Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Re-read of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey



Kushiel's Dart (Kushiel's Universe #1)

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good... and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. 

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission... and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair... and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear. 

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.

What I thought:
So, I read this last year, but never formally reviewed it because it's been out in the world a loooooong time and I was way late to the party. But, this book is on my keeper-shelf for a reason. 
This book destroyed me the first time I read it. It's an emotional boulder falling off a cliff, and, I, like an idiot, keep walking beneath it. Because, really, the second time, I know what happens. I'm prepared. Right? 
*Snorts* How could I have been so naive? But, much like Phedre, (the main character), I'm drawn to the pain of it, and I will read this book again and again. 
Never has a story consumed me like this one. Never. I have never been so devastated over a character. I've never sobbed so freaking hard over fictional happenings. OMG, every love and every loss is magnified because their Phedre's first, and then their mine. 
So, yeah, I've never seen so clearly through the lens of a character before, but it's not just one of them. There is quite a cast here and there's not a single one without depth. I mean, seriously, when you prop this book open, there should be holographic people walking across the damn pages. 
Epic. 
Sweeping plot. 
Intrigue. 
Love. 
Loss. 
Betrayal.
Loyalty.
Passion.
This book is everything. I'll say it's probably not for the squeamish, I think. I'm hard to shock, really, so it felt perfectly natural to follow a prostitute across a continent or two. I suppose that might be a moral hurdle for some. But the prose here is gorgeous and Phedre's trips though the occasional boudoir are tastefully done.
I love this book.   

Rating: ****** (6 stars)



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE HUNDREDTH QUEEN by Emily R. King/THE RED by Tiffany Reisz/KILLING JUNE by May Bridges



The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1)

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.
 

What I thought:
For me, the best thing about this book was the cover. I had high hopes. I wanted to love it. Reviews compared it to THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh and I was all grabby hands. The first page was promising... 

And then it swirled down the toilet from there. 
Gaping plot holes. For example, something very important that happens is supposed to be an act of revenge, but it happens before the MC does the thing that pisses the guy off. Wut? 
The writing was flat. The voice was monotonous, plodding along like a tired horse. And then it was a camel without any explanation. (Sorry. Notsorry.) Lazy metaphors and a sprinkling a blood and gore are not enough for me. There was no tension. None. There was insta-love. No sparks. No chemistry. Kalinda had so much potential, but then she describes the first man she sees (from a distance) and suddenly she's waxing poetic about boy-parts and manly man-ness. Nope. 
The surprises weren't surprising. I made it all the way to the end, but this one was not for me. Other people really love it, so judge for yourself. 

Rating: ** (1 1/2 stars)

*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

________________________________




The Red


Hot. Hot. Hot. Like erotic romance? Like fantasy? Then this book is for you. 
SEDUCED BY PAIN
At night I’m June, dominating with the whip, even as I crave the hot, searing blow of the cane, myself. I loathe this side of who I am, but I can’t deny it or escape it. And as my clients cry out for me, begging for mercy, I can't help but want June dead.

By day, I’m Alex Ryan, the good, successful Southern woman everyone thinks I am. I’ve compartmentalized my life to make it bearable, and to get what I want most: revenge. I can have a future with June dead, as soon as I confront the man that terrorized my past.

SAVED BY SIN
Cade Brannon is the local gun for hire, part of the seedy underworld of Dallas, but he may also be my savior. I want his help and he wants me. But Cade refuses to play by my rules and is forcing his way into every one of those compartments that I want to lock away. Now the parts of my life I’ve fought so hard to keep separate are bleeding together and it’s tearing me apart.

I just want to go back to being Alex Ryan. But at what cost am I willing to kill June?
 


What I thought:

Dark and sexy. Did I mention dark? I love the darker side of romance. June/Alex dominated the pages, (wink wink) but it's not just BDSM for the fun of it. There's an emotional current here that takes the story to a deeper level. I can't wait for the next book in this series. Like your romance dark? Then this one's for you!

Rating: **** (4 stars)

*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



-Chelly


Monday, June 12, 2017

TOWARD A SECRET SKY by Heather Maclean & MASK OF SHADOWS by Linsey Miller





Toward a Secret Sky

Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
 
What I thought:
I loved the setting. Scotland. Pretty much all I need to say about that, because, Scotland. Sigh. I found the main character, Maren, interesting. She's portrayed as intelligent and she's got this thing for solving puzzles. The story's well-written and the plot kept me turning pages, but I couldn't get on-board with the romance. Insta-love. Sure he's dreamy and whatnot, but the oh-my-God-so-many-feels drama was too over the top for me. Hopefully, the next installment will have less swooning and more action. 
Rating: *** (3 stars)
*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
_________________________


Mask of Shadows (Untitled #1)

So why not 5 stars? 
he ending seemed way too easy and, because of that, kind of, sort of, implausible. 
So, I was a little disappointed, but it wasn't enough to destroy all the great stuff that came before that point.
I recommend this book for those who like their stories on the darker side. Instead of comparing it to Maas and Bardugo, I'd say for fans of NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff and AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White
What are you reading? Any books out there that I will totally need but don't know exist? I love recommendations and comments. :D 
If you like my reviews, please subscribe via email (I will never use your email for anything else ever. Pinky promise.) or Bloglovin. And you can find me on twitter: @ChellyPike

Happy reading,

Chelly


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN by Sarah J. Maas, A GATHERING OF RAVENS by Scott Oden

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

What I thought:

I've been impatiently waiting for my next dose of Feyre and Rhysand and, well, pretty much everyone. But mostly Rhysand, TBH. I've been team-Rhysand since book 1, before we knew the things we know--things I can't tell you in case you haven't read it. Because I shall spoil no things. Ahem. 

So why not 5 stars? There were a few parts here and there that earned eyerolls, a sprinkling of huh? moments, and the sex... I'm definitely for sex, but here it was meh. And the ending (the ending after the ending, really) dragged for me. Instead of icing on a cake, it was more like the MCs each trying to get the last word. 

But, overall, amazing. I love this world and the characters and I'm already twitching a bit thinking on how long I'll have to wait to find out what happens next.  

Rating: **** (4.5 stars)

_______________________________


To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind--the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that's changed. A new faith has arisen. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir's vengeance cannot be denied.

Taking a young Christian hostage to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits.

But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning--the Old Ways versus the New--and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done or stand against him and see it slip away?

Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens is an epic novel of vengeance, faith, and the power of myth.

What I thought:
First let me say that I love me some unlikable protagonists. Liars, murderers, thieves... Yes, I'm all down. The badder the better. The MC here has unlikable down to a science, but he's boring AF. And boring is a sin I cannot tolerate.  

Then there's the girl issue. And it was an issue for me. The main female protagonist is carted around like a lazy sack of vagina, making the men do all the work, rescuing her and whatnot. No agency. Her character arc reads like a paint-by-numbers. 

There are other characters and they show up at convenient times to do convenient things, but the entire plot is Grimnir trudging around looking for his revenge. Plenty of gods and gore. But victory is ensured before the battles begin and all the foes are easily defeated. 

Sigh. The premise intrigued me in but the book didn't deliver. Not for me and can't recommend. 

Rating: * (1 sad star)
*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



Happy reading. Share your thoughts and book recommendations in the comments and find me on twitter: @chellypike.

Chelly

Thursday, May 25, 2017

THE ROMEO CATCHERS by Alys Arden, THE FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh, SIMON VS... by Becky Albertalli...




Is blood thicker than magic in La Nouvelle-Orléans?

Tormented by the fate she condemned her mother to, and by the lies she’s forced to tell to cover it up, Adele scours Storm-ravaged New Orleans for the truth about her family’s magical past. But every turn leads her back to the one person she's determined to forget: Niccolò Medici. Not even the multitude of enchanted locks on the attic door trapping Nicco within can break their connection.

Sensing Nicco calling to Adele, Isaac tries relentlessly to keep her from exploring paths too dark that would endanger them all. But a new threat is rising: the Medici’s presence has attracted something else to New Orleans…an older enemy, one that will bring Isaac’s haunted past to life, test the witches’ friendships, and jeopardize Adele and Isaac’s blossoming relationship.

In this spellbinding continuation of The Casquette Girls saga, Adele must draw on the past—from seventeenth-century Florence, a time bubbling with alchemy and fraternal betrayal—and sort history from fantasy if she is to have any chance of saving her mother, her coven, and her magic.
 

What I thought: 

First, this picks up where THE CASQUETTE GIRLS (book 1 in the series) leaves off. So if you haven't read it yet, go ahead, I'll wait...

Wow! You read fast. Ahem. 

I loved Adele in THE CASQUETTE GIRLS. The city is a character in its own right. And the actual characters, its like Alys Arden peeled them off the streets and pasted the onto the pages. All of that is still fabulously true in The Romeo Catchers. 

And OMG how to do profess my adoration without giving anything away? 

Okay, here goes... There's a bunch of mystical witchy stuff and amazing friendships and *sigh* romance. And that's just scratching the surface. So, yeah, I think everyone should read this series. 

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (And I also pre-ordered it because it told me it wanted to live on my bookshelf.)

_______________________________________




From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she's within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she's appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she's ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
 

What I thought: 

Let me count the ways I love Mariko. Independent. Check. Fierce. Check. Brave. Check... I could go on and on and on, but then you'd never get to the end of this review... and then you'd never get to read this amazing book. 

This story is so rich in culture and the details paint such a fascinating picture I wanted to crawl into them and hang out for a while. Renee Ahdieh's writing is beautiful and I will read everything she writes. Yes, read this. You also want: THE WRATH & THE DAWN and THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER, which are links because I'm a giver. 

Rating: ***** (5 stars)

*I received an eARC in from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (But I pre-ordered it anyway, because I wanted to pet it like a kitten. It is pretty soft. Just saying. ;))

_______________________________


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Okay, so I'm way late to the game. This lovely book has been patiently waiting on my shelf for forever as I've been plowing through not-yet-published books. Shame on me.

Simon. Sigh. Blue. Sigh. This story is so well done. Simon is so fresh and real and I had all the feels. Highly recommend and my 13yo agrees (and she stole my copy and won't give it back.) 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A FACE LIKE GLASS by Frances Hardinge



A Face Like Glass

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone's an artist . . .

In the underground city of Caverna the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned. Only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell's emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed ...
 
What I thought:

There was so much I loved about this book and, really, only one thing I sort of didn't--the pacing. The characters are so well-drawn and the world building is phenomenal. The mystery kept me reading, but it took me a long time to get to the end. There was a lot of detail--excellent detail--but it slowed the story down quite a bit for me. Overall, I really liked Neverfell and definitely recommend this book, especially to readers of MG and YA. Compelling and so imaginative!  

Rating: **** (4 stars)

*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Let me know what you're reading. I love recommendations and comments. :D Find me on Twitter @chellypike.

Happy Reading,

Chelly


Monday, March 27, 2017

BLOOD ROSE REBELLION by Rosalyn Eves & DATING THE UNDEAD BY Juliet Lyons:


Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion #1)

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

What I thought:
Great first in a series. Took me a little bit to sink into this story, but once I did, I was hooked. I liked the world building and the heroine is fierce. The plot was complex and kept me interested. Excited to see where this story goes. Highly recommend for fantasy lovers. And there's a sprinkle of romance thrown in. *Swoons.*
Rating: **** (4 1/2 stars)
*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



Dating The Undead (V-Date.Com #1)


It’s Bridget Jones with vampires in this fresh and funny paranormal romance from debut author Juliet Lyons

When Silver Harris kisses sexy Irish vampire Logan Byrne on New Year's Eve, she knows other humans just won't suffice. Convinced she'll never see him again, she joins the uber-popular vampire dating site, V-Date.com.

What Silver doesn't know is that the site is more dangerous than she could ever imagined, and soon she's in over her head. When Logan returns, sparks fly and attraction sizzles, but they'll have to escape some very real demons if they have any chance of lasting forever.


What I thought:

Fun, fast read. Felt like a fresh take on vamp romance. Really liked the hero and heroine and enjoyed the banter between them. Not as crazy about the ending and I definitely could've done without the epilogue, but I definitely recommend this for romance readers who like a little bite in their books.
Rating: **** (3.5 stars)


*I received an eARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.