Reviews

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

daughter of the burning city

# of Pages: 377

Time it took me to read: 7 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 54 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

There is no place in the world like Gomorrah. And that is because Gomorrah travels all over the world–a traveling festival that is more like a traveling city because of its sheer size. Gomorrah is a place of magic, where you can find fantastic beasts and fortune workers who will read your palm to tell your future. It is a dark, licentious place that isn’t for the faint of heart. And it’s the home of sixteen-year-old Sorina, the adopted daughter of Gomorrah’s proprietor. And Sorina has a power like no-one else she’s ever met: she’s an illusion worker, able to create illusions so vivid you can see, smell, and in some cases, even touch them. Because not only can Sorina make you believe that you are soaring on the back of a large eagle while the sun sets over the ocean, she has also created a family full of illusions that have lives of their own.

But everything changes one night when Sorina finds a member of her family, one of her illusions, dead on the floor. Sorina must venture outside of the safety of her life on Gomorrah’s Uphill to discover who is behind the murder, finding new allies and venturing deep into the long history of Gomorrah to discover who she truly is, before it’s too late.

 

Wow, I really couldn’t have picked a better book to start the new year. It took me all week to read, since I’ve been a little bit lazy with my reading lately, but once the book had me in its grip, it wouldn’t let me go and I couldn’t put it down.

The world that Amanda Foody has created–both Gomorrah specifically and the wonderfully rich, captivating universe that it exists in, is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Foody blends many different parts of real-world cultures into something that is both unique and extraordinary. Gomorrah has people of all shapes, sizes, genders and sexualities, which is an aspect I’m really loving. It’s clear pretty early on that Sorina is bi-sexual, and though her romantic interest is male, there is a member of her family that is a lesbian, though none of that is the point at all, which is wonderful. These characters, though self-proclaimed freaks, are just people, and I think that having a cast of characters with a wide range of sexualities without having the story be about their wide range of sexualities is the kind of representation YA really needs.

Anyway, I’d like to talk more about Sorina, because as much as I loved the vivid, vivacious world that Foody created, a big part of what really drew me in was Sorina as a character. She’s a “jinx-worker” with a very unique sort of magic: she has the ability to create illusions that people can see, touch, and can even have lives of their own. She can’t go and create people willy-nilly, but once she does make a new member of her family, they are as much of a person as anybody else. They’re all part of Sorina’s act, her “Freak Show”, because all of the people she creates are “freakish” in some way. Her sister Venera is an acrobat so flexible she can literally tie herself in knots, and her uncle Gill is a man who has to live underwater, because he has gills that he uses to breathe. But Sorina often thinks that the biggest freak in her show is herself, because not only is she the illusion worker behind her whole act, but she looks the part of a freak herself–with a smooth, eyeless face that she often covers with a mask, though through her magic, she can see just as well as everyone else. And honestly, I think she’s such a badass. It’s not often that you find a main character in YA that is not conventionally attractive, and being totally eyeless is pretty big on the freaky factor, but it doesn’t slow Sorina down or make her any less relatable as a character, and I’m here for that.

Sorina also continues in a trend that I like that I’m seeing more of in YA: she’s not this seemingly perfect, mature leader who always seems to have all the answers: she’s nieve, she’s flawed, and though she has this amazing magical skill, she doesn’t always know how it works, and her magic isn’t infallible.

This book has really full cast of super well-rounded, interesting and diverse characters, like I mentioned briefly in the beginning. Sorina’s family of illusions, as well as her adopted father, foster mother, and romantic interest Luca, are all wildly intense and likeable, and really add a lot to the mystery of Gomorrah’s murderer.

Speaking of which, the plot was definitely another win on the part of the author. I mean, not only did she create a story full of such great characters in a world that is remarkably engaging, but having this book be a murder mystery where the victims are illusions who technically shouldn’t be able to die in the first place? Genius. The predictability level on this book was pretty low. While I had a few hunches, I have to say that by the end I was very surprised indeed, and thought that the climax was really well built up in the rest of the story (meaning the author left lots of breadcrumbs throughout the story, that once you figure out the resolution you go “oooohhh, yeah, that makes sense now”, like in any good murder mystery).

I will say, the one critic that I have of this story is that, since it’s a stand-alone, I thought it wrapped up a bit too nicely. While there is no doubt that the characters all suffered (there weren’t really any punches pulled in that department), there were a lot of more minor plot points that were built up that were almost “shoved under the rug”, if you will. I still have some questions, that will of course never be answered because it’s a stand-alone, but it was a satisfying ending, even if it did leave me with some lingering thoughts. But I suppose good books often do that–leave little pieces of themselves floating in your brain, long after you’ve read the last word.

But I’d really, 100%, recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of creative world-building, unique magic, and dark fantasy. It was, I hope, just the first of many amazing books in 2018.

If you liked Daughter of the Burning City, try: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daily Posts

Best Books of 2017 & Updates for 2018

Hi everyone!

I’m so sorry that it’s been radio silence since November–I worked my butt off for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), and actually managed to complete it for only the second time ever–50,000 words in 30 days, which was a huge, crazy feat. One left me so exhausted and over writing absolutely anything, so I took December as a month off, swearing that I’d get right back on my feet for 2018–so here I am!

I’m going to start off my Book a Week challenge again, and do my very, very best to post a new review every Sunday night, as well as my Throwback Thursday mini review, so you’ve got a few different days during the week to look for content from me.

Books of 2017

I’m going to start out by saying that I really feel as if I read a dismal amount of books this year, probably between 30 and 40, with only about 25 of them being new books. This was pretty depressing, considering in high school I read over a hundred a year consistently. This year, 2018, I’m going to try and make it to sixty, therefore basically doubling my total from this year, and making it to over one book a week.

New Years Resolutions (Book Related):

  1. 60 books in 2018
  2. Keep a full, comprehensive book journal so I’ll have accurate numbers of how many books I read this year, and the page numbers, so I’ll have nice stats for New Years Day next year.

So now, without further ado, in order from best to worst, (most) of the new books (not re-reads) of 2017:

  1. The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
  2. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  3. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs
  5. The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
  6. A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinger
  7. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
  8. Now I Rise by Keirsten White
  9.  Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson
  10. The Reader by Traci Chee
  11. Three Dark Crowns (Books 1 & 2) by Kendare Blake
  12. Sea of Shadows Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
  13. Troy by Adele Geras
  14. Sweet Venom Trilogy by Tera Lynn Childs
  15. Scale by Keith Buckley
  16. The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid
  17. Verily, A New Hope (Shakespeare’s Star Wars) by Ian Doescher
  18. The Blood of Eden Trilogy by Julie Kagawa
  19. Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam
  20. Incarceron (Books 1 & 2) by Catherine Fisher
  21. Crewel (Books 1 & 2) by Gennifer Albin
  22. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  23. The Graces by Laure Eve

This was not an easy decision to make (the first two and the last three were the most difficult) but the best book of 2017 was officially The Black Witch, which I absolutely adored and cannot WAIT for the sequel coming out later this year. And my least favorite book of this year HAD to be The Graces by Laure Eve, no other book that I read made me quite so mad as this one (though I guess the author did her job in some respects, as she did draw me in enough in the last pages to get me to read the sequel that will drop this year).

I’m going to skip Throwback Thursday this week, as I’d like to start the new year off with a full one review, so I’ll see you all on Sunday, and here’s to a great year of books in 2018!

Throwback Thursdays

Throwback Thursday: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

It seems appropriate on today, the first truly cold day of the year, to write my Throwback Thursday mini review about Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver.

I’m also thoroughly enjoying Stiefvater’s new book this week, which I will review once I finish it.

Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam, the wolf and the girl who fell in love. If you’ve never read one of Maggie Stiefvater’s books before, I cannot possibly describe them with the amount of words that I’ve alotted myself for these mini reviews. Maggie Stiefvater so carefully places each word on the page, it’s like poetry, or maybe it’s like music, because the spaces between the words act like the melody, and her words are so beautiful that I’ve sometimes wept at the sheer miracle of them. It is an amazing blessing that she has chosen this genre, YA, that often gets so much crap for being shallow, when Stiefvater’s characters force you to feel deeply.

Grace is a pretty ordinary girl. She’s a good student, with friends and family that love her. Sam is the opposite of ordinary. Turned into a wolf at a young age, he has lived two lives that have only one thing in common, the girl that he loves both as a wolf and as a boy.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read it, so I don’t have a whole lot of specific detail to put out there,  but the whole trilogy is incredible, and if you only ever read one book with werewolves in it, EVER, this should be it. And then, of course, you should read everything else that she’s ever written.

This is going to be the miniest review, because I am currently in the middle of participating in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) and am already writing at least 1,667 words a day, so at this point I’m feeling a little out of words. I will definitely not be making my book a week this month, but I will continue to post reviews and Throwback Thursdays, just probably not as long and detailed as you’re used to getting.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Throwback Thursdays

Throwback Thursday: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

For this week’s Throw Back Thursday, I’m going to give you a mini review of the first book in one of my favorite series, Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong.

Bitten is the story of Elena Michaels, reporter by day, werewolf by night. She didn’t choose to become what she is, but she has taken her life back by leaving her Pack behind and living in the city. She’s got a human boyfriend, a human job, almost everything to make her life perfect. The only thing that breaks the illusion is having to sneak off very once and a while and change into a wolf. But Elena is willing to live with that so she can have the life she’s always wanted. But when her old Pack alpha calls her home, she knows she can’t ignore the summons, even if it will pull her headfirst back into the world she has been trying to escape.

I’ve read this whole series a couple of times, and even just flipping through this book looking for parts to review makes me want to jump back in.

I don’t read a lot of adult fiction: I find that the storylines often get a little bit campy and predictable. Not that it can’t happen in YA too, but I’ve found that I’m not as engaged in as much adult fiction. Kelley Armstrong is really the exception. She writes for YA too, but Women of the Otherworld is my favorite of hers. Her world is thrilling urban fantasy filled with smart independent women. And while all of these women have amazing power of their own, steamy romances make it that much more enthralling. Women of the Otherworld has werewolves, vampires, necromancers, witches, half-demons, really anything you could ask for in fantasy.

I went on a bit of a tangent on the series as a whole, but Bitten really is the perfect first book to set the series off. Armstrong originally wrote it as a standalone novel, but fans wanted more of Elena, so Armstrong wrote a sequel that set the whole series up for Elena to be joined by more outstanding protagonists. Though I do love the others, Elena will always be my favorite. She really is a strong female role model for other young women to look up to. She’s got a traumatic, haunting past, and while that never goes away, she learns live with who she is and what she has survived, and become stronger because of it.

Bitten is packed (ha, pack-ed, as in wolf pack), with great characters. The alpha, Jeremy, is a wise, fatherly leader, but one who is human enough to make mistakes, too. And how can I not mention Clay, the biggest heartthrob to ever appear in ink.

People ask me often what my favorite book is, and I can never answer, because I read amazing books all the time that astound me with their characters, their worldbuilding, engaging plots, inspiring and relevant themes. And while Kelley Armstrong is a great writer, Bitten is not the “best” books I’ve ever read. But it is up there on my favorites because I can pick it up again and again and feel the same thrill, and fall in love with the characters all over again.

But I will warn you: if you pick up Bitten, you may very well get hooked. And Women of the Otherworld is 13 books long, so you’d better be willing to be in it for the longhaul.

Reviews

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne

# of Pages: 448

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 64 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Ever since sister queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katherine were born, they knew that one day two of them would lie dead and only one sister would reign over the whole of the island of Fennbirn. Mirabella, who’s powerful elemental magic has always given her the edge, is no longer the chosen one after Arsinoe’s terrifying naturalist display at Beltane. But all three of the sisters have their secrets, and the only question left is: which sister is willing to do everything that needs to be done to take the throne? Will it be Mirabella, still the strongest, but also the softest of heart, loving still the sisters that she must destroy? Or Arsinoe, raised as a naturalist with no abilities to show, who is actually a poisoner is disguise? Though always seen as weak, one cannot discount Katherine, who is suddenly showing more power and hunger for the throne than she ever has, despite having been thrown into the heart of the island by the boy that she loved. This Ascension Year promises to be the most mysterious and strange in Fennbirn’s history, but the question still stands: which of the three queens will seize the one dark throne?

I’ve already broken my no sequels rule, but I didn’t do a full review of Three Dark Crowns, so I figured I’d be fine to review the sequel.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I rarely give a sequel a better score than an original, but this is one of those times that I really thought that the author stepped it up in her sequel. All three of the sisters showed a different side of themselves than they did in the first book, and I thought that it really brought a lot of depth to each of the protagonists. And might I say that I think Blake really mastered the art of three protagonists. Two is pretty commonly done, but three is a hard feat. I think that typically it’d be hard as a reader for me to care about all three of them equally, but I actually did. I was invested in the outcome of each sister, and found myself rooting for them all, even when they were pitted against one another.

At the end of the first book, I think that there were several routes that Blake could have taken, and this was probably one of the best ones, definitely a tricky one. The story of Katherine, in particular, really kept me guessing the whole time. It was obvious that the author took some risks and killed some darlings in this book, but I think it all paid off. As a writer myself, I respect some hard decisions that she made, but as a reader I was heartbroken. And as a writer if you can make your readers ache for a character that you’ve written, I’d call that a success.

I also think that this story was paced a lot better than it’s predecessor. I don’t think that it was any fault of the prequel’s, because doing set up is hard, but One Dark Throne started with a great pace and ended the same way. There was no sort of slow build up to the action, the action was there right away. When reading the first one, I remember it taking me until just about half way through to become fully invested in the characters and their world, though by the end I was hooked. I have to say that I was hooked from page one in this story, and I was really refreshed by that, because a lot of popular YA writers will produce a banger of a debut novel, but there is so much pressure after that, that typically I find that the sequels don’t perform as well. So I’m always happy to be able to give a sequel a glowing review.

I know I mentioned this in the first review I did, but I was very impressed with the world building and the magic originality of this story. Fennbirn Island is home to the poisoners, the elementalists, the naturalists, the warriors, and the oracles. The warriors and the oracles aren’t as unique, but they are also the most rare, and not the aspect of magic most focused on. It’s the poisoners and the naturalists that are so cool and unique, particularly the poisoners. Though Katherine isn’t my favorite of the sisters,  I can’t help but be fascinated by the whole poisoner culture that Blake has created. Their religion is also really interesting, and brutal as well. I love it a lot.

Anyway, I’m happy to be able to give this book a resounding 5 out of 5. I really enjoyed every page of it, and am surprised and thrilled that there is going to be one more in the series.

If you liked One Dark Throne, try: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

 

 

Reviews

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

WW Warbringer

# of Pages: 364

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 52 pgs

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

Diana has lived her whole life on the beautiful, isolated island of Themyscira. Her mother, the Queen, and her battle-tested Amazon sisters have always made Diana sure that she has something to prove. What Diana doesn’t know when she pulls a young girl from the wreckage of a sinking ship, is that this girl holds the fate of the world in her very breath. Alia Keralis has been facing the threat of danger her whole life, but what she didn’t know is that it’s because she is the Warbringer, the latest in a long line of descendants of Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships and brought war to the Greeks and Trojans.

The pair make an unlikely team as they escape from Themyscira and hurry towards Greece, because only at the resting place of Helen can Alia be purified and end the line of Warbringers forever. But the World of Man is unfamiliar to Diana, and though she has sworn to protect Alia, there are enemies hidden all around them: those who would seek to destroy the Warbringer before she comes into her full powers, but also those who would seek to use her powers to thrust the world into a new age of war.

I just have to start by saying that this book was amazing! Like, I’m really not surprised, but I’m also just a little bit surprised. I’m not really into reading books that come from movie franchises. I’m all for the books that I like getting turned into movies, but vice versa? Not so much. Though this book is not a literary retelling of the Wonder Woman movie, don’t be confused (though if you’ve seen the movie and you read the description at the top, you’ll know they’re nothing alike). They are set in the same DC world, but the mythology and timeline of the book and movie are very different. Diana is a fully grown adult in the movie, which takes place during World War I, but in this book she is only 16, and it is the modern day. The reason I’m not a) mad about it, and b) actually really loved that aspect of it, was because I’m not into the DC Comics world at all. I’m a Marvel girl all the way, and even then, just the movies, not the comics. Also, this book delved much further into the Greek mythology aspect of the Amazons and included Helen of Troy and other deities much more than in the film.

The reason I’m not surprised that I loved this book was because it’s Leigh Bardugo, whom, if you read my first Throw Back Thursday mini review, you’ll know I’m absolutely in love with. I’m not surprised she was able to make a world that was totally her own, while remaining true to the Wonder Woman character that we all fell in love with this last year with the release of the film. I’m very impressed that she was able to make something creative and different, because it would have been very easy for her to fall back on the world building and mythology that was established in the movie and the comics, and though I’m sure that she borrowed from both, the world felt more realistic than comic book worlds usually do, even with all of the gods and monsters Bardugo invokes (which is very much her style).

Now, to talk a little bit about characters. I absolutely loved teen Diana, because though she is still the strong, socially inept badass that we know and love from the movie, she is a lot more relatable as a teen, because she hasn’t come into her powers and isn’t as sure of her place in the world, which is something that I’m sure a lot of young readers will identify with. I’m sure of this because I identify with it, and at 23 I’m seven years Diana’s senior in this story.

The other main character in this book is Alia Keralis, the daughter of two of New York’s most famous scientists, and the descendant of Helen of Troy. While it is clear that this girl is much more comfortable buried in books, she still contains the street smarts of a girl who has grown up in New York city. Alia is also black, from her mother’s side, and Bardugo doesn’t shy away with making commentary on race in this story, though she does not fall back on using stereotypes at all which is awesome. Alia seems like a totally realistic teenage girl from the city; self conscious, but also scrappy. Though she is initially disbelieving of the world of mythology that she falls into when she meets Diana, she goes from skeptical to resilient and brave in the face of adversity, which is what we all love in our YA heroines.

Quite possibly my favorite part of this book, however, is the insane plot twist at the end. Like, honestly, I haven’t been this surprised by the climax of a book in probably years. While there are usually little parts of every book that are unpredictable and exciting, I typically finishing the book able to say that I guessed pretty well how it was gonna turn out. But I have never let out a more emphatic “damn, I did NOT see that coming” than I did when I got near the end of this story. I won’t say any more, but seriously, so good. No punches pulled at all with that one.

Anyway, just a few last things before I sign off. The pacing of this book was excellent, I was constantly on my toes, excited for that next page, which I haven’t been for quite some time, so that was very refreshing. The side characters were funny and dynamic, very well written additions to this story. The plot was engaging and fresh, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. This book is well-deserving of every one of its five stars.

I’m kind of digging this idea of hiring famous YA writers to retell classic stories. They’ve got a bunch of ones based on Disney movies, of which I’ve only read one, and it was okay, but this one was a win by far. This book definitely proved the Leigh Bardugo is more than capable of escaping her fantasy-dystopia niche.

 

If you liked Wonder Woman: Warbringer, try: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

AntiGoddess by Kendare Blake

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Siren’s Song by Mary Weber

Throwback Thursdays

Blog Update/Throwback Thursday: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

shadow and bone

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to post a little update, as I’m going to be changing around how I’m doing my blog. I will still be reading a book a week, but I won’t be reviewing every book I read, as I have decided to no longer review sequels (there will be a few exceptions, I’m sure, but for the most part I won’t be doing it).

Since that throws the consistency of blog posts out of whack (though lets be honest, they haven’t been that consistent in a long time) I am going to start posting Throwback Thursday reviews into the mix.

Every Thursday, I will be posting a mini-review of a book that I read before I started reviewing books for this blog. They will be much shorter than normal and won’t follow my usual format, but will give me the opportunity to talk about books that I read long ago that I love, but won’t get the chance to write full reviews for on this blog.

My first Throwback review is by one of my favorite authors. It is, in fact, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

This book tells the story of Alina Starkov, an ordinary girl with an extraordinary gift. She goes from being just one of thousands soldiers in the royal army to being swept up into the glamerous life of the Grisha: the magical, elite class of the kingdom of Ravka. The leader of the Grisha, known only as the Darkling, believes that Alina’s unique gift is the key to destroying the Fold, a realm of unnatural darkness that is filled with monsters. The Fold grows larger every year, threatening to engulf not only Ravka but the entire known world. But nothing in the world of the Court is as it seems, and Alina must reconcile her new power with the person that she has always been.

I honestly don’t do this book justice in the description. In this story, Leigh Bardugo teaches a masterclass in world building. I honestly have never read any world like hers, or come upon magic like hers. Her Grisha wield incredible power, but they are abilities that are almost believable.

One of my favorite things about this introduction to a sensational trilogy is the Fold, or the “Unsea”. It is a sinister void filled with monsters, both terrifying and awe-inspiring in its creativity and mystery.

I honestly cannot recommend this book (well, really, the whole trilogy) more. Its one of those stories that draws you in from the first pages, and Alina is a character that is both admirable in her strengths and relatable in her weaknesses. Leigh Bardugo was my #1 new author for 2016, and I give all 5 of her books that I’ve read a full 5 out of 5 stars.

If you’re looking for an engaging, unique book to pick up this week, try Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. You won’t regret this foray into magic and darkness.