Review: Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas

0

Throne of Glass #2

SYNOPSIS: “A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for. – via Goodreads

Well, well, well, this series is shaping up to be far better than I had originally anticipated. Throne of Glass was decent, and enough to draw me in, and this book is a marked improvement over even that. We have moved on from that rather silly competition, and there is a lot more character growth going on here, and a look into all sorts of scheming and wheeling and dealing, that was only ever alluded to in the first book.

Chaol and Celaena totally get things rolling between them, and I do like them together. They fit nicely, and though Dorian is still sulking in the corner, he seems decent enough to be stepping back and not being some weird imposition the whole time. I think he will definitely find someone else that works for him so much, and I can’t wait to see who that is. Okay, but on the Chaol and Celeana front – I was so peeved about the let down that it was when they finally got to bedding each other. I didn’t necessarily want super raunchy or anything, but after 1.5 books, it was a bit tame and such a let down. Oh well. Also, while I do like them together, I don’t think they will last together. Chaol is too blindly loyal to the King, and oftentimes comes across as someone who has no sense of self, just a puppet. And he can be really whiny. I think that while he is good for Celaena now, she is certainly stronger than he is, so I guess we will see where they go together.

Anyway, Celeana being the King’s Champion means that she is up to all sorts of things, though she is steadfast against helping Nehemia and her rebel movement in any which way. This leads to obligatory strife, but all is good. There are plenty characters going about things in this book, but we still really focus on the main ones. Dorian, too, is going through some interesting things, and I can see how important this is going to be later on, which is all good for me, and I am totally looking forward to seeing what the King has really been up to and what his future plans are. I really wished we had gotten more time with Dorian in this, but whatever time we did get seemed to be well spent.

Crown of Midnight is a pretty damn good read. It reads quickly and sucks you in and gives you so much more of the world that Maas is successfully building. There is a plot twist at the end that isn’t really much of a plot twist, and has a second plotsie to go with it which also doesn’t shock much, but it is good to know that it is all in the open and I am keen to see where all goes from here. I am quite liking these!

Review: Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

2

Throne of Glass #1

SYNOPSIS: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined. – via Goodreads

Well, after the pain and suffering that was the Court of Thorns and Roses books, I have been super reticent about checking any more of Maas’s work out, though I have wondered about this series off and on for years. Seriously, after that flipping A Court of Mist and Fury (truly, fuck that book to the ends of the earth), I was not even remotely interested. Natasha realised that I had a major issue with Maas after that, and when she read these, she loved them, but kept it low key and didn’t even remotely recommend that I check them out. So, with no pressure, I eventually needed something to read recently and was really in the mood for some fantasy. That is how we ended up here.

Well, this is a totally different beast compared to the ACOTAR series. For one, I actually liked it. For reals. Yes, sure, the book is still plagued with the typical Maas issue of being far longer than necessary, but aside from that, I was actually interested. The book is also really easy to read, and just breezes by, even though it is a touch long. There is, of course, this little love triangle that crops up in it, and it almost feels that it didn’t strictly need to be in it.

Celaena is not a nuisance, and I quite liked her. I know that she is cocky and self sure, but this is not necessarily a bad thing – she has spine and oomph, and I like that. Then there is Chaol, and this is the horse I was backing! Yes, Dorian is beautiful and charming and all that (and I certainly want so much more of him and did love reading about him and Celaena), but Chaol is the one that I was all for. He challenges her and sees her and just… they click really well together. That being said, I would love more Dorian. The competition that we get in this to set everything up is not quite as hardcore as one would expect, and fluctuates between being written about in a lot of detail or being glossed over. The third act with all its reveals and all that is where things really start rolling, and sets up for a lot more to come.

Overall, I quite liked Throne of Glass. There is a lot of potential to be found in this series, and I am interested to see where it all goes. I totally did not expect to like these books at all, but so far, so good! Yes, a little long winded, and Maas still has a really nasty fixation on vomit, but neither of those detracts from the story. I will most certainly be reading more in this series.

 

Review: Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman

3

Practical Magic #1

SYNOPSIS: The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic… – via Goodreads

You know, I remember watching this movie when I was younger and enjoying it. I have not seen it in years, and I think I might give it a shot again. I might have to to see how it all comes together. Meanwhile, back to the book itself? I am not a fan. I don’t get how this is a cult classic. Practical Magic feels like a book that had high aspirations and shot for the stars and completely missed.

For one, I could have done with more magic. I mean way more. But then I was all like no worries, let’s go for an understated kind of magic, but it even manages to let you down. There are sections of the book that should get under your skin and give you a creep factor and a fear for the characters, but that, too, is glanced over so quickly and you never really get to sink your teeth int any kind of emotion. I think a big issue for me is that I am not a fan of the style in which Hoffman wrote this. It’s just… rushed, like you are reading someone’s notes for an idea for the story.

I did like the way the sisters were with each other, how they pulled together and pushed apart the whole time. There were also Sally’s daughters, whom I liked. I thought the relationship between Kylie and Gideon to be so sweet and childlike, and it worked. The love angle for this book was seriously just… meh. Bland. Forced. Rushed. Senseless. There are so many words that I could use here to describe it, but it just fell flat.

As you can tell, Practical Magic was not my favourite read. It’s a book that feels incomplete and rushed, and I don’t get the love for it. There were aspects I truly enjoyed and plenty of places where I could see the awesomeness trying to break through, but overall it was a complete waste for me. Oh well. I can say I have read it now at least.

Review: The Summer Children – Dot Hutchison

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The Collector #3

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: This FBI agent has come to expect almost anything—just not this…

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might. – via Goodreads

Just quickly: it chaps my ass I can’t find a proper, big image for this damn review of the cover. UGH!

You know, I really have a like/hate relationship with these books. They are by no means bad books, not at all, but I find them to be wildly inconsistent and that they never really deliver the goods. Ever. Now, let’s move on.

The Summer Children naturally features all these terribly broken FBI agents once again. You don’t dislike them, but you have to wonder how they are all cleared for duty, what with their various issues, because their issues are not necessarily ones they have successfully dealt with, as the fear is constantly with them. Anyway. We also, naturally, have Priya, Bliss, and Inara rejoin in here, and it is always nice to read about them.

This book focuses on Mercedes and all the crap she has been through, and I must say this book has been my least favourite read of the lot so far. I don’t know why. I read it and I was interested, but I always feel that while Hutchison deals with dark topics, they don’t have a true feeling of dread. It is also not helped along when you read about all this awful stuff going down, and these agents revert to children, all having huge sleepovers and falling apart at the seams.

I don’t think these are books I will ever go back to reread, but if Hutchison does any more I will likely read them because they aren’t difficult reads. Yes, they deal with some heavy issues, but as I said, it feels more like they are touched upon than actually explored really in depth. If you have read the books, you will know what I mean. I mean we explore nasty crimes and get in depth looks at different characters in each of the books, but it feels superficial when all is said and done. Okay, I am going to stop now. I don’t really have anything other to say than it was okay.

Review: Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare

7

The Dark Artifices #1

SYNOPSIS: It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it? – via Goodreads

Oh. My. Gosh. Yes, me, back at these books, because I am a hopeless Cassandra Clare junkie. In the most extreme. Any excuse to return to the world of Shadowhunters and I am there. So. I am very pleased that a few years have passed in between since City of Heavenly Fire, as that was the one thing I was worried about – I wasn’t really in the mood to read about 12 years olds. However, Clare masterfully moves us on a few years until after the turmoil that was Sebastian Morgenstern is not the be all and end all.

So we move on with Emma Carstairs, and I grew to quite like her. Then again, I expected nothing less. Cassandra Clare writes great characters. Oh, and Julian. I love it. I feel for him, I really do. That he is the pillar the holds the family up is so sad. Mark Blackthorn returns, and I felt for him. I am so pleased that he has returned, but it has most certainly not been an easy return. Not for him, and not for the Blackthorn family. I had a suspicion the Kieran thing was going to go the way it did, but that was fine. Also, exploring two parabatai that want more than they may have, this has seriously interesting potential to it. Then again, what would a Clare book be without a forbidden love angle? Not that I am complaining, she delivers the goods better than anyone else!

I loved reading about Magnus Bane, even though it was just snippets. And, naturally, slurping up any and all information pertaining to Clary and Jace, because, you know, that was just soooo my jam.

Okay, so something that did annoy me a bit? We are always told and reminded how rare parabatai are (and you know how incredibly fascinated I am by the concept), though it is starting to turn into every second person has one, and I don’t like that. It’s like… it’s killing the magic?

But, mini gripe aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this. A new story, with new issues, events deeply rooted in the events of The Mortal Instruments series, and yet confident enough to stand on its own, I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Midnight. Not Clare’s strongest offering ever, but not one to be overlooked. I cannot wait to see where this story goes.

Review: The Last Widow – Karin Slaughter

2

Will Trent #9

I received this in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves. – via Goodreads

YES! YES! I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of this, you all know I am a ridiculously huge Karin Slaughter fan. I started this pretty much the second I got my hands on it, and I had no regrets. As with all Slaughter’s work (bar Pieces of Her), you will get sucked in almost immediately, and the story barrels along super fast.

The Last Widow flips between characters, telling the story simultaneously from differing perspectives, and it works so well. I absolutely love reading about Sara and Will, I think they are great together. It is a testament of Slaughter’s writing that she managed to merge two series so successfully, and especially how she brings Sara and Will together, and there is no resentment (because come on, Jeffrey man). The side characters don’t get as much focus in this one, making them more bit characters than usual, but that is alright.

I thought the story for The Last Widow was engrossing and interesting. The book  has it all – romance, action, drama, the works. Sara’s family makes an appearance again, and some truly hurtful things are said in that section, but it definitely contributes to all that goes on.The Last Widow is without a doubt a whirlwind read. The events take place really quickly, so the book is essentially a snapshot of time with characters we have grown to love over the years. I absolutely cannot wait for more in this series!

Review: The Wicked King – Holly Black

9

The Folk of the Air #2

SYNOPSIS: You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. – via Goodreads

OMG. OMG. Like really now! So as you know, I quite liked The Cruel Prince, and I was looking forward to seeing how things were going to go after Jude played all her fancy pants tricks on Cardan and burnt her bridges with Madoc and family.

So starting up shortly after the end of all the trickery, the book gets right down to business. While I do think the logic of Jude deceiving Cardan into bearing the crown as king was a little uneven, it is how we get the story. I mean I understand the whole concept of them wanting Oak to rule, but it just seems sketchy, conning Madoc out of the regency and forcing Cardan in.

Naturally, things are a little different between Jude and Cardan now, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Like, there was finally more interaction between them – he wasn’t just some character off in the distance anymore. Cardan and Jude have a strange relationship, and it is fantastic. I love the tension built between them, and the misery and the longing and the anger. I have a lot of time for it. It is not the newest of all relationships ever written or anything, but I appreciate the way Black has built them. I am also quite taken with the concept of fairies not being able to lie, because it gives another dynamic to the games that they are playing with each other. 

The Wicked King certainly delivers the goods in terms of events and things happening, scheming, wheeling, and dealing. I do enjoy how that was all woven together, and things are certainly becoming more intense. There was so much cracking with the war brewing, so obviously I was sold. There is backstabbing and desperation, devious and calculating plans, mayhem, so yes. I liked the way the book was written, barrelling along and flowing and keeping you super hooked. There are characters you are never going to like, and others you do. Jude and Madoc also have a rather strained connection, and it is interesting to read about, with so much going on in it.

Also, the end of Chapter 15? Whoooooo *fans self*.

I wasn’t even finished with this when I pre-ordered the last book in the trilogy. January seems like it is forever and a day away! I say that these books are so worth the read!

Review: Killing November – Adriana Mather

2

Killing November #1

SYNOPSIS: It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim. – via Goodreads

So it is rather well known that I was a huge fan of How to Hang a Witch, and that I thoroughly enjoyed the follow up, Haunting the Deep. When I saw Mather was bringing a new book, I was stoked. I then saw that it was not part of the series, but figured why not? Why shouldn’t I be equally as excited? I preordered the book even, and was so happy when it arrived. However, I was in the midst of a Shadowhunter reread, and so it waited until I was good and ready, which was while I was off sick recently.

The disappointment was real peeps. So painful. I really wanted to love this. I think Mather is super sweet and cool and I really enjoyed her other books, but this was a fantastical chore to work through. There are no likeable characters, the romance is so flat (I mean seriously, we had Sam and Elijah in the last books and I couldn’t get enough of that). The concept, too, is something that could have been amazing (think John Wick type schooling), but instead you get this… lame stuff to wade through. The events weren’t exciting, the history was bland, the characters sucked, and just overall, this didn’t play like I was hoping it would. Oh well.

I was even more horrified by the time I reached the end of the book, though I can’t deny I did see this coming. It is only the first book in a series. Instead of engendering excitement for me, I am just flat. We need more from the How to Hang a Witch series, it worked so much better. Anyway, reading reviews on Goodreads, it would seem that my opinion is in the minority and this is wildly popular with most other people. Me? Not so much. I honestly will not be going out for the next book.

Review: Dangerous Lady – Martina Cole

0

Maura Ryan #1

SYNOPSIS: No one thinks a seventeen-year-old girl can take on the hard men of London’s gangland, but it’s a mistake to underestimate Maura Ryan: she’s tough, clever and beautiful —and she’s determined that nothing will stand in her way. Which makes her one very dangerous lady.

Together, she and her brother Michael are unbeatable: the Queen and King of organised crime, they run the pubs and clubs, the prostitutes and pimps of the West End. With Maura masterminding it, they pull off an audacious gold bullion robbery and have much of the Establishment in their pockets.

But notoriety has its price. The police are determined to put Maura away once and for all —and not everyone in the family thinks that’s such a bad idea. When it comes to the crunch, Maura has to face the pain of lost love in her past —and the dangerous lady discovers her heart is not made entirely of stone. – via Goodreads

 

Oh man, I haven’t read these books since I was in high school, and I recently got a library card for the library down the road from me (amazing, first one I have had since I was a young girl). When I saw this on the shelf, I was like REREAD TIME! It had been so long that I remembered bits and pieces, and thought it was time to look at the overall whole again. So damn pleased I did.

Martina Cole usually writes about the gritty London underbelly, and I read a lot of her books in high school. They won’t be for everyone. However, I do feel that this book stands above her others (and I am not a huge fan of her work in general). It’s excellent. Dangerous Lady is a masterfully crafted affair. It is a whole family that rises above, takes over London, rules over an empire. You all know how I love my mobster style stories. This was no exception.

There are an abundance of characters littered throughout this book, but you never get lost and forget them, and I feel that that alone is masterfully crafted. Maura, too, is a fantastic character. She is a unique character, a strong woman, who rose higher than what society said she was allowed to for her era. She is complex, and remains so throughout. The relationship between her and Michael is really something, too, as those two are thick as thieves.

The writing flows smoothly and the way the plot is presented and how time advances throughout the novel to tell the story of the Ryan family is good, too. It just fits. You cannot help but be drawn into this world, and it comes across and gritty, dangerous, and wholly believable. It just draws you in. The book doesn’t have a whole lot of twists, but that is alright. This is more of a family drama that comes to power and just overall great to read, especially when you take into consideration how old Cole was when she wrote this.

Overall Dangerous Lady is an absolutely absorbing read, has a great story and an array of characters and situations that will keep you hooked and it just barrels along. I loved every second of it and highly recommend this.

Review: The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

5

The Folk of the Air #1

SYNOPSIS: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. – via Goodreads

After taking forever to schlepp through another book, I wanted something that wasn’t going to make me pull out my hair in frustration and feel like work. I decided to give this a shot to see how it would work out, and boy oh boy, I had absolutely no idea it was going to spark my latest obsession. 

I really liked the opening for The Cruel Prince. Like, right off the bat we have strife and murder and the book keeps rolling from there. Holly Black gets to the story quick as can be, and I appreciate that. A story set in Faerie is always something that can either work really well for me, or backfire completely. This is certainly in the former category.

I really liked the world that Black creates, and I appreciate how complex the story is, and you don’t even realise. I only got to grips with it when trundling along in my book when all sorts of freaking crazy broke out, and I was like “whaaaaa?!” and my husband asked what was cracking because (of course) I was very vocal while reading. Dear lord, that explanation started simply enough, and then I was backtracking and breaking stuff down and then I realised that there was so much more going on, but Black has woven it in such a way that it feels straightforward and simple enough, but gives you tons to pick apart.

The relationship between Madoc and Jude is such a complex one, and I am really interested to see what comes of this one. Madoc himself is a rather layered character, and I truly hope he is not wasted. I am not too keen on either Tarynor Vivi, but I guess we will have to see where that all goes. Cardan is a character who is hateful, and yet the more you get into it, the more complex he becomes. Obviously the whole hate you thing with Jude is where it starts but won’t stay, but I do so like how it is done. 

Anyway, as you can tell, I really liked this. Here I thought I was in for a quick, easy read, and before I knew what was happening, I was hooked and enchanted. The story barrels along, the book is an easy, engaging read, and there is so much potential going on. Plus, there is the whole Jude and Cardan thing to keep your eyes peeled for, that could really turn into something.