Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars, #2) – Elizabeth Lim [ARC Review]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Maia Tamarin proved her skill as a tailor when she wove the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it will take more than a beautiful gown to hide the darkness rising up within her. . . . The stakes are higher than ever in this breathtaking sequel to Spin the Dawn, perfect for fans of Six of Crows.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone–perhaps forever–and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor’s rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has beenchanging . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

Review:

Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

So I absolutely adored the first book in this duology! Spin the Dawn was such a fun, magical adventure! I’m so bummed to say that Unravel the Dusk was a let down.

The story picks up right after the events of Spin the Dawn . In this story, Maia must face becoming a demon after striking a bargain to create the dresses of Amana. I did not connect to this story at all. I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters or the plot. I just wasn’t invested in Maia’s journey. And honestly, I was pretty bored. The plot just seemed to drag. This was one of those books where I kept checking how long I had left because I just wanted to be done.

I would never guess that this was the sequel to a Mulan inspired tale of a girl competing to be the imperial tailor and then going on an adventure to make three fantastical dresses. This book honestly felt like a whole different world. There was also just too much going on. Maia’s battle against her literal inner demon should have been the focus. The addition of the emperor, the Shansen, and the impending war were just distracting. I felt like Lady Sarnai and the Shansen should have been a totally separate book. It just didn’t fit with Maia’s journey. And the ending was . . . interesting. I definitely didn’t expect it. It also seemed like it was a very easy resolution.

I am so disappointed that I didn’t love Unravel the Dusk . I wish that Spin the Dawn was a standalone. I will say that the cover of Unravel the Dusk is STUNNING. The imagery throughout the story was also gorgeous.

Unravel the Dusk will be released on July 7th, 2020.

The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow, #2) – Margaret Owen [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in The Faithless Hawk, the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.

Review:

Huge thank you to Fierce Reads for providing this advanced readers copy of The Faithless Hawk! I was able to pick up this advanced copy at the Fierce Reads booth at C2E2 (Chicago Comic Con) this year! Fierce Reads was giving away The Faithless Hawk advanced copies if you purchased a copy of the first book. Did I already have two copies of The Merciful Crow!? Yep! Did that stop me from buying a third!? Not at all!! So now I’m the proud owner of three copies of The Merciful Crow and I have no regrets.

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen was one of my absolute favorite books from last year! From the world building to the caste hierarchy and the incredible magic system . . . The Merciful Crow is such a fun, action-packed, and unique story. The story ended with a big cliffhanger and I have been dying to know where the story would go next. I am happy to say that The Faithless Hawk did not disappoint!

I love the world that Margaret Owen has created. Everything is built and developed so well. This is especially true for the castes and magic system. This story takes place in the world made up of twelve castes, with each represented by a different bird. These castes were founded by thousands of gods who created the castes in their image and gifted each with a birthright (power). All of the castes have a birthright (fire, stealth, etc.) except for the Crows. There are also witches (who have stronger powers) born within each caste. The top caste is the Phoenixes, who make up the royalty and rule this world. The lowest caste is the Crows. They have no birthright and are universally looked down upon. They are abused, hated, and discriminated against. The treatment of the Crows is appalling. However, the castes rely on the Crows for a very important purpose . . . the Crows are the only ones immune to the Sinner’s Plague. The Sinner’s Plague is a horrible disease, highly contagious, and is fatal to anyone who contracts it. In order to stop the spread of the disease, any time someone contracts the Plague, the Crows are summoned to deliver mercy killings and to burn the bodies. This is why they are known as “The Merciful Crows.” Our lead, Fie, is a Crow chief and a Bone Thief witch. This means she can draw power from bones and teeth. For example: Sparrows have the birthright to hide in plain sight. Fie often calls upon Sparrow teeth to hide from enemies. I am just so fascinated by the incredible world and magic system that Owen has created!

My favorite part of The Faithless Hawk is the vivid imagery. Margaret Owen is able to create such stunning scenes that I can truly see in my mind. I especially love the scenes inside the palace. Everything is so gorgeous! Some of the imagery was so eerie! The skin ghasts and the effects of the Sinner’s Plague are so dang creepy! Owen is just so good at building the scenes.

I also loved how much Fie has grown throughout these two books. She has matured and become so much less selfish. This all happened naturally too. It wasn’t immediate or rushed at all.

Lastly, I loved all the espionage that takes place in The Faithless Hawk! There is so much spying, manipulation, and sneaking! Especially in all the palace scenes! It was so exciting and I couldn’t get enough of these parts!

The only reason I took off a star is the pacing. It was very on and off. There were lulls that seemed to drag, but then super exciting parts that were very fast paced! It was a mixed bag, but I overall really enjoyed The Faithless Hawk.

The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen is set to be released August 18th, 2020 by Henry Holt and Co.

The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy, #3) – S. A. Chakraborty [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.

Review:

Huge thank you to HarperCollins Publishers and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!!

This review will contain some spoilers for The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper.

I freaked out when I got approved for this advanced readers copy on Netgalley! I have been dying to get my hands on The Empire of Gold since I read The Kingdom of Copper last year. The Daevabad Trilogy is one of my all time favorites. The story has kept me totally hooked from the very beginning. The Empire of Gold is an absolutely incredible conclusion to this breathtaking series.

The world and story that S. A. Chakraborty has created is absolutely incredible. There are only a few other authors that are able to write such all encompassing stories. Chakraborty has created an epic and stunning world with an entire culture in the Daevabad Trilogy. I genuinely don’t know how to describe how truly talented Chakraborty is. She is an author I consider to be a master storyteller.

The Kingdom of Copper ended on a huge cliffhanger! Actually multiple huge cliffhangers!! The Empire of Gold picks up right where The Kingdom of Copper left off with Dara in Daevabad and Nahri & Ali in Egypt. It hit the ground running and DID. NOT. STOP. The story is exciting, action packed, and full of adventure. There are so many twists and turns and I never knew what to expect next. I couldn’t put it down! One of my favorite parts is that the world of Daevabad is expanded upon beyond what we’ve already known. I absolutely love getting to explore more and more of this world. Especially Ta Ntry and the Marid!

Once again, the story is told through the multiple points of view of Nahri, Ali, and Dara. I can’t believe how much these characters have gone through. I’ve always loved Nahri and Ali, but I love them even more than I thought possible — even though they both took me through the ringer in this one! Dara’s chapters were difficult to read because it was really hard to have any sympathy for him. I ended KOC hating him and the feeling continued throughout EOG. That being said, he does have a great character arc. Dara’s character has taken me on quite the emotional rollercoaster throughout this series. Chakraborty really knows how to pull on my emotions.

Speaking of emotions . . . I went through the full spectrum while reading The Empire of Gold. Anger, fear, sadness, grief, happiness . . . you name it and I felt it! I truly felt like I was on this adventure and feeling everything Nahri, Ali, etc. felt. All of the characters in this world have experienced so much violence, trauma, and heartbreak. They all have made good and bad decisions. It’s one of the things that I like most about this series — no character is perfect. Each and every one has flaws. The character growth from the beginning of the series to now is truly amazing.

The Empire of Gold was an absolutely perfect ending to this amazing series. I honestly could not have asked for more. I totally loved every characters conclusions. The themes of love, family, acceptance, redemption, and willingness to change are so well done. I am seriously in awe of The Empire of Gold and I know that this series will stick with me forever.

The Empire of Gold will be released June 30th, 2020 by Harper Collins.

TRUEL1F3 (LIFEL1K3, #3) – Jay Kristoff [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Synopsis:

From the bestselling co-author of the Illuminae Files comes the thrilling finale in the LIFEL1K3 trilogy — hailed by Marie Lu as “a breathless, action-packed exploration of what humanity really means.”

Best friends have become enemies. Lovers have become strangers. And deciding whose side you’re on could be the difference between life and death. For Eve and Lemon, discovering the truth about themselves–and each other–was too much for their friendship to take. But with the country on the brink of a new world war–this time between the BioMaas swarm at CityHive and Daedalus’s army at Megopolis, loyalties will be pushed to the brink, unlikely alliances will form and with them, betrayals. But the threat doesn’t stop there, because the lifelikes are determined to access the program that will set every robot free, a task requiring both Eve and Ana, the girl she was created to replace. In the end, violent clashes and heartbreaking choices reveal the true heroes . . . and they may not be who you think they are.

Review:

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

Jay Kristoff has done it again. I seriously don’t know how he does it, but Kristoff consistently puts out absolute bangers. He is one of my favorite authors. One of the things that I like best about Kristoff’s books is that he includes a quick recap of the previous books in the beginning. This is so helpful when it’s been a long time since reading the previous books. He did this again with TRUEL1F3 and I loved it!

TRUEL1F3 picks up immediately after the events of DEV1AT3. The action starts immediately and does not let up. The entire book is non-stop! And I mean literally NON! STOP! Our rag tag group of characters are constantly getting themselves into all sorts of dangerous situations. TRUEL1F3 is a super exciting, fast-paced read that is jam packed full of fun.

I was so happy to be back with this incredible cast of characters . . . Cricket, the freaks, and my girl LEMON FRESH! Spank my spankables! Lemon is one of my favorite characters ever and she was once again she is totally *brilliful*! Lemon is fierce, sassy, independent, and so much fun. Her point of view chapters are always my favorite. I’m keeping this review spoiler free, but Lemon goes through a horrible trauma in TRUEL1F3. Kristoff did a great job of showing Lemon dealing with the physical and emotional tolls of this. It made Lemon Fresh even more fierce and powerful!

Besides Lemon Fresh, my favorite part of this series is the freaks . . . Diesel and Grimm. The team of freaks grows in TRUEL1F3 and I couldn’t be happier! I would definitely want to be a part of the team.

Of course I have to mention that it’s a Kristoff book . . . so that means I was an emotional wreck multiple times.

One character that I did not like at all . . . Eve. She has been the worst since the second book. I understand she is dealing with an identity crisis and incredible emotional stress, but Eve’s decisions and actions are horrible. One of the overarching themes of TRUEL1F3 is that your actions are what defines the type of person you are. So basically Eve is awful. The ONLY reason I deducted 1/2 star from my review is Eve’s arc/ending. It was too easy and seemed way off base for her story. To keep this spoiler free, I will include what I think would have been a more appropriate ending at the end of my review.

The LIFEL1K3 trilogy is an exciting, fast-paced, and action-packed series. Jay Kristoff creates the most thrilling worlds and captivating characters. TRUEL1F3 is no exception. I flew threw this book and I could not get enough of this incredible story.

TRUEL1F3 will be released June 30th by Knopf Books for Young Readers!

SPOILERS ON PAGE 2 . . .

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1) – Kester Grant [ARC Review]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Review:

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.”

When I saw this tagline and then the GORGEOUS cover of The Court of Miracles I knew I absolutely had to read it. France + Les Misérables + secret underground societies + history + Six of Crows!? Sign me up! I was thrilled to be approved for an eARC of The Court of Miracles.

Overall, I liked The Court of Miracles. Was it amazing? No, but it was a fun story with beautifully descriptive scenes and an intriguing criminal underworld.

My favorite parts of The Court of Miracles were the author’s descriptions and then the actual Miracle Court. This is Kester Grant’s debut novel and I have to say I am very impressed with her writing. The way she described each scene . . . whether it be the gaudy palace or the creepy Halls of the Dead . . . everything was vivid and excellently crafted. I could truly see the scenes playing out in my head.

My other favorite part was the Miracle Court itself. This criminal underground made up of nine guilds was totally captivating. Each guild is overseen by a Lord or Lady who leads their “Wretched Children” in whatever their guild specializes in. It is a fascinating system of politics and court intrigue. I could have spent so much time just exploring each guild!

The Court of Miracles started off with a bang! I was immediately pulled in by the first chapter. It was super intense because we are immediately thrown into this life and death situation in which our main character, Nina, is forced to run for her life. The whole first sequence of Nina joining the Guild of Thieves was so exciting! The plot kept me interested, but I will say that the timeline was somewhat confusing at first. There are several time jumps throughout the book.

Part four of The Court of Miracles is by far the best part. The plot is non-stop and so exciting. I flew through the end of this book!!

I think the main thing that caused me not to love The Court of Miracles was the choppiness of the plot. This was due to two reasons. First, the time jumps. I don’t mind time jumps, but these felt very stop start. That probably doesn’t make sense, but the time jumps felt abrupt and made me feel very disconnected. The second reason why I didn’t love The Court of Miracles was the structure of the plot. Everything was very task oriented. Our protagonist would encounter a problem then immediately solve it and move on to the next problem. It felt like a bunch of mini plots rather than one cohesive plot. It was just . . . weird.

I did like all the Les Misérables aspects. Although dumb me did not catch that Ettie is short for Cosette.

Overall I enjoyed The Court of Miracles. It was a fun story with a beautiful setting. I would love to explore the guilds of the Miracle Court more. The Court of Miracles is set to be a trilogy, but I think this book works as a stand-alone too.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant will be released on June 2nd, 2020.

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) – Janella Angeles [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️

Synopsis:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Review:

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

When I saw that Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles was pitched as “Phantom of the Opera” meets “Moulin Rouge” I knew I absolutely had to read it. The synopsis totally pulled me in and intrigued me to see what Where Dreams Descend was all about. The competition aspect actually also made me think of that one Disney Channel Original Movie, Now You See Me!

Where Dreams Descend is an atmospheric, fantasy tale that follows a female magician named Kallia as she competes in a magician competition in the icy city of Glorian. It is a high tension story of magicians, their dark pasts, and a mysterious presence wreaking havoc on the city. 

Unfortunately, Where Dreams Descend fell flat for me. My overall feeling is just … meh. It was ok. I hate when I can’t be super positive about books, but I have to share my honest opinions. 

I’ll start with what I liked . . .

  • The vibe and atmosphere is by far the best part of Where Dreams Descend. The whole story is fantastical with a dark mood. The Dire Woods and the city of Dorian are so captivating and have this air of mystery. Honestly, this was the only thing that kept me invested in the story. 
  • The first chapter/prologue totally pulled me in. I was like ooooh this is going to be sexy and magical! It definitely started off strong. 

Now, onto what I did not enjoy. 

  • First, and perhaps most important, the lack of world building and characterization. Where Dreams Descend starts off strong with an eerie and mysterious setting, but does nothing to build upon it. I feel like I know nothing about this world. We get a little bit of history with the tale of the four families of Glorian, but even that is vague and quite brief. I just felt like I was kind of thrown into this world. The same goes for the characters . . . I really don’t know that much about them. Like I barely even know what they look like. It seems like the main detail is that every character is running from their past and has a bunch of secrets. That’s it. I don’t know, I’m just not attached to any of the characters. I wanted so badly to love Kallia, but it just wasn’t there. 
  • Going along with characters and character development, I was not a fan of the romance. The two characters involved just like suddenly fall for each other. I mean it was obvious that they were going to be love interests from the beginning, but I would have liked to see some development and actual formation of a relationship. To me it felt like they were attracted to one another, talked twice, and then were obsessed. It just didn’t feel natural and was definitely rushed. At one point they’re together, broken up, and together again all within like three chapters. Their relationship didn’t feel authentic to me. 
  • I wanted more! Going into this book I was expecting exciting and extravagant magical competition scenes, but there were only a couple. And these scenes were cool, but it didn’t really translate into reading. Maybe it would have been better on screen? It just wasn’t what I expected. 
  • Along with the magician’s competition, I wanted more of the Conquering Circus performers. These awesome ladies had so much potential, but they felt more like a prop to be used for Kallia’s performances. 
  • We got no answers about the mystery. Now I know that this is a duology and the author can’t give away everything in the first book, but I would have liked at least some answers!

Wow, while writing all of this out I feel bad being so hard on a book. Especially for a debut author. It just sucks to be let down by a book that I was excited for! 

I do have to mention the cover, because it is seriously gorgeous! I feel like it perfectly captures the vibe of the first chapter and the mysteriousness of the setting. 

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles will be released on August 25th, 2020 by Wednesday Books.

House of Earth & Blood (Crescent City, #1) – Sarah J. Maas

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas launches her brand-new CRESCENT CITY series with House of Earth and Blood: the story of half-Fae and half-human Bryce Quinlan as she seeks revenge in a contemporary fantasy world of magic, danger, and searing romance.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose-to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion-one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom-and the power of love.

Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve actually written up a full review, but I knew I had to do one for House of Earth & Blood (Crescent City, #1) by Sarah J. Maas. I am going to refer to this book as Crescent City because it’s a shorter name. 

I will keep this review spoiler free. 

She’s done it again. Congrats to Sarah J. Maas on another absolutely incredible book. Crescent City totally blew me away. I finished a few days ago and I still am in awe. 

Crescent City tells the story of Bryce Quinlan, a half-human half-fae woman living in the titular “Crescent City.” She is care free and fun loving until tragedy strikes. While dealing with her grief, Bryce must team up with the Archangel Governor’s personal assassin to solve a series of brutal murders. Crescent City is a story of love, magic, mystery, romance, and page-turning suspense. 

I absolutely loved this book! I’m always a tiny bit nervous when authors that I love start a new series and/or new genre. Sarah J. Maas did both with Crescent City and it did not disappoint at all. I didn’t know how SJM could possibly write another book that becomes an instant favorite, but she did it again! I love this new world!

The first part of Crescent City is very information heavy. There’s a lot to learn and to know about this new world. I was glad to be reading on my kindle because I was able to highlight certain information. It was a lot of info but it didn’t feel like information dumping. Maas’s worlds are always rich, detailed, and all encompassing. She is an expert world builder and Crescent City is no different. 

Besides her world building, one of the things that Sarah J. Maas does best is portray mental health. All of her books have characters experiencing some level of grief, PTSD, and/or depression. The best part is that it’s always accepted and seen as normal (which it is). There is no ridicule or judgment. Crescent City is no exception. Once again Sarah J. Maas beautifully and accurately portrays these things within her characters. I’m keeping this review spoiler free so I won’t go into details, but just know that she’s done an excellent job with these topics again through both Bryce and Hunt. 

I seriously loved this book. Bryce is another totally fierce, independent, and bad ass female lead that is complex and so captivating to read! Some friends on Bookstagram have asked what my favorite scene is and I can’t possibly choose. I keep thinking of more scenes that I love and scenes that are so powerful. Also, there were so many twists and turns that I truly didn’t see coming. I thought the story was going to go one way, but then it shocked me! And the romance . . . SWOON!! I don’t know how Sarah J. Maas keeps coming up with these incredible stories, worlds, and characters. She is truly a master storyteller.

I can’t believe I have to wait for the sequel! Sarah J. Maas did a fantastic job of wrapping up this story, but ending with a great cliffhanger. I’m hooked and I need more!! 

In case you couldn’t tell, I totally loved this book! Sarah J Maas is my favorite author and she always blows me away. I already want to reread this. 

Have you read my read Crescent City yet? What did you think?! Message me so we can chat about this incredible book!

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo (Alex Stern, #1)

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The mesmerizing adult debut from Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

Review:

In the words of Eleanor Shellstrop . . .

HOLY MOTHER FORKING SHIRT BALLS.

Damn. That was so good.

So I have to be honest . . . I was a little nervous to read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I was not a fan of her most recent release (King of Scars) and it is a big jump from the Grishaverse into the adult world. I wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. BUT DAMN. I WAS SO WRONG. Ninth House was absolutely incredible. It definitely joins my list of favorite all-time books. I had the absolute pleasure of attending Leigh’s

Ninth House follows Alex Stern, who is a new Freshman at Yale. Alex has a special ability . . . she can see ghosts (known as Grays) when no one else can. Because of this ability, Alex is recruited to become the apprentice to Lethe House. It is here where Alex meets Daniel Arlington (aka Darlington). Alex learns that it is the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the secret societies and to ensure they all act within order. But nothing is easy for Alex Stern and her apprenticeship quickly becomes so much more than she bargained for. Ninth House is told from Alex and Darlington’s points of view, and it takes place over the course of the year between Fall and Spring.

I had no idea what to expect from Ninth House due to it taking place in the real world. I actually loved that this story is a fantasy set in real life New Haven, Connecticut. I had zero knowledge of Yale’s secret societies prior to hearing about and then reading Ninth House. It is all so fascinating! I love the way Leigh took the facts and blended it with her story. The world building was just excellent! Leigh was able to create a complete atmosphere. From the campus setting to the ghosts and magic . . . this world and atmosphere was totally captivating. I felt completely transported to Alex’s world.

I loved the cast of characters. I didn’t always agree with their choices, but I always felt myself rooting for them. Alex’s character development was very well done. Leigh was able to write Alex in a way that she made huge strides in her development, but it all felt natural and well paced. I think Pamela Dawes is my favorite character. She’s a nerdy bad ass! And Darlington . . . I want more!

One of my favorite parts of Ninth House was the focus on feminism and inequality. Leigh did a wonderful job shining light onto privilege and the inequalities that women, minorities, and impoverished face. Leigh did not hold back in showing what happens if privilege is allowed to rule unchecked. Leigh was able to connect a story about ghosts and rituals to our present day society and its many issues. One of my favorite quotes from Ninth House addresses victim blaming. This quote (found on page 190) is just perfect. Leigh did such an outstanding job articulating our society’s major problem with victim blaming and the silencing of victims. Huge props to Leigh . . .

“Alex has indicated her own concerns regarding her assault, and instead of hearing her out, you’ve chosen to question her credibility. You may not have meant to imply anything, but intent and the effect were to silence her, so it’s hard not to think this stinks of victim blaming. It’s the semantic equivalent of saying her skirt was too short.”


Ninth House was a dark and twisty roller coaster. It kept me on the edge of my seat! I loved the mystery that had me guessing the whole time! I feel like I had permanent shocked face through the last ~100 pages. Congratulations to Leigh Bardugo on a fantastic adult debut!

I do need to include that Ninth House is definitely an ADULT fiction book.

Trigger warnings include: drug abuse and overdose, sexual assault, violence, murder, date rape, gore, and rituals.

House of Salt and Sorrows – Erin A. Craig

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Get swept away by the New York Times bestseller that Melissa Albert, author of The Hazel Wood, calls “eerie” and “lovely.” As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with…

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last–the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge–and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who–or what–are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family–before it claims her next. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

Review:

Well that was five nightmare inducing stars!!

I received my copy of House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig in OwlCrate’s August “Storm and Seas” box. I had heard about House of Salt and Sorrows prior to receiving my OwlCrate box and I was super intrigued by the premise! I’m happy to say that House of Salt and Sorrows exceeded my expectations! Congrats to Erin A. Craig on this fantastic debut!

I decided to read House of Salt and Sorrows in October because I had heard that it was super creepy! I am not a fan of horror movies, but I do love thrillers and psychologically scary stories (and creepy things around Halloween time). This was a little out of my comfort zone because this book was definitely scary!! There were a few scenes where I actually had to step away for a few minutes. Erin A. Craig did such a an incredible job of creating vivid imagery that felt so real. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and read this perfect spooky.

House of Salt and Sorrows is a gothic, dark, and incredibly eerie retelling of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Even though it’s a retelling, this book is totally original. The plot was full of twists and turns! I truly didn’t know what to expect next! House of Salt and Sorrows was totally mind bending! There were several moments where I was like “whaaattttt!” with my mouth wide open in shock. There’s also mystery, horror, family bonds, and romance. The story was fast paced and exciting. It was so hard to put the book down!!

When I finished reading House of Salt and Sorrows I just sat there for a few minutes trying to digest it all. I was awestruck by the conclusion. I guessed a couple of small details, but I was genuinely stunned by all the reveals and the conclusion. I immediately had to go talk to my friend who had also just read the book. We both are still totally amazing and slightly creeped out.

House of Salt and Sorrows is a stunning gothic tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a fantasy horror with mystery and romance. I highly recommend it! Congrats to Erin A. Craig on this incredible book. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!!

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1) – Renée Ahdieh [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️💫

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.

When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien’s own lair–the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks–Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.

At once a sultry romance and a decadent, thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet.

Review:

I was so excited to pick up a copy of The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh at Book Expo. I had read the synopsis and I was super intrigued. I was so excited to read it because of the setting! A supernatural story set in 19th century New Orleans!? With a murder mystery aspect?! Sign me up!! I even got to meet Renée at Book Expo and have her sign my arc! I’m sad to say this, but The Beautiful was a complete and total let down.

Quick note . . . I haven’t written such a negative review in a long time. I always feel bad doing it, but I started this blog to honestly review books. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes I have to be negative. Normally, whenever I review a book I didn’t like I try to find at least one positive thing to include in my review. I don’t think that’s the case for this book.

Basically it just sucks to write a bad review because I want to support authors and their work, but I just can’t help it sometimes. I do not tag authors in bad review posts if that’s any consolation.

Anyways, on to the review. . .

One of the things that intrigued me most from the synopsis was the setting of New Orleans. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect atmospheric setting for a vampire story! Unfortunately it totally fell flat. Ahdieh could have done so much more with the setting and make it a true presence or even a character. It was just a throw away background. The book could have taken place in any random city.

Going along with the setting . . . the entire world building was lacking. It felt like we were given a couple random pieces of information but nothing was really expanded upon. This is especially true when it comes to the Court, the Fallen, and the Brotherhood. I was especially excited to learn about La Cour des Lions after reading the synopsis. We are only shown quick glimpses of these groups and I still have almost no idea what/who they are. The only history and world building we get is through the villain’s narrated chapters, but even that is just brief and confusing.

As for the actual story . . . it was an easy read, but pretty dang boring. Not much happens and I wasn’t attached to any of the characters. There was so substance to any of them. All the characters were bland and had nothing special or new. Everything in the story also progressed way too quickly. Why is everything instantly in love with Celine? The only two qualities I can identify about Celine are that she is the most beautiful ever and she stands up for herself (which is great), but other than that I do not know anything about her. Literally everyone that meets her is immediately obsessed with her. I just don’t get it.

One thing that really bugged me about Celine’s character was her inner dialogue. She is constantly thinking about how she wants power and how dark she is. She just kept repeating it over and over and over again. It just became irritating. We get it! You’re different than all the other girls. I also absolutely hated that Celine kept shaming herself for fighting off her attacker. It just seemed off base – I’m not saying she should be happy about killing someone, but she doesn’t need to feel shame for protecting herself. I know a lot of young readers with pick up this book so I don’t want them to be influenced by the message of shame.

Another issue I had was the romance. There’s no reason that Celine (and I guess spoiler?) Bastien fall in love. They meet once and hate each other, but then like 2 days later they are obsessed with one another. It was insta-love to the extreme. And again, I don’t know anything about these two characters! It’s the same with Celine’s other potential love interest. She literally hates both men and then suddenly is totally and completely charmed by them.

One thing I did mildly enjoy was the mystery of who the killer was. The killer’s POV chapters were definitely my favorites to read. Although, these chapters were not at all scary . . . just overly dramatic. These chapters were the most interesting part of the entire book.

The big reveal at the end honestly just confused me. And not in a good way. I don’t really even care to find out what happens next.

The Beautiful is one of the most hyped up book releases for this fall. For a book hyped up for bringing vampires back there is very little actual vampire content. I wasn’t reading this book because of the vampires, but I know many people are so excited to dive into vampire stories again. These people are going to be thoroughly disappointed in the lack of vampires.

Thank you to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for providing an arc copy of The Beautiful at Book Expo!

The Beautiful will be released on October 8th, 2019.