Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag 2021

I really can’t believe we’re halfway through 2021 already! So far, I’ve read 25 books this year and I’m on target to hit my goal of 40 books in 2021 so I am very happy with that. I’ve read some great books so without further ado, let’s jump into the tag.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2021

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu – This book destroyed me. Can’t say too much since it’s the last in the series, but honestly it was so emotionally heart wrenching I’m still not over it.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2021

I’ve read some really great sequels this year but two that stood out are Blood & Honey and Days of Blood and Starlight. A lot of people didn’t seem to like Blood & Honey and I went in with low expectations, which might have helped, but I really enjoyed this one and was surprised by it. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my all-time faves and Days of Blood and Starlight was so good as well.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To

The Gilded Ones came out earlier this year and I am so excited to read it!

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May 2021 Wrap Up

I’m on a bit of a semi-hiatus from blogging at the moment because life has been a bit hectic! Work is very busy and we’re currently in the process of selling our house and trying to find a new home, so a lot of my time is being taken up with house hunting!

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I found the pacing of this book a little bit slow but I loved the complex world building and characters!

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer ⭐⭐⭐.5 – I can’t believe this series is over! I enjoyed the final instalment, but the first book in the series is still my favourite.

Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie ⭐⭐⭐.5 – There is a lot about this duology that I loved, like the magic system, but I just didn’t feel the romance and some of the scenes were a bit repetitive. The ending was pretty epic though! 

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book so much! The magic, world building and characters are all fantastic. There’s also chronic pain rep which I was so happy to see. Also, I never imagined a dead goat could become a favourite character, but there you go. More people need to read this book! 

I only bought one book this month – Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip. She’s one of my favourite authors and I didn’t know she’d written an Arthurian inspired book, so I just had to get my hands on it when I found out!

I finished the second draft of my WIP at the start of May! It came in at a whopping 100,000 words so it got a lot longer with that redraft. I’m currently reading through it at the moment, but it’s taking a while because I’ve been so busy.

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

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.  

WWW Wednesday: 12 May 2021

This weekly meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The three W’s are:

What did you recently finish reading?

What are you currently reading?

What are you going to read next?

RECENTLY FINISHED – The Unbroken by C. L. Clark

This book was just so good! I found it a bit slow but the world building is excellent and the story and characters so complex.

Book cover for A Vow So Bold and Deadly

RECENTLY FINISHED – A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer  

Having not enjoyed the second book in this series as much as the first, I was glad to find I reconnected with this series again with the final instalment. I was so happy to see my fave character – Harper – back as she was hardly in the second book. Review coming soon!

CURRENTLY READING – Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie   

I just started this one! I have a few duologies I’ve started and need to finish so I’m trying to tick some of those off. I enjoyed but didn’t love the first book, but I liked it enough to want to know what happens next. The magic system in this series is really interesting as well!

What are you reading at the moment? What are you looking forward to reading next? Chat with me in the comments!

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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Fairyloot January 2021 Unboxing

After the August box I decided to unsubscribe, but trust Fairyloot to pull me back in. The January theme was just perfect for me so I couldn’t pass on it. Although I decided I didn’t like getting a box every month, I will still get the occasional one when the theme and book is right up my street.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme.

The theme for January was ‘Greek Mythology’! Let’s see what was inside…

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

This was actually last week’s topic but I missed it so decided to post it this week instead!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Legendborn by Tracey Deonn

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Malice by Heather Walter

The Unbroken by C. L. Clark

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Considering how I am notoriously bad at sticking to a TBR, we’ll see how many of these books I actually get round to reading! I’m currently reading The Priory of the Orange Tree and I am loving it, but it’s taking me so long to read it.

What books are you excited to read this spring? Chat with me in the comments!

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: 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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Book Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2016, Penguin

Pages: 319

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but the darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy everything.

When a new danger appears, Adelina must join the Daggers on a perilous quest in order to save herself and preserve her empire. But this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger . . .

The Midnight Star absolutely destroyed me. The first two books in the Young Elites trilogy were dark and suspenseful, so the concluding chapter had a lot to live up to. And it was even better than its predecessors.

What I love about this series is how we see the darker side of our protagonist – Adelina. We see through the eyes of a character who has suffered a lot, been shunned by society, and who wants to make things better for people like her. Seeing her darkness grow over the course of the series was a refreshing change from the typical hero arc. Many of the other characters are also complex. There aren’t many straightforward heroes here, and I loved that. Despite their flaws, Marie Lu made me really care about these characters, and I didn’t realise quite how much until this final instalment of the series.

The last few chapters were so beautifully and heartbreakingly painted by Marie Lu. I can’t say too much without giving any spoilers, but the setting of the conclusion was so ethereal and I could visualise it so clearly. I very rarely cry at books, but the final chapters of The Midnight Star had me properly crying. How could I not give a book that made me feel so many emotions five stars?

This is a brief review because I don’t want to give away spoilers for the first two books, and I don’t really have any criticisms for The Midnight Star because it was just so good. The only thing I could say is that it was very short, and I kind of wished it had been longer, but I am also glad it wasn’t overly dragged out.

The Midnight Star is a superb conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. It follows a character down a path of darkness, a character who isn’t a typical hero, and I found that so refreshing. I cannot recommend this series enough.