Review: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun (#1) by Tola Okogwu

Goodreads | Waterstones

Onyeka has a lot of hair­—the kind that makes strangers stop in the street and her peers whisper behind her back. At least she has Cheyenne, her best friend, who couldn’t care less what other people think. Still, Onyeka has always felt insecure about her vibrant curls…until the day Cheyenne almost drowns and Onyeka’s hair takes on a life of its own, inexplicably pulling Cheyenne from the water.
At home, Onyeka’s mother tells her the shocking truth: Onyeka’s psycho-kinetic powers make her a Solari, one of a secret group of people with super powers unique to Nigeria. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies…

This book reminded me how much fun middle grade can be. I picked this one up hoping for a fantasy reminiscent of Amari and the Night Brothers, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Onyeka finds out early in this book that she has psycho-kinetic powers from her hair, and the book honestly explodes from there. I was hooked on this book from the first few chapters, because it was so action packed and quick to read.

The Academy of the Sun was such a brilliant setting and the plot kept me gripped from beginning to end. I also really enjoyed the complexities of the plot in relation to Onyeka’s friends and family relationships.

I loved how this book discussed Black culture and focused on the power of Onyeka’s hair. The author has worked in hair care and this shows throughout the book, especially in the passion of Onyeka’s power.

I hope that many children pick up this book and see themselves in Onyeka. This story was so refreshing, fun, fast-paced and entertaining.

I’m so excited to hear this book will be adapted for screen by David Oyelowo and Will Smith and released on Netflix!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Witches Steeped in Gold (#1) by Ciannon Smart

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Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

I don’t even know what to say about this book, because I remember nothing. I had a strange inkling that I might not enjoy this book, and honestly I should have listened to that inkling. I finally decided to pick this book up because the author is going to be at YALC this year, and I also decided to listen to the audiobook.

Often, when I read a book on audio, I make every excuse to why I might not have enjoyed it. Maybe I was distracted? Maybe the format didn’t work for me? Maybe I had the speed too fast? But with this book, I am going with my gut and saying I don’t think the reason I disliked this one is because of me. It’s not me, it’s Witches Steeped in Gold.

Though the night is flush with stars, 

This book is just so long and I also don’t feel like anything happened. If you asked me to describe this book, I could still only tell you what is covered in the synopsis. I feel like there is so much attempted to pack into this series that it just all went completely over my head.

The only thing I do remember about this book is that they spoke in Jamaican Patois, which I found interesting to read and I liked that it was discussed in the book itself too.

the sky still seems like a lid of earth closing atop a grave.

Honestly, I would have most likely DNF’d this book if I hadn’t have already purchased the audiobook. I don’t think I’d have gotten through the physical copy, and I won’t be continuing with the series.

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Conjuring of Light (#3) by V.E. Schwab

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THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.
WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?
WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.
WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay. 

This book is the final and concluding in a 3 part series from V.E. Schwab, and one I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time. I’ve been listening to this entire series partly on audiobook and partly reading the physical copies, and I have to say the audiobooks improved drastically as the series went on. I also read these with Alex, and it was great to have the motivation to read these as the last one is particularly chunky!

I really loved how the plots varied throughout this whole series. The first one was so different it almost stood as a standalone, and the other two seemed to have a more continuous plot, but still felt separate enough to keep things interesting. It definitely meant the whole series kept a fast pace and felt interesting throughout, rather than one feeling like a bridge book between the other two.

“Love and loss,” he said, “are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. 

I loved the characters and I definitely grew closer to them as the series went on, but it was also the most disappointing part for me. I just felt like I could have had an ever so slightly closer connection to them, and I just wanted to feel more emotion towards them in parts when I really felt like I should have done. I still loved the characters, but I couldn’t help but compare them to Six of Crows, another third person point of view fantasy with a found family aspect.

This last book did feel quite long, but it was well balanced. In places it almost felt like it was a little too long, but it definitely didn’t feel like a slog or a struggle to read in any way. The writing was absolutely amazing and was probably my favourite aspect of the entire series – these books have some brilliant quotes!

But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be.”

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed reading this series but it didn’t quite reach 5 stars for me because I wanted to feel slightly more emotional than I did. However, I’d still highly recommend them!

★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Kingdom of the Cursed (#2) by Kerri Maniscalco

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After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.
She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.
The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?
Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

I’m so glad I re-read Kingdom of the Wicked before diving into this one. We pick up Emilia and Wrath’s story pretty much exactly where we left off at the end of the first book, and I definitely got a lot more enjoyment out of the book by reading them very close together. In this book, we leave the real world for the Seven Circles, which I imagine to be some kind of underworld.

I loved the world and I think this is where Kerri Maniscalco really shines. She managed to paint such a vibrant and beautiful picture of this new setting, and I loved how visual it was to picture while reading. The world is so luscious and extravagant and comes across so beautifully on the page.

Of course. There is nothing more dangerous…

The plot was so fast paced and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. This book does have some more adult scenes, but I actually think they were done really well and become part of the actual plot. I find it difficult sometimes when fantasy books rely heavily on more spicy scenes and sometimes don’t get the balance right, but this one managed it. The scenes were really enjoyable to read too and felt quite gracefully done for the most part!

Although I really enjoyed reading about Wrath and Emilia’s relationship, my only complaint is the power dynamic is a difficult one to write properly. With Wrath being a Prince from this darker world, he does have a certain magical power over Emilia, and although this is part of the way he is, sometimes the way he displayed this power made me very uncomfortable. There is a certain level of manipulation that is justified to a degree, but did unsettle me and I felt like it wasn’t explained with full clarity.

…than a woman who owns who she is and apologizes to no one.

Overall, the writing was brilliant and I didn’t want to put this book down! There was a lot to enjoy and I did like this one ever so slightly more than the first book. My only slight complaint was the discussions of abuse, which I feel could have been handled a bit better.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Defy the Night (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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In a kingdom where sickness stalks the streets and only the richest can afford a cure, King Harristan and his brother Prince Corrick are forced to rule with an iron fist.
Tessa Cade is a masked outlaw marked for death, but she likes it that way. Together with the mysterious, handsome Weston, she robs from the rich to help the poor, distributing food and medicine to those who need it most.
As it becomes clear that the only way to save her people is to assassinate the King, Tessa must face a deadly mission that will take her to the dark heart of the kingdom . and force her to work with the very people she intended to destroy.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

It’s been a while since I read A Curse So Dark and Lonely but I really enjoyed it when I read it and I was so excited to hear about this new release. I’ve also read a couple of Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary books in recent years and really liked them, and this one didn’t disappoint!

This story takes place during a plague, which I was a little worried about but felt disconnected enough from the real world for me to still enjoy it. I started this book expecting it to be quite a typical YA fantasy and for it to be predictable, but I was very pleasantly surprised early on in the book. The plot quickly surprised me and I knew I would find this more of an emotional rollercoaster than I expected.

I really liked the characters and I found the multiple POV between the Prince and Tessa so interesting. Both of them have their own issues and troubles from each side of the class divide, and I could empathise with them so much. I really appreciated how this book didn’t shy away from talking about the pressures of royalty and the impact on mental health being in the royal family can have.

The plot was very fast paced and entertaining, and the writing was so easy to read. I really enjoyed the writing style and I found this one hard to put down. I feel like Brigid Kemmerer does an amazing job at writing accessible fantasy as her writing style feels very similar to contemporaries and she crosses between the two. Reading this has definitely made me excited to continue with the A Curse So Dark and Lonely trilogy!

Overall, there was a lot to love about this book and I found it such an entertaining read. If you’re looking for an easy to read fantasy with a fiery romance, great characters and a plot that will keep you guessing, look no further!

★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Caraval (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

This was my second time reading Caraval and I will be honest, I was a little hesitant going into this for the second time. The first time I read this, I hadn’t read a lot of fantasy and this provided a brilliant introduction to the genre. However, years on, I was worried I wouldn’t be quite as blown away by this as I was the first time. I wasn’t quite as blown away, which does make sense as I was obviously a bit aware of the plot from the first read.

I was still super impressed with this the second time. Although it is still a brilliant introduction to fantasy, it doesn’t feel in any way inferior because of it. I found this super easy to read and such a page turner, and is such an easy-going fantasy. It is so intriguing and captivating to read as the world is so involved and magical.

Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. 

The setting is definitely my favourite part of Caraval – it has an amazingly written setting and is very location heavy, which I loved. I pictured this world so clearly and vibrantly because of the setting. The world of Caraval and the game within it is so magical and enthralling. This series is like no other in the fact it is set within a game – the closest book I can think of is The Night Circus.

The way this book is written including a game is so impressive because as the reader, you never know what is real and what is part of the game. Even the second time, I found this such an amazing way of writing because I never knew what would happen at the end of the game and was so captivated by the plot because of it. The plot was so twisted, dark and full of secrets of and lives.

Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.

I adored this book once again the second time around and I am so happy. I once again absolutely fell in love with the enchanting plot and beautiful world I could picture so well. The characters are brilliant, and I love the strong female leads throughout this series in Scarlett and Tella. I can’t wait to continue with my re-read and first time reading Finale!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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April Wrap-Up + May TBR

Hi everyone! I managed to read 15 books in April which I’m super happy with, especially considering I went back to work recently. I also read all of the books on my TBR and completed the Ember in the Ashes series with Alex as a buddy read. I recently put up videos on my BookTube channel for both my April wrap-up and May TBR, which you can watch below.

Books I read in April

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

The magical Peter Pan comes to the night nursery of the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael. He teaches them to fly, then takes them through the sky to Never-Never Land, where they find Red Indians, Wolves, Mermaids and… Pirates.
The leader of the pirates is the sinister Captain Hook. His hand was bitten off by a crocodile, who, as Captain Hook explains ‘liked me arm so much that he has followed me ever since, licking his lips for the rest of me’. After lots of adventures, the story reaches its exciting climax as Peter, Wendy and the children do battle with Captain Hook and his band. 

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it.
But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend to it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars 

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

This powerful YA memoir-manifesto follows journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson as they explore their childhood, adolescence, and college years, growing up under the duality of being black and queer. From memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at age five to their loving relationship with their grandmother, to their first sexual experience, the stories wrestle with triumph and tragedy and cover topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, inequality, consent, and Black joy.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

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Review (2020) | Goodreads | Waterstones

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two. 

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review (2020) | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.
His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.
With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

I read a real mix of books this month and I feel like I had a very positive reading month. My least favourite was sadly Peter Pan and my favourite was With the Fire on High, which both surprised me for different reasons!

Books I Want to Read in May

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows – Leigh Barugo
Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo
Rule of Wolves – Leigh Bardugo
Don’t Breathe a Word – Jordyn Taylor
The (Un)Popular Vote – Jasper Sanchez
Threadneedle – Cari Thomas

May really is the month of Leigh Bardugo for me! I was planning on rereading King of Scars before reading Rule of Wolves, but I never expected to reread all of the Grisha books. However, here we are! I’m doing most of these as buddy reads with Alex, which is super lovely. I also want to read a few ARCs this month before their releases!

I’ve already read a few of these books, so I’m pretty confident I can finish this TBR, I’m just unsure if I’ll be able to finish Threadneedle as it is quite chunky. I’m sure I’ll at least start it before the end of the month though!

What did you read in April and what are you hoping to read in May?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: War Storm (#4) by Victoria Aveyard

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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?

I have reached the end of the epic conclusion of Red Queen and honestly this series got a little better at the end. War Storm is an absolute beast and I’m glad I read this on audiobook as the paperback is a little daunting! I actually really appreciated the length of this book in some ways, however, because it allowed us so much time with the characters. Aveyard writes characters so well and some of the scenes in this book really allowed us some insight into their minds.

I actually found myself enjoying Evangaline’s chapters the most in this book, which was a shock to me. I found myself growing fonder and fonder of her character over the books and couldn’t wait to get to her chapters. I really like the variety of characters and the variations in their stories. Evangaline is the only LGBT character in the series and I like how her story was integrated.

I am different from what my world demands I be.

The more I read this series, the stronger I felt about how clever it is. Most of these characters were oppressed or looked down upon in some way, but for different reasons. This allowed for a lot of different narratives within the story, which I enjoyed. I also liked how War Storm has more narratives from the points of view of Silvers, including Iris. As with the other books, I really like Aveyard’s writing, which is very poetic and works particularly well in scenes in close scenes between a few characters, which were frequent in this book and enjoyable to read.

The plot was very up and down, and quite slow. For such a large book, I’m honestly struggling to remember what happened or find much to talk about, which is a bit of a disappointment. Saying that, I did find the ending satisfying enough and I really like the way Aveyard writes action scenes. I always find myself very caught up in the action and I felt immersed in the story.

And I am not worse for it.

Overall, I am torn about this book, and this whole series. I did really enjoy it and I think the concept is brilliant, but there is definitely something missing. I just feel like so much more could have been done, and over time I definitely drifted away from Mare’s story and more towards Evangaline.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Sky Beyond the Storm (#4) by Sabaa Tahir

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The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows. 

Good news, I managed to not skip 60 pages of this book like I did with A Reaper at the Gates. I’m glad to say that I’m fairly sure the issues I had with book 3 of this series were largely due to my problems and not problems with the book itself. I definitely managed to focus on this one more and enjoyed it a lot more because of it! After my strange experience reading A Reaper at the Gates I made sure with this one to really pay attention to the different points of view and focus on all of the information, which definitely helped.

I also definitely enjoyed this one more due to the way the characters began to intertwine once more. I struggled a little with them all having completely different narratives, being in different parts of the world and the side characters being different to. It felt jarring to change between their points of view for some of the story, but that definitely improved with this one.

You are broken. But it is broken things that are the sharpest. The deadliest.

I also liked the more character focused elements of this one, and I found it had a slightly slower pace with more scenes with just one or two characters. I definitely enjoy books that look in depth into characters and feel I have more of a connection to them, so that felt right to me. It also meant that when the characters were going through tough points in their lives, I could sympathise with them a lot more. I know a lot of people aren’t happy with how this book ended, and although I can see why, I didn’t mind the ending and felt like it closed off the story well.

The plot was good, but also felt a bit anticlimatic. I just didn’t feel as connected to the story as I wanted to be in it’s most crucial and climatic moments. I definitely enjoyed Elias’ viewpoint more than any other in this book, which was a bit of a shock to me. I have enjoyed reading about all of the characters throughout the series, but I really felt for him as a character fighting against himself and just found his subplot to be the most interesting to me.

It is broken things that are the most unexpected, and the most underestimated.

Overall I have enjoyed this series but it hasn’t blown me away as much as I expected it to. I would still recommend it and I feel like I might find more of a connection to it in the future if I decide to reread it. It has definitely been a unique fantasy story, but I did find An Ember in the Ashes to be my favourite in the end!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Reaper at the Gates (#3) by Sabaa Tahir

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Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.
And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion – even at the cost of his humanity.

I have so many mixed feelings about this book, and it’s going to be so hard to judge because most of them are it’s not you it’s me problems. To start with, I’ve been trying to read 3 fantasy books at once, and this week I think it finally caught up with me. I very much struggled to keep up with all of the characters in this book. Secondly, I somehow managed to skip over 60 pages of this book. Because me and Alex have been buddy reading these, I somehow just skipped an entire day and went onto the next day. I was confused going forward, but I honestly felt like I was reading this in a daze anyway and just put it down to my mood. I didn’t realise this until about 80 pages from the end, when I went back to read the section I’d missed, and things did to start to make more sense. I also read this in the week when I went back to work and uni classes started up again, meaning I had a lot on and that may have contributed to me feeling a little out of it!

My major problem with this book is there are a few different points of view, and all of the characters have different roles in the story and different parts they are playing. They intertwine less in this book than in the others, and are often flitting between a completely different cast of side characters too. I mainly just found them very hard to keep track of or remember all of the names and roles they played within the story.

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. 

I do love how this book gave us a good amount of time with the characters and focused on them a little more. I definitely sympathised more with Helene in this story and my favourite parts were the few scenes we got with one or two characters at a time, finally having some kind of character development that made me feel a little more emotionally invested in the story. However, I did find it strange how little Darin was mentioned and felt very pushed to the side after the events of A Torch Against the Night.

Another aspect I did enjoy was the atmosphere, especially when it comes to Elias’s chapters and his new role as this story developed. I like this world a lot and I’m glad we got to see more of it. Although I could take slightly more description, it did feel well written for the most part and I enjoyed picturing the surroundings.

Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.

Honestly, it’s very hard to tell whether the problems I had with this book were with the book itself or with the weird way I ended up reading it, which is why I haven’t rated it any lower than this. I just definitely felt a little disappointed when I compare it to the two previous books, and I hope I feel better about the last one (and manage to actually read it in a linear fashion)!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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