Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor  

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: 10th Anniversary Edition, 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 2012)

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my favourite books of all time. It’s two years since I read it and I can’t believe it took me this long to get to the sequel. I think, perhaps, because the first book blew me away so much, I was nervous to read Days of Blood and Starlight. I needn’t have been worried, because although I don’t love it quite as much as the first book, it was still absolutely phenomenal.

I found the first half a little slow and wasn’t really sure where the story was going, but the last third or so was filled with so many twists I was absolutely glued to the page and audibly gasped at multiple points. There’s not too much I can say without spoiling the first book, but this one is at times very bleak and very grim, but despite that, the words and way Laini Taylor tells the story is so captivating and heart wrenching. There are also a few lighter moments provided by Zuzana and Mik who are gems bringing some much-needed smiles amongst all the darkness. 

I’ve read three of Laini Taylor’s books now and I just can’t get over how stunning her writing is. It paints a picture and envelops you like silk, delivering gentle moments and violence with a brush stroke that captures every emotion and movement so beautifully and vividly. Her words draw me into every story she writes and makes me want to never let go of the book in my hands.

Days of Blood and Starlight is an excellent sequel – dark and heart-breaking, yet full of hope. I’m excited for the final book in the trilogy – Dreams of Gods and Monsters – but I also don’t want the story to end, and I have a feeling it’s going to be devastating. Brilliant, but devastating, in the way the first two books have been. In a way that makes it unforgettable.            

Book Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Book cover for A Vow So Bold and Deadly

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: January 2021 by Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 424

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Grey has been revealed as the rightful prince of Emberfall. But the kingdom is crumbling fast, torn between his claim and that of the reigning Prince Rhen and Princess Harper. Newly crowned as Queen of the enemy kingdom Syhl Shallow, Lia Mara struggles to rule with a gentler hand than her mother. But as Grey moves closer to claiming the crown of Emberfall, both Harper and Lia Mara are forced to question where they stand – and how far they can follow the dictates of their hearts.

Brigid Kemmerer’s heart-pounding saga comes to a thrilling climax, as two kingdoms come closer and closer to conflict – and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly is the final book in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers trilogy. Having loved the first book, and felt a little disappointed by the second, I had mixed feelings going into the final instalment. However, because I loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I was still excited to dive in and see how the trilogy would end.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken just didn’t hit the same note for me as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and I think some of that is because Harper has such a tiny part in the second book. In the final book, however, we get POV chapters from all four main characters – Harper, Rhen, Grey and Lia Mara – and I think this contributed to me enjoying this book a lot more, as Harper was my favourite character in the first book and part of what made me fall in love with it.

With four POV characters to follow, there was a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time, but I felt this was handled well and I did like getting POVs for all the main characters.

This book was a quick read for me, but I have felt throughout the series that the plot is quite simple. There aren’t many subplots or twists and turns, in the sense that it’s quite a straightforward plot. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I just felt that, after I finished this book, in some ways not much had happened, and some things were a bit predictable.

Although I did enjoy this book more than A Heart So Fierce and Broken, I just didn’t love it as much as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which is definitely my favourite book in the series. Some things still seemed unresolved in this book and I wonder whether it’s been left open for a sequel or spin-off. Some elements and characters’ stories just didn’t feel finished. I would still recommend this series though and I’m excited to read Brigid Kemmerer’s next fantasy release.  

Book Review: Light by Michael Grant

Light by Michael Grant

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: May 2015 by Egmont Books (first published 2012)

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

All eyes are on Perdido Beach. The barrier wall is now as clear as glass and life in the FAYZ is visible for the entire outside world to see. Life inside the dome remains a constant battle and the Darkness, away from watchful eyes, grows and grows …The society that Sam and Astrid have struggled so hard to build is about to be shattered for good. It’s the end of the FAYZ. Who will survive to see the light of day? A tour-de-force from global sensation, Michael Grant, Light is the final heartstopping installment in this bestselling series.

Light is the final book in the Gone series and, although I enjoyed it in some ways, I’m also glad I’ve now finished it. Spanning six books, this series just felt too long for me. The plot was stretched out too much, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if there had been less books. The fifth book was a bit of a miss for me, but I’d come so far, and only had the last book left, so felt I needed to finish the series and see how it all ended.

Overall, I think this was a good ending to the series. It was satisfying, but not altogether surprising or shocking, in the sense that it played out as you’d probably expect. But it was fast paced and there was plenty of action. There are, unsurprisingly, quite a few character deaths. The death toll in this series is huge. I continued to enjoy the characters and how morally grey most of them are. They’ve been through a lot, and their experiences shape and change them over the course of the series.

This book also explores the issues around what will happen when the kids eventually get out of the FAYZ and into the real world, considering how many crimes were committed inside the dome. Especially since the dome is clear in this book and, for the first time, the world can see in and witness the events unfolding.

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Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction  

Publishing Info: September 2020 by Harper Teen   

Pages: 375

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A deadly competition for the throne will determine more than just the fate of the empire in this duology opener.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?

But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.

Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.

This book reminded me why I’m such a sucker for space opera, and why I want to see more of it in YA. Crownchasers is a planet-hopping adventure and I had so much fun reading it. At just 375 pages, it was a pretty quick read, and I was on my edge of my seat for every single one of those pages.

The plot revolves around the crownchase, a competition between the prime families of the empire to determine who will be the next emperor. This involves a lot of space travel, discovering new planets, and working out mysterious clues. There is also a media element as well, as the whole galaxy seems to be watching the crownchase to see who will be victorious, which reminded me of The Hunger Games.

Alyssa Farshot is a reluctant participant in the crownchase. She loves exploring, and has never had any desire to sit on the empire’s throne. Alyssa brings a whole lot of snarky humour to this book and I loved how daring and reckless she is. Her voice is one of the best parts of this book, I felt like I was on this wild ride right along with her, and it was great to see how her character developed over the course of the story. As well as the pressures of the crownchase, she also has to deal with her grief over the loss of her uncle, and I thought Coffindaffer did an excellent job of weaving Alyssa’s character growth into such a fast-paced and action-packed book.

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Book Review: Malice by Heather Walter (eARC)

Malice by Heather Walter

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Del Ray  

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

Thank you so much to Del Ray and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The word ‘retelling’ is sure to get me interested in a book, and when I saw Malice was a Sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, I just knew I had to read it. Malice includes many key elements of Sleeping Beauty (as well as a dash of other fairy tales, like Cinderalla), but weaves these into a new world and story in a refreshing way.

From the start, I really enjoyed the world building, and how the society of Briar is depicted. The upper classes are selfish and vain, obsessed with beauty and luxury, and how they can use the Graces to obtain those things. In return for their services, Graces receive payment and invitations to parties, but then when their magic Fades, they also fade out of the spotlight. Graces have little control over their lives due to the Grace Laws, and although their lives seem glamorous on the outside, there is an insidious undercurrent to the way this society functions. Good and evil isn’t so simple here, as almost every character falls somewhere in between.

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Book Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (eARC)

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.

Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.

The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

And with an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Prison Healer is the first book by Lynette Noni I’ve read and I was excited to dive into this intriguing sounding novel. The description and concept of a story set entirely in a prison caught my attention, so I was very happy to be approved for an eARC and get the opportunity to read The Prison Healer early. Unfortunately, the opening chapters didn’t capture my attention and I almost DNFed quite early on. I kept on reading and the last quarter or so of the book had me much more riveted, so I was glad I didn’t give up on it. Until that twist on the final page, which left me feeling incredibly exasperated. More on that later.

The beginning of this review will be spoiler-free, with a section at the end containing major spoilers so I can properly explain why this twist ending was so frustrating. I’ll clearly signpost when the spoilers start so you can avoid them if you wish to.

The idea of a book set entirely in a deadly prison is very intriguing. Setting is really important in books located in entirely one location like this, the setting has to be considered as another character. Unfortunately, the setting didn’t have any personality. I wanted to be completely immersed in this dark and dangerous place, but I didn’t feel anything. There was no atmosphere or tension. We’re told people hardly ever leave this prison alive, that Kiva is unique for having managed to survive ten years. Almost everything we know about the prison we’re told, not shown. Because there was no atmosphere, it felt flat. In the latter half we did get to see the darker side to the prison, but for most of the book I didn’t feel afraid for the main character, I didn’t feel the tension that should come from a deadly prison setting.

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Book Review: Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: January 2021 by UCLan Publishing

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

At school, I learned that words,

More than weapons,

Could destroy bodies,

Could break hearts

More than fists or fury.

This is the story of Chris, what happened to him at age eleven and how that would change the rest of his life. A life-affirming and powerful coming of age verse novel that shines a light on chronic illness, who we are and how we live.

Gut Feelings is an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is an inherited disorder characterised by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestines.

I found reading this novel incredibly moving and cathartic as I recognised some of my own experiences of chronic illness reflected in the pages. Similarly to the narrator of the novel, Chris, I was diagnosed as chronically ill at a young age, when I was ten years old. There are so many parts of this book I could quote, but I chose just a few to include in this review that really resonated with me.

“This room is no place 
 For a child
 That wants to run and swim, 
 Bike his way 
 To the top of the hill. 
 I listen and obey
 As curtains close 
 Around me –
 Around my future.” 

While the condition I have – Crohn’s disease – is a different condition to FAP, there is some overlap in symptoms and treatments as both affect the intestines. I could relate to the blood tests, the colonoscopies, the hospital visits, the surgery, the anxiety around having to rush to the toilet, of praying to make it through an exam, and issues of body image and scars. I could relate to the confusion and the fear of being faced with a diagnosis at such a young age.

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February 2021 Wrap Up

This month was pretty good for reading considering I read two 5 star reads! I don’t give 5 stars very often so to have two in one month is pretty amazing. But on the flip side, the other two books I read were quite disappointing which isn’t so good.

Links take you to my reviews!

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was just the perfect ending to the Young Elites series. I felt so emotional reading the last few chapters.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead ⭐⭐⭐ – This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series and I found it a bit slow. I’m not sure if I’m still enjoying this series enough to continue.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was the best book in the Throne of Glass series so far – I loved it! I was hooked all the way through and absolutely devoured it in hardly any time at all.

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni ⭐⭐ – I’ve started writing my review for this but I think I need a bit of time to process and think through what I want to say about this one. I found the twist ending very frustrating.

I absolutely love Ancient Greek mythology so I just had to have Lore by Alexandra Bracken and I’m excited to read it soon. I ordered a set of signed / signed book plate editions of the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab from Forbidden Planet but at the moment I’ve only received the second and third books. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get A Darker Shade of Magic.

I had a bit of a wobble this month and didn’t do any writing for more than a week. I wasn’t feeling so good and just wasn’t feeling like writing. But I’m now 40,000 words into the second draft of my Arthurian retelling WIP so I’m still pretty pleased with my progress. I think this second draft is definitely going to be longer than the first at this rate!

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

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Graphic showing Shadow Kiss book cover and a 3 star rating

Book Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead   

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal     

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2008 by e-Penguin

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a Dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

Rose knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken…

Then a strange darkness begins to grow in Rose’s mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy’s iron gates. The immortal undead are closing in, and they want vengeance for the lives Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most… but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Shadow Kiss is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series. Even though I didn’t love the first two books, I enjoyed them enough to carry on reading. Unfortunately, I found Shadow Kiss quite slow and somehow seemed to be lacking in direction.

After the events of Frostbite, Rose and the other students have returned to school and the dhampirs are undergoing the field experience part of their training. Lissa and Adrian are learning to use spirit. But it didn’t feel like a whole lot was going on. A trip to the royal court could have proved an interesting diversion, but that section fell a bit flat for me, as not much happened to create any kind of tension or suspense. There just wasn’t enough to hold my attention and keep me engaged.

The pacing picks up massively towards the end, but there was once again something missing from the action scenes for me. The style in which they’re written made me feel really disconnected from the action, so I didn’t feel any of the suspense I should have done in those sequences. I love reading action scenes, so this is a big downside of this series for me. There is a lot of potential for suspenseful and exciting sequences, but the writing is just really missing something in this area.    

The ending should have been emotional and impactful, but I didn’t really feel all that much, which is what made me realise I hadn’t really connected with this story and the characters as much as I have for other books I’ve read. I like reading Rose, Lissa and Dimitri’s story, but I’ve never really felt a strong connection to them.

I don’t know if I’ll continue with this series or not. Although I didn’t feel the emotional impact of Shadow Kiss’s ending, it has sent the series in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, which might make for an intriguing storyline going forward.