ARC Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant [6/2]

Nina is the Black Cat of the Thieves Guild–there’s nowhere that she can’t break into. When the notorious Tiger sets his eyes on her father’s ward, Ettie, Nina will do whatever it takes to save her from him. In revolutionary France, this Les Miserables retelling brings Eponine into the spotlight.

I’ll be honest, I’m not super familiar with the original plot of Les Mis. I saw the movie when it came out, so I know very vaguely what’s going on, but I didn’t know enough to recognize what all is changed in this book. I think it may have been a more enjoyable read if I did know a little more? But maybe it would have been the same. It felt like maybe there were some times when I was supposed to be able to anticipate what might happen next, but I couldn’t do that.

I liked Nina as a main character. Her motivations were very clear and I felt like she was pretty consistent. I did think it was a little overkill to have three guys falling over themselves for her though? Just one would be enough, thanks. I liked Ettie as well and almost wish we’d gotten some more from her. She had really great development as a character and the Ettie at the end of the book is miles away from the Ettie at the beginning (in a really good way).

The plot itself was confusing to me at times. Obviously the driving plot is that Nina is trying to save Ettie from the Tiger, but the way certain things happened wasn’t always super clear. I missed one of the time jumps too I think because all of the sudden Nina was talking about how she’d been a cat for a few years when I thought it had only been a few days. I really liked the concept of the guilds and Lords, though. I wish I had been reading a physical copy instead of an eARC so I could keep referring back to the pages at the beginning that listed all the guilds and key players.

Overall, I thought this book was good and I did feel like it helped fill the Six of Crows shaped hole in my heart. I can’t say if Les Mis fans will especially like this one, but I thought it was good and I haven’t seen any other Les Mis retellings out there. I’m definitely looking forward to where this series goes.

Preorder: Hardcover | Kindle

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea is Morgenstern’s second novel coming after the success of her first novel, The Night Circus. I’d read The Night Circus a while ago and remembered loving it, but didn’t know if it would hold up to a reread. Recently, I tried the audio book for The Night Circus (read by Jim Dale!) and it was AMAZING. Highly, highly recommend. Le Cirque des Rêves was just as captivating as I remembered it. All of that is just to say that my expectations for this book were already HIGH, but then the synopsis of this book comes out including secret societies and underground libraries and quests… If it was possible, my expectations rose even higher.

Now, you may have heard some conflicting things about this book. I’ve read some reviews that strongly disliked this book. Let me just say, this book is very different and it’s not one that can be zoomed through (as I typically zoom through books). If I’m really enjoying a book (300-400 page range) I can usually finish it in about three days max (usually less). This book is around 500 pages, so a little longer than my average and it took me almost four WEEKS to read (26 days to be precise). Caveat: I wasn’t reading this book exclusively or reading every single day, also we were in the process of moving house to another state for some of that time. With that being said, however, this is a book that DEMANDS you take your time to read it. If you don’t, you’ll get confused and you’ll miss out on all of the wonderful complexities that this book holds.

The story is made up of several different sections and multiple perspective shifts with interwoven short stories. It’s confusing, especially at the beginning, but after a while I found that I liked the variation of the chapters. It’s amazing to me to think about Morgenstern writing this book. There are just so many pieces to it and I feel that she really masterfully weaves them together into a cohesive tapestry of deliciousness.

There has been a lot of criticism calling this book “boring” and “plotless”. A lot of people have especially had a problem with the main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, feeling like he just purposelessly drifts through the story with no development. I strongly disagree on both of those points. First, no this book isn’t what I would call fast-paced, but I wouldn’t call it boring by any stretch of the imagination! The short stories are beautiful, well-written, and frankly not that long compared to Zachary’s chapters. I, personally, was sucked into Zachary’s story immediately. There’s mystery and magic(?) and even a little action thrown into the mix as well. I think that Zachary’s character makes a lot more sense if you remember that he’s a grad student studying video games. He often views his journey as a video game and I think that informs some of the decisions that he makes. He’s not delusional or anything, he doesn’t think he’s ACTUALLY in a video game, but the “aimless wandering” that a lot of people have a problem with makes more sense if you view it from that lens. A lot of exploring type video games have a main quest, side quests, and then a bunch of other random stuff that you can explore. Zachary does a lot of exploring that I guess some people found to be boring, however, I did not.

As a character, I think Zachary undoubtedly develops. He’s not the same boy that he was when he first encountered a door painted on the side of a wall. He starts the book as a 2D character, but ends as a fully fleshed out being. There are decisions that he makes towards the end of the book that he simply would not have made at the beginning. Zachary does not finish the book as the same person that he was.

I’m finding it really hard to put into words EXACTLY what I loved so much about this book. It’s just so cozy. I loved all of the little stories and I loved when the pieces started to overlap and click together. Some people had a problem with the ending, but I thought it was perfect and right and fit the book precisely. The writing was beautiful and whimsical and the setting of the Harbor was just as magical as Le Cirque des Rêves, in my opinion. And then The Kitchen. Oh how I loved The Kitchen. This is the kind of book that you want to start over immediately after finishing because now you finally get it and can pick up on things that you missed the first time.

I’ll just end this review by pleading with you to not let the negative reviews scare you away. Give it a try and if it’s not for you, that’s fine. But where others found this book boring, I found it captivating. Where others found the descriptions to be too long, I found them to be beautiful and evocative. Just one warning: because of all of the interweaving stories I’d probably not recommend this as an audio book–I think it would just be confusing. But as a physical book or an eBook? Magical. You will never find another book like this.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Wait…is this Grisha fan-fiction? | King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of ScarsIt’s been a few years since the Darkling was defeated and Nikolai’s still trying to figure out how to keep Ravka afloat. This task is made much harder by the fact that Nikolai seems to turn into a monster most nights. A literal monster. He’s desperate for a solution and when a Darkling-loving monk turns up with a possible answer, Nikolai has no choice but to listen to what he has to say.

TL;DR – So much of this reads as Grisha fan-fiction. There were definitely parts that I liked, but a lot that I didn’t as well.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback (preorder) | eBook

It took me so long to finally read this book. I think I was just a little scared maybe. I really loved Nikolai from the original trilogy and I didn’t know how this was going to go. Starting off, I felt like I needed some kind of recap for the Grisha trilogy. I literally could not remember a single thing about Zoya. This book leans heavily on the assumption that everyone who picks it up has read Bardugo’s previous series’ which isn’t necessarily going to be the case. So yeah, I think it would have been wise to include at least a recap for the trilogy for those who don’t remember what happened in the original series or for those who never read it in the first place.

The narration mostly rotates between Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina but Nina is over in Fjerda so she’s got a different storyline than the other two. Honestly, I didn’t love Nina in the Six of Crows duology and this book possibly makes me like her even less. Her storyline was not compelling to me at all and I don’t see how it ties in with Nikolai’s main storyline. Honestly, it kind of felt forced as a way for Bardugo to bring her two series’ together (and every time Nina made some name-drop-y reference to the Ketterdam crew, I cringed). And then there’s the whole Nina/Hanne relationship that’s obviously coming and that started approximately five seconds after Nina buried Matthias’ body. I’m sorry, is this fan-fiction? Did someone write some f/f Nina fan-fiction and it accidentally got published as part of this book? I’m not trying to knock fan-fiction at all, I’m just trying to convey that this aspect had an inauthentic feel to me.

My other issue with Nina is that she’s selfless in this really selfish way. She doesn’t trust that people will help her if she gives them all of the information or tells them her whole plan. Nina puts people in tough situations and sometimes even in danger because she has her own agenda regardless of the consequences. She’s just not a team player and was a really frustrating character for me to read.

Nikolai, on the other hand, continues to be his most charming and lovable self. I appreciated getting to see some of his and Zoya’s respective backgrounds. I thought his storyline was a lot more interesting. His quest to find a cure was really interesting but I would have also liked a little more of “the bachelor” stuff to be thrown in–we didn’t actually get much of that. I really liked Isaak as a character and wished he’d been a narrator from the beginning. He deserved more than what he got and that’s all I’ll say about that.

And the ending…I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who DOESN’T have a strong opinion on the ending. Without being too spoiler-y, I’ll just say that once again, this reads like fan-fiction. That was a fan-fiction ending and I hate it.

Overall, I liked most of this book. I didn’t like Nina’s storyline or the ending, but everything else was great! I like the way that Bardugo seems to be expanding on the powers of the Grisha and I like the interesting political climate. I just think she’s spending too much time on things that aren’t relevant or wholly original instead of developing these interesting facets of her story.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Not my fave, but Asian rep so… | Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the CranePrincess Hesina knows her father was murdered, now she just needs to convince everyone else of that fact. She embarks on a journey to not only prove that he was murdered, but to also find his murderer. As she does, she will learn things about her country, her family, her friends, and herself. Hesina’s world is turned completely upside down as she grapples with these revelations and she’ll need to decide what kind of ruler she wants to be.

TL;DR – There were things that I liked about this book, but I don’t feel super invested in the story or the characters. Asian rep was cool though.

Purchase: Hardcover | eBook

This book started off really slow for me and that proved to be just the beginning of my issues with the plot. Several “shocking” plot points ended up being pretty obvious to me and others came out of left field and made little to no sense. The Sooth premise was interesting, but again, was mildly confusing. I didn’t really understand how their powers worked. I thought I understood the thing with their blood, but then halfway through the book I got confused. The author does try to explain certain things but it still doesn’t really make sense? And then the ending is just so…convoluted. I’m sure more things will be explained in the next book, but I don’t know that I’ll get to it.

The characters were fine. I didn’t love Hesina, but I did appreciate some small things about her. I liked that the author addressed periods as a thing that happens to women. I also liked that Hesina was a competent ruler. Even though she acquired the throne unexpectedly, she’d been adequately prepared for the role and knew how to do things like administrative paperwork, taxes, etc. I didn’t love Hesina’s relationship with her brother, Sanjing. I thought it was pretty obvious that he was just looking out for her and she pushed back at him to the extreme. It also doesn’t totally make sense to me how a 16-year-old boy could be trusted to lead the entire military? But, okay. Akira was fine but I wish his character had been explored more. He kind of just popped in at convenient times. Caiyan was pretty bland for most of the book and then all of the sudden got really interesting at the end. With that being said, since he wasn’t interesting for 99% of the book, I don’t feel any motivation to continue with his character arc in the next book.

Overall, I appreciated the Asian rep–always a great thing–but I didn’t LOVE this book. I thought the story was just kind of confusing and the characters weren’t great. There were some subtle things that I did appreciate, but I’m not really invested and probably won’t continue the series.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

This book made me feel 100% Latina | Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno [ARC]

Don't Date Rosa SantosThe Santos women are cursed by the sea. Any man that they fall in love with will be claimed by the ocean. Rosa has grown up her entire life with this knowledge and has never really grappled with it until now. She’s about to pick which college she wants to go to when she meets Alex. He’s tall, has a beard, ocean tattoos, and…a boat. Rosa knows it’s a bad idea to fall for him, but how can she resist especially when she finds out that he bakes too?

TL;DR – This book will make you wish you had an abuela. The Cuban culture is so authentic throughout that it makes my heart hurt.

eBook | Hardcover

My ethnicity is a mixed bag. I’m a quarter white, half Chinese, and a quarter Hispanic. The grandparent I grew up closest to is my mom’s mother who was born and raised in Panama. Rosa’s abuela, Mimi, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. I could see her doing and saying so many of the things that Mimi did. There are more similarities as well that I’ll address later on. Seriously though, this book made me feel so much more Hispanic than I actually am. During and after reading I found myself gesturing at things to my husband with my lip/chin. I never do that!

First, I just want to say that I absolutely adored this book. It was so close to being a five star read for me! I thought Rosa was a really enjoyable character right off the bat and I loved her dynamic with all of the other characters. She was so interesting and really felt alive for me. I also loved the dynamic and tensions between Rosa, Mimi, and Liliana (Rosa’s mom). All three women were incredibly strong in different ways. I enjoyed that the author was able to portray that differing strength in women. Women can be strong, even if they’re not all strong in the same way.

Secondary characters were amazing! They all felt like they had depth to them and I felt they contributed to the story in an important way. I especially enjoyed Rosa’s best friend and the viejos. Please, I would follow their Instagram in a heartbeat!

The atmosphere of the book also felt so real. The weather was almost another character and I loved how that played into the slight magical/mystical thread throughout the book. It was all very fun. The weather also contributed to the raw emotions that came out at times. There are a few scenes throughout this book where the emotion is just so heavy. Despite that, this isn’t a heavy book and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a Summer read.

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

This book hit me especially hard because my grandmother just passed away last month in a way that was similar to Mimi. It was kind of sudden and like Liliana, my mom was the one there performing CPR on her own mother until the paramedics arrived. There were some other similarities as well that I won’t go into. It just felt eerily similar to me. When Rosa was dealing with Mimi’s death, I felt it so hard. I saw myself in Rosa and parts of my mom in Liliana. The emotions felt so real and it’s obvious that the author has lost someone close to her. I still forget some days that my grandma isn’t around anymore. I hope, like Rosa, that I can one day make that pilgrimage back to my grandmother’s homeland. The sacrifices that she made to come to America amaze me every day and I would literally not be here without her. I love you, Llaya.

***Spoiler End***

Anyway…I highly, highly recommend this book. I appreciate the call for diversity in YA, but a lot of times I think it’s done poorly or in a way that’s inauthentic. That is NOT the case with this book. If you want to read diversity in YA, then this is the kind of thing you should be reading.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Turns out, I don’t hate this series | Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch

Safiya fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch which means she can sense when people are lying. But if anyone besides her closest friends knew that, then she would immediately become a political pawn or be assassinated. With a 20-year-truce between nations coming to a potentially bloody close, Safi finds that her secret has been discovered and that her ability is more sought-after than ever. With the help of her friend and Thread-sister Iseult and finding an unlikely ally in the Nubrevnan Prince Merik, Safi is on the run.

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

TL;DR – Writing, worldbuilding, and plot are all good. Strong female friendship gets an A+. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

I was so prepared to hate this book and the entire series. There had just been so much hype around it and for some reason I had this belief that it was going to be poorly written with a myriad of plot holes, probably a love triangle, and abysmal world-building. I think I’ve just been disappointed one too many times on hyped books/series–I’ve become jaded. Regardless, I went into this book prepared to be disappointed and was completely blown away instead.

Now, the book isn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the writing and the world/magic system that Dennard had created. Even though the world seemed complex, I didn’t feel completely lost in the beginning like I have in other books. The magic system is pretty reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I’m willing to look past that.The switching POV was a good way to give the readers perspective and helped us to learn about the different nations and the political climate pretty quickly. However, not all of the POVs felt distinct. Safi and Iseult particularly felt like the same character was narrating.

I really, REALLY enjoyed that Dennard highlighted friendships in this book as well. The friendship between Safi and Iseult is so pure and it kills me that they both think that they’re holding the other person back. I wish that the friendship between Merik and Kullen had been explored more, though. It felt like we were more told about that friendship rather than shown. If that makes sense.

One last observation that I had was that the contract between Merik and Safi’s uncle stated that she couldn’t spill any blood, right? Well, what if Safi had been on her period??? Typical male-written contract…

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am excited to continue on with the series. So far, I’m not super convinced that Safi’s Truthwitchery is actually that valuable, but I’m hoping the next books prove me wrong.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

 

 

Not Six of Crows level, but okay | The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi [ARC]

The Gilded WolvesWhen the Tower of Babel was destroyed, pieces of it were scattered throughout the world. These Babel fragments have given certain humans the power to “forge”. In Paris, four houses were given the responsibility of protecting their Babel fragment, but one of the houses fell and was lost while another house, House Vanth, died without an heir. This left House Kore and House Nox as the only two surviving houses to protect the fragment. Now the houses may be under attack and the only ones who can help them are Séverin (an orphan) and his group of misfit con-men.

Hardcover | ebook | Audio

TL;DR – An interesting cast, but overall, just not as good as Six of Crows.

I was so in for this book. I love heists. I LOVE heists. But this one just didn’t really do it for me. First, the book starts and it’s confusing. The world seems very complex and not much is explained at first. So the reader is trying to play catch-up, meanwhile, the characters are blazing on full steam ahead. It just made me feel like I was trying to catch up pretty much the whole book.

The overall plot was okay, though not the most original. Group has a history of pulling off elaborate heists, but oh no! this time it doesn’t quite go off as smoothly, now they must pull a heist for their original mark. That part was okay. What I had a REALLY hard time with, though, was the writing. At least four times throughout the book, something was happening and the author was describing it, but for the life of me I could not visualize what the heck was going on. I even reread passages. Several times! Whatever the author had in her head just did not translate to the page. At least, it didn’t for me. Another small thing was a bit of consistency. Sometimes characters acted surprised by information that I thought they already knew. Lastly, the title makes no sense. It literally mentions gilded wolves once in the last 5% of the book.

The thing I think most people will be excited by is the diverse cast. Yes, the cast is diverse ethnically and it seems like a couple characters are probably bi. Also, it seems like one of the characters has autism, though it’s not explicitly stated. With that being said, I didn’t feel like any of the characters were super genuine or dynamic. I can only compare it to Kaz Brekker’s crew in Six of Crows. I believe Kaz and the rest of his group. I don’t really believe Séverin and his group. Perhaps they didn’t seem quite as believably flawed? Or they were just a little too…much? I’m not really sure what it is, but I just had a hard time connecting to any of them.

Overall, I wanted to like this book so bad, but in the end I just felt kind of confused. There was SO MUCH talk about Goliath the spider and the dead birds, but then nothing really came of either of those things? I’ll probably read the next book, but if you’re looking for a really good fantasy heist book, I’d direct you to Six of Crows instead.

Overall Rating: 3 (really 3.5)
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate