Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynne Herman

Title: The Devouring Gray
Series: The Devouring Gray
Written by: Christine Lynn Herman
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening… 

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid. 

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

I was super excited to read this book when I first learned about it. Not only is it pitched as the kind of atmospheric fantasy I usually enjoy but it also takes place is the part of New York where I grew up. So I got a copy from the library and brought it home with me when I was visiting family. And while this was definitely interesting, it didn’t quite blow me away.

One thing I will say about this book is that it had good characterizations. This is a book full of messy and imperfect characters who are trying to figure things out and making lots of mistakes along the way. They are far from perfect and that what made them interesting and realistic. The book alternates perspectives between three main characters and it is one of those books that lends itself well to that kind of format. It gave each of the characters a lot of depth because you got to know them on a more personal level. And while Violet is arguably the main character, I didn’t at all feel like Justin or Harper’s perspectives were unnecessary (and I can’t say that very often in these kinds of books). I think a lot of that can be attributed to the characterization.

However, the format did make for a kind of muddled plot and pacing. The overall concept of definitely a cool one. A sinister force in the woods murdering people, and families with inherited powers are the only ones who can protect the town. It should have been a perfect book for me with the combination of mystery and fantasy, but it never quite delivered on either of those aspects. There was a mystery which I enjoyed but it didn’t feel solvable for the readers. I like being able to figure things out along with the characters not have them just tell me they found the answer. It just felt too simple for me. And that may have also lead to the pacing issues for me. The beginning of the book I loved and was incredibly engaged. I read most of the first half on a train and didn’t want to put it down. But then when I got home the plot seemed to slow down enough that it took me five days to read the rest. The second half should have been the most gripping but it didn’t quite recapture my interest until the last 50 pages. I’m just such a plot-driven reader so this was big for me. One thing I did like however is the fact that this is the first book of the series and it had a clear ending. It set up future books but it had a solid conclusion.

The other thing I liked but didn’t love was the setting. Now granted, this is really a personal problem. I grew up where this book takes place so I am probably way more critical than the average person. But if you are going to try and ground a book in a specific location, you really have to get that place right. And this honestly felt like the kind of book that could have been anywhere. There was only one reference to something from Rochester and then it went and called it “Upstate New York.” Clearly I am nitpicking because I’m from there but it brought up the whole Upstate vs. Western NY debates I haven’t had since college. This is not a problem most people will have with this book, but I just wanted to rant a little bit.

But as far as the other aspects of the world, it was an atmospheric and interesting setting. It’s one of those books that walks a fine line between fantasy and magical realism. The magical system is tied to the family and the location where they are from like magical realism but it is a little bit more of a general fantasy kind of structure. I really liked learning about the powers of the different families and seeing them talk about their rituals. I think we have only scratched the surface with the magic and I am excited for more. I also am excited for more about the Gray and the Beast. The book definitely didn’t overwhelm us with information about either of those things but it did capture my interest. I was honestly expecting this book to be a little bit more creepy and lean more towards horror but instead it was more magical realism. And honestly, I have no complaints about that.

On the whole, this was definitely an enjoyable read. The Devouring Gray was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year and it was a good book. Some aspects didn’t blow me away but the characterizations were great and the setting was intriguing.

I give The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. Not a perfect book but very entertaining. I would recommend this to fans of magical realism or atmospheric YA fantasy in the vein of Maggie Steifvater.

Have you read The Devouring Gray? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thank for stopping by and HAPPY READING.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
Series: Feverwake #1
Written by: Victoria Lee
Published: March 1, 2019 by Skyscape

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

I can't remember when I first learned about this book but it sounded interesting enough to add it to my TBR. Then when I saw that it was one of the Amazon First books for the month of March I picked it up without any hesitation and I am really glad I did. This is one of those under the radar type of books that I was incredibly surprised by. I found it gripping and thoroughly engaging.

This is the perfect book for plot-driven readers like myself. It is one of those books that is full of non-stop action and thrilling twists. Seriously, every time I thought there couldn't possibly be another surprise there was. The overall plot kind of felt like three different books combined into one but it never felt jarring or strange to switch between storylines. The author did a great job in developing a flow that created a cohesive book that had me entertained from beginning to end. It was incredibly fast paced as well. There was not a dull minute at all in this book. And the best part is that the plot still built to a huge and exciting conclusion that had me on the edge of my seat.

I think one of the things that made the plot so good was that world was so complex and engaging. There were a lot of great elements to this world that combined some of my favorite things to read about. First and foremost was the dystopian aspects of the story. I don't read a ton of dystopia but I do like the genre overall. This book was dystopia at its finest. It took a modern problem and the treads in our current society and kicked everything up a notch to develop a fictional world that felt current and outrageous at the same time. There were elements of an oppressive government and revolutionaries that were fighting for their rights which all combined to make thoroughly engaging political unrest. Then it through the main character between the two factions which led to a lot of uncertainty in who was right and who was wrong. I love when books make me question rulers and I loved that about this book.

I also really liked the magical system in this book. I love a magical system where the characters each have different powers and they feel like superheroes, and if they get these powers through a virus that kills a bunch of people, all the better. Seriously, when did that become a trope because it definitely is and I am here for it. I loved seeing Noam use his powers and learn about them throughout the book. And each characters powers were fascinating. I like my magical systems to be based in logic and rules and this was one of those times where it was like that. Even if you had powers, in order to use them you needed to know physics and how the forces of the universe worked which was an interesting layer. My only criticism of the powers is that it almost felt like they had endless possibilities. You could unlock new powers with new knowledge and in some respects it just felt like you were giving the characters magic in order for them to get out of situations that there was no other way out of. If you are going to have a magical system like this there needs to be limits.

As far as the characters go, this is a book that had some great diverse characters. First of all, the characters were of different races, genders, and ethnicities which I really enjoyed. Although if I am being entirely honest, this book needed more women. There was really only one or two and they had much smaller parts than the male characters. The main character was biracial, Jewish, and bisexual. Yes, we also had LGBTQIA representation. And Noam was a great main character. He was easy to root for and had been through a lot of hard times before and during this book. He was easy to empathize with throughout the book and that made his development all the more sweet when he came into his own by the end of the book. The rest of the characters were complex and more odious. Because there was so much uncertainty about right and wrong throughout the book it made for characters who walk in a very grey area. Dara was really interesting and I totally ship him with Noam. Lehrer however was the most complex. He's a very charismatic leader with a great set of powers but is also kind of ruthless. All the characters really worked so well in this kind of narrative.

All in all, I really liked this book. It was the perfect change of pace for me with a dystopian world full of magic and mystery. The plot was gripping and engaging, and the characters were complex and engaging. It's not a book a lot of people are talking about and I wish more people would because it's really fantastic.

I give The Fever King by Victoria Lee 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is definitely worth a read for anyone who likes dystopia or is loking for a thrilling read full of diverse characters. It reminded me a lot of books like The Darkest Minds and The Reckoners which are some of my all-time favorite dystopians.

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

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Wicked Saints by Emily A Duncan Blog Tour Review

Title: Wicked Saints
Series: Something Dark and Holy
Written by: Emily A. Duncan
Published: April 1, 2019 by Wednesday Books (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare.” - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

I was really excited to read this book. Since I learned about it way before it was even published, it seemed like a book totally up my alley. I love dark YA fantasy especially those inspired by Eastern European culture. And while there were some things I enjoyed about this book, it just didn’t quite live up to the hype.

One thing I did really enjoy was the world. There were so many great layers to this world. It’s a fantasy world rooted in religion and magic with two warring nations who believe very different things. It had so many elements that I love. I always enjoy a world with this much depth to it and this one was brilliantly inventive and complex. I thought the way the magic and religion interweaved was one of best parts. I am always looking for a creative magical system and I found that here. The blood magic in particular was really fascinating. I wish we got to learn more about how that worked and the make up of the spellbooks the blood mages used but maybe that’s coming in book 2. I will say, I did find there was a bit too much info dumping at the beginning of the book but it did lead to a really fascinating the world.

The part of the book that didn’t enthrall me however was the plot development. Now, don’t get me wrong, the plot was interesting. The last quarter of the book was really fascinating with high stakes and a lot of action, but that was really only the last bit. This book definitely suffered from first book syndrome for me. The first half really just felt like all that the characters were doing was getting from point A to point B and dumping information on one another along the way. It took me much longer to connect with the plot than I would have hoped. However that could just be a personal problem because I am such a plot driven reader. But I was honestly confused through a lot of it. I found myself having to reread chapters because something would happen and it was almost as if it had gone down off the page because I couldn’t remember it being told to me. I hope some of this is corrected in the final copy because I did read an ARC and that can happen.

But a lot of my confusion could have come from the changing perspectives. The book alternated between Nadya and Serefin who come from the two rival kingdoms. Multiple perspectives is challenging sometimes especially of the characters are in different places and having different storylines. This was one of those books where it is frustrating because when you leave one character and return to the other you completely forgot what the other had been up to. The chapters were short and I think I may have liked it better if they were a little bit longer so I could connect with the plot points a little bit more before switching back.

I did however like the characters. This is a book full of grey and odious characters. None of them are perfect and genuinely good. They all have secrets and are scheming and plotting both independently and together. Those are the kind of characters I love in my books. Some of them make for the kind of people you love to hate and others just make for really interesting choices along the way. Nadya and Serefin were good characters to be in the head of but I honestly think I like Serefin a little bit more. He I think had better character development throughout the book. It seems like Nadya is going to be the “chosen one” and she has some moments of heroism that I enjoyed but her personal growth just wasn’t as pronounced for me. Plus I found Nadya a little frustrating at times. She made some really bad choices especially when it came to the the romance.

Ugh, this romance. We have to talk about the romance in this books because it was not my favorite. I’ve never been someone who likes the good girl falls for the bad boy trope and that is totally what this was. I didn’t trust Malachaisz at all and the fact that Nadya fell so hard for him so quickly and would just forgive his transgressions just didn’t work for me. I love a complex, dark, and odious character but not as a romantic lead. I know a lot of people do however so if that is your thing then you will probably love that about this book.

I was really looking forward to reading this book and over the moon when the publisher sent me a copy as part of the blog tour. And while I liked some elements, it just fell a little short for me. It had a great world and interesting characters but the plot was confusing and the pacing slow plus the romance did not work for me at all.

I give Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think this is going to be one of those books where people either love it or they don’t. For me, it was kind of a miss but I know a ton of people really loved it. If you like fantasy on the darker side with a heavy romance and a good girl/bad boy trope then check this out.


EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.



Twitter: @glitzandshadows 
Instagram: @glitzandshadows 

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

March Wrap Up and February TBR

Read in March: 

And the blogging slump is back in full force this month and the reading slump a little bit too. Last month I was posting more regularly abut this month it's barely once or twice a week. I am totally behind on posts and don't have much motivation to write reviews, but I'm trying to get more regular with it so we'll see. As for reading, it was an okay month. I was travelling a lot for work and pleasure which made it a little bit challenging. I read 11 books this month which pretty okay.

For challenges, I am once again low key doing challenges. The only one I am legit doing is how many books in a year. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 150 books in a year. My original goal last year was 150 but I had to lower it so I want to make that happen this year. Adding these 10 books in March brings my total to 38 for the year which is on track for this goal. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month which is 7 for the year and on track. I want to read 15 books this year. I read 1 this month which is a total of 4 for 2019. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 2 backlist books which is 7 for the year. I am on track for all of these goals but it is kind of too early to tell.

The Books

1.) The Sleepwalker by R.L. Stine Rating: 5 out of 10 [Podcast Review]
2.)  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
3.) Slayer by Kiersten White Rating: 8 out of 10
4.) Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid Rating: 9.5 out of 10
5.) Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus Rating: 8.5 out of 10
6.) Runaway by R.L. Stine Rating: 8 out of 10 stars [Podcast Website]
7.) The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
8.) The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
9.) Four Dead Queens by Astrid Sholte Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars [My Review]
10.) The Fever King by Victoria Lee Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]
11.) Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan Rating: 8.5 out of 10 [Review to Come]

To Be Read in March: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month. It is the time of year where exciting new books continue to come out, including a few I have been waiting on for years. I am hoping to read at least a dozen books this month but I am honestly not sure which books I want to read. I have a busy month with travel for work and to visit family and friends so we shall see.

Books for Review

White Rose by Kip Wilson - Add to Goodreads
I don't read a ton of historical fiction set during WWII but I have lately been really loving it. And this one just sounds fantastic. It's about a real life resistance fighter.

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters - Add to Goodreads
I love a historical mystery and this one sounds really fantastic. Not only is it about Edgar Allen Poe but it's Cat Winters which is always a good thing.

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Antsey - Add to Goodreads
I have not read any of Cindy Anstey's books but I have heard good things and this one sounds completely up my alley. It's a historical murder mystery and I am all about it.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - Add to Goodreads
I love both Amie and Jay's books both together and apart. I learned about this one at their signing in Boston last year and I am pumped that it's coming out soon and to have an e-ARC.

New Releases

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy - Add to Goodreads
Science Fiction genderbent King Arthur. That's really all you need to know. I picked this up at the library recently and I'm excited to read this one.

The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman - Add to Goodreads

This book is set in the part of New York where I grew up and is about a creepy small town ala Stranger Things. I won a copy recently and I'm hoping it arrives in time for me to travel back home in a few weeks.

Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon - Add to Goodreads
I love Samantha Shannon's writing and I am super excited to read her take on dragons. But this book is a total beast. I am thinking about listening to the audiobook but it's 25 hours long. I'm not sure if I have to time to finish it.

Backlist Books

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - Add to Goodreads
I was recommended this by my best friend and put a hold on the e-book at the library. I didn't get to finish it because of review copies I needed to read so I got the physical book from the library.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - Add to Goodreads
I love Victoria and I am so excited her debut is being reprinted. I have a hold on the e-book from the library and I hope it comes in so I can read it.

Other than that, I have no plans. A few other books I reserved from the library that might come in but I am not sure which and I don't know if I will be able to read them and when.

There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in April. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Title: Four Dead Queens
Written by: Astrid Scholte
Published: February 26, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's and Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she's, in fact, one of Quadara's most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara's most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara's queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie's former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation's four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

I was really excited to read Four Dead Queens. It sounded like an interesting Ya fantasy with a ton of political intrigue and those are things that I thoroughly enjoy. And while there was a lot to like about this book, it didn’t quite blow me away.

One thing that I enjoyed about this book was the murder mystery aspect. I love a good mystery and I really like being able to solve something along with the characters in the book. This is one of those narratives that let me do that. I also really like being able to solve the mystery and with this book I was able to figure a lot of the twists out. It’s not that they were predictable (honestly there was definitely a more predictable direction this book could have gone in) I just don’t think it was particularly complex. I think because it didn’t have the same emotional impact because the one aspect connected to the main character I had figured out and when the big bad was revealed it didn’t have I enjoyed the mystery, I do however wish the mystery would have been a little more complex.

I also wish we had gotten a little more from the world building. There is a fine line to walk when it comes to developing a world. I prefer books that show instead of tell the readers about what is going on with the fictional world. And while this book leaned a little bit closer to telling us about the world. That is with the information it did reveal of course because it kept a lot to itself. There were some great aspects of their political system I found really interesting but the book kind of just told them to me instead of showing them. There was a lot of opportunity for political intrigue here but it never quite delivered on that as well.

But I think a lot of this just stemmed from the fact that it just didn’t have a compelling enough antagonist. As I mentioned before, the big bad reveal didn’t have an emotional impact and I think that was because we knew almost nothing about that person until they were revealed to be the mastermind. And because we didn’t meet them and learn about their motivations until much later in the book the person just came off as selfish and not all that intimidating. Their the kind of antagonist that could have been amazing if they were revealed to be a character we had known all along pulling the strings in the background. There were a lot of perspectives here and not having the antagonist before they were revealed was a bit of a misstep for me.

But I did however like the other character perspectives. Keralie was a great main character. I’m a sucker for a thief with a heart of gold and that’s what Keralie was. She’s badass and resourceful but with a bit of a grey moral compass and those are the characters I love being in the head of. I also really enjoyed being in the heads of the queens. It helped their deaths make more of an impact because we could get to know them and learn about their secrets which also added a lot to the mystery. I do think the voice for each queen was very similar and it was hard keeping them straight in my head but I liked being in their head.

As far as the plot and pacing goes, I think the book did a good job of capturing my interest throughout the entire story. There was some interesting choices in terms of the timeline but I never really found that confusing. It built to an exciting conclusion with enough twists along the way to keep me reading. Plus I really like the way that it had a definitive ending and didn’t leave us hanging. I was honestly expecting a cliffhanger because I think this is the first book in a series but it read like a standalone. We need more standalone fantasies and even if this is a series, I’m glad it did have a clear ending.

All in all there was a lot of good aspects of this book which I really enjoyed but it wasn’t a perfect read. The murder mystery and political intrigue were great but I wanted more, and the protagonists were great but the antagonists left a little to be desired.

I give Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think this is the kind of book I would recommend to someone who is looking to dip their toe in the water of YA fantasy. It reads like a standalone and has a good amount of mystery and politics for someone who doesn’t read a ton of the genre. But for those like me who love a complex fantasy, you may find this one slightly lacking.

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