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ARC Review: Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Summary

Years ago, the house at the end of the lane burned down. The townspeople never learned what happened, but Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth of what happened that summer—and they’ll never say a word. When they were told they’d be spending their summer with their great aunt, Mae and Rossa were anything but thrilled. But nothing at Rita’s is as it appears. Bevan is enthralled by a dangerous power lurking behind the walls of Rita’s home. The power—known as Sweet James—is hungry, and what he wants most is a taste of the twins. And Bevan wants the magic and escape that Sweet James is offering her. But Sweet James is never satisfied, no matter what Bevan brings him. Mae would give Bevan almost anything—she is in the grip of first love, both dying for Bevan’s attention and worried she’ll get it. But Rossa is learning some of the terrible secrets the house is hiding, secrets that paralyze him with fear. As the summer draws to a close, Bevan tries to free Sweet James from his prison within the walls, but is thwarted by Rita and her cat (who is more than a cat), Bobby Dear.

It’s over for Mae and Rossa, isn’t it? They return home. They don’t talk about the strangeness of that summer. But it never completely abandons them. And things at home only get worse.

And so three years later, Rossa and Mae are sent once again to Rita’s home, as their parents’ marriage finally seems to crumble. At first it seems that the strangeness has dissipated. But Sweet James never left. He has been lurking within the walls, waiting the perfect time to return. He’s been waiting much longer than any of them know—any of them except Rita, who has been keeping secrets of her own. Secrets that bring the house down in flames around them and bring them all to the brink of the things they most want—and what they most fear.

Sarah Maria Griffin is a rare talent with a unique and atmospheric writing style. Fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints and Libba Bray’s The Diviners will devour this dark and unusual novel.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, fellow readers! Have you started your reading goals for 2019? Let me know if you have and how many books you’re hoping to compete by the end of the year! I’m going for 50! Anyways, today, I’ll be talking about Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin.

First and foremost, I’d like to state the moral of story: don’t have wallpaper in your house. Just use paint to decorate your walls instead. Just kidding! There is no such thing as moral or definitive lesson in complicated stories. And this book was definitely that. Not only are there multiple POVs that aren’t labelled and leave you guessing who it is sometimes, but there are so many mysteries in this novel. Some of them are only meant to be viewed for a moment and never heard of again. Others are more likely to be mentioned later, especially in relation to Sweet James and Bobby Dear. By the way, if a character is named Sweet James, that’s a red flag for disaster!

Anyways, that’s all I have to say about Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes a good thriller, or Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand. Have any questions about Other Words for Smoke? Send them my way via the Comments Section! And for those of you who are interested, this book is in store on March 12th, 2019.

Thanks for reading!

–  Sumaya

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Blog Tour: White Stag by Kara Barbieri (Excerpt Post)

Hello, fellow readers! Today, I’m really excited to be a part of the blog tour for White Stag by Kara Barbieri! If you’re lovers of fantasy, feel free to read on for a summary and excerpt of the novel. 😉

Summary

White Stag_cover image

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.

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Excerpt

1

MASQUERADE
THE FIRST THING I learned as a hunter was how to hide. There was a skill in disappearing in the trees like the wind and merging into the river like stones; masquerading yourself as something you weren’t was what kept you alive in the end. Most humans didn’t think the masquerade was as important as the kill, and most humans ended up paying for it with their lifeblood.

Here, as the only mortal in a hall of monsters, I was very glad that I was not most humans.

I kept my steps silent and my back straight as I passed beneath the white marble pillars. My eyes flickered around me every so often, counting hallways, retracing my steps, so I could escape at a moment’s notice. The Erlking’s palace was treacherous, full of twists and turns, stairways that led into nowhere, and places where the hallways dropped to gaping chasms. According to Soren, there were also hollow spaces in the walls where you could slink around unnoticed to the mundane and the monstrous eye, but you could hear and see all that went on in the open world. The lair of a king, I thought bitterly. I dared not say it out loud in case someone was near. But beside me, Soren sensed my disgust and made a sound deep in his throat. It could’ve been agreement.

Soren examined his king’s palace with the usual contempt; his cold, calculating eyes took in everything and betrayed nothing. His lips turned down in a frown that was almost etched permanently into his face. Sometimes I forgot he was capable of other expressions. He didn’t even smile when he was killing things; as far as goblins went, that was a symptom of chronic depression. He lifted his bored gaze at the gurgling, choking sound coming from his right, and it took all my willpower not to follow his line of sight. When I felt the subtle whoosh of power transfer from one body to the next, my fingers twitched to where I’d slung my bow, only to remember too late that it had been left at the entrance of the keep in accordance with ancient tradition.

A scream echoed off the cavernous passageways as we made our way to the great hall where everyone gathered. It sent chills down my spine with its shrillness before it was abruptly cut off. Somehow, that made me shiver even more. Ancient tradition and custom aside, nothing could stop a goblin from killing you if that was what they desired. My hand reached for my nonexistent bow again, only to be captured by cold, pale fingers.

Soren’s upper lip curled, but his voice was low and steady. “The next time you reach for a weapon that isn’t there might be the last time you have hands to reach with,” he warned. “A move like that will invite conflict.”

I yanked myself away from his grip and suppressed the urge to wipe my hand on my tunic like a child wiping away cooties. “Force of habit.”

Soren shook his head slightly before continuing on, his frown deepening with each step he took.

“Don’t look so excited. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

He raised a fine white eyebrow at me. “I don’t look excited. I’m scowling.”

I bit back a sigh. “It’s sarcasm.”

“I’ve told you before, I don’t understand it,” he said.

“None of goblinkind understands sarcasm,” I said. “In another hundred years I’m going to lose my understanding completely.”

Another hundred years. It hadn’t hit me yet, not until I said it out loud. Another hundred years. It had been a hundred years since my village was slaughtered, a hundred years as a thrall in Soren’s service. Well, ninety-nine years and eight months, anyway, but who’s counting? Despite the century passing by, I still looked the same as I had when I was forcefully brought into this cursed land. Or, at least, mostly; the scars on my chest hadn’t been there a hundred years ago, and the now-hollow spot where my right breast should have been burned. The four months when I’d belonged to another were not something I liked to think about. I still woke up screaming from nightmares about it. My throat went dry and I swallowed. Soren isn’t Lydian.

“You look tense,” Soren said, breaking me out of my thoughts. I’d crossed my arms over my chest. Not good. A movement like that was a sign of weakness. It was obvious to everyone that I was the weakest being here, but showing it would do me no good.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just don’t like this place.”

“Hmm,” Soren said, eyes flickering around the hall. “It does lack a certain touch.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“The entire design of the palace is trite and overdone.”

I blinked. “Okay, then.”

By now we’d entered the great hall where the reception was held. Every hundred years, the goblins were required to visit the Erlking and swear their fealty. Of course, their loyalty only extended to him as long as he was the most powerful—goblins weren’t the type of creature to follow someone weaker than themselves.

The palace, for what it was worth, was much grander than most other parts of the goblin domain. Soren’s manor was all wood, stone, and ice, permanently freezing. Nothing grew—I knew because I had tried multiple times to start a garden—but the roots never took to the Permafrost. Here, it was warm, though not warm enough that I couldn’t feel the aching chill deep in my bones. The walls were made of pure white marble with intricate designs far above what a goblin was capable of creating, and streaked with yellow and red gold like open veins. It was obviously made by humans. Goblinkind were incredible predators and hunters, gifted by the Permafrost itself, but like all creatures, they had their flaws. The inability to create anything that wasn’t used for destruction was one of the main reasons humankind were often stolen from their lands on raids and put to work in the Permafrost.

Soren’s scowl deepened as we passed under a canopy of ice wrought to look like vines and flowers. “I feel like I need to vomit,” he said.

I stopped in my tracks. “Really?” I swore, if I ended up having to clean up Soren’s vomit …

He glanced at me, a playful light in his lilac eyes. “Sarcasm? Did I do it right?”

“No.” I forced myself not to roll my eyes. “Sarcasm would be when you use irony to show your contempt.”

“Irony?” He shook his head, his long white hair falling into his face.

“Saying one thing when you mean the other, dramatically.”

“This is beneath me,” he muttered. Then, even quieter, he said, “This place is in dire need of a redecoration.”

“I’m not even entirely sure what to say to that.” With those words, he flashed me a wicked grin that said little and suggested much. I turned away, actually rolling my eyes this time. For a powerful goblin lord, Soren definitely had the ability to act utterly childish. It could be almost endearing at times. This, however, was not one of those times.

In the hall, the gazes on the back of my neck were sharp as knives. I kept my head straight, trying my hardest not to pay attention to the wolfish faces of the other attendees.

From a distance they could almost be mistaken for human. They varied in size and shape and the color of their skin, hair, and eyes much like humans did. But even so, there was a sharpness to their features, a wildness, that could never be mistaken for human. The figures dressed in hunting leathers, long and lean, would only seek to torment me if I paid them any attention. As the only human in the hall, I was a curiosity. After all, what self-respecting goblin would bring a thrall to an event as important as this? That could very easily get me killed, and I wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon. My hand almost twitched again, but I stopped it just in time, heeding Soren’s warning.

We finally crossed the floor to where the Erlking sat. Like Soren’s, the Goblin King’s hair was long. But unlike Soren, whose hair was whiter than the snow, the Erlking’s hair was brown. Not my brown, the color of fallen leaves, underbrush, and dark cherry wood, but murky, muddy brown. It was the color of bog mud that sucks down both humans and animals alike and it somehow managed to make his yellow-toned skin even sallower. He was the strongest of all goblins, and I hated him for it. I also feared him—I was smart enough for that—but the fear was drowned out by the blood rushing in my ears as I locked eyes with Soren’s king.

Soren turned to me. “Stay here.” His eyes turned hard, the glimmer of light leaving them. Whatever softness he had before drained away until what was left was the hard, cold killer he was known to be, and with it went the last shreds of warmth in his voice. “Until I tell you otherwise.” Subtly, he jerked his pointer finger at the ground in a wordless warning.

I bowed my head. “Don’t take too long.”

“I don’t plan to,” he said, more to himself than to me, before approaching the Erlking’s throne. He went to one knee. “My king.”

I eyed Soren from underneath the curtain of my hair. His hands were clenched in fists at his sides. He must’ve sensed something from the Erlking, from the other goblins, something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Cautiously, I directed my gaze to the Goblin King himself, aware that if I looked at him the wrong way, I might be inviting my own death. While the behavior and treatment of thralls varied widely among goblins, I had a feeling submissiveness was required for any human in the Erlking’s path.

This close, the Erlking’s eyes were dark in his shriveled husk of skin and there was a tinge of sickness in the air as he breathed his raspy breaths. His eyes flickered up to meet mine and I bowed my head again. Don’t attract attention.

Soren spat out the vows required of him in the old tongue of his kind, the words gravelly and thick. He paused every so often, like he was waiting for when he would be free to drive his hand through his king’s chest, continuing on with disappointment every time.

The tension around the room grew heavier, pressing down on those gathered. Somehow, like dogs sniffing out blood, they all knew the king was weak. Beautiful she-goblins and terrifying goblin brutes were all standing there waiting until it was legal to kill him.

Beside the weakened king’s throne, a white stag rested on a pile of rushes. Its eyes were closed, its breath slow. Its skin and antlers shone with youth, but the ancient power it leaked pressed heavy against my shoulders. That power was older than anything else in the world—maybe older than the world itself.

Goblins were, before all things, hunters. Born to reap and not to sow. Cursed with pain upon doing any action that did not in some way fit into the power the Permafrost gave them, the goblins fittingly had the submission of the stag as the symbol of their king’s ultimate power. Until it runs.

I didn’t want to think about what happened after that.

Soren continued to say his vows. The guttural language was like ice shards to my ears, and I shuddered. Catching myself about to fidget, I dug my fingers into my thigh. Control yourself, Janneke, I thought. If they can do it, you can.

A soft voice whispered in my ear, “Is that you, Janneka?” His breath tickled the back of my neck, and every muscle in my body immediately locked. Icy dread trickled down my spine, rooting me in place.

Don’t pay attention to him. He’ll go away.

“I know you can hear me, sweetling.”

Yes, I could hear him, and the sound of his voice made me want to vomit. My mouth went dry.

CREDIT: WHITE STAG by KARA BARBIERI Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.  

Buy Link From the Publisher’s Site

About the Author

Kara BarbieriKara Barbieri is a writer living in the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin. An avid fantasy fan, she began writing White Stag at eighteen and posting it to Wattpad soon after under the name of ‘Pandean’. When she’s not writing, you can find her marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reviving gothic fashion, and jamming to synthpop. Kara Barbieri’s Twitter handle is @PandeanPanic.

 

 

 

For those of you who are interested, White Stag can be found in stores on January 8th, 2019! Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

 

Blog Tour: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Summary

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hey, everyone! So excited to be a part of this blog tour! It was a real treat to read Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons and I can’t wait to talk more about it. 😉

Firstly, I really did appreciate the different POVs in this book. Whether it was how they were woven together to tell a story or just sharing another character’s view, I was all in! You would also see that same character in the eyes of another main character, which would make the former even more developed. My only qualm with the novel character-wise is that by the end, while the plot seemed rushed, the character development couldn’t catch up enough for my liking. I felt that if the story went on for at least another book, then this sudden shift in a particular character could be explored. But all readers get is a jarring change in a particular character rather than the subtle development of others.

Another really great thing I loved about this book was the world it was set in. It was yokai versus humans with Akira in the middle, not really knowing where he should stand. There are the Animal Wives and Mari’s failure to fit in with them. Taro disagreeing with his father’s views but cannot openly oppose them. All these characters have something in common: they all want more. To pair these wants with rich Japanese mythology makes it even better! Plus, if there are any fans of The Selection, you definitely should give this book a read!

Overall, I was really taken by this book, which is kind of weird since I haven’t been into fantasy lately… but if I got into it, it probably says something good about the book! Anyways, for anyone who is interested, Empress of All Seasons is already in stores near you! And if you have any questions about the book, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Q & A from the Author

Sumaya: Out of the three different points of view in the novel, did you have a favourite point of view?

Emiko: Yes. This is difficult to admit because as I writer I’d like to say I love all my characters equally but I loved Akira most. He was the character I developed first. I love his origin story. And I also identified with him the most. He feels that he straddles two worlds, yōkai and human, and as a mixed-race person I am very familiar with that feeling.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day!

– Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Summary

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

Hi, everybody! I’m back with another review. But first, I’d like to apologize to anyone wanting to comment on Monday’s blog post and found that they couldn’t. I didn’t realize the Comments Section was closed until the next day. I love hearing what people think and will make sure to double-check to see if the Comments Section is open.

Anyways, back to today’s review, which is on L.L. McKinney’s debut, A Blade So Black. It starts off with some action, setting the stage for two of the main characters and their dynamic. This relationship between Alice and her mentor, Addison, was one of the main reasons that I liked the book. They cared for one another on a really deep and emotional level. However, readers only get to see the result of spending months together, so who knows? It might have not been the best teacher-student relationship in the beginning. 😄

I also appreciated how the author adapted Alice in Wonderland to fit into her retelling. I honestly loved all the changes she made, and thought that it made the story more enriched and engaging. One of my major hang-ups on retellings is when the retelling could be exactly the same as the story, with the exception of setting or something like that. It’s always nice to see what authors add on to an older story, you know?

The only thing I that I didn’t like when reading the book was that sometimes I’d go from really invested to looking around the room in semi-boredom. Thankfully, the ending was interesting enough to redeem the novel overall, but I doesn’t erase how I fell in and out of reading at times.

Well, that’s all I have to say about A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney today. I liked what it brought to the table as a retelling, even though it had its slow moments. If you have any questions or comments about this book, though, feel free to leave them in the Comments Section below! And remember, if you’re interested in reading A Blade So Black, the book comes out on September 25th, 2018!

And as always, thanks for reading everyone!

– Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

Summary

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

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Review

My rating:

green25

Hi, there! I’m back with another review, this one being on Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez. I received this book via NetGalley by being one of the first few people to request the ARC and read it. Now, at the time, it did really seem intriguing, being a Tristan and Eseult retelling. I remember enjoying medieval romance a lot during my time at university. But then this book reminded me why I didn’t like Tristan and Eseult when studying it briefly in school and almost wish I didn’t request it.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked some elements of the book. For instance, the sisterly bond between Branwen and Eseult was one of the best things to come out of the novel, in my opinion. The way they cared for each other, even when Eseult was being self-centred or Branwen stoic, had me rooting for this femship. They’re each other’s balm and comfort, often referencing the hazelnut and honeysuckle tree that are entwined, neither being able to live without the other (from the original tale). Also, this book got me thinking about arguments and how even though Eseult had a point in that she’s being treated more as a symbol than a person, she seems to be in the wrong because a lot of the time, she acts like a petulant child. Meanwhile, everyone else acts calmly about the fact that she’s being married off to a person she didn’t choose, worse yet because their kingdoms are enemies. But everyone else sees this as an opportunity to stop the warring between the countries and don’t see it as a problem if she marries for duty rather than love.

A main reason I gave this novel a low rating though, wasn’t because of the writing style, but because by the time I figured out that the retelling included the love potion, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was administered. The only problem was that I didn’t know when. So afterwards, I couldn’t get into the story the same way as I did before. Maybe the sequels will add some more interesting twists…

Well, that’s all for now! If you’re interested in reading medieval retellings, I would suggest reading Sweet Black Waves, since the writing style is pretty engaging. If you have any comments or questions about this book, though, let me know in the Comments Section below.

Have a nice day, everyone!

–  Sumaya

ARC Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Summary

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

Sourced from Goodreads

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Review

My rating:

Hello, fellow readers! Another day, another book read! Today, I’ll be reviewing Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Stories, short stories set in the same world as The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. I was so happy to get a chance to read this as I’ve loved the author’s previous books! And I’m glad to say that these short stories didn’t disappoint!

The collection is comprised of three short stories, focusing on the relationships of Night and Death, Aasha and Zahril, as well as Gauri and Vikram. These stories were pretty engaging in getting into the heads of the protagonist, describing the plight in such exquisite detail! And the romance! Oh, my! The romance between these characters was just amazing! It reminded me of old relationships within the previous books as well while also giving me a burgeoning new relationship that make my heart flutter!

Also, I’ve got to say that I’m a big fan of Roshani Chokshi’s writing style. It’s beautifully descriptive, with imagery that gets you right inside the stories. Even when nothing’s going on at that specific moment, I couldn’t help but enjoy the story because of the writing.

Overall, I really liked reading these short stories, with the only thing I can comment on is the fact that they’re way too short for my liking! 😉 But such is the way of a lot of the stories I’ve been reading and loving lately. I just hope to see more stories from this series! If anyone is a fan of this author’s work or would like a taste of her writing, I would definitely recommend reading Star-Touched Stories. And to those who are interested, the book comes out on August 7th, 2018!

That’s all for now! Have a wonderful day, everyone!

– Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Summary

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

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Review

My rating:

purple2.5

I received this copy from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Hi, fellow book lovers! I’m finally back with another review, this one being on The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. Well, this review has been in the works for a long while now! But it’s finally done! To be honest, that’s kind of how I felt reading the novel, especially near the end. I loved Cynthia Hand’s other books, so this was kind of a let-down for me.

First of all, the retelling sounded pretty interesting. I’ve never read or watched A Christmas Carol, but I’ve heard of Ebenezer Scrooge, bah humbug, and all that jazz. Anyways, it was really nice to read and learn more about the tale in general, the roles people play in the Scrooge’s life and vice versa. I loved the concept of what would happen if the story wasn’t tied up with a happily ever after once Scrooge learned the error of his ways. What would happen if he thought it was all a big joke? Well, this book goes into detail answering that and more by creating a world where people are trying to save others before it’s too late. It did bring up some questions for me, though. Like, why couldn’t it be certain times of the year instead of just Christmas? Or why is it only one person at a time?

While I loved the world building, I didn’t like the characters as much. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them well enough in the beginning, but by the end, I lost the idea of what the story was about and how it even got there. What was it more concerned about: Holly’s character development or romantic development? I’m not really sure. Once the romantic aspect of the novel started, I felt myself getting less interested in the book to the point where I could put it down easily and continue onto other books. It’s not that I’m against romantic entanglements in novels; it’s just that I didn’t feel like it was balanced well against Holly’s character development…

Well, that’s all I have to say about The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. It wasn’t my favourite by the author, but I loved the concept! Has anyone else read this book or others by Cynthia Hand? And if so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the Comments Section below!

Have a nice day, everyone!

– Sumaya

Review: Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Summary

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

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Review

My rating:

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Hey, everyone! I just finished reading Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking! To be honest, I didn’t hear about her latest novel until around October, which seems pretty late in the game, but I was still pretty intrigued! I loved The Trylle Trilogy and The Kanin Chronicles, so I couldn’t wait to read this book! Once I started reading it though, I wasn’t as excited for it as I thought I would be…

A good reason for this might be the world-building within the novel. Usually, in the author’s past novels, the mythology is concise and easy to follow. In this case, I felt as if it was all over the place, with different mythologies coming together to create a hodgepodge all-encompassing mythological world. I just wasn’t a fan of mixing mythologies together and then just leaving holes in that world later on because of it. That and the fact that until the end, I had no clue whatsoever about where the book was set. It didn’t really bother me until Malin used some British slang and then I paused to ask myself “Wait! Where is this taking place?” Luckily, by the end, the book hints to take place in the U.S. since they mention Mexico and the border. I’m still not 100% sure… But those are just my opinions! I’m sure there are people who loved the world the novel was set in! 😉

As for the characters, while they were good for all intents and purposes, I didn’t connect with them that much. I mean, I was interested in their actions and whatnot, but that was more in terms of plot and the mystery surrounding them. Plus, I felt as if some of the characters could have used a bit more backstory. Not necessarily Malin and Quinn (I actually like the amount of backstory given to them), but Oona, Asher and even Marlow. Maybe it’s my feelings about the world building that’s clouding my judgement as well, but overall, I just didn’t click with the characters as much as I wanted to…

I guess that’s all I have to say about Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking. At least for now. While I wasn’t into this book as much as her other novels, I hope that the second book will be better. If you have any comments or questions about this book as well as any other novels by Amanda Hocking, feel free to share them in the Comments Section below. Thanks for reading, everyone!

–  Sumaya

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Summary

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

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Review

My rating:

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Hi, everyone! I’m back with another review, this one being Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. I remember a while back when I mentioned how excited I was for this title in an #ARCstravaganza post. Ever since, I’ve been itching to read it. Now that I finally have, I can say without a doubt that Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a unique and well-written story.

I think what I liked most about this book is the way it subverts the Snow White fairytale. At times, you can see a little easter egg of the older fairytale, but there are twists that make it almost unrecognizable. I’m a huge fan of that kind of retelling. Sometimes, I come across the opposite, where the retelling doesn’t really do anything new with fairytale other than setting or different characters, so it becomes predictable. And in some cases, I find that to be really problematic because we’re either given the same flat characters or we’re given messages that do not represent our time or what we are striving towards. Overall, I can honestly say that Girls Made of Snow and Glass isn’t like any other Snow White retelling I’ve read.

At the same time, this retelling is trying to convey a message that women shouldn’t be trapped in a system that doesn’t serve them at all. That women shouldn’t be admired based on an idea, but who they are. Throughout the novel, Lynet and Mina suffer from this as Lynet is never seen for herself but merely an imitation of her mother. Mina has to pretend to be something she’s not in order to keep her place in society. But it’s grating at them both until they finally come to a resolution, no matter how hard-earned it may be.

I also really liked how fleshed out the characters were in this novel. Even the secondary characters, who are sometimes never heard from, have depth to them and makes you want to know more about their thoughts and motives. Plus, the flashbacks were amazingly vivid and had relevance to the story at hand, particularly in Mina’s case. The only character that didn’t have the opportunity to be fleshed out is Gregory, the magician and Mina’s father, although I think that’s on purpose, so I don’t mind it as much…

Well, that’s all I have to say about Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. Are you excited to read Girls Made of Snow and Glass!  For those of you who are interested, Girls Made of Snow and Glass comes out on September 5th, 2017, so mark your calendars! If you have any other thoughts or questions about this book, feel free to leave a comment in the section below! Have a nice day, everybody!

–  Sumaya

I received an advance reader’s copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.

 

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