Reviews

Another Magic School novel: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 2/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Review

I picked this book up because of the cover. I was interested in the possibility of there being a dragon-type character. Well, there really wasn’t, but this book was still pretty good. I’m going to be honest and say that at first I did not enjoy this book. I’m not a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. I think most of her books are boring and this just seemed like a stereotypical magic school book. BUT, if you can make it to the middle of the book and especially the end then you find a little bit more substance to this book.

Let start with the characters. There’s Simon, the chosen one who can’t actually control his own powers. He’s impulsive and fiery and that normally gets him in trouble. Simon also has the typical orphan chosen one status. Every summer he goes from foster home to foster home without true family. I really enjoyed this part of Simon’s character. Now because I like orphan stories, but because it explains a little bit around why he may be so fiery and impulsive. Then, you have Baz who is about the exact opposite. The relationship between them was okay. I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy simply because it seems pretty quick to me after years of antagonism, but most say love and hate are closer than we usually think. Rowell does do a great job though of filling you in on the characters history together. You get to read a lot about their feuds and pranks. What really kept me reading though was the villain. The villain that has the face of Simon as a child. Just think about what that could mean for a second. There’s not a ton about the villain, but how he’s connected into the story really moved me into thinking about the cost of power and what some people may be willing to pay for it.

The world building was almost nonexistent. There was a magic world, but it is basically like ours and so didn’t really contain anything new or unexpected from our own world.

The diversity was mainly with Baz and Simon would were lgbtq+. Others most characters are white and pretty uneventful.

Overall, I rated this book so high because of the final half of the book. It does have some interesting plot elements that I didn’t expect and there are some twists that I didn’t expect right away. I would say if you really enjoy magic school novels than you could really enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a new and exciting spin on the magic college thing or an epic romance this probably is not the book for you.

ARC

A Fantastic Political Fantasy- Master of Restless Shadows Book One by Ginn Hale

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Freshly graduated Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm has left his home in Anacleto and journeyed to the imposing royal capital of Cieloalta intent upon keeping the youthful oath he made to a troubled writer. But in the decade since Narsi gave his pledge, Atreau Vediya has grown from an anonymous delinquent to a man renowned for penning bawdy operas and engaging in scandalous affairs.

What Narsi―and most of the larger world―cannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.

After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives. “

Review

I received this book as a free ARC from NetGalley and all opinions are completely my own.

People, this book was SOOOOOO amazing! The beginning is a little shaky. Nasri is a bit too idealist for me at the beginning, but he grows on me. The fantasy aspect of this book is based mostly on spells and magic with more fantastical beasts being in the far off distance. The intrigue though. It’s amazing, there’s some death and darkness in this book, but for a political fantasy this book is very light. I mostly don’t like political fantasy, because the dark plotting against each other and graphic nature is too much for me. However, this book has the intrigue without the graphic and/or gratuitous violence.

Let’s start with the characters first because characters are always what really are the draw for me. First, we have Narsi. He’s the optimism in our story, a bright young physician who may be a little too trusting for his own good, but is smart and sincere. Then, Atreau, who is a talented spy who poses as an author of smutty, but historical novels. Fedeles who was once possessed by dark magic and is still trying to recover from the trauma and Atriz, a man who is controlled by another through a mark of obedience. These are just our four mains, there are even more characters that we learn and see that are interesting as well. But, these characters are interesting. They all have their different personalities with secrets and stories to tell. I thought that the attraction between Narsi and Atreau was weak. It’s not really based on much, but a meeting or two. I feel like that about their characters in general. Not that they’re weak or poorly written, but more that we didn’t get a ton of time with them learning their stories. They move along most of the action of the book and so there is minimum development of them. However, Fedeles and Ariz, I yearn for them! Their relationship and what they’ve both experienced is a large part of their part of the story and I love it. I’m a sucker for hurting, but strong men and I want them to make it both out of this alive.

The world building is great, but a bit overwhelming at times. This definitely reads like a story that’s part of a series. Which after doing some more research there are definitely books in the same world as this new book that I think if were read first could make this book a bit easier to understand. There are rich characters with interesting stories that are just mentioned in passing and that can make stuff a bit confusing or hard to follow. There are multiple characters with similar J names not to mention there is also the medieval fantasy problem where one person has multiple titles and names which can make it even more confusing. However, there are written religions in this book that have a well describe history though it slowly is revealed to the reader. I also enjoyed the magic in this book. It’s glanced over a lot, but whenever its included I’m also curious to read more on it. There’s also some mild racism and hints at homophobia. Honestly, it was the worst in the beginning and honestly wasn’t really necessary for the novel to be honest. It’s just kinda shaken off and then never much mentioned again so I think the author could have ditched it all together and it really wouldn’t have been a big deal.

I would say the diversity in this book is pretty good. One of the main characters is a man of color, all of our four main characters appear to be at least bisexual. We also have a side transgender character which I was very impressed with how the author handled to be honest. There was no misgendering or anything. Just comes out as part of the story so I liked that. There are also multiple character characters dealing with trauma. It’s not heavily explored, but is definitely there.

If you enjoy political intrigue, LGBTQ+ representation, and a rich world then this is a great book for you. If you’re looking for a gay Game of Thrones this is not for you. There is as mentioned before lots of politics and scheming even some minor death. However, the intrigue and plots are the main draw to this story as well as the characters not lots of fighting, backstabbing, and generally horrible people.

Master of Restless Shadows will be available soon! October 8, 2019 to be exact. I really loved this book and would highly recommend it!

Authors

Kingdom Cold Blog Tour: Author Interview, Excerpt, and Review!

Hello my lovely readers, welcome to a stop on the Kingdom Cold Blog tour. I’m excited to share this with you! I hope all this information may pique your interest!

Author Interview

Q: What inspired you to write Kingdom Cold?

A: It started as a Wattpad story I was messing around with. I wanted to do an arranged marriage princess book and the story got really popular, so I decided to take it off of Wattpad, edit, and publish it.

Q: Did you do any research before or during writing Kingdom Cold?

A: I researched King Arthur a lot and details from the time period. About halfway through each book, I go brain dead and I find myself looking up basic words like “chair” or “map”.

Q: Currently, #ownvoices is an important movement in the book community, did you use    any of your own personal experience(s) to shape Charlotte or any other characters in your book?

A: I put a lot of my own experiences into Kingdom Cold, specifically the subtly of certain racially charged situations. Being an African American girl living in South Korea, I found myself trying to include as much of the cultural confusion as I could slip in, because that’s what I experience day to day.

Q: Kingdom Cold is a book containing diverse, multicultural characters. As an author, how important is diverse representation in books to you?

A: I think it’s essential. There are heroes from every culture, customs worth exploring, and battles worth facing–ones that have yet to see the light of day. At times, the world feels so divided and unfair but fiction can be whatever we want it to be. Why not diverse?

Q: If there was one thing you wanted readers to know about Kingdom Cold, what would it be?

A: Kingdom Cold has no heroes and no villains.


Kingdom Come Excerpt


The moment I saw Young, all the power I’d felt moments ago melted away. I was a blood-spattered princess standing amidst a murder scene, one I’d starred in. My gaze met his, and I searched for the horror I felt, in his dark eyes, but couldn’t find it. I glanced over the gentle lines of his expression and drank in the easiness of his parted lips. He exhaled relief and I felt the sudden pull of my body towards him as I breathed it in. I couldn’t discern how he could look upon me, with such reprieve, then I took a step forward. And another. He was my cage, my captor, the death of my freedom, but in one kind glance, in my darkest hour, he granted me a modicum of comfort. I ran to him and threw myself into his arms. I didn’t care that he didn’t embrace me. I didn’t care that his body tightened with discomfort. He was alive and, to me, that meant that my father could be too. “Milly’s over here,” I sniffed as I motioned to the door. I felt the pulse of my hand as I released the fire poker from my finger-numbing grip. It fell to the floor with a clang and I stared at my hands as they shook. Blood was everywhere. It dripped from my fingertips and pooled on the stone floor. As
the adrenaline waned, the horror of what I’d just done sunk in. I bit back the urge to scream. I backed away. “Hey,” Young called, dragging my attention back to him. He shook his head. “Look at me.” My heart pounded as my mind slipped back towards the lifeless heaps on the floor, dragging my gaze to them. “Charlotte,” Young called, but he was a distant voice floating negligibly through the back of my mind. Young stepped in front of me, blocking my view of the corpses. He took a firm grip of my wrist as if to hold me to the earth. I felt the warmth of his breath on my forehead, and the steady beat of his heart as his chest pressed against mine. My body numbed. My gaze crept up to his chin and stopped at his lips. My breath synchronized with his. I lifted my chin, my gaze meeting his. His dark eyes peered down at me, black as a moonless night with just as many stars. I searched them for clues, but if he felt something, he showed nothing at all. Feeling rushed back to my body all at once. I reached for my wrist and pried it out of his hand just in time to feel the bile rise from my stomach. I doubled over and vomited an acid more bitter than the emotions that caused it. When I caught my breath, I stood, feeling a sense of frailty in my legs that wasn’t there before. I looked up at Young. “Where’s—” “He’s still out there,” Young replied, his voice so even and smooth it sounded like a lie. A voice shot out from behind Young. “Prince Young, you found the princess.” A brown-haired boy in a soldier’s uniform approached. He couldn’t have been older than me. He had a baby face, softly curved features, and not a bit of hair on his chin. He looked more like a boy in costume than a warrior. “Leon,” Young said as he walked over to shake his hand. “Yeah, thanks to you.”
Young turned to me. “Charlotte, grab Milly. I’m going to… uh,” he tucked his dark hair behind his ear, “clean up.” I nodded and returned to the dining room where I knew Milly was hidden. “Milly, it’s me,” I looked around. “It’s safe.” I said the words, but I wasn’t sure how true they were. Milly crawled out from behind a sofa. Her eyes widened. “You’re covered in blood.” She lifted her arms in front of her body and clutched the hand-carved cross hanging from her neck. “No, it’s okay. I’m fine,” I said, moving toward her. She backed away, terror still in her eyes. “You killed them?” I shook my head. “N-no. I saved us. If I hadn’t done that, they would have—” Blood. So much blood. I shivered. “Passed by,” she whispered. “Milly…” Guilt seared my skin. It was the last emotion in the world I could stomach in this situation. I clenched my jaw with rage. They’d invaded my home, they might have killed my father, they could have killed us. I’d acted in the way that I thought was right, but looking into Milly’s eyes, it was obvious she felt different. Doubt started to creep in. The guilt slithered down my spine as Milly backed away. She thought I was a monster and maybe she was right. The door swung open and Leon and Young hustled in. “Leon has a plan,” Young said. He paused, noticing the tension in the room. His gaze moved from Milly to me. His eyebrow raised and he spoke, “That was a brave thing you did to save your friend, Charlotte.” He turned to Milly, his jaw clenched. “Let’s go.” I felt a warm vibration of gratitude pulse inside me. Before I could give it another thought, Young and Leon ushered Milly and myself out of the room and down the hallway. They carefully checked each corner before moving us along. I stared at Milly’s back and bit down hard on my bottom lip. I wanted to reach out to Milly to tell her it was okay—to let her know we were in this together—but she wouldn’t look at me. I saw the queasy look on her face when she’d seen the bodies of the two Drethen soldiers slumped into the corner in the hallway. It could take a while, but I’d get her back somehow—she was all I had left. We rounded the corner to the staircase in the east tower. The stone platforms wrapped around the tower led up to several bedrooms, one of which I had used to shoot an arrow at the prince when he arrived, and another down to a tunnel below the castle that exited a mile in the opposite direction. If we could make it out, we’d have a decent chance of escaping. I whispered, “I think they’re getting in this way.” Leon nodded and took the lead, followed by Milly, me, and Young just behind me. We descended the stairs into the poorly torch-lit tunnel. We paused at the entrance to listen for the enemy, but all we heard was the occasional drip of something leaking and the distant sounds of battle. We hustled through, still on our guard. The darkness reminded me of the fear I’d felt as a child. My mind always twisted the shadows into monsters. Now, as I trudged along, the monsters took a new form. Did my mother make it out? Was my father really dead? I reached out for Milly’s hair for comfort as it shone in the torchlight as we passed, but I stopped myself as I remembered Young was behind me. We walked single-file in a tense, uninterrupted silence the entire mile, expecting to hear someone shout. As we shuffled through the darkness, I picked at my hands, trying to focus on the faint light at the end as it grew nearer. We stepped out into the sunshine. My eyes locked onto two men in blue standing nearby.


My Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Worldbuilding: 2/5

Characterization: 4/5

Diversity: 4/5

I was lucky enough to receive this series free of charge as a participant in the Kingdom Cold book tour. Princess Charlotte’s disinterest in marry was the first part of this series that drew me in before I had read anything, but these books are fast-paced with multiple POVs that really draw you in and keep you paying attention.

This book is in fictional, medieval countries that take inspiration from our own countries. It’s not fantasy so there’s not tons of world building in this series, but there are definitely different countries that have their own cultures and norms. It comes through more in the characters we are introduced to then written description.

The characters are what really keep this book moving. They’re all unique with very distinctive voices that definitely give them some depth. I think the alternating POVs is my favorite aspect of this book. You really get a large picture of what is happening and everyone’s motivations. Charlotte’s personality is a bit hot and cold for me at times, but I think that really highlights how young she and sheltered she’s really been. I’m not a huge fan of her and her mom’s dynamic. There’s a bitterness that I just don’t enjoy. I need moms empowering daughters, not dragging them down. Something that did also bother me was the general portrayal of men in these books. Unless there’s a specific reason otherwise all the men in these books are shallow and petty. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a spin-off of Arthurian stories and that was just a general vibe they gave off, but I’m disappointed in the men’s lack of depth. Very one dimensional.

This book is culturally and racially diverse. Charlotte is a character of color as well as Young with both of them being from their own cultures. There are also other characters of color throughout the books. There are also some minor gay characters though nothing really happens with them except period typical homophobia which I wasn’t a huge fan of and some minor mentions of them maybe getting together.

Overall, this series was pretty enjoyable. I think I most enjoyed the first book. The characters have distinctive voices and there’s a bit of internal conflict that made the characters interesting to read. I felt kind meh about the second book in this series. It introduced a lot of new characters and set the scene which was interesting, but it really felt like the book was just to set the stage for the third and final book. The third and final book is where the story starts to really amp up. It’s the climax of the series after all. There are dragons, mages, and the dreaded love triangle. If you like Arthurian spin-offs with a diverse cast then this could be the series for you.


Want to know more?! Check out the other tour stops!

Fun Stuff

Book Tag: I Should Have Read That

Hello lovely readers, I read through this book tag that Sara @ The Bibliophagist posted about and it looked fun so I decided to do a post about it myself. Thanks for sharing Sara. Feel free to join in on the fun!

RULES:

  1. Thank the person who tagged you, and link back to their post.
  2. Link to the creator’s blog.
    This was originally created by Beth from Books Nest.
  3. Answer the questions below.
  4. Tag 10 others to take part.
  5. ENJOY!

A book that a certain friend always tells you to read

This one is a bit tricky for me since most of my friends aren’t big readers and I have read most of what they’ve said they liked. So, I’m going to put one down that I just read after being pestered for months about it.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I will admit I was extremely skeptical about reading this book. Why? I’m not quite sure. The summary interested me, but it seemed very much like traditional, European-based medieval fantasy. In a lot of ways that’s true, but the writing is so good that I really enjoyed it.


A book that has been on your TBR forever, and yet you still haven’t picked it up

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

I saw it. I feel like I could enjoy it. I haven’t gotten it. My list of unread books is piling up and I guess I just haven’t felt the pull enough to go out of my way to get this book.


A book in a series you have started, but haven’t gotten round to finishing

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

I loved The City of Brass. I pre-ordered this book I was so excited about it coming out, but I don’t know I just never have gotten around to actually reading it.


A classic you have always liked the sound of, but never actually read

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I head a lot that this book is A LOT to handle, but I’m also intrigued by it. I think there’s a lot going on there that I’d be interested in reading.

But Also,

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (maybe?)

This is the oldest novel found in Japan. I love Japanese history and I’ve really wanted to read this, but it is a beast of a book and every time I look at it I get a bit intimidated.


What do you think? Do you also have books you’ve felt like you should read? I’m interested to see all of your lists and hear your thoughts.

ARC

ARC Review- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Overall enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Note: A free copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will be officially released on July 23, 2019.

When I first requested to read this book through Netgalley I thought it was a present-day retelling. Not the case, this novel is set in the 1920s. It’s not a bad thing, but just something I thought might be of interest for others to know. I really enjoyed this story. I love most mythology themed novels, but this one dug deep and asked us to really consider what it means to be human and what it might mean to be a god.

The characters, as always for me, were a huge selling point. I think the author did a fantastic job of making her characters dynamic. There was no all good or all bad. I really vibed a lot with what Casiopea was feeling as a young woman and I think that really endeared her to me. She’s got a temper, but in this case, it was to her benefit. Then, Hun-KamÉ, honestly, he was probably my favorite. I loved the exploration between godhood and humanity that Moreno-Garcia did with him. While I love stories wrapped in myth I’m also very picky how gods are portrayed. This was a representation I really enjoyed.

World building was minor in that it was 1920s Earth, but the mythology and how it would interact with the world today was beautifully done. It was seamlessly woven. I feel like I learned a lot about certain parts of Mayan mythology.

Diversity. This was based purely on Hispanic/Mayan characters. Casiopea was also our main character. So, double points for having a woman of color as the protagonist!

Overall, if you enjoy the modernization of old gods I’d say you will definitely enjoy this book. Also, if that isn’t your cup of tea, but you enjoy a book that gives you some little bits to think over then you could still very much enjoy this book. It’s deeper than what you first might expect. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for its release this July!

ARC

ARC Review- Spin the Dawn by Eliabeth Lim

Overall enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Note: A free copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review

This book really surprised me. From reading the summary I thought it was going to basically be Mulan, but instead of being a solider she’d be a tailor. Spinning the Dawn is so much more than that! It does start out with a very Mulan feel in the beginning, but I love Mulan so that wasn’t a big deal to me. But, then the story expanded and we got into some nice lore of the world. I was completely sucked in for all, but a small portion of this book.

Now, lets talk about the characters. Mainly Maia and Edan. Maia is our Mulan, a strong, skilled woman who has big dreams that are limited by her gender. I really enjoyed reading her she’s strong and willing to work very hard for what she wants. The only thing that really was a downside of her was that she really didn’t seem to have a flaw. She had moments of weakness and being a woman in this story made things difficult for her, but otherwise I didn’t really pick up on a flaw. Edan, is charming. I was a bit suspicious of him and I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I really enjoyed his character. He’s where there’s a lot of cool backstory. He also doesn’t have to seem to really have a flaw. Other than the lack of even a small character flaw in my opinion I really enjoy these characters.

World building. I loved the bits of lore that this book gave us. There are obviously a variety of beliefs and stories. They’re so well written that I really enjoyed how they twined into the story. There’s some other little things with world building like different currency and whatnot, but I’m in it for the lore.

This book has diversity in that it is based around a woman of color based in a world that seems to be based to my understanding on China.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and got more out of it that I originally anticipated. If you enjoyed Mulan or just a good fantasy read I would encourage you to purchase this book when it is released on July 9th.

ARC, Reviews

ARC Review – Wild Country by Anne Bishop

Overview

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 3.5/5

World building 4/5

Diversity 2.5/5

Personal Summary: The 7th book is The Other series.

Bennett was a town wiped out the Namid’s Teeth and Claws, but it won’t stay that way for long. Humans are returning and with it the terra indigene are taking notice.

Jana wants to be a cop, Virgil has a grudge, and they’re going to have to learn to work together if they want to keep Bennett safe from humans that may have less than friendly intentions.

Note: This book can technically be read alone, but makes a lot more sense if you’ve read books 1-5.

Review

Note: I received Wild Country by Anne Bishop for free from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

First, let me say that I’m in love with the world of the others. It’s an urban fantasy like I haven’t read before and I just love it. There are many different types of werecreatures in this book and there’s so much going on. I must admit that while I did enjoy this book I will say that books 1-5, the original story line, are still very much my favorites.

Let’s start with the characters. There are so many. I loved those that I would consider the main characters. You have Jana whose always wanted to be a cop and has enough spunk to handle Virgil. I wasn’t sure at first if I’d like Virgil, but he definitely grew on me and he’s a big softy at heart. He bark is worse than his bite (usually). I particularly like his voice within the book. It gives a unique perspective that I really enjoy. Tolya, he’s basically the equivalent of a vampire, and he was kinda bland at first. He has a lot of dealings with Jesse though and it really brings out his character when he’s with her. Jesse is really great too. I loved all these characters, but there were also so many more characters. Honestly, too many characters for me. We were introduced to A LOT of characters and I don’t feel like some of them were really necessary unless there’s another book in this particular town (which I don’t believe is the case) and it left me with some questions that I never felt answered.

World building was good for an urban fantasy based novel. It’s based loosely on the world we have now only instead of humans being the dominant species the terre indigene (mostly what I would call werecreatures) are. The terre indigene are what really draws me into the story. Bishop gives them all a unique voice that I find really enjoyable.

The plot was a bit scattered to me. There was a lot going on in this book and again it was almost too much. I won’t say much on that because I don’t want to spoil things, but be ready. This book also has some western book-inspiration that I didn’t think I’d like, but actually enjoyed.

The diversity in this book. I’m unimpressed. Now, there was a gay couple and there was a neurodivergent child so let me explain why I was unimpressed. They felt forced and that they were only there to say the book had diversity. I doubt that was the author’s intent, but the diverse characters are introduced and then just kinda fade away or are in the background and never really given much attention. They had no really point in the book and I found that disappointing.

If you’d like to purchase Wild Country by Anne Bishop it’ll be released on March 5th and you can buy it here.