War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Summary:
Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head.
But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path.
War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?
In the epic conclusion to Victoria Aveyard’s stunning series, Mare must embrace her fate and summon all her power… for all will be tested, but not all will survive.
War Storm (Red Queen, #4)Review:
I wanted to like this finale more than I did. As with most books, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I think I’m going to organize this review like I have with a few other series conclusions in the past because there’s just too much going on for me to talk about it in my traditional format.

Things I liked-

The changing perspectives was probably my favorite thing about this book. It was done in the previous book too (see my review for King’s Cage). I really felt like we got to see into the heads of the rest of the characters that play a part in this story. I started to really feel for certain characters (read: Evangeline) instead of hating them like I did in previous books. Seeing things from her point of view, what her thoughts and opinions were rather than just the face she puts on for the world was really interesting and was the best part of this book. The same goes for Iris. I liked seeing her plans and thoughts. The way that her country works and what her values and ideals were.

I liked seeing the different parts of the world. We get to see the Lakelands and more of Montfort. I enjoyed exploring more of the world. Along with this, we’re learning more about the Newbloods and how the world is changing.

Finally, I liked the action. The fighting was exciting and fun. I thought the battles they chose and the places they strike were good choices. I was convinced that Aveyard was going to kill a certain character, but she didn’t thankfully.

Things I didn’t like-

The ending. I wanted more. This was not very satisfying to me.

Mare and Cal. I remember being pretty broken up with their drama in the last book, but reading this one and the choices they both make just annoyed me. I wanted them to just get over it all. I didn’t care if they ended up together or not. I didn’t care about them in general.

Which leads me to the rest of the characters. For a book so thick, there was so much focus on characters I didn’t care about. In the first few books, we’re learning all about these Newbloods. Rescuing them and training them, but then we just get two or three sentences here and there about them and no further development. I really didn’t appreciate that.

Overall-

I’m happy for the series to finally be over and to see it concluded (though I am excited for the novella collection coming out in May.) I found myself really struggling to pick this book up and actually want to read it. I think maybe pushing myself to finish it despite these feelings made me enjoy it less but I didn’t want to keep waiting and then forget everything from the first three books. I’m glad I read the series because I did enjoy it, but I’m equally glad for it to be over.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

 

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

Summary: Sometimes, there is nowhere safe to hide.

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.

Review: This book was amazing, as all of Nora’s are. She’s been an auto-buy author of mine since the first time I picked up one of her books and I’ve never been disappointed. This book was suspenseful, heart-wrenching, funny, and romantic.
I especially loved that it followed these characters over a fourteen year period. It starts with the mall shooting, then shows glimpses of the survivors over the years as they learn to cope with what happened to them, until it reaches present day when most of the story takes place. It was amazing to see the way these characters grew over the years and the different ways they handled (or didn’t) the trauma.
Simone was an awesome character. She goes from a teenager who’s life is ruined because she got dumped to a strong-willed, confident woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She tried to bury her feelings after the shooting; if she kept it locked up, it didn’t happen. I enjoyed watching her slowly open up and actually confront what had happened to her. She definitely has flaws but that only made her more relatable. I also loved how she dealt with her emotions through her art. Being a sculptor, she had a unique perspective that I found very interesting.
Reed is the best kind of male MC; he’s sexy, funny, romantic, tough and not afraid of his sensitive side. He’s perfectly comfortable going from the badass cop to chatting about art with Simone and CiCi. I really hate the super macho guys who think if they’re sensitive that makes them less of a man. Reed doesn’t have that hold-up and it made me love him even more.
CiCi is my favorite. She’s Simone’s grandmother, also an artist, and she’s basically the grandma we all wish we could have. She doesn’t act her age and is unapologetic about who she is. She was so quirky and fun that her character was definitely the highlight of the book for me.
The plot was intricate without being confusing. Since we got to follow the villain, Patricia’s, POV as well, we got to see both sides of the conflict. I like when a story does this because I still get the mystery and suspense that I want without being confused because I only have one side of the story. Patricia made an excellent villain. She was cold, violent, intelligent and psychotic, the kind of villain I adore but who still keeps me up at night.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery or romance. Nora blends the different themes perfectly in this book to make an amazing rollercoaster of a read.
I’d love to know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

Earth’s End by Elise Kova

Summary: A woman awoken in air, a soldier forged by fire, a weapon risen from blood.

Vhalla Yarl has made it to the warfront in the North. Forged by blood and fire, she has steeled her heart for the final battle of the Solaris Empire’s conquest. The choices before Vhalla are no longer servitude or freedom, they are servitude or death. The stakes have never been higher as the Emperor maintains his iron grip on her fate, holding everything Vhalla still has left to lose in the balance.

Review: I think this book is my favorite of the series so far. It was really fast paced for one; the first book had all the character and world-building necessary to lead up to all the conflict, and the second mostly consisted of the Imperial Army marching across the world for the first half. In this book, the war is here. The characters’ relationships have formed and you know how the world works so this book was mainly conflict of one type or another.
There’s tons of action; a combination of magical and traditional fighting (my favorite kind). There’s emotional conflict; Vhalla and Aldrik trying to figure out where their relationship is going while simultaneously keeping it a secret, Vhalla trying to come to terms with all the things she’s done and the loss of her close friend, Aldrik fighting his inner demons. And there’s political conflict. This is the type that I usually hate. I find politics so tedious and backhanded. Give me an honest fight any day. However I didn’t hate it as much in this book. Maybe because it was politics specific to the war; they’re in an army camp, there weren’t any courtiers, so it was a very basic form of politics rather than full-blown court intrigue.
Still, I hate the Emperor. Without him, none of this would have happened. He’s the reason the politics are necessary, he’s the reason Vhalla’s considered property of the crown, he’s the reason she and Aldrik have to hide their relationship. He’s the reason for the war. The more I learn about him the more I think he’s a horrible, irredeemable person. I don’t think I could forgive his actions at the end which resulted in something I know most readers are devastated about. (Sorry, no spoilers.)
Vhalla continues to amaze me with her strength. She’s grown so much since the first book. Part of her is twisted and dark, she kills and lies because she’s told to and to try to earn her freedom but she still tries to do the right thing when she can. I found myself sympathizing with her more than I have a character in awhile. I found some parts a little hard to read because her feelings paralleled some of my own recently. It gave this book a really personal connection for me.
Aldrik is amazing. Except when he’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I still love him but I found him frustrating at times too. He tries so hard to be a good prince and to do right by Vhalla but he doesn’t always make good choices. Sometimes his plans backfire and he doesn’t handle negative emotions well. His alcoholism gets brought up in this book as his coping mechanism and I particularly liked seeing it from Vhalla’s perspective. First off it takes her two and a half books to realize it’s a problem. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not just alcoholics who deny they have a problem but their loved ones do as well. They also try to justify it and make excuses because no one wants to believe someone they love is hurting so much they feel the need to self-medicate.
I still want Vhalla and Aldrik to have a happy ever after by the end of the series but there’s definitely some stuff they need to work on first, both individually and as a couple.
Overall I loved this book. I have no idea where the next book will lead because this ending of this one was crazy but I’m so excited for it. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA and fantasy. Please tell me what you think in the comments and thanks for reading!
-Antonia

The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

Summary: In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

Review: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. I’m so glad she reached out to us about it; this book (and the prequel series Solis Invicti) hadn’t been on my radar yet and I’m so excited about them.
The Gilded King is the first book in Jaffrey’s Sovereign series. One thought I had throughout this book was that I really wished I’d read the Solis Invicti series first. The Sovereign series is meant to be standalone but I had so many questions about the history of this world and the way everything worked. Usually I like when world-building is added gradually to a story. I hate when a book starts with a giant chunk to explain the basics of that world to you. It’s frequently tedious and boring. With this book though, those details were added too slowly; I didn’t understand important details about this world until very late in the book. This just left me feeling confused for a lot of it and I kept going back and rereading sections to try to understand.
That being said, once I understood the world better I really enjoyed how unique it was. We’ve all seen enough dystopians that start with terrible plagues and vaccines that have unforeseen consequences but I thought the twist with the paranormal added a lot to it. The fact that the cure for the humans made their blood poisonous to vampires was something I wouldn’t have expected.
Another thing I thought was unique (at least from books I’ve read personally) was that humans have essentially become a slave race in certain parts of the world. There are still human settlements but in places where the Nobles (also called the Silver, depending on who’s talking) live, humans are treated like dirt. They’re called Servants but they have no rights. They’re not paid for their services and they have no choice in what they do. When Julia’s sent to serve Lucas, she’s going so he can drink her blood and she’s not allowed to say no. If they do, they’re exiled from the city which, as far as they know, is a death sentence.
I liked Julia for the most part. She was tough and intelligent. I liked that she questioned what the Nobles told the humans. One of the biggest problems for the humans living in the Blue was that the only information they’ve been given for centuries has been what the Nobles wanted them to think. Julia doesn’t always ask the right questions but at least she keeps asking them. The only thing I didn’t like about Julia was her behavior where Lucas was involved.
Lucas was a good character. He’s sweet, considerate, and tries to be true to himself even if it goes against the way Nobles are supposed to act. I was mildly annoyed that Julia happens to meet the only Noble who’s kind to humans; it’s a trope I’m a little sick of. When you have an entire race of people it’s not logical to think only one of them is morally good.
My main problem with Julia and Lucas though is their romance. First of all, it happens too quickly. Julia’s terrified of Nobles but is instantly attracted to Lucas and vice versa. Their relationship makes the mistake so common in YA, in that it progresses at an unrealistic rate. I also felt that I was being told-not-shown, if that makes sense. For most of the book, the romances (I’ll talk about Cameron and Felix later) felt very forced. I was not emotionally invested in these relationships.
Cameron was a really interesting character. He’s a member of the Solis Invicti, basically the guards of the Blue. For centuries he’s been exploring the Red (anything outside the Blue) looking for the lost queen, his friend Emmy. I found myself sympathizing with him quite a bit. No matter how long it’s been, he never gives up on Emmy or stops looking for her even when everyone else has. I’ve seen other reviews from people saying they were bored during Cameron’s parts but I didn’t have that problem at all. He was my favorite character so far.
I liked Felix for the most part. Seeing the difference between humans of the Blue and humans of the Red was really interesting. His attitude is bitter and resigned because he understands more about this world than others, like Julia. I particularly enjoyed seeing the contrast between them. He was also so mysterious that I just wanted to know more. His relationship with Cameron was also more believable, at least after the beginning. There was a sudden twist at the end about Felix (no spoilers, I swear) that I was extremely frustrated about. It just seemed so unnecessary.
Now to the part I loved: the plot. It was surprisingly intricate for the genre. There were times when I brushed something off as irrelevant or unimportant then it would suddenly tie into something later. It was also really cool watching Julia and Cameron’s opposite journeys. They never meet in this book and a lot of what happens to one sort of parallels the other but they almost always have one-half of certain information and the other has the rest. By the end I was screaming “If they could just have a conversation then everything would be okay”. It was infuriating but in a good way. I always like when I know more than the characters do. The ending also left me with so many questions half answered. It feels like this first book was just an opening for the second; it set the scene for all the craziness that’s going to happen next.
I wasn’t sure how much I liked this book and I definitely had some problems with it, but the ending made me really excited for the rest of the series. I think I’ll read the Solis Invicti series before the next book comes out and hopefully that will solve some of my confusion.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes YA, paranormal, or dystopian, though if you’re a reader who doesn’t like being left with tons of questions, this might not be the book for you. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Summary: Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Review: Once again, I hardly know where to start. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this story and characters that I’m overwhelmed by it. In a good way. As soon as I finished I knew I had to get A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I never read novellas. My love for these characters is so great that I’ll take any chance to read more about them.
Let’s start with Feyre. I’ve liked her from the start but that’s somehow continued to increase throughout the books. First from her selfless bravery, then from the way she grew throughout the second book, and now because she’s an absolute badass. I spent the first few chapters just cheering her on while she spied on/ sabotaged Tamlin and the spring court. Later, when she was finally able to be High Lady of the Night Court, I only admired her more. She’s become confident in herself, her love, and her court and I loved watching her interactions with pretty much everyone. (Note: Unless you’ve read at least some of these books, you probably won’t understand what it really means that Feyre has become a High Lady; take it from me, it’s a really big deal.)
I still don’t like Tamlin. Some people think his actions by the end of the book are enough to redeem him at least a little but not for me. I think he’s a complete jerk who builds a “poor me” bubble around himself and how could anyone possibly believe the worst of him? How? Because you literally did everything possible to make everyone think you were the enemy. I don’t know how he could be surprised that people treated him as such.
Rhys is still my favorite book boyfriend. I adore his and Feyre’s relationship. They’re a team; they treat each other as equals and even when one of them goes off on their own or makes a mistake, they respect each others decisions whether they agree with them or not. Their love is what I think everyone should aspire to have.
Mor is amazing. She’s tough and fun and has the most tragic backstory. The one thing I didn’t like is the secret she’s kept from the group for hundreds of years. (Don’t worry, it’s not something that really affects the main storyline.) It just seems like, because the group is so close, that she should trust them not to judge her or to let it change the group’s dynamic. The fact that she doesn’t bothers me a little.
Cassian and Azriel are also fantastic. They have fairly opposite personalities; Cassian’s more in-your-face about pretty much everything while Azriel hides in his shadows and doesn’t really let anyone in. Getting glimpses of the softer side of Azriel is the best though. I just want to wrap him up in a bubble and protect him forever.
Amren is probably my favorite of the Inner Circle. She’s an all powerful being from another world trapped in a High Fae body. Her powers are limited in her current form but you frequently get glimpses of what she is by the way others behave around her. The fact that this tiny little person terrifies everyone she meets just makes me so happy.

**MINOR SPOILER ALERT**

What I don’t get is how anyone can believe Amren would betray them at the end. After seeing the way this family interacts throughout books two and three, I had no doubt that she had a plan and wasn’t actually betraying Feyre. Anyone who thought she would actually do that isn’t giving her enough credit.

**SPOILER ENDED**

I still can’t believe Hybern turned Elain and Nesta into High Fae. Elain just made me sad throughout the entire book. She’s like a tiny puppy being kicked. I really liked Nesta however. She’s still prickly and a little annoying and just mean to everyone but that’s just the shield she wears constantly. I think she grew a lot during this book and is one of the main reasons I want to read ACOFAS, to see how she’s doing after the war.
Lucien I really loved for the first half of this book. Then he disappears on his mission and you don’t see him until the end. I found this part irritating. It felt almost like Maas sent him on a wild goose chase so she wouldn’t have to figure out where he fit in with the rest of the Inner Circle. I would have liked to have seen more of him.
Overall I loved this book to the point where this series is definitely a new favorite of mine. It has the best characters and a really intricate plot. The final battle was intense, bloody and literally had me screaming at my husband to stop interrupting me. I’d recommend this series to everyone. The first book is a little more YA romance but the other two are far more complex and action-based. Tell me what you think in the comments because I could talk about this book for days. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Summary: Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

Review: This book was a little hard for me to get into. Mostly I think it’s because I started it on audiobook and didn’t much like the narrator. The voices she gave the characters were weird and hard to differentiate between. Several times, I thought one character was speaking and it turned out it was someone else. It was almost as if the narrator forgot which voice she assigned to who and kept mixing them up.
Luckily I decided to switch over to Kindle and liked the story much better after that.
Ceony annoyed me a little at first. It seemed like she was alternately very intelligent or very naive, whichever was convenient to the story at the time. For instance, she worked crazy hard to finish years of schooling in just one year but then when Thane gives her a few books to read for “homework”, she complains about all the work. I found this ridiculous. If she managed to finish what’s basically a college degree in one year, then she would have no qualms about a little reading. It seemed to me that, because she’s supposed to hate her apprenticeship, Holmberg just made her complain about everything whether it was realistic or not. After a while she got better about it though and Ceony became I character I actually liked.
Emery Thane was fun. Unfortunately we didn’t get to know him as much as we normally would. For the better part of the book, Ceony’s basically walking through his memories but we don’t see him for real. It sort of gave us random glimpses of his character but it made it awkward for me to form real opinions about him.
Also the (potential) romance between them felt extremely forced to me, especially because everything happens in such a short amount of time. I’m hoping that gets better in the next book.
Despite not necessarily wanting the characters to be my best friends, I would like this book solely for the magic. In this world, magicians can control man-made substances; they bond to one substance in particular and that’s the only one they can ever work with. Ceony and Thane are paper magicians. She doesn’t want to be a Folder, they’re looked down on by other magicians because it’s not considered very useful. I loved watching Ceony slowly learn all of the amazing things she can do with paper. It’s an extremely unique magic system that I loved reading about.
Then Holmberg also made a dark side to the magic. Someone once figured out that since humans are technically man-made, they could be controlled by magic and Excision was created. These evil magicians use blood and flesh to control and torture people. It added a seriously dark aspect to an otherwise fun storyline.
Overall this was a very interesting read. I wouldn’t call it a favorite but I am excited to see where the rest of the series takes me. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories about magic. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

If I Should Die by Amy Plum

Summary: I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

Review: I really enjoyed the final book in this trilogy. It had all the elements I expect from a good conclusion with no loose ends. I also loved that there was a little epilogue which jumped five years in the future so I got to glimpse the characters’ lives later on. It’s something I always want more of in books.
The only thing I didn’t love about this book was that it was really predictable. I couple of the big twists were things I saw coming since the first book so nothing surprised me. Now, this isn’t a huge problem for me personally. I’m one of those weird people who frequently reads the ends of books before I start them so I have no aversion to spoilers. However, it’s always nice when a story surprises you and I didn’t get that here. That being said, it wasn’t so predictable that reading it became tedious. It was more the larger plot points that I guessed but the small details surrounding them were unique enough to keep the story interesting.
I continued to love Kate more and more up until the end. The end of the last book was so traumatizing for her, especially since it hasn’t been all that long since her parents died, but she didn’t let it destroy her. She kept pushing past it to try to find a solution because she refused to accept that this was her and Vincent’s fate. I really admired her strength throughout this book.
As for Vincent, my feelings for him are pretty much the same they’ve always been. I like his character, he’s romantic and brave, but I never felt like I got to know him very well. Everything is continuously through Kate’s eyes and they’re so frequently separated that up until the end, Vincent didn’t feel like a very complex character to me. There’s nothing wrong with him; I just didn’t get a chance to love him and I found it a little disappointing.
I really enjoyed how detailed this book was when it came to revenant history. I’ve always enjoyed the way Plum created these supernatural creatures and got to learn so much more about them in this last book. I thought they were extremely unique, with a complex mythology behind them.
Overall, (despite the predictability) I loved this book. It had an interesting plot, fun characters, and excellent supernatural creatures. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes YA or paranormal, particularly if you enjoy a little romance. I’d love to hear your own thoughts on this series. Thanks for reading!
-Antonia

 

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