A book in which I anticipate a love triangle forming pretty much the whole time | Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Note: This is the second book in the Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first book. Click here for my Truthwitch review.

WindwitchSafi and Iseult are now separated. Safi has given herself up to the Empress of Marstok and Iseult is left waiting for word from Mathew and Habim. When word doesn’t come, she finds herself making a tentative truce with Aeduan, the Bloodwitch. If he can help her find Safi, she will tell him where his silver talers ended up. Can the bond between Safi and Iseult withstand the miles and trials between them?

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TL;DR – A solid follow-up to the first book. Characters are diverse in a natural way and the author does a great job making all of our narrators sympathetic.

This book started off a little bit slow for my taste, but it picks up momentum rather quickly. I think it would have been fine for readers who are reading the series one book at a time, but not so much for those of us who are bingeing the first three books in the series. These books feel really thoughtfully written to me. I really liked how Dennard is able to use things like a storm or an earthquake to help the reader to know when things are happening. Since virtually all of our characters are separated, it helps to know that these two events are happening at the same time and so on. In addition, without giving any kind of spoilers, I knew that Chiseled Cheater was going to play a more prominent role. I waited for him to show up the entire first book and I was thrilled at his appearance.

The dynamic between Merik and Vivia is really interesting throughout. I really enjoyed getting Vivia’s perspective on things because, in the first book, Merik portrays her as this evil, power-hungry person. She’s actually extremely likable, in my opinion, and it’s crazy to me how neither of them can see how manipulative Serafin is. I think Merik said at one point that Serafin wouldn’t waste his time or energy pitting his children against each other, but he very clearly has wasted a LOT of time and energy doing just that. Speaking of Merik… I know this kind of gets explained later in the book, but he’s always talking about how weak his witchery is, but he’s never seemed particularly weak to me. I mean, he can still use his powers to fly so…just how weak can he be?

Another thing that I’ve enjoyed in this book and series is that Dennard has done a great job including diversity without hitting the reader over the head with it. I feel like when diversity is so “present”, it kind of defeats the purpose. I think what we diverse readers are looking for is for diversity to be included in an authentic and organic way. Undue attention does not need to be drawn to it. I feel like Vivia’s sexuality is handled really well, in that regard. She obviously thinks about her relationship with Stix from time to time, but it’s not something that gets brought up in every single paragraph. I also appreciated the vitiligo rep with Cam. I don’t think I’ve EVER read a book that included a character with vitiligo.

The plot got a little more confusing in this book. It clearly feels like this book is being used to set up events in future books. That’s not necessarily bad, but there are some things that just feel like they don’t quite make sense yet.

While I really enjoyed this book overall, there were a few things that I didn’t quite care for. Fairly early on in the book, Iseult calls the Puppeteer by name, Esme. I didn’t remember her learning Esme’s name in the first book, so I did a quick Kindle search. The name “Esme” doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in the first book. So…yeah. All of the sudden Iseult knows her name and just casually drops it in there? The second thing is that I feel like Aeduan’s bloodwitchery should work on blood stains. I mean, he can seize blood, right? Stop it circulating in someone’s body? So why can’t he seize dried blood and lift it out of clothes?

The last thing, to address the title of this post, is that pretty much the whole book I anticipate feelings developing between Safi and one of the characters that she’s with. It kind of seemed like things were heading that way. Nothing comes of it in this book (luckily) but we’ll see what happens in future books. All I’m saying is that if Safi is part of a love triangle, that will completely cheapen the ENTIRE series.

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

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Windwitch review

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Why is it so hard to just pick a genre? | Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

Sawkill GirlsGirls have been disappearing from Sawkill for decades, but no one seems to find this suspicious. Except for Zoey. Her best friend Thora disappeared last year and everyone seems to have forgotten. Zoey is positive that Val’s family has something to do with it, but nobody believes her. Marion is new to the island after her father had a tragically fatal accident. She and her sister have no idea that girls have been going missing–and that they might be next.

TL;DR – Ultimately disappointing. I felt like the book was trying to fit into too many genres at once. Overall, it felt like it was trying too hard and lost what it was trying to be.

This book started off delightfully mysterious and creepy with a hint of magical realism and I was so into it. Magical realism is a genre that I tend to really enjoy. I like the subtlety and wonder of it. Several things happen that are completely unsettling and I was ready to figure out what the heck was going on. But then the plot took this turn and there were secret organizations and it turned into this weird amalgamation of sci fi and fantasy and horror. It lost all subtlety and I felt like it cheapened the whole plot.

The characters were fine. I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of them. We have three narrators in Marion, Zoey, and Val, but I honestly wouldn’t have been super heartbroken if any of them hadn’t made it. Secondary characters were okay. Nobody was super developed. I thought Grayson was an exceptionally poor character, though. He literally served no purpose except to conveniently move the plot forward. We need someone to decipher a dead language? Conveniently, Grayson can do it! We need a boat? Grayson’s family has one!

I think a lot of readers will appreciate that all three of our main characters are queer. I appreciate the diversity too, but I’m not sure how it really plays into who the characters are and how they act. It felt like it was just kind of thrown in there so the author could claim diversity? I don’t know, maybe other people feel differently about that.

Overall, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be subtly creepy, but instead I feel like it tried to go too far and do too much and it lost me. I think the author should have stuck to a more subtle magical realism (like Bone Gap).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Heavy
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

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Sawkill Girls review

Journey with me into London Below | Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I absolutely LOVE the way he writes. I’d been meaning to read this book for a while and only got around to it when it was picked for my book club. I’m so happy I finally read it!

Our main character, Richard Mayhew, is so unspectacularly normal and all of these unbelievable things happen to him. I thought he was such a well-written character. Even though he’s super basic, he has a hidden depth to him and in the end, the reader really wants things to work out for him. Something about him being such a beige person made the colorful world of London Below that much more brilliant.

I loved the relationship between Richard, Door, Hunter, and the Marquis. When Richard, Door, and Hunter got to the Friars and found out that Richard had to do the third task, I literally laughed out loud and Door and Hunter’s reactions. While the Marquis was a pretty sketchy character, he was also delightful and was a wonderful Puck-ish contrast to Door. The Marquis is the embodiment of what London Below is. If you haven’t read the short story How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, I highly recommend it as it gives another perspective on who the Marquis is.

Another fun aspect of this book is that our protagonist is not the story’s “hero”. Door is clearly the hero in this story as she tries to avenge her family and Richard is a mildly doofy sidekick whose most important job proves to be getting Door curry at the market.

Circling back to Gaiman’s writing, I love how his humor is scattered throughout the book as it only serves to enhance the reading experience. I love the different locations that our group visits and how Gaiman takes each name literally. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are seriously creepy individuals, but with Gaiman’s writing, they almost seem harmless. It’s an interesting contrast because on paper, the reader knows how terrifying they are, but the humorous way in which they’re written waters them down a bit–but not in a bad way.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who already loves Neil Gaiman or anyone who wants a fantasy escape.

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

This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

Revisiting the Russian Fairytale | The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden [ARC]

This is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. To see my review of the first book, please click here.

The Girl in the TowerAfter the events of the first book, Vasya knows that she can’t stay in her small town. She bridles her horse, Solovey, and takes off to finally have the adventure that she’s always longed for. Soon after, she discovers a village that’s been burned to the ground. Many of the villagers are dead and some have had their daughters taken. Vasya can find no trace of these bandits but doesn’t let that stop her. As she continues on her journey, she’ll find herself embroiled in Moscow politics and longing for a life that she may never be able to have.

This was a great follow-up to the The Bear and the Nightingale. It was very much in the same tone and the characters were just as real and complex as they were before (if not more so). Vasya isn’t always the most likable character, but she does make sense. She lives in a different time where women were just expected to stay in their towers all day, every day. Instead, Vasya longs for adventure and the reader can feel that throughout the book. She’s so conflicted because she doesn’t like lying by pretending to be a boy, but she knows that she wouldn’t be as helpful (or happy) if everyone knew she was a girl.

As far as other characters go, we get to know Morozko, Sasha, and Olga a lot better than we did in the first book in addition to new characters like Dimitrii and Olga’s daughter. This gives the reader a really diverse and interesting cast of secondary characters to get to know. I, personally, was not in favor of the priest from her hometown coming back. He’s just so…creepy. But I guess that’s the point.

The plot is slow-moving, but not boring by any means. I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to pick the book back up after I was done reading for the day, but I think that says more about my own reading preferences than the book itself. Arden is a talented writer and that shows through in this book just as it did in the first one. There’s the smallest little bud of a romance that blossoms in this book. I’ll be honest, I was wanting this romance from the first book, so I’m glad it’s getting explored and I hope we see more of it in the third book.

If you’re interested in historical Russia, Russian fairytales, or just love beautifully written (albeit slow-moving) books, then I would definitely recommend this book. I look forward to seeing what Arden comes out with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy, but not SUPER descriptive
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Aliens! The End of the World! | Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast [ARC]

28945665Raven, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s identical twin brother got in some trouble. Instead of being sent to Juvie, they were given permission to work at a summer camp as camp counselors instead. That’s where they were when the Nahx arrived. The Nahx use their high-tech dart guns to kill any humans they encounter sparing no one. That is, until Raven. Not only did the Nahx she meet leave her alive, but he carried her to a place where her friends could safely find her. A Nahx has never showed a human mercy before, so why her?

First of all, I find the overall premise of this book kind of weird. I don’t know why I keep requesting sci-fi alien books, because I don’t actually like them very much. But anyway, I did like some things about this book. The emotions that I felt at times really took me by surprise. I was going along reading and then all of the sudden one of the scenes really hit me and I really began to empathize with Eighth. Like seriously, my heart just broke for him. Raven, on the other hand, I never really liked. I just didn’t really find her authentic as a character. She had all these mood swings. I mean, I understand that she’s currently witnessing the end of the world and that her boyfriend was killed and all that, but the context in which she has mood swings just didn’t really fit. So with that being said, her and Eighth’s relationship wasn’t my favorite. Eighth deserved better.

The writing in this book was kind of weird at times. It was very slow-moving to begin with, but then the flow wasn’t great or consistent. I mean, the book is almost 500 pages so it’ll take a little while to get through. It also deals with some HEAVY topics like abusive relationships, racism, grief, hope, identity. Just to name a few.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t hate it either. Like I said earlier, I was surprised by the depth of the emotions I was feeling in the middle of the book, but I still didn’t particularly care for almost all of the characters. If you’re already into sci-fi, though, you might like this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

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

This series is neverending, but I don’t care | Ash & Quill by Rachel Caine [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Great Library series and may contain spoilers for those who haven’t read the first two books.

Ash and QuillJess Brightwell and his friends have been captured by Burners and taken to Philadelphia in America. Not only does he still need to figure out how they’re going to defeat the Library, but now he has to figure out how to escape the Burners without getting killed by either group. Jess thinks he may be able to get some help from his family, but the Brightwell’s don’t provide their aid for free–even for family.

THESE BOOKS ARE SO GOOD. And the covers are AMAZING (just look at it!). For some reason I thought this series was just going to be a trilogy (perhaps that was the original plan) but come to find out, there are actually going to be at least two more books. This is both frustrating and extremely exciting news. I love the world that Caine has created so I don’t want to let go of it too soon, but I also need to know how Jess and everybody else gets out of this mess. What I can say is that it definitely feels like Caine has this series planned out from start to finish. Some things from the first two books tie in to things in this book and I’m sure that’ll extend into books four and five as well. I love when it feels like an author has done a lot of work in developing not only the world, but the overall plot as well.

The characters were great as always. Even though the plot is a little slow moving, I don’t find that I mind because it just helps the characters to develop and enables me to make connections with all of them (literally, all of them). They’ve definitely developed over the three books in a way that’s genuine to the characters that we were originally introduced to. I love that Caine includes a good level of diversity (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) without hitting the reader over the head with it. It’s present and it effects who the characters are without seeming like a stereotype or an excuse to not develop the character further.

Something that’s so hard with ongoing series’ for me is that I often forget who characters are and what happened in previous books. From that perspective, the fact that the plot is so slow moving actually works in the books’ favor because I have a much easier time remember what has already happened since there isn’t too much for me to remember. That part aside, though, I also find it very easy to remember the different characters and their personalities which is impressive with a cast of eight main characters plus secondaries.

Overall, I heartily recommend this series. There’s part of me that might recommend waiting until all the books are written because each book ends with a cliffhanger, but another part feels like these books are too good so everyone should just read them now. I just want to point out real quick that as of today, the book has 113 ratings with only one two-star and no one-stars (of course, this is the day after its release, but still). THESE BOOKS ARE GOOD and I think they’d appeal to both girls and boys. There’s action and romance and a male narrator with some kick-a female characters as well. JUST EVERYONE READ THEM.

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

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