Summary: Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal. If that isn’t enough of a problem, Opal’s determination to prove blood magic is still being used is met with strong resistance. The Council doubts her, her mentor doubts her, and even her family is concerned. When her world is turned upside down, she begins to doubt herself. In the end, Opal must decide who to believe, who to trust, and who has control—otherwise she will shatter into a million pieces and be swept out by the tide.
Review: Sea Glass is the second book in the Glass trilogy but the fifth book in the World of Ixia. I’ve grown to love the world and most of the characters and I think this has allowed me to overlook some things about this book that I wouldn’t normally overlook. I have to say that I did really enjoy this book while I was reading it. But now that I’m finished, I can’t help but ask, “what the hell was Opal thinking?” And obviously we see much of what Opal was thinking and I still have no idea why she thought her ideas were good ones. I think I’m having a hard time because much of what Opal’s gotten herself into is her own fault. So, I guess that says good things about how much of an active protagonist she is. But she also makes some really poor choices that I just don’t really understand. She continually trusts the wrong people, she doesn’t confide in anyone she can actually trust, and those she does trust and confide in often get caught in the crossfire trying to help her. I think the plot was interesting but I feel like I don’t know where it’s going. A big thing happened at the end of this story and I’m not sure how it’s going to affect where I thought the plot was going. I would say it was a pretty good plot twist, but I won’t be able to say that confidently until I see where things will go in the third book. I will say that Opal has grown so much in this book. She’s not the timid girl that says yes to everyone and allows herself to get walked all over. She listens to others but ultimately does what she thinks is best. I liked the character development. Overall, it was a sort of all over the place story. I did enjoy it while I was reading but I feel like I’ve just been left wondering what the heck just happened. I’m going to continue onto the next book and see if things get better for Opal (but honestly, they’ll probably get worse, at least for a little while).
Summary: Award-winning author Maria V. Snyder brings readers into a world of molten magic, where storms can be captured within a glass orb and a magician’s powers can remain hidden…until challenged by enemy forces. As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowan understands trial by fire. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it from happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic. Yet the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control her powers…powers that could lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.
Review: Storm Glass starts somewhere we’re familiar with. We’re following Opal at the magicians keep. Opal is the only glass magician. You might remember her from the Study series because she helped Yelena defeat the big bad and still get her happy ending. But in this series we focus on Opal. I thought that the concept of Opal’s magic was really interesting. She can create glass messengers and only magicians can see the spark inside her glass pieces. But while she’s visiting the storm dancers with one of the master magicians, she does something knew. She’s still learning about her magic. All of Sitia is learning that magic might not always take the forms that they’ve grown used to expecting. So, Opal is allowed to take time outside of her regular classes to see what other things she might be able to do. But it turns out to be more than she bargained for when she realizes her new ability can be seen as a threat. I liked Opal. She was a little annoying at times because she was lonely, but it was her own fault that she was lonely even if she didn’t realize that at first. But Opal does her best to stay positive and focus on the mission. I think the plot was interesting for this one. It felt a bit more coherent than the previous series. It felt like things progressed naturally and Opal wasn’t kidnapped ten times. And she wasn’t think super strong, highly trained person. She relied on her intelligence to get her out of bad situations and I liked that. She didn’t have magic to just rescue her from the trouble she found. Overall, I enjoyed this one. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes as some of the series plot lines were clear. I didn’t feel strongly over the romance, but the twist that involved one of the romantic interests totally took me by surprise. I definitely preferred one love interest over the other and I’m really hoping this doesn’t turn into a love triangle thing because it was clear that Opal also preferred one of them over the other. So far, I think I like the Study series better, but this book was interesting and enjoyable. We got to see more of Sitia and new kinds of magic which was pretty cool.
Summary: When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before… Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.
Review: I absolutely love this series. Yelena is such an interesting main character. I mentioned in my review for the second book that it felt like the overarching series plot was getting a little lost, it felt a bit slow. But Fire Study really pulled it all together. There were a few things I didn’t totally love, like Yelena has gone through all this stuff. But she doesn’t seem to learn anything or improve until the final third of this book. It’s been almost three books, she should have grown and developed some right? It felt like she regressed in book two and so in this book she worked to get all that back. And then, we didn’t really even get to see that growth because it all happened so quickly. I still love her though. My other issue with Yelena was that she didn’t take the time to feel things. At one point, someone she loves dies and we don’t see or feel any of that grief. I get that she’s just pushing it all away because there’s a lot of other things going on at the same time, but it would have been nice to see her take a moment for herself to feel that loss. That’s really all that I didn’t like. I loved the revealing of all the secrets. I said this in my review for the first book, but some of the plot twists were predictable and others took me by surprise. I don’t mind this as I always feel smart when I predict things that are going to happen. I think the finale of this series was pulled together so nicely with all of the bits and pieces wrapped up in a satisfying way. I really enjoyed the world and seeing people from both Ixia and Sitia come together to overcome the big bad. I felt like we got more of the characters I love from the first book which made me happy. Overall, this was an enjoyable conclusion. I love this world. I think the magic system is complex and fascinating. Yelena is a main character I could get behind (most of the time since she runs full on into danger entirely too often). I loved the romance and would have loved to get more of that. I think the world is compelling and I’m excited to read the companion series that follows someone we met in book two. I absolutely recommend this series to any fantasy lovers.
Summary: You know your life is complicated when you miss your days as a poison taster… With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be united with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But although she has gained her freedom, she once again finds herself alone – separated from her lover Valek and suspected as a spy for her reluctance to conform to Sitian ways. Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training – especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes embroiled in a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince – and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.
Review: Magic Study is very similar to the first book. It follows the same sort of journey as Poison Study. Yelena is now in Sitia where she’s come to the magicians keep to be trained in magic. Yelena is reunited with her family that she was taken from as a child. She has a lot to deal with emotionally. She’s meeting a family she doesn’t know. She’s now living in a territory she doesn’t remember. She must learn to control her magic. She’s always adjusting to a completely different culture than what she’s grown up knowing. But then, because it’s Yelena, several someone’s want to kill her. So, she’s still not fully trained and once again on edge constantly looking over her shoulder. But she’s growing. She working on trusting others and not just taking matters into her own hands. She’s not always succeeding at this, but she’s trying. She’s trying to see the bigger picture, starting to think about what the future can hold for her. The characters are really what made this story. We get to see characters we loved from the first book like Valek, Ari, and Janco. I loved getting to see Ari and Janco again. They are such good friends to Yelena. I liked seeing them outside of Ixia. But we also have some new characters like, Leif, Dax, and Irys. Irys we met in the last book, but we get to know her a little bit better in this one. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, I feel like we didn’t ever actually learn anything about her. Not like we did with the Commander in the first book anyway. I really liked Dax. His was a bit of a superficial friendship, but he added some humor and levity to the story which I liked. Leif was a really interesting character and the more we learned about him the more I wanted to learn even more. I’m already very excited to see him again in the third book. Overall, this story was similar to Poison Study because it follows the same plot line of Yelena learning something knew and getting taught about that as well as training and learning to ride horses. Side note, Kiki was absolutely my favorite character in this series. But once she’s learning magic, she realizes there are political things going on around her that she just can’t help but get involved in. So, there’s lots of issues in the world and Yelena always manages to make it her problem. But she learns a lot about herself and her abilities. I liked that we got to see a bit of her and Valek together again. I’m also very intrigued to read the third book and see where this is all going. So far, the first two books have had their own contained plots with mysteries to be solved. But the overarching series plot seems a bit slow so I’m interested to see where all of this is going.
Summary: Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past. Whatever that past holds. Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .
Review: Bitterblue is the third book that’s set in the Graceling world. It follows Bitterblue, who we met in Graceling, eight years after the ending of Graceling. Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea, but everything is not what it seems in Bitterblue’s life. People are lying to her. People that were traumatized by her father. She doesn’t know who to trust. She doesn’t know how she’s feeling and she doesn’t know what to do. so, she sneaks out of the castle and heads into the city. She meets two thieves, who change her life. I think this might be my favorite book in the series so far. I haven’t read the newest book yet, but I really enjoyed this one. I genuinely liked Bitterblue as a character. It’s clear she’s overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being queen. But she’s trying and that’s really clear. She’s both trying to know her kingdom and people better and having some fun for herself. She can see that she’s failing but she never stops trying to do better. Even though it feels like everything around her is falling apart, she continues to be a mostly thoughtful person. She does have some issues regarding her privilege. She’s wealthy and it’s not something that she really thinks about, but she’s made to think about it and I really liked that conversation being a part of the book. Bitterblue makes friends with characters that aren’t privileged like she is. So, I was glad to see this difference acknowledged and discussed. Another thing that I liked is that Bitterblue doesn’t shy away from the past that is her father. King Leck, who we met in Graceling, was a terrible, cruel person. But Bitterblue’s memories from the time that she lived with her father are hazy. She wants to learn about the things Leck changed and what she might be able to make up for. There are many people close to her that don’t want her looking into the thinks Leck did and made others do. Many are still struggling with the trauma they were put through by Leck. I really appreciated how Bitterblue handled this. She doesn’t dismiss their trauma or ignore it. I think this was done thoughtfully and respectfully. Finally, I loved that we got to see Bitterblue take a moment to feel her feelings. People she loves are dying, she’s been betrayed, and she feels like she is failing her kingdom. But she takes the time she needs to cry, or scream, or just react to her emotion before she tries to think about what she must do next. I really liked this. This story, like the previous two, was a pretty slow one, but it was so worth it. It builds and builds and builds until finally the story breaks and speeds up. But in that slower part, the characters are developing relationships and themselves. I appreciated this because the relationships felt so well developed. I was invested in them because I felt like I got to know the characters really well. I could sympathize with all of them, even the ones doing not great things. I also liked that we got to see characters that we already knew. We see Katsa and Po again along with a few other familiar faces. I highly recommend this one. I think this series overall is a pretty good one, but especially this one. The way that Cashore manages to make the story so full of emotion is impressive. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, but this one had me tearing up with what Bitterblue was feeling. I cannot wait to read the newest installment of this series.
Summary: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…
Review: I’ve just finished rereading Poison Study for my “Rereading Books I Loved as a Teenager” blog post which I will be wrapping up later this month. I read this series back in 2012 when I found it randomly at my local library. I remembered really loving them, so I bought the trilogy when I found them at one of my local used bookstores a year or so ago. But with all the moving I’ve done and will be doing in the future; I’ve been working on rereading books I don’t remember anything about other than the fact that I liked them so I could see if I still liked them or not. Poison Study follows Yelena who is about to be executed for murder. But when Valek, the Commander’s chief of security, offers Yelena a position as the Commander’s new food taster. After Yelena accepts, Valek teaches her how to sniff out and taste poisons that might be used to kill the Commander. I thought Yelena’s training in poisons was a great part of the story. It was interesting to learn about the poisons but while she’s learning that, we’re also learning about how this world works and the governing of Ixia. We learn a bit about Ixia’s past. The start of the story is pretty slow. We know that Yelena killed the son of someone important. The fact that she’s still alive is something that this man isn’t happy with. Along with learning about how to identify poisons, Yelena is being targeted by several different people. So, not only is she trying not to be poisoned to death, but she’s also on the lookout for anyone trying to physically attack her as well. This is when the story starts to get more complicated and a bit political. Yelena and Valek are suspicious of the man trying to have Yelena killed, but he’s in a position of leadership, so it’s complicated. I think the political twists and turns of the plot were interesting ones. There were some that were predictable, people that were so obviously ‘bad guys’ but what was interesting was figuring out how they were doing the things they were doing. You could see all of the pieces and it was pretty clear that they were all connected, but finding out how exactly the puzzle pieced together was a compelling story. This story was way darker than I remember. Yelena’s childhood was filled with trauma, from torture (that’s pretty explicitly described) to rape. She was not treated well. But she seemed like a pretty well-adjusted person for someone that had been through all of that and then spend a year in a dungeon. We’re told about her trauma and shown what she’s been through and it seems that the biggest thing from everything she’s experienced is that she wants to learn to fight so that she’ll never be defenseless again. Also, she has a ghost following her that we don’t really know much about what exactly that means, so I guess we will find out more in the next book. The romance between Yelena and Valek was one I enjoyed. I’ve read mixed reviews about this as many pictured Valek to me an older gentleman and Yelena is supposed to be only 19. But we learn more about Valek’s history it’s clear he’s not an old man. I think their romance was slowly developed and believable. I really enjoyed it and I’m very excited for the ‘forbidden romance’ aspect of the next book. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was way darker than I was anticipating, but I enjoyed it. There is also a trans man in this first book that I believe we will see again later in the series, but I can’t speak to whether it’s good or bad representation, so if you’ve read this and you can speak for the representation, let me know. I’ve seen lots of people compare this to Throne of Glass and I can sort of see the comparison, but this series came first so. I’m eager to continue the series.
Summary: Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out. When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa. When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.
Review: A Sweet Mess is a book that I picked up completely randomly at Barnes and Noble because it talks about baking (and I have a blog feature where I bake things I read about in books). So, I thought this would be a fun one to try and see if I could find something in it for Books & Baking (which I did and will eventually attempt). This story was an interesting one. I’ve never really read a book with some of the tropes that were in here. One of which (the pregnancy trope) is one that I often hear negative things about, but I didn’t hate it. I actually really liked it. I’m not sure if that’s because of my personal experiences or if it’s because it was well done within the story. I enjoyed all the talk of the baked goods and the food. This book certainly made me hungry, but in a good way. So, we follow Aubrey Choi who owns and runs her own bakery in a small town. I loved seeing Aubrey, in the beginning, just love what she’s doing. By chance, Landon Kim’s borrowed car breaks down in this small town. He is mistakenly given a bizarre cake that was specially made for a child’s birthday party instead of the special of the day, which looks the same on the outside. Later that day, Landon and Aubrey meet in the bar next door to the bakery (which is owned and run by Aubrey’s best friend). They end up having a one-night stand. The two don’t interact again until after Landon’s scathing review is published. Aubrey didn’t know that it was Landon that had been given the incorrect cake until his review. After the small town comes together to try to get Landon to rewrite to retract his review, Landon comes back to Aubrey’s bakery to see if she’s interested in an opportunity to show how great of a baker she really is. This starts Aubrey’s and Landon’s struggle to stay away from one another while prepping and filming a cooking show. I really liked Aubrey. She was a great problem solver and when things were falling apart, she didn’t just give up. She made a plan to try to make things better. She did her best to keep her head up and push through. She was smart and creative. I just genuinely liked her. Landon was an interesting love interest. His backstory showed why he was the way he was. I liked that we learned the reasoning behind his actions. I also liked that Landon thought things through. He knew that if he retracted or rewrote his review for Aubrey’s bakery, someone might find out that they slept together, which could damage both their reputations. So, he came up with another creative solution. The chemistry between these two was the best part of the story. The tension we got to see between them while they’re trying to stay away from one another was so excellent. I think they were a really great couple. I was invested in their romance, even as I understood why they were trying to stay away from one another. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I think A Sweet Mess was a delightfully sweet story filled with diverse and successful characters. I liked the plot and the twists. I will definitely be recommending this one in the future.
Summary: Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
Review: I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I thought there was going to be some fantasy or magical element, but I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t. The Inheritance Games is a delightfully mysterious story that follows Avery as she learns that she has inherited the fortune of Tobias Hawthorne, a man that she has never met. The only stipulation is that she must live in Hawthorne House for one year before she can receive this inheritance. The downside of moving into a big mysterious mansion? The other people that live in it. This starts the riddles, puzzles, and occasionally, nonsense that Avery must deal with. Tobias Hawthorne had two daughters. One of his daughters has four sons. These four, Tobias’s grandsons, will be Avery’s biggest challenge. I liked the characters. I think they were all well developed and interesting (even the ones I didn’t like). It was never really clear who was on Avery’s side, or at least, who didn’t completely despise her. I think the mystery of this story was so well done. It’s a series, so there’s definitely some things that didn’t get answered, but I felt like enough of my questions were answered for me to feel satisfied. I think the Hawthorne grandsons were absolutely fascinating. Each of them had such different reactions to Avery’s new place in their lives. I think Barnes did an excellent job of leaving little bits and pieces of the truth for the reader to put together. There’s so much to make theories and guesses for and I really enjoyed this part. At times, it was easy to even doubt Avery. The one thing I didn’t like was the romance aspect of it. It seemed like insta-love, which isn’t a trope that I care for. I think the romance absolutely was not needed in this book. I think the relationship could have stayed completely platonic, or if anything could have been a one-sided attraction. I don’t think the romance really added anything special to the story and I didn’t care for it. Overall, I absolutely had a blast reading this book. I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down until I got to the last page. I really enjoyed the characters, even the bad ones. I liked the mystery. It kept me interested and wondering what the truth behind Avery getting the inheritance. I am very eager to get my hands on the sequel later this year.
Summary: When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut. Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him. Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare. But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.
Review: When You Deserve Each Other was first released in 2020, there were so many people talking about it. It made lots of TBR lists, and a few people whose reviews I trust really enjoyed it. So, obviously I bought it because I’m addicted to buying books. This story follows Naomi and Nicholas, an engaged couple, that have stayed together, pretending to be happy, despite the fact that they both want to break up. Now, I just have to say that for most of this book, I was screaming at them in my head to just break up already! But, honestly, I’m glad they didn’t because damn was this book entertaining. I didn’t like Naomi at first, she was hiding herself, but once she stopped doing that and we really got to see her personality, I started to love her. She’s witty and sassy. She’s creative and devious. I loved the pranks she played on Nicholas. I feel the same about Nicholas. He was a bit of a jerk at first, but part of that was probably because we met him through Naomi’s perspective. But once we got to see his playful side when he and Naomi started to prank and play with each other, I really love him too. Overall, this was a super fun romance. I liked that it had the twist of the two love interests already being in a relationship. I thought that made the story even more fun. Two people that had already agreed to marry one another and almost completely plan the entire wedding, but they realized that they didn’t even want to get married anymore. I really enjoyed watching them come back together and fall in love again. I think this will be a hit for those that love fun and funny romances.
Summary: It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men. This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own. Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom. If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
Review: Fire is a part of the Graceling series. From my understanding, these are all just companion stories. I’ve been rereading them since there has been another installment in this series released this year. It’s been years since I’ve read any of the Graceling books, so I thought I’d reread before getting to the newest one. You can find my recent review for Gracelinghere. Fire follows the main character, named Fire, in the kingdom of the Dells. This is a different part of the world than what we learned of in Graceling. So, it felt like I was learning the world all over again, because I was. I think it was easier to become familiar with this world. The magic was interesting with the monsters that live in this part of the world. They have an irresistible magic about them. I thought that was really interesting to see how it worked with all the different kinds of monsters, from monster insects to Fire, the last human monster. I think the world was, like Graceling, a bit confusing to keep track of which leaders where who and where they ruled. Add on to that, some of them are forming alliances and there is a war brewing. I liked the political aspect of the story. At times, it was a bit drawn out, but overall, I enjoyed it. Fire was a really compelling character. She was the best part of this story. I enjoyed learning about her past, her struggles, and her secrets. She was a great choice of main character for this story. She really kept me interested in the story when I felt that it was dragging. Overall, I liked Graceling better than Fire, but I still liked this one. It was an interesting story that shared more of the world we didn’t get to see in Graceling. I thought Fire was a great character (that I believe we see again in the future?) I’m eager to continue onto Bitterblue so that I can get to the newest story in the series.
Summary: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.
Review: Graceling tells the story of Katsa, the niece of a king. She has the Grace of killing. She has been trained to be the king’s weapon, doing his bidding. But one day, Prince Po comes to court and Katsa finally finds a challenge. The two end up on an adventure they did not expect. I don’t really want to spend too much time talking about what happened. So, I’m going to get into my thoughts on the things I liked about this book. Katsa was raised to be the king’s enforcer. Despite this, she finds ways to rebel against the things she’s made to do. She and her friends have created the Council. This Council helps those in need. I really liked that while Katsa mostly did what the king ordered, she found ways to do good things too. I mostly liked Katsa. She’s angry, abrasive, and stubborn. She can be selfish at times, but when it counts, she does the right thing. Then there’s Po. I loved Po. He does his best to find ways in the cracks of Katsa’s armor. He gets to know her, even though she doesn’t really want that. I loved learning about the other kingdoms through Po and his experiences. I think Po was a well-developed character. I liked his family connections. I think Po’s personality was a really good balance for Katsa. They’re basically opposites, so things were really interesting when their relationship turned romantic. I think the world building was alright. It wasn’t anything to call home about, but it was interesting. There was a bit of information dumping at the beginning. I think the politics of this world were one of the more interesting aspects of the story. The different kings were all pretty horrible, but it was interesting to see their differences. Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The plot is super interesting and the characters, while imperfect, kept my interest and I found myself easily invested in their story. I am very excited to continue onto Fire. I also forgot to mention at the start of this review that this was a reread. I read this series years ago, but with the release of Winterkeep, I wanted to reread all the books in the Graceling Realm before diving into the new one.
Hi, lovelies! Today I have a full series review for you all. With the new Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone coming out in April, I decided that I wanted to reread all of the books in the Grishaverse. Soon after, I realized I’d never reviewed the original trilogy. So, this past week I binge read the three books in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Instead of giving each book its own review, I thought it would be easier to just review the whole series in one post. So, that’s what I have here for you. (I’ve already reviewed Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom if you want to check out those reviews when you’re done reading this one.)
Book One – Shadow and Bone
Summary: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Review: I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but I think because I’ve read it before it felt lackluster. There were some things I didn’t remember, but nothing that really surprised me (maybe because I haven’t waited long enough to forget). I feel like so much happened in this book but at the same time, it felt like nothing happened the whole time. There were also some things that bothered me that I don’t think I noticed the previous times I read this book. One of those things is how quickly Alina accepts her power as Sun Summoner. I think this is supposed to be because it made sense to her, but I would have liked a bit more internal conversation about her acceptance of this. She goes from disbelief to throwing herself into her new studies too quickly for my liking. Another thing is her ‘friendship’ with Marie and Nadia. We’re supposed to care about these two girls that have befriended Alina, right? Because we know next to nothing about them in this book and I didn’t care about them at all. It was easy to read, aside from remembering what Grisha had which power. It felt like a simple story (especially compared to her other books). Alina had one goal, well two if you count finding Mal, and she didn’t reach it. Which I think that’s why it feels like nothing happened. She was trained with her ability and then ran away. But when she got her courage together and tried to do the right thing she failed. So, it’s almost like the whole story was pointless. I know there’s two more books and I am picking up the second one tonight. I don’t know, I just feel like I remember liking this series so much more than the reading experience I just had. As for Mal and Alina, their ‘romance’ wasn’t very easy for me to get invested in. It seemed like Alina was the one that cared more. I made a note while reading that said, “Alina shows Mal a lot of loyalty, but does Mal show the same thing back?” I think maybe eventually, but I didn’t see that in this book.
Book Two – Siege and Storm
Summary: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Review: There were a few things that managed to surprise me in this book. I forgot about a certain plot point that happens with Genya (who I still love with my whole heart). Alina starts to gain confidence in herself and we see that when she speaks up a few times. Though, she is still in denial about that fact that she needs to save the world which was annoying. I definitely see why everyone says this suffers from second book syndrome. Beacuse it does. They plan and plan and plan, and literally everything fails. I understand why some of the stuff needed to be in there, but I feel like there was so much unnecessary story. Mal pissed me off the whole time, they found literally nothing on the firebird and Alina almost died. I think this could have been a much shorter story. And while I understand that things needed to happen, like meeting Sturmhond (the only good part of this book), there was so much telling and barley and showing because nothing is really happening. Alina is being paraded around, and people are preparing but nothing is happening. That’s really my biggest complaint. This was almost 500 pages and almost nothing happened. But I will say, despite nothing really happening, I was, surprisingly, never bored.
Book Three – Ruin and Rising
Summary: The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Review: The first thing I want to mention about this book is the setting and the writing. I probably could have mentioned it for the previous books, but it stood out the most for me in this one. Bardugo’s writing is stunning. She really knows how to set a scene and describe the setting these characters are in. It stood out the most to me while the gang is traveling through the tunnels. This book is my favorite out of all three. This was the book where I found myself finally invested in the relationships. Where we’re seeing all of these characters together and how they’ve grown after all the trials they’ve faced together. Zoya is my Queen and favorite. I liked that Alina and Zoya managed to find a sort of friendship when they started out hating one another. There were quite a few things that I completely forgot about in this story. I found myself surprised by twists I should have remembered more than once. I really enjoyed being surprised and I thought all of these twists were well done. Overall, I enjoyed this one the most. There were plot twists that I’d totally forgotten about. I grew to love characters I didn’t like when I started my reread. I even ended up really liking Mal and Alina together. So many people say that he’s controlling and boring and blah blah, but I didn’t see any of that. I thought the almost constant nods to his tracking abilities were a little over the top, but after finishing the book I realize that it’s done that way on purpose. I love Nikolai with my whole heart. Genya, Zoya, David, and the twins are my favorites. I think overall this series was really well done. I know many don’t like the way this book ended, but I did. I think it was a satisfying ending that brought things to a full circle, ending where they began. Alina never wanted to be special, so I liked that she got her quiet life back.
Now, this series as a whole stands up against time, I think. I think individually each book has its issues. But if you look at all three books together, they are really great books. When I was reading the first and second books, I was considering unhauling my copies after I finished my reread. Now, that I’ve finished I remember why I loved this series so much. I may not have liked all of the choices the characters made, or even liked all of the characters, I think this was an incredible adventure. I think this series will find fans for many years to come.
Summary: After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people’s auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone’s entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact to suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste. Damen is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He’s the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it’s as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she’s left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she’s falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.
Review: Evermore is the start of a series that I remember really loving when I was a teenager (hence why I reread it since I’m doing a themed thing for the blog). I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually interesting when I started the audiobook. I really liked the narrator. She did a good job telling the story without leaving me confused about which characters were talking and all that. Ever is dealing with the grief of losing both her parents and her younger sister in a car accident. A car accident that Ever was the only survivor of. Since the accident, she’s able to see auras, read thoughts, and see the ghost of her younger sister, Riley. She copes the best she can in the form of oversized hoodies and by blocking the world out by listening to her iPod (it even mentions her having an iPod pocket. Anyone else remember these?) Things change for Ever when the new kid, Damen, shows up at school. For some reason, when he’s around, everything else goes silent. She doesn’t have to hear everyone else’s thoughts. But the more time she spends with him the more suspicious of him she gets. Once she’s away from him, she can see that he’s keeping secrets and there’s something about their interactions that just doesn’t sit right with her. I liked that she could see the red flags, but I didn’t like that she pretty much ignored them and “fell in love” with him anyway. Their relationship was the biggest issue with this book for me. Their relationship never felt like it followed a natural progression. I feel like Ever never really got to know him and I feel like Damen never took the time to get to know her either. If they did do this, it was brushed over and we were told about it instead of shown. Then, the big reveal shares all of Damen’s actual secrets and that’s supposed to make all of the uncomfortable things he did okay? Not for me. Overall, I thought the magic was interesting. I liked Ever and her two best friends. But I couldn’t make myself care about the relationship. I can totally understand why I liked this book when I was younger. The dated music and other references also definitely made me chuckle.
Summary: Nine months. Two weeks. Six days. That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?
Review: Far From You is a mystery/thriller that follows Sophie. Sophie was in a car accident and as a result has pins in her leg and lives with lifelong pain. After the accident, she’s prescribed pain killers and becomes addicted to them. Now, flash forward and it’s been four months since her best friend, Mina, was murdered. Everyone thinks it was a drug deal gone wrong, but Sophie has been sober for almost a year and Mina never would have enabled Sophie to get more drug anyway. Sophie is sent away to a rehab program, which she doesn’t need. The story starts with Sophie getting ready to get out of rehab. Sophie is determined to figure out who really killed Mina and why. But the story isn’t told chronologically. This was the only thing I really had trouble with. I listened to the audiobook, so the narrator jumping all around the timeline was confusing. It was hard to keep up with where in time things were until we got a bit of context, but in the beginning of the story I wasn’t familiar with all of that important context. So, I felt a bit lost. But once I got a grasp of the story and who was a part of the past and then the events of the present. I thought it was done really well. I liked this slow reveal of the story. I liked that we got to see Sophie’s struggle with addiction (well, I didn’t like it. But I appreciated it for her the development of her character). It felt like we got the whole story of Sophie’s struggle, not just the after. We got to know what Sophie’s relationship with Mina was like. We got to know Sophie before she was addicted to drugs. We felt her anger and her grief after she lost Mina and subsequently lost everyone else in her life too. I think the mystery of who killed Mina was a really compelling one. I definitely didn’t guess the truth behind what really happened. I think the story told so well. The mystery was built up slowly, giving us time to know and care about the characters. It was full of slow build up that led to excellent action scenes. Overall, I really liked this book. I think Sophie was a character that I could root for. She was determined, but we also learned what exactly made her so determined. We learned about her love for Mina. I couldn’t help but feel for Sophie. After all she’d been through with her recovery, people not believing that she was sober was devastating. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be looking to read more of Sharpe’s book.
Summary: When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
Review: Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical. All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse. This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground. Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.