Sunday, February 24, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #4 - Greta and the Lost Army by Chloe Jacobs

Greta and the Lost Army by Chloe Jacobs
Mylena Chronicles, book three
Published Feb 2016 by Entangled: Teen

Format Read: ebook from Personal Kindle Library

*Spoiler Alert as this is the final book in the trilogy!!*

Description from Goodreads:
A fate as unavoidable as love itself...

After spending the last four years trapped in a place of monsters, demons, and magick, the last thing the fierce teenage bounty hunter Greta expected was to ever be back on Earth. But a rare opportunity gives her and the Goblin King Isaac the opportunity to do just that. Now she’s home. With a boy in tow. And her parents have lots of questions.

Although Greta finally has her heart’s deepest wish—to see her family again—every step she takes to reconnect with them drives her further away from Isaac. Greta and Isaac planned for her to return to Mylena and become his queen, but she’s not sure if she can go back to that harsh world, though staying on Earth means giving up the boy she loves.

But a powerful enemy refuses to let Greta escape. A demon who will stop at nothing to destroy her and everything she loves. Even if it means following her to Earth and forcing her to face a fate as unavoidable as love itself.

My Review: 
I'm going to try and be somewhat spoiler-free here, but again this is the last book in the trilogy, so some hints may be unavoidable as to what happened in the first two... 

Anyway, this is not the first series, nor I'm sure will it be the last, where the main character finds themselves transported to a hostile world.  What I really enjoyed about this particular book in the series was that the author takes the main character, Greta, back to her home world and then lets both Greta and the reader come to the realization that Earth may no longer be the best place for her.  It explores both the joy and guilt associated with her homecoming.  The excitement and the bewilderment.  The horrible confliction that she now feels as she realizes there are things she truly loved about Mylena, even as she was working so hard to escape it. 

I hadn't quite expected when I started this series to get so emotionally invested in it.  It seemed like it would just be a breezy, fun paranormal YA romance and I found it to be so much more by the time I finished it. The characters had depth and there was both action and romance that built in a believable way.  There was good world building and consequences to characters' actions and betrayals that moved the plot along well. As I said, I ended up really loving this series.  I was so happily surprised.  

I think this is a trilogy that never got the buzz it deserved and is well worth a shot if you are looking for something new to read!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #3 - Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows, book two
Published Sept 2016 by Henry Holt and Company

Format Read: Book borrowed from Public Library

Description from Goodreads:
Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

My Review:
So since this is the second book, I will attempt to be somewhat non-spoilery for anyone who hasn't read Six of Crows. For me, both of these books were absolutely stellar and I loved them much more than Bardugo's original Grishaverse trilogy.  Why? I happen to LOVE ragtag heist stories.  The Dregs, the six members that make up Kaz Brekker's newly formed "mini-gang" develop into a mini-family and though each is pretty flawed, they are all super interesting characters doing bad things for good reasons.  Even Kaz himself, though he would never, ever let on that he might be anything but the worst guy out there.  These characters have HEART.  

And, though this is the Grishaverse and many people in this world have magical abilities, this group primarily relies on wit, stamina, sheer stubbornness, a hint of luck, and Kaz's ability to think eight steps ahead of anyone else. I LOVE that.  I felt as if the characters in these two books were more fully formed than the ones in the original trilogy.  They felt real.  Less caricature-ish (oh she's the good guy, oh he's the bad guy, oh he's the love interest)... here they were all a little bit of everything.  Even Ketterdam itself had a gritty personality. 

This book, though the first also sucked me in immediately, was fast-paced and full of what felt like imminent danger around every corner.  There were almost no times that I wasn't sort of white knuckling the book and I haven't had one put me on edge like that in a while.  I was fully engaged from start to finish.  Fantastic and now I'm hoping that King of Scars will engage me the same way... and that Bardugo truly is working on a Six of Crows #3 to come sometime after that...  

Friday, February 8, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #2 - Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
All Souls Trilogy, book two
Published July 2012 by Viking Adult

Format Read: Book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

My Review:
Both books I have read so far in this series have been truly spectacular. They make for slow reading because the author is a historian by trade and her work is jam packed full of facts, but they are also super interesting, intricate reads. I have not for one second regretted the "extra" time it took to read either book. They are intense reads, but so engrossing, and I have not wanted to put them down to go to work! I wish all books left me with that hungry feeling between reading sessions.

Anyway, this book picked up immediately after the ending of the first.
*spoiler alert*

Diana and Matthew utilize her time traveling ability to go back to Elizabethan London to find a powerful witch that can tutor Diana in navigating her powers. There are emotional repercussions to traveling back to an earlier point in Matthew's life, which at first threaten to divide them, but Harkness does an amazing job at believably having the two lovers connect in an even stronger way after recognizing even greater depths of each of their personalities. This book is truly a homage of a type to a deep, abiding love built not on first attraction, not on fate, etc, but on the willingness and faith to push through difficulties and truly accept another person into your life, flaws and all. I LOVED that this was not an easy love story, but a strong, deep one.

Beyond that, there were soooooo many interesting scenes and details of Diana adjusting to life in Elizabethan England. The cast of real, historical characters including Marlowe and Shakespeare, himself, made for a very entertaining diversion into the past. The intersection between history, science, and the elements of the fantasy world that Harkness has created was seamless. As I read, I felt as if I could turn around at any moment and find a new history book denoting important vampires and witches of Europe. It was astounding how real the possibility felt.

*end spoilers*
I finished this book both dying to read the next one and desperate to read something totally different. Something light. The story is so gripping, but the writing is exhausting (in the best possible way). I'm hoping to read The Book of Life sometime in late February or early March.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #1 - Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Crown of Shards, book one
Published Oct 2018 by Harper Voyager

Format Read: Book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

My Review: 
Holy cow, did I love this book. 
I am a fan of high fantasy, but I also love quick reads, and sadly, the two are not always one in the same.  However, this book delivered all the things I love about high fantasy - a world with a fully-fledged magic system, a loosely medieval society, and epic battles - in a super easy to read writing style.  I devoured this book...and immediately pre-ordered the sequel! 

The main character of this book is a girl with a strong core, but has been brow-beaten enough that she believes she is worthless. The girl finding her inner strength and going on to kick ass trope is one I'm all in for... every single time.  I love that in this book, too, there is romance, but it is completely secondary to her doing what she needs to do AND the friendships she builds with others along the way.  This is no princess that drops everything for a man. No, indeed. 

The magic, the sword-fighting, the royal intrigue, the secrets, the romance, and the main character all sold this book for me.  I am waiting WITH BATED BREATH until July (wahhhh!!) for the sequel, Protect the Prince, to be released. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

January Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
So, as I mentioned in December, I have decided to continue my Books I Already Own Challenge into 2019 as I REALLY would like to read through the collection of books I have at home! I decided to be a little more loose this second year, though, as I also have other goals and so while I'll still be focusing on this, you will see more library books mixed in as I participate in group reads and catch up on some books I've been dying to read, as well.

I want to get back into actual review blogging again, too, so slowly I will be adding in more reviews of the books I read this year. I think I'm going to start off just trying to highlight my four or five star reads so I don't feel the pressure to try to review every book I read - I just don't have time for that anymore... BUT keep your eye out for some upcoming reviews!

This year started off really well reading-wise! I read more than I thought I would and a lot of them were high four star or five star reads, which made me a very happy reader.

Here's what I read in January:

Audiobooks I Own
The Lost Sisters by Holly Black - novella
The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon - novella
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
Endless Knight by Kresley Cole
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Heart of the Witch by Deanna Chase
Beyond the Veil by Pippa DaCosta

Physical Books I Own
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness *5 star*
Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep *5 star*

eBooks I Own
Greta and the Glass Kingdom by Chloe Jacobs
Greta and the Lost Army by Chloe Jacobs *5 star*
A Dark Grave by J. A. Souders - novella

Required Reading
(for work) The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert

Borrowed from the Library
(for group read) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo *5 star*
Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

How was your first month's reading in 2019?