Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I just want to wish all of my friends and followers a very Happy Thanksgiving! I am so very thankful for all of you and all of your support, always. I hope your day is filled with love, family, friends, good food, and even better books!

Okay, on to the book review: Heartless blew me away. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you will know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Lunar Chronicles. Yes, I know, I can barely believe it either. So, I went into this book not expecting much, and maybe that helped, because this book blew me away. It surpassed every expectation I set for a five star book, and it was nothing short of perfection.

Also, regarding The Lunar Chronicles, Fairest was my favorite installment in that series, and the book I gave the highest rating. So, maybe I just really enjoy “villain” retellings? I think both Fairest and Heartless just speak to my tragic love-story masochist heart or something along those lines.

“Two Rooks, a Pawn, and a Queen. That’s how the riddle begins, but howsoever shall it end?”

Anyway, Heartless is a Alice in Wonderland retelling, that stars the Queen of Hearts before she was the Queen of Hearts. We have grown up reading about the evil queen and the evil things that she has done, but we never knew why she was the way she was. Well, bless Marissa Meyer for creating this heartfelt masterpiece, because she did just that.

The Queen of Hearts, known as Catherine in this story, was once not evil at all. In fact, she was quite the opposite and had dreams of opening up her own bakery, because she is the best baker in all of Hearts, and loves nothing more than to make people happy with her treats.

That is, until Catherine realizes that her parents expect her to marry the King of Hearts, and give up her dreams, that they deem unworthy, completely.

“If I am not to have happiness, let me at least have a purpose. Let me give you the heart of a queen.”

I believe this is the main moral of this story, and what made this story resonate so much inside of me: You shouldn’t live your life for anyone’s expectations of you. Not your family, not your partner, not your friends, no one but yourself. No matter if we are in Wonderland or in our world, we are only allotted a certain amount of time, so spend your time doing what you love and what your heart tells you to do. I know I sound preachy, and I know this seems like a basic concept, but this is something I’ve struggled with my whole life and I know there are others out there that do too.

“Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to.”

The Queen of Hearts isn’t the only origin story for this book; we also learn a great deal about the Mad Hatter, and what was the final straw to make him truly mad. This plot reveal/twist was probably my favorite thing of this entire book, and it, along with Catherine’s madness, made so much sense to me. Hatta’s confession rebroke my heart all over again, honestly.

I knew how this story would end, obviously, but that didn’t prepare me for how obsessed I would become trying to learn how we’d get to that ending. I kept trying to figure it out, and even though I guessed “the who”, I never guessed “the how”. I’m a terrible sucker for prophecy stories, but even reading the prophecy itself didn’t prepare me for what actually happened. I felt gutted, heartbroken, and was completely unprepared.

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

When I was a young girl, I would spend countless hours on my Grandparent’s property, in all their different gardens, playing Alice in Wonderland with my Grandma. Alice in Wonderland started my obsession with finding “magical doorways” and, to this day, I still love reading about them. I also feel like a major reason I enjoyed this book is because it made me feel a lot of nostalgia to the point that I actually want to reread and rewatch different Alice in Wonderland adaptations. I am so blessed and thankful for those memories with my Grandma, and all the feelings attached to those memories. Those feelings really made me enjoy the reading experience even more, even though I know it made me a little biased.

This book was the perfect amount of magical, beautiful and heartbreaking. It is written so lyrically, I feel like I highlighted half of the book. I loved it, and I love that it surprised me by loving it. I also love that it is a standalone. This is such a fantastic read, and I really can’t recommend it enough, especially if you are like me and didn’t love The Lunar Chronicles.

“Off with his head.”

Also, now I’m just being overly emotional and tearing up, because I just noticed that the naked back cover has a joker hat. Before, I only noticed the front had the queen’s crown. Please, my heart. This story will haunt me for some time, and I will never read Alice in Wonderland the same way.

“Over everything, I choose you.”

The Falconer (The Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is no easy way to say this, but this was actually painful to force myself to finish.

Khanh said it perfectly with “Faefever lite ” in her review, because that is exactly what this is. Like, to the point where I’m honestly surprised there is no legal issues with Karen Marie Moning.

Please, if you have already read The Fever Series and enjoyed it, steer clear of this book because it will only infuriate you. If you have not read The Fever Series and want to read about evil Seelie and Unseelie fae trying to take over the world, while a huge unnecessary love triangle unfolds, please just skip this series and just read The Fever Series because it’s a million times better than this sad attempt.

I mean, it is trying to be a steampunk/historical version of The Fever Series, and that’s sort of different, right? I mean, the book is still being published, so I guess nothing was violated.

Also, again, very reminiscent of Jericho Barrons, one of the love interests does some questionable, problematic shit that is never okay to do. I get it, really I do, he’s the angsty bad boy that doesn’t want to fall in love, because he’s been hurt so many times before, but none of that shit gives him a reason to treat the girl horribly. I’ve read this shit a million times, and it is never okay. I’m just sick of carbon, problematic, copies.

I know I sound harsh, and I’m sorry, but the only reason I even requested this ARC was because it was being marketed as a feminist read. With the results of this election, a lot of people were recommending it as a good feminist escapism book, and honestly I think they had to be reading something completely different than what I just forced myself to finish.

Yeah, Aileana, the main protagonist, is an eighteen year old girl that is not happy having her life dictated by her father, and she voices her feelings to a couple of her friends, but that hardly deems this book feministic in my eyes. I mean, she looks more like a brooding teenager, who always knows best, more than anything else.

But of course, she is the only special snowflake that can save the world. I mean, it’s not like she would completely fuck it up for a boy, right? I sure do love reading almost 400 pages of an attempted plot, to just have it end on a cliff-hanger. Literally, nothing is solved at the end of this book. Nothing.

This book is the epitome of tropes done badly, and I honestly don’t want to waste anymore time even writing this review. I’m sorry, and I hope if you decide to pick this book up that you can find far more enjoyment with it than I did.

The Last Wish (The Witcher Saga #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Last summer I became completely obsessed with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where I took screenshots like this:
(Add me on Steam!)

And once I was finished with the DLC I knew I had to finally read the books to fill the void I now carry in my heart.

This book was translated from Polish to English. It contains seven short stories, and introduces our main protagonist in both games and books, Geralt.

“People”—Geralt turned his head—“like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”

The events in these seven stories take place before Sword of Destiny, which is another short story collection, and before Blood of Elves, the first actual full length novel in this series.

Just like the video-games, The Witcher world is so magical, whimsical, full of twists, and it never disappoints. Two of these stories are so very important in understanding why Geralt feels the way he does about two very predominant characters that are talked about in much greater detail later in this world. And seeing Geralt and Yen’s origin story gave me all the feels (sorry Triss fans, but gtfo.)

I’m going to break down each story with my personal feelings and beliefs. There will be SPOILERS ahead! So, please be cautious while reading, if you have not read this short story collection and do not wish to be spoiled on the events that lead up to the main story and video-games!

“In order to become a witcher, you have to be born in the shadow of destiny, and very few are born like that. That’s why there are so few of us. We’re growing old, dying, without anyone to pass our knowledge, our gifts, on to. We lack successors. And this world is full of Evil which waits for the day none of us are left.”

1.) The Voice of Reason
This story starts out in true Witcher fashion: with Geralt having sexy time with a random girl! We are also introduced to Geralt’s notorious sidekick, Dandelion the Bard. Geralt starts to speak up about how hard it is to be a witcher and make a living off of it. When upon leaving, a man approaches Geralt and pretty much forces Geralt to fight without being able to touch his opponent. Geralt quickly proves how smart and cunning he truly is, and why he makes this series so addictive to read and learn about.

2.) The Witcher
Geralt goes to a new town, where a king has gotten his sister pregnant seven years ago. Sadly, the sister and the child died in birth, but the child is now awake, and seems to be a werewolf, and is causing chaos in the town. Geralt is sent to kill her, but someone gives him a tip that if he prevents the werewolf from going back to its coffin for three days, she will turn into an ordinary girl. He is also bribed to run away, but Geralt, being the outstanding and honorable man he is, uses the briber as bait instead! Geralt is able to hide in the girls coffin for three nights, and she turns into the regular girl on the third morning!

3.) A Grain of Truth
The imagery of this story really is a tier above what fantasy normally gives us nowadays. Geralt is traveling once again, and finds two bodies that appear to have come from an abandoned mansion. Upon further inspection, a cursed man named Nivellen owns the house. He was cursed by a priest to become a beast, but the house obeys his every wish. Traveling merchants even come from all around and trade their daughters to him for a period of time for currency. Nivellen has tried everything, and the curse is never broken! But when his newest girl, who ends up not being all of what she seems and who was responsible of the two bodies Geralt originally found, starts a fight with Geralt, Nivellen is forced to help him, and the curse is broken. Yes, this is legitimately a wrapped version of Beauty and the Beast.

4.) The Lesser Evil
Again in a new city, Geralt killed a monster and is looking for compensation. He goes to see a mage that he knew from before, and he asks Geralt to kill “a monster” for him. The monster ends up being a young girl, and when Geralt talks to her he realizes she is seeking vengeance for what the mage did to her. After her and Geralt “get to know each other”, she promises to back down because nothing good will come of it. Geralt awakens in the morning and realizes that she lied. He knows where she will be, so he meets her and ends up having to fight her. He wins, and she must die, but Geralt faces the question of what is truly evil, and refuses to let the mage to take her body.

“Only Evil and Greater Evil exist and beyond them, in the shadows, lurks True Evil. True Evil, Geralt, is something you can barely imagine, even if you believe nothing can still surprise you. And sometimes True Evil seizes you by the throat and demands that you choose between it and another, slightly lesser, Evil.”

5.) A Question of Price
This story completely blew my mind, and probably has the biggest life changing event for Geralt in it. Again, Geralt is traveling and meets with Queen Calanthe, and she tells him what she truly thinks of witchers. During the party where this meeting is taking place, a knight comes and demands Queen Calanthe’s daughter, the princess, which he has earned. Sadly, this knight is also cursed, but Geralt is able to lift the curse. The knight is then able to marry the princess, but Geralt knows they have been seeing each other for some time, because the princess is pregnant. They ask Geralt what he would like for payment, and he gives a very veiled response, and says that he will be back in six years time to see if he is lucky. This is 100% his adopted daughter Ciri! She is my second favorite character, only to Geralt, in all the games, and she completely changes Geralt’s (and Yen’s) life forever. Knowing what I know from the games, this story was oh so special to my heart.

6.) The Edge of the World
Geralt and Dandelion have stopped and are looking for work. A local tells them about a devil who is up to no good. Side note, I listened to this on audio book and the devil’s voice made me want to murder someone. Good Lord, please, never do this if you are a voice actor. Anyway, the devil, named Torque, likes to play games and Geralt and Dandelion end up being captured. When they awaken, they find themselves among elves, still tied up, and hear all about how the elves want revenge on humans. The Queen of the Fields comes and saves them, and tells Geralt that he is destined for greatness and that they will meet again.

7.) The Last Wish
Be still, my heart – this chapter was everything I never knew I wanted in my life. Again, Geralt and Dandelion are together and decided to fish up breakfast. Dandelion ends up fishing up a djinn, or genie, in a magical vase. It ends up hurting Dandelion, and Geralt says what he thinks is an exorcism to make it stop. Dandelion takes a turn for the worst, and Geralt knows he has to act fast. He rushes Dandelion to a town, where he is informed that his best chance at survival will be a sorceress named Yennefer. Yes, this is their origin story, and it ends up being everything I ever wished it to be. Yennefer is able to heal Dandelion, but she has an alternative motive; she wants to harness the genie’s power for herself. She also demands payment from Geralt, which she receives by possessing him to publicly punish men who have wronged her. He wakes up in jail, where he tells a mean guard to blow up, in which he does. Geralt doesn’t have any time to think about this, because Yennefer comes to town with the genie, which is destroying everything. Geralt is able to save the townsfolk, but while trying to save Yennefer herself, she refuses, and it looks like she would rather die trying to take the genie’s powers. Geralt then realizes the reason Yennefer couldn’t possess the power was because the genie is viewing Geralt as its master, and he has accidentally made two of his three wishes. Yennefer urges Geralt to make a third and final wish so she can try, but Geralt knows that the genie will kill her once the request leaves his lips. Geralt then makes his last wish, which none of us know what it truly is, only that it binds him and Yennefer together forever.

We knew Geralt fell in love with Yennefer as soon as he laid eyes upon her. There are so many theories of what he wished for, but I do not think we will ever get a confirmation. He could have wished for Yen to love him, but that is so un-Geralt, I can’t believe he would ever do that. He could have wished for them to have a baby, and since witchers are sterile that could be why Ciri comes into their lives, and would have still protected Yennefer from the genie. Hell, it could seriously be as simple and binding their lives together forever, which is why, throughout the games, it feels like the go through the same things together, even when they are not physically together. We will never know, but I sort of think that’s beautiful all in itself.

“Love and blood. They both possess a mighty power. Wizards and learned men have been racking their brains over this for years…”

This world, these characters, these adventures, all of it is truly above all the expectations I set before reading any fantasy novel. This is something special, that I can’t form the perfect combinations for words to be able to praise this enough. Please, give this world a try, whether it be the games or the novels, because this kind of perfection is beyond words.

Oh, and this book totally ends with Geralt and Yen having crazy “oh my God, we are alive still” sex, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Also, Dandelion is such an innocent little cinnamon roll, I can’t deal.

“During his life, the witcher had met thieves who looked like town councilors, councilors who looked like beggars, harlots who looked like princesses, princesses who looked like calving cows and kings who looked like thieves.”

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms #1) by Erin Summerill

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ever the Hunted surrounds Britta and her search to find her father’s murderer. Unfortunately, she is not on this quest because of her own free will; she made a deal with the King’s regent. The King of Britta’s land is sick, but the King’s regent is making some questionable choices that are starting a war with a neighboring kingdom, who are already shunned because a small percentage of the population can use magic.

This book wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it read like every basic YA fantasy book I’ve read in the past ten years:

> Girl’s father dies.
> Girl ends up in cahoots with her childhood love.
> Girl pines over the childhood love constantly, even though it really unnecessary because it’s painfully obvious he feels the same, but… YA angst.
> Girl finds out about her hidden past and family.
> Girl ends up being a special snowflake with magical powers, but only the rarest magical power, duh.
> Girl proves she will sacrifice herself for the greater good.
> All seems right in the world.
> Queue the cliffhanger…

I also want to state that this book did use rape as a plot device/scare tactic a lot, even though there is no actual rape in this book. I wouldn’t normally bring this up, but I felt it was important, because the threat of rape was extremely abundant in this book. And as predictable as this book was, I was actually surprised that Britta, the main protagonist, was never raped, because it was brought up so much.

I know I sound harsh, and I’m sorry, but I’m just sick of reading this same story. I want uniqueness, I want diversity, I want ground-shaking twists that I would never see coming, I want a world that feels like I’ve never read about it before. Yet, this is painfully predictable and reads like everything else mediocre.

I think you should still give this book a chance, especially if these YA tropes and clichés don’t bother you too much. Also, as hard for me as this is to say, there isn’t a love triangle even though there should be (Leif was doing way more for me than Cohen was, throughout the entire book). Overall, I just can’t see this winning any “Best of 2016” lists in its current state.

I am completely willing to read the second installment of this series, in hopes that the author can pull something out of her hat. Ever the Hunted has a very simplistic writing style, but I can see the author’s potential. Like I said, this isn’t bad; it’s just basic and feels repetitive, which ends up feeling disappointing. She really could make some changes and completely captivate me in book two.

And low-key, I want to know everything there is to know about Lirra.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This review is probably going to be on the controversial side, but I found Night Film very racist, transphobic, and sexist. Some of the dialogue was so problematic for me that I had to take constant breaks. I even had to use a reward system to just finish this book.

I know many of my friends, who I respect and love, gave this five stars. Some even claimed it was their favorite read of 2015. I’m happy for them, and I’m happy a book brought them so much joy. That’s the beauty of reading: everyone is going to read, interpret, and feel different. I will always respect their feelings, and I hope people can respect mine.

Night Film is about an investigative journalist, Scott, who is pretty obsessed with a film maker, Cordova, and his cult following. In his past, Scott tried to write a story and uncover some dirt on Cordova, but ended up getting sued and having a really detrimental impact on his career.

Now, Cordova’s daughter, who is only twenty-four, has committed suicide. Scott finds himself unable to stay away, and starts a new investigation on Cordova, and this time he has two unconventional helpers.

This book feels really linear. Like, Scott and his new sidekicks going to one person after another person, just interviewing them and getting information that will eventually lead them to another person. This very much was a crime detective read, with very little action. We got many short, little bursts, that felt very repetitive, and the eventual big bang fell very short.

Also, we’d constantly be told how hard whatever information we were trying to get would be to get, but every freaking person Scott talked to would just sing their life story with Cordova. I mean, how lucky can this white man get?

There are paranormal elements in this book, and I wasn’t expecting it, and I was actually really enjoying it, but with the ending of this book, it leaves a lot to wonder about.

This book has a lot of multimedia in it, which makes the book feel very real, because it is very interactive. You are able to read the news articles and web pages (which were pretty cringe-worthy at times, I’m not going to lie,) see some evidence, crime reports, and pictures, and so on and so forth. This is a really cool concept that I haven’t seen too many authors do, but I feel like it does make it a more enjoyable reading experience.

These elements make the book longer, too. And, Good Lord, it felt long to me. Normally a 550 page books takes me a few days to read, especially with multimedia elements, but this book too me all of October to read, and then I finally had to bribe myself to finish it early November.

Basically, this was a rough read for me because Scott, the main protagonist of this thriller, is sexist, racist and transphobic. He shows the signs of this everywhere (look, I can use italics just like the author does constantly.) He judges the PoC, and the PoC’s only purpose throughout this book is to help the main, white, privileged main character.

To explain some of my feelings, I’m going to have to state some SPOILERS! Please, do not continue on with this review if you have not read this book, because you will be spoiled.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but these constant, problematic themes became really apparent to me:
– Stereotypical Hispanic hotel maid, while Scott was getting information.
– Cordova’s Hispanic right hand woman, Inez, who drove from Mexico a lot, therefore, she had to be a human trafficker.
-The black taxi-driver that had gold teeth and purposely drove around to take more of Scott’s money (which he throws around, constantly). Also, I think this might be the only black representation in this very white book.
– When Scott talks with a Chinese business owner, he makes inner-monologue comments about his “long forehead” and his “Great Wall” flip-flops. Like, what the hell am I reading?
– Orlando, another PoC who was written stereotypical and overweight, dies because a white main character didn’t want him to tag along, so the only way he knew how to get rid of him was to… be emotional abusive and mean, to the point where Orlando kills himself. Get the fuck out of here with this trash writing. This plot point made me the angriest of the whole book.
– How bitter Scott is about his ex-wife leaving him, and his constant remarks on her looks. How he wished, by now, she would be not as good looking, and other things of that nature. You know, because not having a good looking wife anymore hurts him more than literally any other aspect of not being in a relationship with a woman you’ve known over half your life and have a child with. Looks > anything.
– Scott’s feelings when he goes to the night club, and realizes the attractive women were actually once men. He’s very disrespectful, and starts judging them, and starts saying “he” as their pronouns. He couldn’t wrap his head about a BDSM club or the fact some “successful men torture themselves for fun.” It’s double funny, because, at the beginning of this book, he talks about a sexual partner of his that was so boring, because the girl didn’t speak.
– How the 19 year female sidekick, who is constantly written as unintelligent, couldn’t resist the 43 year old main characters, because…. reasons? There was no build up, nothing, just one night she decided to confess her love for him and offer herself to him.

Scott is gross, and so is his male sidekick. He’s not unlikable in the way of “oh, he’s supposed to be unlikable.” He’s unlikable in the way of “oh, he’s a racist who can’t see past his privilege.” Like, this book really highlights white, able-bodied, male privilege. And maybe I’m the only one that couldn’t look away, but it was painful for me to read. Scott being problematic was way scarier than the mystery surrounding Ashley could ever wish to be.

This book was disappointing, over-hyped, and left a terrible taste in my mouth.

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire was able to pack so much representation into 173 pages! How many 1,000+ page fantasy novels have I read with zero representation? This story has an asexual main character and a transsexual main character. The story does a pretty great job at abolishing gender roles, too. This book really is nothing short of a masterpiece.

“This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm.”

Some of the passages in this book blew me away. This story’s prose is so lyrical and beautiful. The Atmosphere is haunting, yet captivating. The characters are so important and memorable. I know I’m gushing, but this book was so enthralling, and easily only of the best books I’ve read in 2016.

“Because ‘boys will be boys’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Lundy. “They’re too loud, on the whole, to be easily misplaced or overlooked; when they disappear from the home, parents send search parties to dredge them out of swamps and drag them away from frog ponds. It’s not innate. It’s learned. But it protects them from the doors, keeps them safe at home. Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”

Basically, this story is a murder mystery that takes place inside a boarding school. The boarding school houses children that have been to faraway, magical lands and no longer fit into society, because they want nothing more than to go back through their magical doorways, to the places they consider home.

As I mentioned before, this book is filled with diverse characters, but this book always touches on a very important topic: Trauma. These kids no longer feel like kids, because of the way time passes in these magic lands, are suffering from PTSD. On top of that, their loved ones don’t even believe them when they tell them where they went, and are sending them off to this boarding school to “fix” them.

Thankfully, these kids have Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children. Eleanor is one of the very few, special people, that are able to find and open their magical world’s door at any given time. Yet, she lives in our world, taking care of kids that have to deal with maybe never going back to their magical world.

“Because hope is a knife that can cut through the foundations of the world… Hope hurts. That’s what you need to learn, and fast, if you don’t want it to cut you open from the inside out.”

And each student has a very different magical world. Our main character, Nancy, lived in the Underworld that even name drops Persephone. The Lord of the Dead promises Nancy that she will return, once she is ready, but after a few months back in our world, and with parents that refuse to accept her for who she is, Nancy is starting to have her doubts.

“Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

Other characters’ worlds are a vast array from a real life Candyland, to a Frankenstein-like town filled with murderous vampires, to judgmental faeries and goblins fighting a war, to skeletons who could care less about losing their mortal bodies.

I am so happy that Seanan McGuire is giving us more of these worlds. Down Among the Sticks and Bones comes out in June of 2017, and I’ve already preordered it. I loved this book so much, and it is so very important. I have nothing but high hopes for its successor.

“You’re nobody’s rainbow.
You’re nobody’s princess.
You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

P.S. – I hope you all had an amazing Halloween and know how thankful I am to have you supporting my blog and my love for reading! I’m eternally grateful, always.