Book Reviews

The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1) by C. S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew

Title: The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
Author: C. S. Lewis
Rating: ★★★★

The secret passage to the house next door leads to a fascinating adventure

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.

The Magician’s Nephew: ★★★★

Welcome to the prequel to The Chronicles of Narnia. This is the birth of Narnia and the introduction of Jadis, our evil queen.

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The reader will lose his/herself in the land and fall in love with the characters along the way. What is entirely interesting is that the creation of Narnia was a total accident coming from the typical curiosity of children.

Lewis paints a beautiful picture of the landscape and environment of Narnia. It is no wonder everyone is so fascinated by it. I would love to visit one day (if it existed)!

My favorite component of the series is that they are based on the Creation story in the Bible. However, the religious references are not overwhelming for those who are not as religious. The Magician’s Nephew was a fun, light-hearted read and enjoyable for all ages.

aslan

Book Reviews

Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1) by Rin Chupeco

Wicked As You WishTitle: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1)
Author: Rin Chupeco
Rating: ★★

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….

The premise of this novel is enticing: our favorite fairytales smushed into one novel. Diversity between the characters, a different culture, and political intrigue. However, I felt there was WAY too much politics in this books that it actually made the read less enjoyable. And not only that, but I felt like these weren’t challenged enough to reality and VERY sterotypical.

I am not a DNFer, but I was very close to doing that with this novel. But there is one thing I’m not…a quitter!

Things I did like are the association with other magical lands we grew up hearing about like Wonderland, Neverland, etc. I loved the titles at the beginning of the chapters, alluding to other fairytales and characters, and the ending!

What didn’t work for me were the characters. They were just kind of blah and not developed enough for my liking (and honestly, I felt that the characters were trying to be funny at times and, instead, it was cringeworthy). For a while, I actually got two confused because their characterizations were so similar. There was no connection and sounds bad, but I could really care less about them. I had trouble figuring out what the plot of the novel was. The world-building wasn’t clear and I still can’t picture what the geographical difference was between any of the worlds.

Guys! I swear, I wanted to like this one, but it is extremely hard for me to gloat about this novel. There is so much more potential. Hopefully the author focuses more on character development and a slow introduction into the magical land and system so that readers have an easier time grasping the concept of the novel.

Book Reviews

Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers, #2) by Nicki Pau Preto

Heart of FlamesTitle: Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers, #2)
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Rating: ★★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens.

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire.

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin.

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.

In the ending of the last novel of the series, we find out some crazy stuff. Betrayal, phoenixes on fire, and magic are only the beginning of the world of Crown of Feathers.

Following three characters with completely different upbringings, Heart of Flames brings readers three additional characters perspectives to follow on the journey. Tensions are high, everything is at stake, and everyone will stop at nothing to secure their future. The author does a great job of developing the characters, and I mean a tremendous job. We find what makes them tick, their weaknesses, and their strengths through times of stress.

Who could not like Veronyka? While there are time she goes all Harry Potter on me, does what she pleases, and bears no consequences, we see that she is flawed. She is so passionate about her mission, that she, too, gets carried away and starts acting more like Avalkyra without even knowing it.

While I initially found Sev’s point-of-view to be on the boring side, that eventually blossomed into the more romantic and reliable aspect for me. The introduction of more characters perspectives into the mix helped readers to understand all sides of the feud.

Readers who love a fast-paced, hopeful, and profoundly developed characters will love Heart of Flames.

Nicki Pau Preto introduces readers to a vibrant land infused with magic, friendship, love, and resilience.

See my review for Crown of Feathers here.

Book Reviews

In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1) by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak MidwinterTitle: In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1)
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Rating: ★★★

Heavy Snow…Icy Desires…Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban’s new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers Kill, New York. She is not just a “lady,” she’s a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody’s fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other—and murder…

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

Everyone loves a good murder mystery…even a reverend! However, this was more like a romance novel to me.

I loved the mystery aspect of the novel. There was red herring after red herring. The mystery itself was clever, fast-paced, and mysterious.

The part I didn’t like was the characters. Russ Van Alstyne is the local sheriff, ex-military, and kind of just does as he pleases. Clare Fergusson is the new reverend in town. She is ex-military, young, and way too involved in the murder. Both characters are morally gray. Russ is married and Clare is a reverend, about twenty years younger than Russ. Plus, I believe Clare is way more involved than anyone of that stature would ever be realistically. Of course, because they are spending so much time together, they start to find an attraction towards one another.

The reason this novel fell flat with me was because of the characters and the love interest brewing between them. Had that not been in the picture, or even slightly, this novel would’ve received a higher rating. It was the typical girl is doing something goofy, guy notices and thinks is “cute”, eventually saves girl because she gets into trouble being too nosey, they then share a moment, and realize they love each other.

What would’ve made this a more pleasurable read would’ve been honing in on the mystery aspect, leaving out the romantic mush, and creating stronger characters. This easily could’ve been a five-star read without the romantic intentions.

Book Reviews

Crown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers, #1) by Nicki Pau Preto

Crown of FeathersTitle: Crown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers, #1)
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Rating: ★★★★★

“Absolutely unforgettable.” —Kendare Blake, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series
“A beautifully told story about justice, sisterhood, and warrior women.” —Shea Ernshaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep
“Epic in the truest sense.” —Quill and Quire

An Ember in the Ashes meets Three Dark Crowns in this lush debut fantasy novel about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join a secret group of warriors that ride phoenixes into battle.

I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken.

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

Crown of Feathers is a story of animages (people who can communicate and control animals) suppressed by their government. Anyone caught practicing magic is subject to life as a slave or conscript (if you’re lucky).

Growing up, Veronyka had been told many stories about phoenix riders by her maiora, or grandmother. Always feeling like her purpose was to become one of these mysterious beings, Veronyka decides to embark on a country to find the hidden land harboring the phoenix riders after her sister Val poisons her young phoenix.

I had a sister once. If I had known then what I know now, I might have chosen not to love her. But is love ever truly a choice?

Putting out those Mulan vibes, “Nyk” dresses like a man in order to have the chance to become a potential phoenix rider apprentice. Using only males, both apprentices and phoenixes, Nyk hopes to ensure her spot as a potential apprentice. Working as a stableboy to earn his keep and be near the phoenixes, Nyk becomes friends with the commander’s son, and helps him overcome his fear of fire.

As things start to take a direction toward the better for Veronyka, Val shows up. Soon after, a war begins…animage vs. soldiers.

That’s the thing with secrets. They never really die. Just when one bursts into flames, another rises up to take its place.

Told from the perspective of three different characters with entirely different upbringings, we learn just how connected each character is with each other. I loved the aspect of the letters between the two ancient queens Avalkyra and Pheronica. They interwove seamlessly into the story and provided history of the prior magic war.

Crown of Feathers is a colorful story of magic, firey phoenixes, and the premise that blood is not always thicker than water.

 

Book Reviews

The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising, #1) by Kiersten White

The Guinevere DeceptionTitle: The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising, #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Rating: ★★★★

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

*THE FIRST BOOK IN THE CAMELOT RISING TRILOGY*

The Guinevere Deception is a fantasy retelling of King Arthur. In a world where magic is abhored and protection of land means more than love, White gives readers Guinevere, a girl who constantly deceives herself, wields magic, and is married to a King covering for his wife who is the epitomy of what he has been defending against.

White provides readers with lush description of Camelot, a kingdom based on tradition, justice, and a little bit of magic. Who wouldn’t want to live in a land where you get to experience jousts and the grandeur of feasts?! That’s what Medieval Times is for, right?! haha. While at times a little scary, Camelot sounds like a place I wouldn’t be opposed to visiting.

That ending, though! I could kick myself for rooting for a certain someone and Guinevere being together. Although, I do find some potential for her and a different certain someone being together. Anyone else feel the same?

The Guinevere Deception is a story of the power of women, justice, and how even those you trust can deceive you…including yourself. White brings readers Guinevere, a kind-hearted soul who is only looking acceptance of all, the defeat of evil, and reciprocated love.

Book Reviews

Girls of Storm and Shadow (Girls of Paper and Fire, #2) by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Storm and ShadowTitle: Girls of Storm and Shadow (Girls of Paper and Fire, #2)
Author: Natasha Ngan
Rating: ★★★

In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.

Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.

Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?

Ever read every trilogy and the second book is the fluffer for the dynamic ending? Well, this won’t disappoint that generalization. I absolutely loved Girls of Paper and Fire, but Ngan left me high and dry on this sequel. I wanted more action, more deception, and what I got was everyone falling in love. Just didn’t seem believable to me.

Nothing is worth losing yourself.

As I said in my Girls of Paper and Fire review, Girls of Storm and Shadow brings to life the same problems still present in today’s culture: We have the Paper Caste (fully human), the Steel Caste (part human, part demon), and the Moon Caste (fully demon). We see the oppression imposed on by the upper castes and the prejudice present. That hasn’t changed. But what we are now seeing is a possibly revolution taking place. But just like with The Hunger Games, sometimes the revolution has some of the same issues that the threat they’re trying to abolish has.

You’re not the same. I see you, the way you fight. The way you are towards others. You’re soft where they are hard. You have love when they only have hate. Hold on to that as tightly as you can, Lei. Because war will do everything it can to take that good from you. I think sometimes people forget there will be a time after all of this — for the lucky ones, at least. And when that time comes, we’ll all have to live with what we have done. And what we have left of ourselves.

There was so much buildup to the climax, but we never got to see any of that, so it was a little frustrating. Lei just got way too soft for me. She used to be this strong woman that I could admire, but she so easily forgives and is losing herself by being blinded by love. Everything just seems so one-sided. Either she is neglecting the demons she is leading by choosing Wren, or she neglects them by welcoming betrayers so easily back. She isn’t reliable and completely did a 180 on me. Maybe it is because most of the characters seem selfish or whatever, but this wasn’t the most enjoyable read and I found myself somewhat sympathetic to the Demon King. I wanted to hear more from him.

I’ve found you.

I’m hoping to get more action in the next novel, maybe some more deception, and maybe a not-so-happy ending.

Girls of Storm and Shadow is a story of love conquering all, overcoming oppression, and keeping true to oneself.

Book Reviews

Blood Heir (Blood Heir, #1) by Amelie Wen Zhao

blood heirTitle: Blood Heir (Blood Heir, #1)
Author: Amelie Wen Zhao
Rating: ★★★★

This hot debut is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Blood Heir is a compelling story based on oppression, prejudice, and overcoming familial expectations. Ana is known to the world as a blood witch and seen as a monster. Her family even kept her hidden away from the rest of the world until one day she escapes and attempts to prove everyone wrong. Affinites are people who have powers and are condemned to a terrible life or are used as puppets. Seeking revenge for the death of her family, she finds a stranger along the way who is seeking to destroy the same person. But maybe something more evolves out of what they both share.

It is up to us to fight our battles in this world.

As many of you know, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the novel. In my opinion, it was totally uncalled for and I think the author did a great job of depicting the harsh realities of oppressive lives. Did those people even read the book?! If you want to call this “racially insensitive” then please explain to me the mass killing of people in Poland (my mom immigrated from there when it was still under communist rule and it actually wasn’t even a country on a map at one point), or any other example of oppression. It affected every race, not just one. We all know those times were bad for those involved, but the author luckily stayed true to her vision and published the novel. She was unveiling the truth behind oppression, not condoning it. The bullying of people’s free speech needs to stop. This criticism was totally unwarranted. Rant over.

But perhaps all monsters were heroes in their own eyes.

I loved Ramson the world-building, the deception, and the justice that was conducted in the story. The novel was great, but I find myself looking back and not feeling this novel to be super memorable. But I want it to be because I did enjoy reading it.

The Blood Heir was a moving, unpredictable story about the struggles facing people in oppressive countries. Reader who love a slow-burn romance, deception, and a twisted plot will love The Blood Heir.

Book Reviews

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3) by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing]Title: The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)
Author: Holly Black
Rating: ★★★★★

The finale to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, from award-winning author Holly Black.

After being pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, Jude finds herself unmoored, the queen of nothing. She spends her time with Vivi and Oak, watches her fair share of reality television, and does the odd job or two, including trying to convince a cannibalistic faerie from hunting her own in the mortal world.

When her twin sister Taryn shows up asking of a favor, Jude jumps at the chance to return to the Faerie world, even if it means facing Cardan, who she loves despite his betrayal.

When a dark curse is unveiled, Jude must become the first mortal Queen of Faerie and uncover how to break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world.

So, I’m probably in the minority here. I did enjoy this novel…a lot. While this was predictable, the main reason I liked this novel so much because for once, we see a healthy relationship. There wasn’t as many tricks or deceptions. The brooding and banter is fun, but it is tiresome after a while knowing that they actually do truly love one another. But I guess everyone wants the bad boy, so they’re disappointed. I always prefer the direct, nice ones, but oh well.

Girls, you really want someone like this?!

Image result for joffrey

I mean, give me this kind of guy any day…I know you all love him more…

Image result for jon snow on throne

That boy is your weakness.

I loved the adventure side this time around. Grima Mog was a fearful, fun creature as opposed to the hateful, deceptive Madoc. Nothing came easily for Jude and we experienced her struggles with her. She was adaptive and realistic, and quick to forgive. Those are some great qualities.

By you, I am forever undone.

Guys, I’m a sucker for a happy ending this time around. I think I’m getting soft with old age. I think readers wanted a different ending, but realistically, this was a great ending. It was tied together really well. There was no question of what would happen to each character in the future. I thought it was well put-together in a healthy way that brought out the best (and worst) characteristics of our beloved protagonist.

I spent much of my life guarding my heart. I guarded it so well that I could behave as though I didn’t have one at all. Even now, it is a shabby, worm-eaten, and scabrous thing. But it is yours.

Book Reviews

The Wren Hunt (The Wren Hunt, #1) by Mary Watson

The Wren HuntTitle: The Wren Hunt (The Wren Hunt, #1)
Author: Mary Watson
Rating: ★★★

Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.

In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this novel. It is based on Celtic folklore, specifically revolving around Stephen’s Day, or Christmas. This was a classic Montague-Capulet rivalry, so if you’re down with that, this is the novel for you.

I would have to argue that I didn’t “like” the relationship between Wren and Tarc. Someone who trains his whole life to protect someone wouldn’t so easily fall in love with someone, especially an enemy. It just wasn’t all that believable to me. Now, if Wren and David fall in love, that would be diabolical and I think I would enjoy that very much. There is something hidden there.

Anyone else imagine the Blaithin to look like this?! haha

grooot

The ending was turn after turn after turn and I loved it! I just started Wickerlight and I am loving it so much more than The Wren Hunt right now. So much action right in the beginning! I’m hoping it explores the depth of the rivalry between the Augurs and the Judges, and possibly more of the history.