Blogmas Book Review: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

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GoodReads Summary:
There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.
Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.
To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.
Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?
The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising, #1)Review:
I have to start this review off by sending a thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest (and very late) review. I’m glad to have gotten this one, even if it was approved only days before the release date because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get around to buying it. Now that I’ve already read (and loved!) it, I’m planning to go buy my own copy this weekend.
The Guinevere Deception is a retelling of the myth of King Arthur and Camelot, but with a more feminist focus. We follow Guinevere instead of Arthur. I know little to nothing about the original mythology (which I will talk about a bit later in the review), so for me, this was a fun and fantastical read with characters I vaguely knew of.
I loved Guinevere. She’s sent to Camelot to protect Arthur from something, but Merlin hasn’t told her what that something is. She has magic, which has been banned from Camelot. So she must keep her magic a secret. Of course, she doesn’t. But the few she entrusts her secret to are characters I really like. Guinevere is determined not to let Arthur down and even might fancy him a bit. But though she is his Queen, it is not real. Honestly, I was rooting for a little more romance between Arthur and Guinevere. I totally ship them and didn’t particularly care for the almost love triangle that was going on for a bit.
I loved all of the supporting characters too. Guinevere’s lady’s maid, Brangien. She was more than just a maid and I really liked that. She supported Guinevere and helped her with everything she was supposed to already know. Also, Brangien’s love interest and how Guinevere helps them see one another melted my little heart.
Now, the patchwork knight was my favorite. The mystery of their identity and whether or not they were involved in nefarious things was excellent. And I was more than pleased when we do finally figure out who the patchwork knight was.
I even liked Arthur, even though he wasn’t really center stage in this book. I’m hoping we get more of him with Guinevere in the next book because I totally want these two to love each other forever and ever.
I thought the writing was beautiful and the characters were loveable. So when I went to mark this book finished on goodreads I was more than surprised to see that it has almost a 3.5-star average. I think that has to do with how well-loved the original myth of King Arthur is. As I said above, I’m not overly familiar with it, so I wouldn’t know one way or the other how close it stayed to the original or didn’t. Many of the reviews I read that spoke negatively of this book were readers that pointed out they love the original mythology. But that wasn’t something that was a factor for me.
So, maybe don’t pick this one up if you’re a huge fan of the story of King Arthur, but if you’re like me and vaguely know it. You might love this one like I did.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

GoodReads Summary:
Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson think they’re finally in the clear. They’ve left Sherringford School—and the Moriartys—behind for a pre-college summer program at Oxford University. A chance to start from scratch and explore dating for the first time, while exploring a new city with all the freedom their program provides. But when they arrive, Charlotte is immediately drawn into a new case: a series of accidents have been befalling the members of the community theater troupe in Oxford, and now, on the eve of their production of Hamlet, they’re starting all over again. What once seemed like a comedy of errors is now a race to prevent the next tragedy—before Charlotte or Jamie is the next victim.
A Question of Holmes (Charlotte Holmes #4)Review:
A Question of Holmes is the final book in the Charlotte Holmes series. Part of me is really sad that this series has ended, and another part of me thought it was the perfect ending. This final book is told entirely from Charlotte’s perspective, which is something I wanted in the first two books. But in this one, I mostly just wanted to hear from Jamie again.
Charlotte had grown exponentially in this series. This final book is evidence of that. We see her trying to use the things she’s learned in therapy. She’s trying to not fall back into old habits, even though it would be so easy to do so. I really liked this new version of Charlotte. She’s always been really self-aware, but now was trying to get out of her self-destructive habits.
Jamie has also changed. We only see him from Charlotte’s point of view. But it’s still clear that he sees Charlotte for who she is. He no longer adores her without abandon. He still obviously loves her, but he also isn’t afraid to leave if she starts becoming self-destructive again. He knows she has flaws and encourages her to overcome them.
The mystery in this one was exactly what I was expecting the first book to be. It was a light-hearted, curious but mostly harmless mystery. It was not the life or death matter that the other books turned out to be. I really enjoyed that. The stakes were much lower for everyone involved. I liked that because while the high stakes made the story fast-paced and exciting in the previous books, I don’t think that would have been right for this final book.
Overall, I enjoyed this one so much. I’m still undecided on whether or not I love the ending. I liked it, but did I love it? I honestly don’t know. It wasn’t the happily ever after that I wanted, but I think maybe it’s what was best for Jamie and Charlotte. Not a solid ending, but hope for a better future for both of them. If you haven’t read this series, please stop what you’re doing and go read it now.

Quotes:

“Whatever Watson and I were to each other was our business, no matter how the world leaned in and breathed against the glass.”

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t love these moments—him looking at me like I had in my hands a curtain pull, that I could reveal the underbelly of the world.”

“A secret is something embarrassing. Something compromising, something with power. Secrets are what we make art from.”

“My past made me who I am. There is no way to wipe that clean.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

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Summary:
Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.
When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.
Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.
Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.
StepsisterReview:
I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Donnelly while she was doing the book tour for Stepsister. She was honestly so inspiring. I’ve been so excited to read Stepsister since that event. I finally managed to listen to the audiobook for the NEWTs.
Stepsister is the story of Cinderella’s sisters and what happens to them after Ella marries the prince and becomes Queen. I am in awe of Donnelly with the complexities of this story. Isabelle is being guided by two characters, Fate and Chance. It took me way too long to realize the significance of Chance other than it just being his name. Chance steals Isabelle’s life map from the Fate’s, and does everything in his power to change her path.
Isabelle was a really unlikable character. Which I’m pretty sure was the intention. This wasn’t a happy story. It was a story about growth. How to find the pieces of your heart and escape the title of ‘ugly step-sister.’
I am really not sure how to explain this story. But it was one of loss and regret and learning to love yourself. The things that Isabelle and her family endure could break anyone. But she doesn’t let it. She tries and tries, again and again, to do the right things, to be a better person. But she learns that it’s not that easy. Isabelle’s path is not an easy one, but despite the forces trying to hinder her, she finds her way.
Overall, this was a fascinating story. It was filled with unlikeable characters that learned how to be better, how to change their ways before it was too late, and how to love themselves even though they may not be traditionally pretty. Fate and Chance pulled the path in countless directions, keeping things interesting. If you’re a lover of fairytales, this is the story for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

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GoodReads Summary:
Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.
Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter-break reprieve after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But Charlotte isn’t the only Holmes with secrets, and the mood at her family’s Sussex estate is palpably tense. On top of everything else, Holmes and Watson could be becoming more than friends—but still, the darkness in Charlotte’s past is a wall between them.
A distraction arises soon enough because Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring. The game is afoot once again, and Charlotte is single-minded in her pursuit.
Their first stop? Berlin. Their first contact? August Moriarty (formerly Charlotte’s obsession, currently believed by most to be dead), whose powerful family has been ripping off famous paintings for the last hundred years. But as they follow the gritty underground scene in Berlin to glittering art houses in Prague, Holmes and Watson begin to realize that this is a much more complicated case than a disappearance. Much more dangerous, too.
What they learn might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.
The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes, #2)Review:
I am officially obsessed with this series. I don’t know why I waited so long to pick it up. I think part of me was worried it wasn’t going to live up to the hype, but it absolutely does. The Last August was just as good as the first book in the series.
I love Charlotte Holmes. She’s flawed and so utterly human. But she’s also highly trained and is always thinking about a hundred steps ahead. I love the way her mind works and I wish we got more chapters from her point of view. She is really just a fascinating character.
Then there’s Jamie, sweet, dear Jamie. I just adore him. He’s always got something to prove. That he doesn’t need Charlotte’s training or affection. That he’s better than August. I enjoyed seeing his relationship with his dad get better over the course of the book. He finds himself in need of advice regarding the quirks of the Holmes family member, which I thought was an interesting way for them to bond.
The mystery in this book. Phew, it was a doozy. The ending was confusing and I’m honestly still not totally sure what happened. Every time I thought one thing was going on, Charlotte proved me wrong, over and over.
Overall, this was a fast-paced thrill ride with characters who have depth and real problems. I love this series and I cannot wait to continue on to the third book. If you haven’t picked up this series, what are you waiting for?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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GoodReads Summary:
The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)Review:
I picked this one up as a part of my Contemporaryathon TBR. I’m beyond glad I finally got into this series. I cannot wait to pick up the next book. A Study in Charlotte turned out to be a little bit darker than I had anticipated, but I think all the heavy topics that are mentioned are discussed well and used wisely.
I really was surprised to realize that this book is told from Jamie’s point of view. I really enjoyed that. I thought it was interesting to be in his mind. I thought he was kind of annoying at first, but he mostly grew on me.
I completely adore Charlotte. She has problems and issues and she admits to them and accepts them. But she’s also always right. Seeing her and Jamie meet and grow together was the best part of this book. They have all this family history and are basically bound to one another regardless of what they want.
Overall, this was a captivating mystery with characters to die for. I thought the story was paced well and the writing was interesting. I am very eager to pick up the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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GoodReads Summary:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
HeartlessReview:
Heartless is a prequel story to the well-known and well-loved Alice in Wonderland story. It’s the origin story for the Queen of Hearts. This fantastical and sometimes bizarre story is one that I read a few years ago, and when I learned that Rebecca Soler is the narrator for the audiobook, I knew it was time for a reread via the audiobook.
I’m glad I did. This story was just as wild as I remember it. I really loved Cath. I loved her passion for baking and her love for her friends. She’s passionate and tries to stay true to what she believes but also battles with pleasing her parents. I think she was such an interesting character. Seeing the battle between what she wants and what her parents want for her was the best part of the story.
The world is fascinating and whimsical and messy. I really enjoyed it. The complexities of the difference between Chess and Cath’s world was compelling and Jest ad Hatta made me want to know more. I would have loved to actually gotten to see Chess.
I really don’t know what else to say about this book. So much happens, there are so many characters, and the parts I want to talk about the most are at the end and I don’t want to spoil. I really wish things ended differently, but alas; the ending is the part that was inevitable. I loved Cath. She had such a big heart of gold. She really cared about others and their happiness. I loved her passion and it made me want to get up and bake something!
Anyone that is a lover of Alice will probably love this story. Marissa Meyer really excels in the area of retellings. If that’s your cup of tea, give this one a try. Listen to the audiobook because Rebecca Soler is my all-time favorite narrator. She’s completely incredible.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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GoodReads Summary:
In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.
Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.
Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?
When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.
House of Salt and SorrowsReview:
A 12 Dancing Princess retelling? Say no more. I was beyond excited to read this book and I was lucky enough that my fellow Capricorn moon signs wanted to buddy read it for the Zodiacathon. It was the perfect read to start off the Spooky Season.
Let’s start off with the atmosphere. The setting was an island that worships the sea. That’s a place I could live in. It starts off with the fourth funeral of one of Annaleigh’s sisters. So, right from the start, it’s a little creepy and grim. It continues like that for the rest of the story. You can almost feel the atmosphere. Foggy and rainy, murder and mystery. It’s the perfect October read.
At first, I had trouble keeping the sisters straight. There’s so many of them, even the ones who died. Trying to remember who was who and who was dead or alive was confusing, but I did figure it out after about 100 pages. I really enjoyed our main character Annaleigh, but I feel like because there were so many sisters and other side characters, we really only got the chance to get to know a few of them. We got to know the stepmother, who I alternated between loving and hating several times. Fisher, who I also both loved and hated for different reasons. And a few of the sisters. I would have liked to go more than surface deep for the other characters. Cassius especially. Though I’m still obsessed with him, we didn’t really get to know him that well. We learn who his parents are, but not what he likes and doesn’t like and things like that. It was similar with a few other characters too.
The mystery was really great. I suspected almost every character except the sisters at one point or another. I really love books that keep me guessing and this one did. While I did predict (but then convince myself I was wrong) the identity of the big bad, there was so much more to the mystery than I could ever have predicted. I loved that the mystery was so much more than I anticipated.
Overall, I completely loved this book. I am excited to see what else Erin Craig comes out with. I loved the main character and Cassius. I loved the setting, the mystery, and most of all the atmosphere. I also really enjoyed the twist on the 12 dancing princesses’ story. This is a must-read if you like fantastical retellings and spooky reads.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.