depression before ultimately committing suicide. It's such a sensitive topic, and was such a big part of Amber's life after her sister's death that the reaction it received was very well created. I don't know that Sasha deserved to die, herself, as a result of being a bully to Maggie—and then to Priya. She's an absolutely abhorrent human being, driven by pure selfishness that cannot be excused no matter what she may have lost on account of her accident. But death is such a final and harsh end to someone that has done such horrible things, it's almost as if she missed out on her true punishment.
The wrap-up of the story was alright, but nothing to be excited about. Amber's recounting of how she set everything up—while naming herself as the person who actually planned and executed the hour-long lockup of the other five teenagers—was overly long and full of details that were not always necessary. Even at the end, as she tells Diego and Priya that she's going to tell the police what she did, she goes on and on about why she's doing it and what the importance behind her actions are. This is part of the reason why some of the novel holds a casual tone rather than the necessary earnestness that it deserves: events are at times drawn out for longer than it is necessary.
I'm still a huge fan of this theme in mystery novels, and while All Your Twisted Secrets doesn't necessarily offer anything new, it's still a pleasant read.
Thank you NetGalley and DAW for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Set against the glory and tragedy of ancient Roman Egypt, this novel brings to life the greatest love story of all time.
Sixteen-year-old Hal Stevens is a budding historical scholar from a small town in Colorado. A virtual outcast at high school, he has only two friends: Roberto the Biker Witch and Cleo Mallawi. Cleo claims to be the reincarnation of Queen Cleopatra. She also believes she's being stalked by an ancient Egyptian demon, Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead.
But when Hal and Roberto find Cleo murdered in the forest near her home, it appears she may have been telling the truth. Her last request sends them journeying to Egypt with famed archaeologist Dr. James Moriarity, where it quickly becomes clear that Cleo has set them on the search of a lifetime: the search for the lost graves of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.
But they are not alone in their search. Cleo's murderers are watching their every move. And not all of them are human... (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / Mystery
Rating: 2 stars
I fell in love with mythology and the history that surrounds it around the age of thirteen-years-old, when my English teacher, at the time, introduced me to Greek myths. That led to me digging up more on my own, and my fascination with Greek mythology evolved into Roman, Egyptian, Norse and Celtic. So, whenever a novel crosses my path that deals in any sort of mythology, I am eagerly and instantly fascinated by it.
I wanted to enjoy Cries from the Lost Island as much as I had hoped that I might, but from the beginning the novel grated on me.
First, I see this listed as an adult novel. There are certainly adult characters in this novel, but this is at best a young adult story with a tone to match.
The characters in this novel were very difficult to read and therefore get to know. Their emotions, especially when they were in the throes of a dramatic moment, tended to shift and swerve from one end to the other so fast that you were left wondering exactly how they were feeling. And aside from the relationship between Roberto and Hal, it's not easy to come to terms with any real transparency about how others feel toward each other. They all act as if they are hiding something up their sleeves while waiting for the right moment to reveal this mysterious tidbit.
As characters—especially Hal—introduced to us different pieces of the story, especially if they were related to the mythology and history of Egypt, it was like sitting in a lecture class. Now, please take into account that I am a huge fan of Egyptian mythology, and history in this regard is fascinating. But there's a way to balance this out into storytelling so that it doesn't make a monotonous overflow of information for the reader, so much so that it can be overwhelming. And it happened often. Frankly, I felt like Roberto half the time, who may—or may not—usually regurgitate the facts that were spewed to him incorrectly.
It was a lot.
Speaking of Roberto, he was by far my favorite part of the story. Any time that the novel might start to lag, even slightly slightly, he was there with humor and a quick wit to save the day. He's an integral part of the story, and even though Halloran is our lead, I deferred to Roberto in preference of character dynamic and strength. Make no mistake, the novel overall is not unpleasant; it propels at a nice speed, and once we reach Egypt things start to move along a lot more smoothly than they did in its rather abrupt beginning.
Nonetheless, I felt like too much in this novel seemed either unbelievable—like the fact that the parents of a distraught teenager who has just lost his best friend would be encouraged and pushed into going across the world to “grieve” rather than receive emotional support at home from those who say they love him—or nonsensical. Such as the ending, which made me made me cringe as Hal and Roberto hauled around the thousands' year old mummified and newly-found corpse of Marcus Antonius (which they shoved into their bag and hauled around for weeks) so that they could take it into an open cave. In this cave, apparently the body of Cleopatra VII had been resting all this time, and by laying Marcus Antonius with her they would ensure that the two could be together in the afterlife, the story's main purpose. It's a nice and romantic notion in the end, but the steps taken to get there are shoddy at best.
All in all, Cries from the Lost Island has a lovely presentation, that unfortunately fell short for me in its delivery.
Thank you NetGalley and Harper Voyager for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.
There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.
Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king. (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Rating: 4 stars
The king is dead, long live the queens, and the Crown of Shards series seems to have come to an end. Everleigh has worked, trained, sweated and bled from the moment that her family was slaughtered in Kill the Queen to this point, and the ending was as fitting as it was deserving.
The star of Crush the King, from the moment that he made the first appearance, was Maximus. Despite the overdone name that he has been granted, he is a delightful villain and exerts the power and cruelty that befits his personality and station beautifully. Maximus drove the story, and even though he is the “bad guy,” he is a pleasure to read. I was almost rooting for him to win that last battle against Evie, and while her success was crucial, I believe that it was far too easily obtained. To go against a powerful magier—no matter how he gained his power—that has been on the throne for years and beat him, when you have been using your own power to its full potential and training in battle tactics for a mere few months was not quite believable. The thing that saved this face-off resulting in Maximus' death was Maeven's interference and the fact that his end came at her hand.
Living through the Regalia Games was as entertaining as I imagined it would be. The story certainly brought to life the energy that everyone seemed to be exuding throughout the three days of celebration. It was, as usual, great to be in the forefront for the gladiator games that were presented—Paloma shone in her fight against Mercer, and her defeat of him was one of my favorite scenes, overall, from the three books—and interesting to visit the island of Fortuna.
And the many assassination attempts on Evie and her friends did not disappoint. As usual, they were as fun to behold as they have been this whole time, with the pinnacle of them all being Evie's stand-off on the bridge leading to/from Bellona against the Bastard Brigade. You always know that she is going to win these moments—which is relieving, and a let down, because sometimes a loss introduces even more possibility for drama that is not overdone but rather interesting—but they are still diverting.
This book does not feel like the last of the lot, because there is still so much that seems to have been left open-ended. From the possibility that Maeven will come after Evie again, to Seraphine DiLucri's mysterious interest in the Bellonan queen, to the fact that I am almost positive Leonidas is the boy that Gemma came across when she, Xenia and Alvis were escaping Bellona for Andvari in the first book and how that might pop back up in the future for the benefit or detriment of the two kingdoms. Especially considering how powerful both youths have the potential of being. I don't know if more story will be introduced at a later date, but a spin-off would be fitting.
Everleigh's character concluded itself to be a good queen for Bellona in the end after all, and the maturing that she has gone through has come at a steady pace. It fits well. However, the abilities that she has attained sometimes don't come across too clearly in action, and her incessant descriptions of scents as relating to emotions—as well as her mention of playing “the long game”--are repeated so many times that they are tiring. And distracting. At this point, I look at anything scented “vanilla” and the name of Sullivan pops into my mind automatically.
Speaking of, her relationship with Sullivan, although sparkling at the beginning, oddly enough diluted for me by the time that we arrived at this book. I am glad that they're together, but reading their scenes was more so settling rather than satisfying. I do think that the cast of secondary characters as a whole—namely the tight group of friends on her side—deserve(d) more attention and more life of their own. It left me wanting, and it's another reason why this book seems like it has paused in the middle of this series rather than at its end.
I still flew through this book, and there was plenty of action to keep one glued to its pages. It's a captivating installment, and while it may not seem as the last even if that's the impression that it means to give, it certainly closed on a good note.
Synopsis: Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.
First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.
Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.
Dark forces are also at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, her immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes Evie wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.
Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s … well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.
Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen… (Amazon)
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Rating: 3 stars
Odd, it seems, when the second book in a series falls shorter than the first. If anything, the initial book might sometimes seem a little weak since it's the one that builds the world of a series, slowly introducing all the aspects that we need. But, once in a while the case appears backwards, and this was one of those moments.
Make no mistake, I enjoyed Protect the Prince regardless of any shortcomings. This story is still a lot of fun, with endearing characters to boot, and an entertaining plot full of mayhem and intrigue. But those beforementioned shortcomings were rather pronounced, and not easy to ignore.
Most of the book centers around Evie visiting Andvari so that she may meet with its king, and not only smooth over the murder of his youngest son and trusted advisor by Vasilia, but to create a pact between both kingdoms so that they can stand together against the enemy kingdom of Morta. The start of it all was excellent, very believable with the Andvarians less than eager to not only have Evie in their home, but with any chance of brooking an agreement with her. Evie's less than stellar hold on her reign is more than expected, well portrayed, and I still had a bit of difficulty picturing her in the role.
All in all, it all fit once one takes into consideration everything that she has been through until this point. But once we enter the second half of the book, things begin to get a little messy.
Characters, especially the closer they are to one another, tend to be incredibly dramatic. They're over the top. There are so many exclamation points—especially between Sullivan and Evie—that you can't help but wince. Yes, Sullivan, it's exciting that Evie has woken up after being almost killed, but since you have woken up and watched her for about ten seconds, suddenly screaming out her name and rushing to her side is a little bit delayed. And while I am a fan of Sullivan and Evie as a couple (thank goodness that finally came to fruition, albeit slightly less explosively than I had hoped for), their story in Protect the Prince went through a lot more turbulence than was necessary.
Evie's big plan to become engaged to Dominic so that she can be close to him, protect him, and therefore attract the attention of those trying to kill him so that they may turn on her and therefore be caught (I'm winded just writing that), was a little weak. It felt like a forced attempt to introduce more turmoil into the relationship between her and Sullivan, and in the end it was less than necessary. Dominic was never again targetted, and she was going to be sought out by Maeven and her assassins eventually.
They have, after all, been attempting to kill her since the beginning of Kill the Queen. This is not going to change until one of them is dead.
The culprit behind the ploy to murder king Heinrich and Dominic was very evident the moment that Evie began to go after Helene, so there was no surprise there. And while it is starting to seem typical for the Mortan “bastards” to kill themselves—or be murdered—once they're revealed or captured, taking their secrets to the grave, it's beginning to get a little old. Keeping Dahlia alive would have not only added another facet to the story, but it would have been fascinating to see how Sullivan, as her son—and Heinrich, as her lifetime lover—would have dealt with that, giving us even more depth into their tale.
Things wrapped up somewhat weakly despite Evie and Sullivan's declaration of love—which was sweet, even if quite sappy for them—but I'm still holding out hope that the next installment will restore this series to what it started off as being (totally exciting, without pause).
Synopsis: In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.
But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.
Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.
But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen. (Amazon)
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Rating: 5 stars
Falling in love with a story is instinctive for me. Whatever the highs and lows of the book's writing and mechanics might be, I will blindly fall head over heels for it if it touches my heart.
Enter Evie and the plot to Kill the Queen.
The beginning of this novel is doubtful. We spend so much time, over the course of a couple of chapters, moving through the minutiae of Everleigh's day to the point of thinking “Is this really necessary?” You're nearly dulled into listlessly flipping through the pages, figuring this is going to be the pace and tone for the rest of the book.
And then you're thrown smack in the middle of a massacre, the plot explodes into action, and suddenly you can't read fast enough so that you can devour every single little detail. It was an ingenious play.
From that moment on, you rush to catch up with the goings-on in the story. At every twist and turn there's a new spark of excitement that keeps buildling up to Evie's big moment at the close. It's satisfying to see her grow into herself and evolve from the puppet that she had been used as at the start of the novel at court, to her own person while she delves into the world of The Black Swan, the troupe of gladiators who become her family.
Gladiators are something that is so strongly instilled in the culture of Bellona, and I was delighted by the fact that rather than glaze over this, Jennifer Estep took her time to not only bring it to the forefront, but give it the attention that it deserves. The fight sequences are not overly drawn out, but they are very nicely described. These are a people who fight, enjoy it, do it well, and the instruction that Evie receives while in this band of people is very well depicted. As is her growth and talent, something that we witness in the final and blaring encounter between Evie and Vasilia, our story's murderous antagonist.
Through it all we have the sizzling attraction bewteen Sullivan and Evie to deal with. While sometimes this can be a rather distracting thing in a novel that is not mainly romance, it was properly secondary to the plot in this one. It's both great and frustrating, because you want these two to get together,we know that they need to get together, but it never happens. It is so satisfying when an author waits past the first book in a series to get the lead couple (I hope) to come to terms with how they feel—Feyre and Rhysand, am I right? The intensity of the moment is so much more powerful and organic that it makes it well worth the wait.
But past them, the rest characters are a joy to encounter, from the gentle strength in the gladiator Paloma to the sickening machinations of Vasilia, Nox and Maeve. These characters drive a fun and engaging story, even during the moments when you're sitting at the edge of your seat hoping that one of your favorite ones won't be killed off.
It's been a treat to visit the world of Crown of Shards, and I cannot wait to travel to Andvari with this lot and see what else is in store for them.
Synopsis: Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer―a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.
Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.
Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees. (Amazon)
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
This was wonderfully surprising, especially because when I dove for this book all I noticed was the synopsis. I completely missed the part stating that this is a retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is one of my favorite classics. So...bonus.
It took me a few chapters to really get into the swing of this book, but once it picked up, I was hooked. The story is interesting, with some intriguing characters and a driving plot.
I really enjoyed Enebish, and I tend to be really critical of female MC's. I usually find them lacking in some way or annoyingly overcompensating, but I greatly liked the way that her character shifts, grows, changes. The one time where I found this to falter was near the end of the story when Ghoa tricks her, captures her, and she's forced to betray Temujin. She went from someone who was making up her mind, gaining her strength, growing into her power, to such an easily manipulated and cheated person. On one hand, it makes sense, because Ghoa is a weakness for her, but on the other hand I thought that this could have been done a little better. Enebish could've fought that pull a little more, shown more struggle.
And Ghoa herself was a great antagonist. There was always something there, from the start, that had me mistrusting her. But you try to accept her, you try to look past peeks here and there of someone who is not what she claims to be. Her full reveal was not so much an eye-opener as it was a pleasure to behold—letting that wall down and allowing the reader to really see her for who she is. So damn good.
The plot twist took me by surprise. I was concentrating so hard on letting the story take me where it might, that I completely missed the hints of what was afoot. Who Temujin really is, who the Worm really is! Who so many others truly are. It does make sense, and it's such a greatly crafted plan, that I cannot wait to see how Enebish and Serik—whom I adored from the first glimpse of him; thank you Addie Thorley for writing a romantic interest which does not need to be the bad boy in the story...they're fun, but this is a nice change of pace—are going to pull out of this one and take the rest of the series from here.
I was very glad that Serik found his power (a power in a range of magic that I wish would have been explained and fleshed out more), and it's certainly going to come in handy, but I also found it a little too convenient. That always nags at me in novels, but, still...kudos to my boy.
So far, there's a lot of promise in this book. I can't wait to see what the second one has in store.
Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury YA for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
***Please beware of spoilers***
Synopsis: Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds--each with their own magic--together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.
For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.
But this summer, the impossible happens--a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie--no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . . (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 3 stars
Havenfall combines two of my guiltiest reading pleasures, fantasy and mystery, to deliver the story about a girl tasked with the job of overlooking a safe house between magical worlds during a time of strife.
In theory, the story could be exciting: humans and two of the fantastical worlds that have an alliance come together once a year to celebrate and discuss matters of their worlds so that they may continue to live in accord. The innkeeper, our lead's uncle, is usually the one who oversees everything. But after the door to one of the other worlds opens again, which has been sealed for years due to a war that broke out where lives were lost, death comes knocking again and the innkeeper is left unconscious and unable to continue overseeing his duties. Enter Maddie, who has dreamed her whole life of having this role, feels that this is what she has been working for, and while nervous, believes herself to be ready to face whatever Haven needs in order to keep others safe.
It's an entertaining read, and I greatly enjoyed the mystery reveals that occurred. But the story fell flat for me. While it aspires to be rousing, it doesn't reach that potential. The whole thing delivered just a little monotonously, and I felt that most of the characters were sorely underdeveloped save for Maddie and maybe Taya, to some extent.
One of the elements that I always delight in, especially in fantasy novels, is the antagonist. There is so much room in this genre to make the “bad guy” anything you want him/her to be. The Silver Prince fell so short. Not only do we only see him a handful of times, but we never get to know him. What motivates him and moves him, other than the need to take over the keep and reign? Why does he want this? We're not given enough information, and while a handful of his actions are imposing enough, and he manages to brainwash Maddie fairly easily, the strength that he could have as a being is just not there.
Maddie is very believable in the doubt that she has in herself to do her job as innkeeper. She knows nothing of what needs doing and has no problems reaching out to others for help. She does have a ridiculously easy gift of trusting the wrong people, however, and keeps mentioning this throughout. It's almost as if she tells the audience “Most people I trust lie to me, here, let me show you,” while it continues to occur again and again. It's repetitive. Almost everyone in this book has something to hide, and a secret to reveal. It happens so often that we keep doubting whoever appears next in the novel. It's fantastic for what the author accomplishes as far as the story's mystery, and yet it's so ironic that our lead doesn't seem to catch up.
While there is a clear love triangle playing out between Maddie, Brekken and Taya, I was so glad to not see the usual stereotypical tug of war that tends to happen. Love triangles are one of my least favorite tropes in stories, because usually they're overdone. Sara Holland wrote it well, showing the intense attraction that is to be expected between Maddie and Brekken with the years that they've known each other and the bond that has been growing between them since they were children, as opposed to her newly developed closeness toward Taya.
Havenfall itself... I definitely got the sense of the town, and it did—as Maddie points out at one point in the story—feel like an old western type of world in which to live. It's still charming, well run down, full of vegetation and woods nearby. It does a really nice job of conveying how isolated the keep is to the rest of town and how suspicious and full of gossip others are about the place.
The ending, as I have been reading too often with books lately, came far too swiftly and easily. There is going to be a second book, surely, especially with the way that Havenfall closes. But we could have taken a little longer to see the conclusion of this one develop and play out. More time, overall, was needed with this book to expand.
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.
Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better.
Shay would die for them to like her.
She may have to. (Amazon)
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: 4 stars
We've all felt a little lonely. We've had moments where we don't or can't relate to others, or don't know how to reach out, and just crave that human connection. Now, imagine you think you have finally found someone who can offer you that—someone who makes you feel warm and happy, and loved. Then they pull wool from over your eyes and you realize that they've been using your weakness against you, so that they can not only manipulate you, but violate every aspect of your private life.
That is, in a nutshell, the premise for You Are Not Alone, and it was every bit as twisted as you can imagine. Which means, in short, that it was as delightfully entertaining to read about as one might expect from a Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's thriller.
Shay Miller opens the story for us, and we can't help but feel sorry for her almost instantly. This is a young woman who has horrible prospects not only in her professional life but in her personal one as well. Her close guy friend of years, whom she's in love with, has a girlfriend and she's now, for all intents and purposes, the third wheel. She can't get out of the rut of her temp job while seeking a better position. She soon needs to move out of her current apartment to give the love birds more room to themselves. She doesn't really have a lot of people in her life that she can turn to, and she has just witnessed the suicide of a stranger.
Enter the fabulous, glamorous, beautiful Cassandra and Jane Moore, sisters and co-business owners. They happen upon Shay's life when she's at her lowest, and tuck her under their wing, seemingly helping her improve herself.
And they do, at the beginning. They give Shay a gorgeous makeover, they help her find a new apartment, they encourage her in landing a fantastic new dream job, and they are a big part of Shay's more positive and confident outlook in life. For all intents and purposes, the Moore sisters have had an ideal influence over Shay.
One of the things that I enjoyed most in You Are Not Alone is that the reader sees Shay as such a needy and almost pathetic person at first. She is so desperate to have friends that she will do anything that these two women ask of her—and at times outright tell her to do in their bright and cajoling (a.k.a. manipulative) manner. Shay sometimes goes above and beyond, researching people and looking into their lives to a level that seems almost creepy. She does this without ill will, she's actually a rather kind and sweet person, but it's this very thing that makes Cassandra and Jane exploit her.
As the exploitation begins—alongside the other women in the “power” circle of friendship that the Moore sisters are a part of, excluding Shay—we see the tables turn. Shay was never the villain in the story. Shay just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the level of animosity that these women spew at her in order to use this poor woman for their gain, is sickening.
It is excellently described. The characters come alive while we see their wheels turn and the Moore sisters continue to corner Shay, even while in turn Shay starts to shift and show that she has more than one dimension. She's not just the wallflower that she appears to be at the beginning of the story.
The process of storytelling is a slow burn, but the narrative is so fun and engrossing that it seems to fly by. The more that you know, the more that you want to know, and you are so enraptured in what's going on that you don't really expect the “big reveal” until it's crashing down on you.
I did find that some of the characters were a little weak, and as far as how easily brainwashed they were when one realistically considers the level of camaraderie between them (like Jody with the Moore sisters). And taking into account how much time the authors took to explain the backstory of almost any “important” character, and how much time we spend in the present moment of the plot, the end was slightly rushed. While it was satisfying, it didn't linger as much as I would've liked.
This is, however, still a delightfully enjoyable mystery. And we have been given a lead in which quite a few people will find a kindred spirit. It's cleverly done.