Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Audiobook Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

Title: Bright We Burn
Series: The Conquerors Saga #3 
Written by: Kiersten White
Published: July 10, 2018 by Delacorte (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it? 

Lada's rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won't rest until everyone knows that her country's borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed's peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince. 

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister's indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before--including her relationships--can Lada truly build the country she wants.  
Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.

I immediately knew that this series was going to be right up my alley when I first learned about it. First of all, it’s about Vlad Tepes and every book I have read about Dracula, real or imagined, I have loved. But this is also a gender-swapped historical fiction with a badass female protagonist which, sign me up. And this last book in the series truly was amazing.

In three books I have become very attached to these characters and it’s become very easy to root for them. First there is Lada, the gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler. She was really everything I wanted her to be, especially in this book. She was absolutely brutal and did whatever it took to take back and keep her crown. But the best part about that is it wasn’t unfounded. I liked that there was a big picture to it. Lada was fighting in the name of progress and equality. For that I really loved her. And then there is Radu, her brother. Radu could not be any more different from Lada. He is sweet, good-natured, and thoughtful when it comes to his actions. The best part about Radu in this book is that you really get to see him shine when it comes to politics and it was exciting to see, especially as someone who loves books with political intrigue.

But what I think I liked most about these characters is the exploration of good and evil. This book is full of people who are doing bad things for the right reasons but their reasons are contradictory to one another which adds another great layer. Usually you don’t have two such different characters who are at odds like this. But when it happens, it is always on books that I love and this book was no exception. Throughout the series Kiersten really explores the idea of the sacrifices people are willing to make to achieve their goals and some of the impacts of war on not only the people but their rulers. Plus it was subtle. It didn’t hit you over the head with a message and I liked that.

The other very cool thing about this book is the historical setting. Most books set in the Middle Ages are very focused on a Western European setting. I liked that his had an Eastern European and Middle Eastern setting. It was cool to see the conflict of Christianity and Islam from both perspectives. Plus, again it was subtle. It wasn’t a story about religion and The Crusades, that was just a small part of it. No, this was a story of the Draculesti family, which I thoroughly enjoyed. You can tell that Kiersten did her research. She made some changes, you kind of have to when you’re gender-swapping, but it added to the story. It made me want to learn more about The read Vlad the Impaler and Radu cel Frumos which honestly is the mark of good historical fiction in my opinion.

All in all I really loved this book. It has fantastic characters, a thrilling plot, and a great historical setting. The whole series was amazing and I think it is one of those rare series where it gets better over time. This book is without a doubt my favorite and the one I wanted from the start.\

I give Bright We Burn by Kirsten White 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you like historical fiction or are looking for a book with a badass female ruler to root for definitely check this one out. Side note: if you like audiobooks, these ones are narrated by Fiona Hardingham and they are really amazing. I liked the last two so much better than the first and I think it's because I got the audio.

Have you read Bright We Burn? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Novella and Short Stories

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire
If you saw my list last week with my favorite books of the year so far then this will come as no surprise. Because I marathoned this series earlier of novellas this year and it was one of my favorites.

2.) The Collectors and Once Upon a Time in the North by Phillip Pullman
Most of the novellas and short stories that I read are those that are part of a larger series that I love. That was the case for these two. But I will say, they are both amazing and add to the series a lot.

3.) Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson
This is another book that is part of a larger series that I love. But also this is an audiobook that is short and sweet and narrated by MacLeod Andrews so obviously I loved it.

4.) Stars Above and Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Stars Above is a collection of short stories. Not all of them are great but as a collection they are awesome. And then there is Fairest, which is a really great origin story for Levana.

5.) The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
Another collection of stories. But these are such good stories that are all Grisha spins on classic fairy tales. I couldn't just pick one, yes I can... When the Water Sang Fire.

6.) Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin
This short story is about Luka Lowe and his race again Adele Wolfe. It's been awhile since I said it but you all should know that I am deeply in love with Luka Lowe.

7.) The Curious Case of the Wereworlf Who Wasn't by Gail Carriger
Another novella that is part of a larger series that I love. I really enjoy Gail and the Parasol Protectorate series. It was great having a book from Alexia's father too.

8.) Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson 
Another novella that is a part of a larger series that I love so much I had to add this to my list. Plus it completely destroyed everything we thought we knew about this series. I mean it blew my freaking mind.

9.) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
There is a lot to love about Patrick Rothfuss and his The Kingkiller Chronicle series. One of those things is Auri. Auri who has her own gorgeous novella. Auri who is a precious cinnamon roll that I adore.

10.) Legion by Brandon Sanderson
One more Brandon Sanderson novella. Apparently I really like his novellas. But this is such a fun mystery and a good spin on books about super-powered people. He does that well.

There you have it, all the short stories and novellas that I love. I think I need to read more. I will be paying pretty close attention to everyone else's lists for recommendations. If you have any that you love leave me a comment below. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Through the Dark
Series: The Darkest Minds #1.5, 2.5, and 3.5
Written by: Alexandra Bracken
Published: October 6, 2015 by Disney Hyperion

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Don't miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy, now in paperback: 


A desperate young man is forced to make a terrible choice between his own survival and the future of a little girl who won't speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine. 


 A spark of light brightens a brutal world when a girl named Sam encounters her childhood best friend at the government-run "rehabilitation" camp, Thurmond. Lucas and Sam form a risky escape plan, but sometimes even love isn't powerful enough to overcome unspeakable cruelty. 


The camps are closed. A tyrant president has been deposed. But for many Psi kids living rough, there is no home to return to, no place for them in a country devastated by the past and anxious about the future. Every day is a struggle for Sam, who knew all the rules at Thurmond and has been thrown into a terrifying and uncertain new life. But there's more at stake than Sam's own survival. She once made a promise to someone she loves, and the time has come to fulfill it. 

 From New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a collection of three hauntingly beautiful novellas set in the world of the Darkest Minds series. In the most harrowing of times, it takes a ferocious strength not only to survive, but to stand up for those who cannot fight their own battles. The characters in these stories-some new, some familiar-face impossible missions, and the hardest of all may be protecting the last flicker of hope in a seemingly endless night.

I love The Darkest Minds series, not only is it one of my favorite series but is among my all-time favorite dystopias. But as much as I love the series I have not read any of the novellas and therefore I hadn't read this book yet. So with The Darkest Legacy coming out I thought it would be the perfect time to read this one. And I was not at all disappointed. It was a great way to get back into the world and learn a little more about the the larger world of the series.

Surprisingly, I would say that In Time was probably my least favorite of the three novellas here. I mean, don't get me wrong, I loved seeing Zu and learning about what she was up to between The Darkest Minds and In the Afterlight. It was good to have a refresher on Zu as well before The Darkest Legacy. She was one of my favorite secondary characters in the original series so anything involving Zu I thought I would be interested in. But this wasn't about Zu, it was about Gabe and I didn't really enjoy Gabe. He had decent character development but I just didn't connect with him and that kind of prevented me from loving this story.

In contrast, Sparks Rise is told from the perspective of a secondary character in the original series. Sparks Rise is about Sam. I feel like Sam is one of those characters who we needed more from. She is only in the first part of The Darkest Minds and the last part of In the Afterlight. I liked Sam but there was so much more to learn about her. In this story we get her backstory and more from her at Thurmond. I loved seeing Sam and how kind and caring she is to those who need her help. Her and Lucas had a nice relationship, although I don't necessarily ship it but I liked seeing them interact and the ending definitely broke my heart a little bit. This is also maybe the story that adds the most to the series. We learn more about the camps and more about the Reds. I enjoyed it and it was probably the story I finished the fastest. My only issue is that I feel like the escape plan could have gotten a little more attention. It's in the synopsis but it was only like 10% of the novella.

If Sparks Rise adds the most to the original series, then Beyond the Night adds the most to the future of the series. In that novella we get to see what the world is like of now that the camps are closed and IAAN has come to it's relative conclusion. It was really interesting to get a peak into what the world is like for these teens now that the resolution from the original series has been resolved. It's not all puppies and rainbows. There is still a lot of really tough things the characters are dealing with. It's something we don't get to experience a lot from our favorite series and I am glad I get to do it with this one. I also really liked getting to continue with Sam and to meet Mia. Mia was really interesting and likable. She's like a fun combination of Vida and Liam. Speaking of those two, I have good news, your favorite characters from the original series are featured in this story as well and it was a real treat to see them again and to add to the gang.

On the whole I think this a good collection of short stories. I think I read it at the right time because it prepared me well for The Darkest Legacy. There isn't really much of a through line with this collection without it really. Sparks Rise and Beyond the Dark do have a lot of connection and those two books probably could have been turned into their own book but In Time really doesn't have much connection to the other two stories. Obviously they all involve The Darkest Minds but it's not a very cohesive collection.

I give Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of The Darkest Minds then you should definitely buy and read this collection of stories. I think that now is the perfect time to read it as well. It's a great refresher before The Darkest Legacy.

Have you read Through the Dark? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Title: Imaginary Girls
Written by: Nova Ren Suma
Published: June 14, 2011 by Dutton Juvenile (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby. 

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood. 

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

I read The Walls Around Us a few years back and I really loved it. Since then I have been wanting to read more of her books. I saw this one on Overdrive and decided to snag it and read this month before I read her new book this fall. And while it was an engaging read, I didn't quite love it as much as I was hoping.

One thing that I did love about this book was the atmosphere. Nova Ren Suma definitely knows how to draw you in with her writing. She is the kind of writer who pays a lot of attention to the atmosphere and the way the book makes you feel. And what it makes you feel is uncertain and uneasy. There is a lot of mystery and wonder in this book which adds to that as well. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical in a way that you don't usually see with YA thrillers, but Nova does it so well.

The best way she does this is with the setting. We start with a small town in Upstate New York. As someone who grew up in a lake town in Upstate New York I was really excited to read this book and find my hometown in it. And while it wasn't as far upstate as I was hoping, it was still a great setting. It's a place with a lot of history that adds to the mystery and suspense of the setting. I do however wish that we had learned more about the town of Olive and the people who lived there. This isn't a historical mystery but it very easily could have been. As someone who loves those kinds of stories I couldn't help but feel as if this was missing something because it didn't go there. But that is just a personal preference.

Instead of being a historical mystery this book read more like magical realism. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Nova likes to add these subtle magical elements to her books. This one of course was no exception. The magic of this book was just one more thing that added to the mysterious atmosphere of this book. And while I really enjoyed the magical elements of this book I wish they had some more explanation too. It was just something that existed and we never got much information about what was happening and why. I just have so many questions when it comes to the world and plot of this book.

However, one of the really interesting things about this book was the characters. I am going to assume that these are not the kind of characters most people will enjoy. But I really enjoyed them because Nova does unlikable characters so well. Because the characters here are truly terrible. The two main characters are Chloe and Ruby. Ruby for one is truly terrible. She's manipulative and does some completely heinous things throughout the book taking advantage of people who care about her. The only person she really cares about is Chloe who is unable to see how awful she really is. I went into this book expecting a good story of sisterhood and I got one that was about a crazy and codependent family. It was definitely really interesting and kept me guessing though. If you like books about terrible people then this is definitely the book for you.

On the whole I enjoyed this book but it wasn't as tight a book as I was hoping. The setting and world is really interesting and atmospheric but there just wasn't enough info or explanation to it, but it does have interesting and unlikable characters.

I give Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I picked this up from the library and I think this was the right call. It's an interesting read but it didn't blow me away like I was hoping. If you like any of the author's other books then I would pick this one up as well.

Have you read Imaginary Girls? What did you think? Leave  me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Written by: Kiersten White
Published: September 25, 2018 by Delacorte (Random House)

Synopsis: Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
Why I'm Waiting:

First Dracula and now Frankenstein. Kiersten knows exactly what to write to capture my dark and twisted Gothic literature loving heart. I loved the first two books in The Conquerors Saga (I'm grabbing the audio for the last one now that it's out) so I was really excited to hear that Kiersten was writing a new book based loosely on Frankenstein.

But on top of that I really love Frankenstein retellings. I have read a handful of them and I always really love them. It's a book that lends itself really well to retellings and conceptually it is always so interesting to me. Plus I think this one sounds really amazing because it's not told from the perspective of Victor Frankestein and it's kind of an origin story. I can't wait to read it.

I got an advanced copy of this at ALA and I was so excited that they had copies because I am super excited to read it when we get closer to release date. Seriously, it sounds so amazing and I can't wait to read it.

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books from the First Half of 2018

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - My Review
Obsidio is my only ten star read of the year, I liked it that much. It was a great conclusion to an amazing science fiction series.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - My Review
There was a lot of hype surrounding this book. I wanted to read it but I also wanted to wait until the hype died down. I'm glad I didn't wait that long because this book was amazing.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young - My Review
I was really looking forward to this book and I am so glad it lived up to my expectations. I reallu really enjoyed it.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton - My Review
This is another hyped book that I wanted to read but was nervous about because of the hype. But it was amazing and now I am super pumped for book 2.

LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff - My Review
I have loved every single one of Jay's books I have read. Whether he is writing solo or with someone else they are totally brilliant and this one was no exception.

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen - My Review
I love Gaughen's first series but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this book but it was completely brilliant and I really loved it.

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalso - Review in September
I know what you're thinking, this book doesn't come out for three months. But I got a copy at ALA and I couldn't wait to read it. It's really good.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbaugh - My Review
I have been wanting to read this for awhile and I finally took the time to read it this month. I wish I had read it sooner because it was a fantastic historical fantasy.

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - My Review
I was so pumped when I heard Amie and Meagan were writing another book together. And this one was so good. Full of action, adventure, and surprises.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes - My Review
Michelle recommended I read this book. And she knows my taste so well I couldn't not give it a try. And she was right, it was a great book and a total me book.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson - My Review
I loved Lily's debut and so I was excited to read this one because it sounded amazing. And it was amazing. Great characters and a lot of fun.

Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire - My Review
I had heard good things about this series and they were right, it was amazing. I have loved each book more and more and I am very excited for the next one.

There you have it, my favorite books of the year so far. Which books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, July 9, 2018

ARC Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

Title: Smoke and Iron
Series: The Great Library #4
Written by: Rachel Caine
Published: July 3, 2018 by Berkley (Penguin/Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series. 

 The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making...if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I really love this series and I was very excited and anxious to find out what was going to happen in the latest installment especially after the way the last one ended. And this was another great example of how interesting and engaging this series is.

One of my favorite things about this book is the world that Caine has been able to create. In this book we delve even deeper into some of the more interesting aspects of the magical system that we only got the smallest taste of in the first three books. For one thing we got to learn a lot more about the Obscurists and how their powers work, which I found very cool. We also get to see more of the steampunk technology like the automata and other inventions that Artifex like Thomas create. There was a very cool and very scary invention that the Library created which made for a very intense scene. All in all, I love the way that Caine has expanded on the world by combining science fiction and fantasy in a way that makes for a compelling world.

However the best part about this world is the political intrigue. This book is incredibly hard to categorize, which is one of the things I like about it, and this is one of the main reasons why. It reads a lot like a dystopia with an oppressive ruler fighting to maintain control from a rebellion by our main characters. And in this book, that rebellion is in full swing. Most of the book we have our heroes plotting against the Library and planning a coup that still protects knowledge and everything that the Library stands for. It honestly feel really timely in a subtle way that I really appreciated. But I also love how sinister the Library is. As book lovers we probably find it hard to root against such a place but Caine has managed to create a library that is so awful you want them to fail, well you want those in charge to fail. It’s a hard line to walk and she does it with ease.

Though it may be easy to root against the Library because it is easy to root for these characters. I have become so attached to these characters in the past four books, I am so scared about what is going to happen to them. In all the previous books, everything was from Jess’s perspective. This was fine with me because I really like Jess as a character. His thirst for knowledge and desire to do anything for the people he cares about is truly admirable and makes him easy to want to succeed. But I like that he’s still vulnerable and makes a lot of mistakes. He gets himself and others into a lot of bad situations here and I appreciate that he gets called out for it. He’s a good leader and strategist but he’s not perfect and those are the characters I like reading about.

But in this book we also get perspectives from plenty of other characters. Almost every one of the main characters gets to narrate at least one chapter and some like Morgan and Khalila get even more tan that. I really enjoyed being in their heads as well. Some of my favorite chapters and sections of this book were those from Morgan in particular. She had some of the most interesting experiences and getting to see her plot and scheme was amazing. I also really liked getting to see portions of the book from Wolfe and Santi’s perspectives because they have become some of my favorite characters. And while it made total sense for the narrative to change narrators and take us to different places, I did have that problem where I was annoyed we had to leave a haracter just when their story was getting good. It’s kind of just the nature of the game though.

Luckily, there was never a lull in this book though. The plot was so thrilling. There was so much action and adventure to go along with the intrigue and scheming. I honestly could not stop reading it. I have been having a really hard time with ebooks lately and I considered grabbing the audiobook for this one but once I started reading it, I didn’t want to audio at all. I was cruising through it and loving reading it with every turning page.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. I loved learning more about the world and seeing the scheming and plotting, I loved the characters and seeing more perspectives, and I loved how thrilling this book was.

I give Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of this series you will love the latest installment. It’s a great read and it ends with me desperately wanting the last book to see how everything shakes out. If you haven’t started this series and you are looking for a book that reads like dystopia but has a fantasy and sci-fi flair then definitely pick this up.

Have you read Smoke and Iron? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!