Review: Infinity Son (#1) by Adam Silvera

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Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.
Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.
Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

I love a lot of Adam Silvera’s work – They Both Die at the End and History is All You Left Me being my favourites. His emotion and magical realism is unlike most contemporary YA, and I love something with a twist! When I heard about his new fantasy project, I think I was among many excited readers. I missed out on grabbing an ARC of this when I wanted to at YALC last year, but managed to get one through my work as a bookseller a month or so ago. I was so excited to delve into a new fantasy world, but I sit here today sorry that I have been disappointed at the very least.

Unfortunately, Silvera included little to no world-building in Infinity Son. I could picture the world only because it seemed to be set in our own – but I could not picture much else. The character building was few and far between too, and I struggled the most with the magic system. I felt like I was clueless when it came to the different people and species. I couldn’t picture the phoenixes and had little to no understanding of their history, which left me utterly disappointed.

I’m going to a brief interval to focus on the good parts, as I hate to be so negative about an author I have mostly loved.

  • I love the family aspects of the book, and the brother relationship was great to read about.
  • I noticed the diversity and that Emil seemed to be vegan, which naturally I couldn’t help but love.
  • The plot was, if nothing else, entertaining. It was full of action scenes which I sped through and found very fun.

But is fun enough? Not in my book. Infinity Son has been one of my most hyped books for at least 6 months, and I was so happy to finally read it. The sheer disappointment I feel in this book falling so flat is what I disliked the most. I will definitely read Silvera’s future novels, but I don’t think I will be reading more in the Infinity Cycle.

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (#1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

As always, I can’t believe it took me so long to get round to reading this book. It may have taken me a while to read it, but as a friend put it, I savoured this book rather than rushed through it. And it was still worth it in the end.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it had just the right balance for me of being a retelling and being original. The fairytale aspect was only a small part of the story, which left room for so much more.

‘We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals.’

This world felt so real and beautiful to me, and I pictured it as Hyrule in Breath of the Wild funnily enough. The characters were all great for their own reasons, especially Harper. We don’t have enough strong female protagonists, and having a disabled main character with Cerebral Palsy is so rare, especially in fantasy. Having not got a disability myself, I can’t talk about the accuracy of the writing from her point of view, but I really admired her all the same.

Rhen wasn’t my favourite character, but I grew to know and love him all the same. Reading about him was fascinating, as he turned out to be a different person as the book progressed, but his progression felt entirely natural.

Even though it took me a while to get through, when I did manage to sit down and read, the pages seemed to fly by. So it definitely wasn’t a problem with the pacing, but instead with my situation in the past month!

‘The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.’

Unfortunately I’m not giving this book a full 5 stars, purely because I didn’t feel quite as drawn in as I’d have liked to. Although my pacing was partly to do with my own situation, I also feel like I could have been more drawn into the story and made to want to pick it up.

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour & Review: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Hello readers! I was lucky enough to be selected by Source Books Fire through Midas Public Relations to take part in this blog tour. It was such an exciting tour to be a part of and I’m really grateful for the ARC copy they sent me in exchange for this honest review. Thank you again, Source Books Fire!

I’m finishing up this tour alongside DMCI Reads and The Library Looter. Go check them out!

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In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.
That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.
But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. I mean, the beautiful cover is a pretty good start, right? As soon as I started reading, I felt somehow comforted, in the sense I just knew I was going to enjoy this one.

It felt so lovely to read a good fantasy. I recently read The Last Namsara, and even though I liked it, The Storm Crow just seemed to add the things I missed in that one. For a start, the world was beautiful and so well described – I felt enveloped in the rich, lush description of the lands and kingdoms. The writing was poetic and lovely.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the first chapter. It was full of action and intrigue, and kept me intrigued for the lulls and slower parts. And unfortunately, the only downside for me was that this book did lull. Although the writing was great, the pacing unfortunately wasn’t. The action was very sporadic and I felt left for the majority of the book without any. Part of me understands due to Thia’s mental health, and the slow plot did make me sympathise with her personal struggles.

But that’s where my complaints end – I adored everything else about The Storm Crow. Thia resonated deeply with me in a way characters in fantasy don’t usually. I find with fantasy there can be some disconnect if the characters seem unattainable or unrealistic. With Thia, things are different. She struggles openly with grief and depression, and the way this was discussed felt so important. She was still a badass, passionate and heroic woman, but she was also struggling and surviving day by day. It made her so much more real.

My love for the characters doesn’t end there. This book had a great cast of side characters too, and I loved them all for their own roles. Thia’s relationship with her sister felt well written, and so did her friendship with Kiva, who I loved. Her friendship with Caylus and difficult friendship with her husband-to-be also offered interesting, dynamic relationships I became quickly invested in. And I can’t write this review without giving a shoutout to a villain I absolutely loved to hate, Razal.

The whole crow element to this book is something I’ve not really seen before in YA, and I loved it. Having such a strong connection to the magic and animals gave the story a whole different dynamic and focus, rather than just the politics. Instead, the story flickered between politics and magic and Thia’s passionate love for the crows, which kept me on my toes and interested.

Overall, this book encompassed me in such a love for a rich world, diverse (in all ways), lovable characters, magic and passionate writing. All in all, the only reason this didn’t quite get 5 full stars from me is unfortunately the pacing – everything else was there and I loved it.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Last Namsara (#1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

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In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer. 
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

I saw that this author is going to be at YALC 2019 and decided to give it a go! Unfortunately, it was a super slow burner for me and I’m left with very mixed feelings. I always find reading fantasy for me can go two ways – either I love it straight away or it takes me a long time to completely understand the story and eventually might enjoy it. This was the latter!

For a start, I couldn’t, even at the end, picture the characters very well at all. It just seemed to lack basic imagery, and I would have loved more detail about the characters appearances and the land itself. I find that some authors, especially for debuts, will be able to picture a world in their head so well that they struggle to include the smallest details on paper, because for them, they aren’t needed. But for us as readers, we need even the smallest detail to build up a picture of the world.

‘Then may Death send his worst. Cold to freeze the love in my heart. Fire to burn my memories to ash.’

Unfortunately because of this, it took me almost a week to finally finish this book. I just wasn’t drawn to it for the majority, and I didn’t particularly mind what happened to the characters. However I pushed through and got to the last 150 pages, where I felt the book really picked up!

For a start, I loved Asha as a main character. She was strong, brave, and a brilliant woman. After reading the acknowledgements at the back of the book, I found an even deeper respect for Asha as a female main character. I love the strength she had and I love that she challenged what is expected from her as a woman. We definitely need more girls like her in literature!

‘Wind to force me through the gates. Time to wear my loyalty away. I’ll wait for you at Death’s gate.’

I could definitely see the writing improve greatly by the end of the book, and had a clearer picture of the world in my mind. I was more invested in the characters and loved Safire (Asha’s cousin), Dax (Asha’s brother) and Torwin.

Even though this wasn’t my favourite, it slowly grew on me and I’ve decided to continue with the series eventually! Considering this was a debut, I saw the improvement throughout the first book and I’m sure the writing improves with the others.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.
But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

It’s been a while since I’v read a good fantasy, and this one was just a delight to dive into. I admired this book so much, it was such an immersive experience with beautiful writing, and I’m so glad I picked it up.

Girls of Paper and Fire follows a world with 3 castes, Paper (fully human) being the lowest, followed by Steel (partly demon) and Moon (fully demon, with animal like qualities). The premise is somewhat like The Selection series, with 8 Paper girls being chosen each year to please the King, who is of the highest caste. This story follows Lei, who was unexpectedly chosen and taken away from her family to become a Paper girl, and seeks revenge for an attack on her village that killed her mother.

‘But time has a way of folding itself, like a map, distances and journeys and hours and minutes tucked neatly away to leave just the realness of the before and the now,’

I say this book is like The Selection, but the likeliness stops there. This book, this world, holds so much more. More depth, more emotion, more intrigue and fight and hardship. It’s no secret that this book tackles some difficult topics, such as sexual abuse, and even though I was prepared, I was left with tears in my eyes in parts. Despite, or maybe because of these difficult subjects, this book is just so powerful.

The politics were interesting to read about and I loved hearing the side of the story from the people who wanted revenge against the Palace. It balanced out perfectly with the gentle friendships the girls found in each other, a unique bond with intriguing characters I could easily read more about.

‘as close as hands pressed on the either side of a rice-paper door.’

The romance that blossoms within this story is beautiful, powerful and healthy. I found myself being reminded of my own relationship and seeing reflections of how myself and my partner support each other, and it was so lovely to read about. I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers, but it felt so wholesome and made me love the characters even more.

The only small problem I had with this book was the pacing at the beginning. Unfortunately, it took me a good few days to get through the first 100 pages, but after that I couldn’t put it down! I was soon whirled away with the lovingly written landscapes, friendships, romances, action and much more. In fact, I want to end by saying the writing was just incredible. I saw a Goodreads review describing it as sensuous, and that is just spot on. Ngan has such a way with words, that resonated with me and has stolen my heart.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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The Dead Girls Dance (Morganville #2) – Rachel Caine

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Claire has her share of challenges. Like being a genius in a school that favours beauty over brains; homicidal girls in her dorm, and finding out that her college town is overrun with the living dead. On the up side, she has a new boyfriend with a vampire-hunting dad. But when a local fraternity throws the Dead Girls’ Dance, hell is really going to break loose.

I really enjoyed this book, and I flew through it. But unfortunately, I remember it in a fonder light. I remember my first read of this being gripping, on the edge of your seat and so emotional. I’m not going to lie, it was emotional, but I feel like Caine missed some opportunities for some really good scenes.

It’s like instead of remembering what actually happened in this book, I was taking the best parts and remembering a different, better version. Maybe that’s a problem with re-reading books later in life when you have a lot more maturity and reading experience!

‘Claire: “So we do nothing?”‘

That being said, I did still love reading this book. It’s still gripping (to a degree), and I was definitely kept entertained. I read this in less than 2 days once again and couldn’t put it down, the pages really fly by in this series. I also love the variety of scenes all over the town, with such a big cast of characters, that added so much to the atmospheric feel of this book/series.

This book is definitely more of an introduction to Morganville. We’ve met the main characters, we know who we’re rooting for and who we’re against, and now it’s time to learn about this creepy town. The description of the town is definitely one of my favourite things about this series. Caine knows how to build up atmosphere.

‘Michael: “We do the best nothing you’ve ever seen.”‘

I still adore the characters, even Claire, although I understand why most readers seem to find her annoying. She does make some stupid decisions, but mostly she’s just a real, scared, courageous, 16 year old girl who is completely out of her depth. Her loyalty is outstanding, and I love her for it.

There is still no doubt this series is pure entertainment. But I can’t help but love it anyway.

★★★★ 
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: King of Scars (#1) by Leigh Bardugo

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Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.
Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Before I begin, I have to say that this review is coming from the view of someone who has never read the Grisha trilogy, and has only read the Six of Crows duology. I really believe this has effected my thoughts on the book so just a warning! I also want to mention I read this book with my bookish bestie Courtney, and we had so much fun doing our first buddy-read together. 🙂 Reading is just a bit more special with someone to share it with!

I want to start with the start of the book – because this took me so long to get into. I think part of the reason was because I’ve been in the Shadowhunter world since early December, and it was just so strange to suddenly be thrown into a completely different world.

My second reason is definitely because I didn’t receive the world-building I needed from the Grisha trilogy. Although King of Scars is very descriptive, it took a lot of concentration for me to understand what was actually going on. So if you want to read Bardugo’s books, I’d honestly say please read her other books first (Grisha trilogy followed by Six of Crows). You need the world building and preparation – and lots of her previous books are spoiled in King of Scars!

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve.”

But despite this, I still really enjoyed King of Scars, especially after the first 250 pages. It took me about 4 days to read the first half, and only 2 to get through the second. Maybe the pacing is a little off because it definitely picks up, but I think this is also partly due to me finally clicking with the world (yes, it took that long).

I’ve always said this but I have to point it out again – Bardugo can write multiple POV books like no one else I have ever read. Six of Crows was from 6 different POV, but those books are among some of my favourites. And here we are again, with four POV, yet I loved them all in their own ways. There was such a balance here – each role was unique, and I wasn’t waiting or hoping to get back to a specific person.

“You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself.”

Overall, what a great book, and the second half really made it for me. The tense edge-of-your-seat plot and fighting scenes were immense, and made me fall in love with Bardugo’s work even more. I’ll definitely be re-reading Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars once I’ve tackled the Grisha trilogy!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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