Review Catchup – Five Mini Book Reviews!

I have been skipping some reviews lately, especially on books I don’t have a ton of thoughts on. I don’t like leaving books unreviewed, so here are some quick reviews for books I’ve read since the beginning of the year!

I have been skipping some reviews lately, especially on books I don’t have a ton of thoughts on. I don’t like leaving books unreviewed, so here are some quick reviews for books I’ve read since the beginning of the year!

Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha #2) by Tasha Suri

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this book! The main reason why I didn’t review it was because I read it in about a day, so my memory of it is hazy. This series has some of the loveliest romances in fantasy because the way Tasha Suri writes slow burn relationships is just so good. I highly recommend both books in this series!

The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3) by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I keep absolutely devouring these books. While they are so filled with interesting conflicts of emotion that I love, the worldbuilding still confuses me a bit, which is why I haven’t given any of them five stars. The slow evolution of the main relationship in this series absolutely kills me and I am so excited that I caught up just in time for the next book to come out! I am very excited to see where this series goes as we enter the second half.

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I thought the beginning of this book was really slow, but the second half really picked up! Combined with the abrupt ending and mixed feelings on the POVs, I felt like this was a solid start to a series, but not necessarily the best book by itself. There were certainly characters that I liked though! The world also was super cool and a breath of fresh air.

A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4) by Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have a lot of feelings about this one. I overall enjoyed it and thought it was a good conclusion to the series, and even though things happened that I wanted to happen, I still felt a little disappointed. It’s a hard feeling to explain, but it felt a little predictable and I wanted to be a little surprised. It was still a great series though!

A Thief Among the Trees (An Ember in the Ashes #0.5) by Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apparently, there are going to be three of these prequel graphic novels. I’m not quite sure they are necessary, but I did really enjoy seeing little Elias and Helene.


Can you see why I didn’t write full reviews on these? I just had a couple of sentences to say about each! Sometimes I just don’t have much to say about a book, even if I really enjoyed it.

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February Wrap Up, Haul, & Update!

I have been doing an absolutely awful job at keeping up with reviews and posts that I want to write. I’ve missed 5 or 6 reviews over the past couple months, so I am going to do a mini review post, including all of those. That way, I don’t have to stress myself out that they still aren’t done, and I can move onto reviews that are fresh in my mind! I want to keep on top of my writing schedule better, so I think this will help.

I have been doing an absolutely awful job at keeping up with reviews and posts that I want to write. I’ve missed 5 or 6 reviews over the past couple months, so I am going to do a mini review post, including all of those. That way, I don’t have to stress myself out that they still aren’t done, and I can move onto reviews that are fresh in my mind! I want to keep on top of my writing schedule better, so I think this will help.

Wrap Up

* these will be in the mini review post I mentioned! The rest that aren’t linked will (hopefully) be getting full reviews

Book Haul

I bought some highly anticipated sequels, as well as some starts to series and some standalones! I really can’t pick which I am most excited to read!

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A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

After being betrayed by those she thought she trusted and finding out everything she’d been told her entire life was a life, Poppy is stuck with nowhere to turn.

Fantasy, 713 pages, published in 2020

After being betrayed by those she thought she trusted and finding out everything she’d been told her entire life was a life, Poppy is stuck with nowhere to turn.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: explicit sex, mentions of torture, sexual assault, and imprisonment

Even though I enjoyed this book quite a bit, I had some issues, so I think the first one is still my favorite.

The first book has a mysterious element, where you don’t really know what is going on, but once you (and Poppy) find out, the story lost that mysterious atmosphere that I enjoyed so much.

There was a lot of worldbuilding and lore at the end of the first book that went over my head a little bit, and I wish I understood it better because I feel like a lot of this book relies on the reader knowing that. There were a couple reveals that left me underwhelmed because I had literally no idea why they were important.

I also felt like the plot was quite drawn out. This is by no means a short book, and not a whole lot happens in terms of plot. There was also one very inappropriately timed sex scene that actually made me laugh out loud because I was shocked!

I still really enjoyed this book! The romantic relationship definitely progressed and gained some depth that I really liked. I also have a new favorite character – Kieran! His sense of humor and his loyalty to those he cares about made him so likeable to me.

I’m definitely excited for the next book! I don’t know how JLA gets these books out so fast, but man, am I thankful. I’m hoping I can get a better grasp on the lore beforehand, because I know it’s going to play a big role going forward. There was also a ritual mentioned in this book many times and if you’ve read it, I’m sure you know which one I mean. Anyway, based on how many times it was mentioned, I am desperately hoping that it will happen in the next book!

Anyway, this was definitely a good entry into this series, though I do think it suffered a little bit from middle book syndrome.

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December Wrap Up and Haul!

Everything I read and bought in December!

I don’t normally do wrap ups so early, but I have a bunch of fun posts planned for the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021!

Wrap Up

I haven’t read Tuft Wars yet, but I’ll be finishing it by tomorrow! (See my post tomorrow to find out why)

Haul

These are the books I got for Christmas! I didn’t buy any books beforehand because I didn’t know what I would get for gifts.

  • A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4) by Sabaa Tahir
  • How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (The Folk of the Air #3.5) by Holly Black
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  • A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst

After Queen Daleina discovers that she needs an heir more quickly than she thought, she sends her champions out to find powerful young women who could take on that role. Naelin is not young, nor does she think she is powerful, but after Champion Ven sees the depth of her strength, he believes she is the heir Renthia needs, even if she wants no part of her powers.

Fantasy, 358 pages, published in 2017

After Queen Daleina discovers that she needs an heir more quickly than she thought, she sends her champions out to find powerful young women who could take on that role. Naelin is not young, nor does she think she is powerful, but after Champion Ven sees the depth of her strength, he believes she is the heir Renthia needs, even if she wants no part of her powers.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: violence

I adored the first book in this series and this entry did not disappoint! I thought the world and the characters held the same appeal for me in both books.

Normally, I’m not a fan of adding a new character with each subsequent book in a series, but I love Naelin. A lot of the focus is on her, though you definitely see the characters from the first book often. Naelin is a character that I feel like is rarely shown at the forefront of a story – she’s married and had two young children. She is very powerful magically, but she has always been afraid of her powers.

I did start to get a little frustrated with her because she was so reluctant (it’s in the title of the book, I should have expected it). It’s totally clear why she doesn’t want this position being offered to her, but it’s also totally clear the reader, who has more information about the situation than Naelin does, why it’s so important that she takes this role. It was worth it though, because I loved seeing her change her path in order to find her own happiness and protect her children.

There is a kind of mystery in this book, and I feel like it took me so long to figure out! It’s one of my favorite kinds of mysteries though, so I had a good time with it.

There is a tad of romance in this book and I loved it. I love romance novels, but there is just something so satisfying about a romance subplot in fantasy books. Each little line of romance feels extra sweet because it’s not guaranteed that the couple will end up together or even that there will be a romance like it is with romance-centric books. So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the little bits of romance in this book!

I’m just in love with this series so far! The forest setting is just so cool, the writing feels nostalgic yet fresh, and the characters are a delight to follow. I definitely recommend this series, as it’s one of my favorites of the year!

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Fireborne (The Aurelain Cycle #1) by Rosaria Munda

After the ruling family is killed for their crimes, one child remains hidden. In the new government that has been created, any mentions of the previous way of life must be discouraged, so Lee must fight to keep his past hidden, even when the actions of his family have hurt the lives of the people he now cares the most about.

Fantasy, 448 pages, published in 2019

After the ruling family is killed for their crimes, one child remains hidden. In the new government that has been created, any mentions of the previous way of life must be discouraged, so Lee must fight to keep his past hidden, even when the actions of his family have hurt the lives of the people he now cares the most about.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: death of family, murder, violence, childhood trauma

I was fully expecting to enjoy this book, but it absolutely blew me away! I don’t feel like I’ve ever read another book like this one.

This book is very character-driven in my opinion. We follow Lee, the son of the previous ruler who has to protect his identity, and Annie, whose family was killed by the previous ruler. They are training together in a dragonrider fleet and fighting for the top positions.

The relationship between Lee and Annie was one of the most interesting, complex relationships I’ve read about. Not only do their pasts complicate things, but their present situations do as well, added in with their strong bond formed over many years. Whenever one of them had to make a decision, I could just feel all of the emotions tied to what choices they made.

The world was also so well created. The dragons are really the only magical element of this book, which normally isn’t my favorite, but I think it was so well done. The politics of this world and the clash of the old regime versus the new regime was so interesting. Normally, this heavy political stuff isn’t my favorite either, but I just thought it was so well done. It was complex, but still simple enough for me to understand.

There are some flashbacks in this book, but they were very well done. They were short and not too often, and always related to what was happening in the present.

This book is YA, and I was hesitant because I’ve been feeling some feelings about YA fantasy recently, but it doesn’t feel like it at all.

I just freaking loved this book. I ended up listening to the audiobook and I put everything else aside so that I could just sit and listen to it. I think I started it at 10PM one night and finished it the next afternoon.

Anyway, I am very much anticipating the sequel! I keep seeing the audiobook in my library and I am tempted to listen to it again, but I will have to resist until the sequel is published in March.

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Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee

Sirscha has been training for years to become the Queen’s spy, but all of her plans crumble when she discovers she has the shaman powers that are looked down upon in her country. Her best friend is killed, but she is able to bring her back to life, revealing her as the first soulguide in centuries.

Fantasy, 400 pages, published in 2020

Sirscha has been training for years to become the Queen’s spy, but all of her plans crumble when she discovers she has the shaman powers that are looked down upon in her country. Her best friend is killed, but she is able to bring her back to life, revealing her as the first soulguide in centuries.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: violence, body horror

This review is honestly going to be quite short because I came out of this book feeling almost nothing.

Right away, I was kind of disoriented in this world. Going into a new fantasy world is always hit or miss for me in ways I can’t really describe, but this one was a miss. I felt there was too much worldbuilding, but at the same time, not enough. There felt to be a lot of information in the beginning that wasn’t really necessary yet.

I don’t want to say this felt like a typical YA fantasy, because many elements of it were fresh, but there was definitely a familiar feeling when I started it. I do think the magic, the absence of a romance, and the focus on friendship were definitely not typical. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with magic based on shamanism before.

Other than that, I just didn’t feel a connection to this book. I didn’t have a reason to care about Sirscha, or her best friend Saengo, or what problems they were facing. I was confused about a couple things (possibly my fault because I fell asleep listening to this and didn’t make a huge effort to go back and understand) that ended up hindering how much I cared about the outcome of this book.

I don’t think this was a bad book, I just don’t think that it was for me.

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A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1) by Roseanne A. Brown

After the death of her mother, Karina is desperate to bring her back so the ruling of their country doesn’t fall on her. In order to complete the ritual, she needs a king’s heart. Malik’s younger sister was taken by a spirit and the only way to get her back is to kill the princess, Karina. He enters into a competition where the prize is her hand in marriage in order to get close to her.

Fantasy, 480 pages, published in 2020

After the death of her mother, Karina is desperate to bring her back so the ruling of their country doesn’t fall on her. In order to complete the ritual, she needs a king’s heart. Malik’s younger sister was taken by a spirit and the only way to get her back is to kill the princess, Karina. He enters into a competition where the prize is her hand in marriage in order to get close to her.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: violence, family death, anxiety

This book was not what I was expecting at all. I didn’t really know what the synopsis was before picking it up, so I was kind of surprised by the competition aspect.

I did end up really enjoying this book, even though it took me forever to read. I think it was just the wrong time for me to pick up this book, but either way, I had a good time.

One thing I loved about this was the focus on mental health. Malik suffers from anxiety and panic attacks throughout the book, and seeing how people treat him because of that is heart-wrenching, but I loved seeing how he deals with it, especially towards the end of this book.

There was also a lot of emphasis put on the importance of family, and showing that even if a family isn’t perfect, there can still be love there.

There were a few things about this book that I didn’t love. I thought the plot was kind of slow at times (which I didn’t really mind) and I was not all that interested in the different events in the competition. The side characters and the “villain” were not very present or fleshed out. This doesn’t affect my enjoyment, but I wanted to note that there were quite a few typos in this book.

I also was expecting more from the romance, since that is what I had heard great things about. There was definitely attraction, but the characters did not interact enough to call it a romance.

I definitely enjoyed the ending, and I am looking forward to what the sequel does. The ending posed a question of fate and destiny versus choosing your own path.

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Set in the 1950’s, Noemi is sent to her newly married cousin’s home in the countryside after receiving some curious letters. Things get even stranger once she arrives at the large, remote house where things aren’t what they seem.

Horror, 301 pages, published in 2020

Set in the 1950’s, Noemi is sent to her newly married cousin’s home in the countryside after receiving some curious letters. Things get even stranger once she arrives at the large, remote house where things aren’t what they seem.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: sexual assault, incest, body horror

I normally don’t read horror, but I have been getting more into thriller/mysteries, so I was hoping that this book had a strong mysterious element to it. It definitely did have that, but ultimately, I just didn’t enjoy this story.

Noemi is definitely a socialite. She spends her time dressing up, driving her fancy car, and dancing. After getting sent to her cousin’s house, which is much more remote and not as technologically advanced as she’s used to, it becomes clear that this is not an environment she’s comfortable in or will do well in. I definitely felt like she was very naive and didn’t take things as seriously as she maybe should have. I definitely got pretty frustrated with her over the course of the book.

There was a bunch of weird sexual stuff in this book that made me very uncomfortable. Part of the mystery is not knowing what is real and what isn’t, so there were times that I didn’t know if characters were actually getting assaulted or if it was all part of the creepy dreams they were having. It felt like a lot of elements of the twist also relied on things that just made me very uncomfortable.

I’m not going to go into detail about what the twist is, but it did surprise me…I’m still not sure if that was a good thing or not, though. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’m also not sure it really made sense, so it kind of just left me feeling lukewarm overall.

That was how I felt about this book in general: lukewarm. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t enjoy it either. At times, it was entertaining and I was curious about what was causing all of the creepiness, but that was a far as my feelings went for this book.

I also didn’t love the audiobook narrator. I don’t think that changed my opinion negatively.

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The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal

Holly wakes up in hospital room and is told that she is a replica of herself with the sole task of hunting down the real Holly for murdering her husband.

Sci-fi, 183 pages, published in 2020

Holly wakes up in hospital room and is told that she is a replica of herself with the sole task of hunting down the real Holly for murdering her husband.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: guns, murder

This is a futuristic sci-fi, audio-first novella narrated by Julia Whelan that is a collaboration between Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, who work on the podcast Writing Excuses.

Two things about the audiobook specifically: Julia Whelan does an amazing job and there is background music/noises. The background noise was a little…annoying at times, because I couldn’t tell if the sound was coming from the audiobook or in real life, but overall, I think it worked to increase the atmosphere.

The premise of this story is so interesting. Everyone has ‘themes’ that they use to see the world around them differently than what is reality, and if they die, they can have their backed up memories transplanted into a new body. This information is all delivered by Holly discovering what reality is actually like, which I thought was a cool way of showing it all.

I actually wish this was a full length novel, not a novella. I think it had the potential to explore a lot of ideas, but only focused on a few. I would definitely like to read more in this setting, or even something similar.

The ending was…not my favorite, but it didn’t change how much I enjoyed the rest of the story.

One thing that made me laugh a little is that I saw some reviews being upset by excessive profanity being included…I didn’t notice any at all. At one point, I’m pretty sure she says “hella” which I don’t think is profanity, and also feels like a very dated term in a futuristic world.

Overall, if you have a couple hours and you want to get lost in a cool, futuristic murder mystery, I would definitely recommend this!