Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Have you ever loved a book so much that it completely fills your soul, warms your heart, and heals your broken pieces?

Because that’s Strange the Dreamer.

“On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky. Her skin was blue, her blood was red.”

This is that rare type of book that, while reading, is a constant reminder of why you fell in love with reading in the first place. This book is perfection. This book is a tangible piece of joy. The feeling while reading this is indescribable, but the closest word choice would have to be pure bliss.

This isn’t the type of book to come around often. In fact, the last time I felt this was back in 2015 with The Name of the Wind, and the same feeling of guilt from giving other books five star ratings is here again. This book is so much greater than five stars. Yet, this book feels unratable, because how do you rate perfection instead of just feeling at a loss of words because of its awe?

I don’t see how anything I’ll read in 2017 can beat this. Not A Court of Wings and Ruin, not Tyrant’s Throne, not Skullsworn, not All the Crooked Saints, not The Chosen, not anything. Just throw my 2017 anticipation list away, because Strange the Dreamer was all I needed this year.

“Two hundred years ago, there was a storm.”

I truly believe the best way to go into this book is blind, I wouldn’t even read the synopsis, but the basic premise of this story is that we are introduced to an orphan, who has always been ostracized for being different, and he is constantly dreaming of the Unseen City that everyone else has long forgotten. He grows up, and moves locations, but the mystery city is always on his mind. Then, he finally gets confirmation that the Unseen City is very real and very much in need of help.

Surprise mystery after surprise mystery, eloquent word construction after more eloquent word construction, plot twist after plot twist, and you will become so immersed in this world that you will feel like you yourself have lived in the Unseen City all your life.

I will say that this book does have a really strong romance. In fact, it probably has one of the biggest OTPS I’ve ever read. Like, I’m real invested. Probably too invested. There is also *gasp* sex in this book, and is dealt with in such a realistic and natural way, while also being very believable, because these characters are seventeen-years-old and are discovering their bodies for the first time. But don’t go into this expecting A Court of Mist and Fury‘s sex scenes, but go into this knowing that it is an older YA book with mature themes that are amazingly written. Again, I’m too emotionally invested in these fictional characters.

“She asked in a hesitant whisper, “Do you still think I’m a… a singularly unhorrible demon?” “No,” he said, smiling. “I think you’re a fairy tale. I think you’re magical, and brave, and exquisite. And…” His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. “I hope you’ll let me be in your story.”

The Plot – This story is so unique, like, take my breath away, how did a human even come up with this, unique. The themes brought up are so important, and the messages will stick with you. The plot is engaging, addicting, and nothing short of phenomenal.

The Writing – I kind of want to just write “Laini Taylor is Queen” and leave it at that. The only other person I can compare her writing style to is Maggie Stiefvater. Lyrical writing speaks to my very soul, but Laini Taylor’s craft is so perfected that she weaves these heart stopping, unbelievable lines that are so poetic that just leaves me with my mouth open, my breath gone, and my heart pounding. This writing will make you feel as if you are dreaming, and you’ll never confuse it with a nightmare. Laini Taylor’s writing is a tier above anything I’ve ever read. Anything.

The World – Again, like the plot, the world is so unique and so well crafted. The settings are enough to fill even the most empty of hearts. We have libraries, books upon books, story after story, a mysterious city with an even more mysterious water source running underneath it, mythical armies, demons and angels, domination and salvation. And we have magic, and the magic system in this world is a little random, but learning about all the different possibilities was fascinating. Again, something I became addicted over.

The Characters – *breaks down in tears* I can’t. The two main protagonists of this story, Lazlo and Sarai, are everything you could ever want and then more. They are empathetic, helpful, resistant, persistent, hopeful, even in the most bleak of situations, and capable of unconditional love. This story is also filled with gods and goddesses, a lot of ghosts, and maybe a few monsters. Oh, and moths. How I love the moths.

The Messages – You can take a lot from Strange the Dreamer, but two messages are very predominant throughout this book. The first message is about race and how we treat and blame others dependent on their skin color based on bad things that other people with that skin color have done. Welcome to America, what ban attempt are we up to now? The next message, and the biggest constant theme of this novel, is that we are not our parent’s/ancestor’s mistakes. Everyone can change and everyone can be/do better. It is never too late to do good.

“Sarai was seventeen years old, a goddess and a girl. Half her blood was human, but it counted for nothing. She was blue. She was godspawn. She was anathema. She was young. She was lovely. She was afraid.”

This book is beyond words with its perfection. I loved every aspect of it, and the only legitimate negative thing I have to say is that Strange the Dreamer makes a very unfortunate abbreviation. And as much as that makes me giggle while taking notes, that’s honestly it.

Thank you, Laini Taylor, for a book I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. This is the best thing I’ve read in years, and I will never forget this story, these characters, or its message. This book is a love letter to story lovers everywhere, and I recommend this book to everyone with every fiber of my being. Also, I’m buying this for everyone for Christmas, so if you’re my friends or family reading this, pretend to be surprised.

No other title in 2018 will come close to the anticipation I feel for The Muse of Nightmares. Please, Lord, help me and my very fragile heart with the wait.

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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

This was so surprisingly delightful, and made me so unexpectedly emotional. Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, but this modern day retelling feels and was actually able to evoke quite the feelings from me. This is a heartwarming story and if you consider yourself nerdy whatsoever, don’t let this book pass you by.

I obviously feel confident saying I’m a pretty geeky individual:
Video Games? I’ve been raiding for over 10 years in World of Warcraft.
Esports? League of Legends is my world, and I will not miss NA LCS or LCK for anything.
D&D? Vox Machina is love, Vox Machina is life. #Critters
Fandoms? You all know I have that covered. *Explains why Hermione and Draco should have been together*

I’ve embraced and been comfortable with my nerdiness for a while now, but it wasn’t always so easy, and this book really struck a chord with me and what I felt like when I was seventeen years old and still unsure of who I was. This book truly felt like my coming of age story, and a book that would have meant everything to me if I would have picked it up when I was younger and needed it. For that alone I will always cherish this story and recommend this book.

Never be ashamed of who you are or what you love. Celebrate your passions loudly and unapologetically. Never settle and never listen to anyone who wants you to become something you’re not. I promise you, there is someone out there who will love and accept you for who you are and will care about what you love. In the mean time, love yourself and embrace what you love.

“I’m the lost princess. I’m the villain of my story, and the hero. Part of my mom and part of my dad. I am a fact of the universe. The Possible and the Impossible. I am not no one.”

Okay, I promise I’ll try to be less emotional. This adorable story starts out like any modern day Cinderella retelling would: with a girl grieving the loss of her father, while trying to put up with her evil stepmother, while dealing with her evil stepsisters. She feels alone and so isolated, while trying to keep the peace and do all the housework and chores for her unloving family. If only there was a way for her to escape.

Our Cinderella, Elle, escapes the only way she knows how: in the fandom of the beloved sci-fi show that she shared with her father, Starfield! Starfield is much like a mix of Star Trek and Star Wars, and it just so happens that the show is getting remade into a movie and Elle’s favorite character is being played by the most unexpected of male leads. Oh, and Elle also runs a Starfield blog, where she voices her opinion of the casting choices.

Meanwhile, this male lead, Darien, is dealing with his own broken home, even though Hollywood makes everything appear perfect on the outside. Even though he’s supposed to just be a teen heartthrob, he is secretly obsessed with Starfield and has dreamed of this leading role his whole life.

Then, due to a very strange set of events and miscommunication, our two protagonists start texting one another, while being completely unaware of whom they are actually communicating with.

“I hide the phone under my pillow. Because I’m not a princess. And this is the impossible universe, where nothing good ever happens.”

Throw in a cosplay ball, a food truck pumpkin, an amazing friend, and endless geeky references and you have yourself this amazing story wrapped up with helpful discussions and wonderful reminders to love yourself and know your worth.

There is also amazing lesbian representation in this book. The story doesn’t shy away from it what so ever, and it is treated, as it should be treated, like normal. Again, this book is important, needed, and truly a shining light in 2017 publications.

This book was pure joy to read, and I connected with it on a very deep level. This story is truly a love letter to fandoms in general, and it warmed my heart to no end. I was laughing, crying, smiling, and absolutely loving this book from cover to cover. I am so happy a book like this is getting published, and I wish it all the success in the world.

“Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.”

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one.”

This story surrounds a young girl, given away by her mother and village after a frightful night. Yet, even being given away, our young protagonist, Nona, proves that there will always be room in your heart to love. The children that are given away to be sold are worth as much as what is in their blood. There are four tribes in this world, and the purer the blood you have, or the more tribes you have in your blood, makes your worth incredibly more valuable.

“What good is holy if it watches my friend die –not because she did something wrong but because her blood wasn’t good enough?”

Four Tribes that the people in this world can descend from:
Gerant – Great size and strength.
Hunska – Quick speed.
Marjal – The ability to tap into lesser magic.
Quantal – The ability to walk the Path and work greater magic.

Nona is sold and has a lot of potential because of her blood, but after Nona is found guilty of a very violent crime, she is sentenced to death. That is, until she is stolen and taken to Sweet Mercy’s Convent for young girls, because her blood and potential should not be wasted. Unfortunately, Nona is harboring secrets that are constantly making her question her worth, no matter what’s in her blood.

“That’s my secret and my shame. I’m Nona Grey, war is in my veins, and the screams of my enemies are music to me.”

Four Classes in the Convent for the novices to learn as a group:
Red Class – Ages 9-12 typically.
Grey Class – Ages 13-14 typically.
Mystic Class – Ages 15-16 typically.
Holy Class – Ages 17-19 typically.

In ten years, Nona will be educated and taught everything she needs to know in the ways of blade and fist while becoming a Red Sister, but there are going to be many hurdles in her way. This book spans only three of those years, but we already get to see the political, power, and religious problems that will not be ignored or easily fought.

Four Paths for the novices to take once they become nuns:
Bride of the Ancestor, Holy Sister – Honors the Ancestors and keeps the faith.
Martial Sister, Red Sister – Warriors skilled in armed and unarmed combat.
Sister of Discretion, Grey Sister – Masters of stealth and potions with shadow work.
Mystic Sister, Holy Witch – Walks the Path and manipulates threads.

“The hardest lesson I ever learned was that every bad thing you see a friend do to someone else they will someday do to you.”

This story puts such a heavy emphasis on friendship and the importance of believing in others even when you’ve been hurt in the past. Friendship truly is the constant theme of this story, and how beautiful and cruel it can be. Trust is something we should never give willingly, but it can reap so many beautiful things if you choose to put your trust in the right person.

“Truth is an ax. Without judgment it’s swung in great circles, wounding everybody”

Four girls whose paths cross regardless of what they wanted:
Nona – Our sweet cinnamon roll protagonist.
Arabella – From royal blood.
Clera – Father/family in great financial trouble.
Zole – From the Ice Tribes and the ward of a very powerful woman.

No one is truly all good; everyone comes with failures and faults. Good people can do terrible things just as easily as bad people can perform righteous miracles. Believing in someone else can be a great treasure or a horrible curse, but believing the bad or the good of yourself can be catastrophic.

And the writing, oh the writing. This writing is slow and meticulous and meaningful. It’s different and unique and reflective on things going on in today’s world. It’s mesmerizing and lyrical and completely unforgettable. I honestly feel like I could have highlighted this whole book! I will definitely be rereading some of these quotes for the rest of my life.

For me, this story has seeped its way into my body and embedded itself into my heart. I was unable to put it down, and I still am so invested in Nona’s character. Nona is the best character I’ve read about in years. If there was a way for me to put myself into this story, I would and I would fight by her very side because I believe in her that much.

“A juggler once came to my village. He was my first friend.”

This is a story about a chosen one, but it is done in such a perfect way that you are left constantly questioning what is true and what is false. This isn’t your typical chosen one cliché in the slightest. The prophecy in this book is unlike any other you’ve read, and the battle for the truth is such a treat to read about.

“It says that the Ark will open when the four tribes demand it with one voice.”

And I mean, ultimately this is a story about magical warrior nuns fighting a war from many different sides! How much more do I need to say to sell you?

Okay, let’s talk for a minute about *holds breath and pauses for dramatic effect* SCHOOL SETTINGS! Most people, like me, in their mid to late twenties, grew up with Harry Potter which has bewitched all of us to absolutely love and devour books set in boarding school settings. All the different nuns, with all their different specialties, were so reminiscent of Harry Potter, too, that I couldn’t help but become addicted to reading this. (Side note: Apple/Mistress Shade is everything I wish Snape was in a Potions Master, and she filled my heart with so much happiness.)

This story also beautifully features lesbians. In fact, I do not believe we even see a hetero relationship in this book. There are two nuns in this book, who are teachers and obviously together, which no one ever shames or questions, but treats the relationship how it should be treated: as normal. There is also a good discussion on being young and having feelings that you aren’t sure are “correct” since the feelings are not of the ‘norm” of society. One of the other younger girls in the Convent is discovering she is gay, and the transition of her realization is somewhat painful, but so very important. It is never stated that Nona is gay herself, but I truly feel like she is, and I am so excited for that development that could grow, you have no idea. Let the record state that all I want in my life are lesbians in my high fantasy novels and this portion of the story made me completely biased. Also, thank you Mark Lawrence for making a Convent, for only women and girls, have lesbians, because many other authors would have skipped the obvious and made everyone straight.

“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated.”

Overall and needless to say, I loved this. It was so immersive and so all-encompassing. I never wanted to put this book down, and all I want now is the second book. The characters are on a whole other level, the writing is nothing short of phenomenal, and the story is so very captivating and addicting. This book will easily make my “top books of 2017” list. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up this amazing book on April 4th, 2017.

“There is, in the act of destruction, a beauty which we try to deny, and a joy which we cannot. Children build to knock down, and though we may grow around it, that need runs in us, deeper than our blood.”

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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ARC provided by Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

All of the skyscrapers in the year 2140 are like miniature islands from the extremely elevated sea levels due to the effects of global warming. This book is a two year look into the residence of a very famous skyscraper complex in New York City. We get to see these individuals’ lives coincide with one another, and showcase some events that they all take part in to make New York a better place to live. Yes, it can be slow at times, but that is what is somewhat expected with family sagas (and these people are for sure a family at this point), but the importance of this book is undeniable. I hope it doesn’t take until 2140 for the people of our world to open their eyes and change.

“As always, each neighborhood was a little world, with a particular character. Some of them looked fine, others were bedraggled, still others abandoned. It wasn’t always clear why any given neighborhood should look the way it did. Things happened, a building held or fell down, its surroundings followed. Very contingent, very volatile, very high risk.”

Occupants whose life we follow that live in The Met Life Tower on Madison Square:
Vlade – The building manager, with a tragic past. Very caring, helpful, handy, and just a little cinnamon roll in general.
Mutt – Coder who is playing with something much bigger than himself.
Jeff – Coder with a very powerful cousin.
Gen – Investigator/Detective, and probably just the coolest cop I’ve ever read about. I seriously love this character with my whole heart.
Charlotte – Lawyer, who is very interested in congress, with a powerful ex-husband.
Franklin – Market trader, sort of a horndog, but a useful horndog. (I feel funny saying horndog.)
Amelia – Internet star with her own airship, whose passion in life is saving animals while filming it.
Stefan – Homeless boy who came over with his parents from Russia.
Roberto – Homeless boy that never knew his family.
Mr. Hexter – Old man who befriends the two boys above. He has many books and maps that lead to many adventures. And all of the stories he tells makes this book an ode to book lovers everywhere.

I know this seems like an unusual bunch, but I promise their friendships become something of magic and their diversity is realistic and so important, too. All their different dynamics seamlessly work together, and give me hope for the future, especially Roberto and Stefan.

“History is humankind trying to get a grip. Obviously not easy. But it could go better if you would pay a little more attention to certain details, like for instance your planet.”

A huge and relevant topic in this book is immigration. This story will constantly remind you of what is going on in today’s world. We get to see children suffering, just because they didn’t get lucky enough to be born into money or into a family that’s name is worthy of remembering. This book will constantly make you check your privilege.

“This remarkable rise had been bad for people-most of them. But at this point the four hundred richest people on the planet owned half the planet’s wealth, and the top one percent owned fully eighty percent of the world’s wealth. For them it wasn’t so bad.”

I don’t want to get too preachy in this review, but this book is a look into what could be our future if we continue to treat Earth the way we do. It breaks my heart to even think about what our government here in the United States cares about, while ignoring global warming, climate change, and all the other signs that we are slowly but surely killing our planet.

“They published their papers, and shouted and waved their arms, and a few canny and deeply thoughtful sci-fi writes wrote up lurid accounts of such an eventuality, and the rest of civilization went on torching the planet like a Burning Man pyromasterpeice.”

This book highlights what is happening right now in today’s world, while showing us what it is like to live in 2140, where our world has become so flooded that only the rich are truly ever safe, while the poor have to pray and hope they will be safe enough to live another day. Everyone lives in skyscrapers high in the air that have been reinforced to be able to stand above the water to allow housing for some. These buildings are like islands, separated by water, and people take boats wherever they go.

TL;DR – This book is woke as fuck, and should be required reading in 2017, especially to every government official, who still thinks it’s more important to control women’s bodies and make it harder to get health care while using our money to build a pointless wall.

This is also an important book to remind people that without us “normal folk” there wouldn’t be a government, because we are the government. Yes, we let banks and big corporations pretty much rule right now, but ultimately we are in control and we can/could change that.

On a much too personal note, many of you know I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. There is not a male in my family that isn’t currently working for General Motors, working for a corporation affiliated with General Motors, or that has retired from General Motors. It truly is the middle-class Michigan way. You might think this would make me loyal to them, but quite the contrary because they are terrible company that proves over and over how much they do not care about their workers. Every chapter that Kim Stanley Robinson touched on the choices GM made back in the 2000’s made me relate to this book even more than I already did. I have no words for that feeling or that emotion it evokes from me.

All these important topics: global warming, climate change, refuge crisis, wealth distribution, universal health care, free education, animal extinction – they are all discussed in great detail inside this book. And because of all of these things, we are all losing a war not only with our planet, but with each other, and we are all going to suffer the repercussions from these actions.

Closing advice: besides the fact that this book made me want to make a bigger difference and do more, it has also made me want to buy a house in Denver as soon as possible. This book teaches the reader a lot, but it will also reinforce the fact that nothing bad happens geologically in Denver. I’m legitimately only half way joking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. As I stated above, it can be a little slow at times, and sometimes pieces of the puzzle will fit together a little too perfectly, but this is too relevant and important of a book to let pass by. That being said, I still wish there was a little bit more action and a little bit more mystery, but this book is still without a doubt worth the read and I urge everyone to pick this up.

“Because life is robust. Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism. Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong, and we live inside our mothers forever, and Life is tenacious and you can never kill it, you can never buy it.”

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu (Writer), Sana Takeda (Artist), Rus Wooton (Letterer, Designer)

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Readalong for the BooktubeSFF Awards which is being hosted by Adriana from Perpetual Pages, Chelsea from TheReadingOutlaw, Samantha from Novels and Nonsense, Connor from Connor O’Brien, Elizabeth from Books and Pieces, Kaitlin from Kitty G, Sam from Thoughts on Tomes, Elena from Elena Reads Books, and Thomas from SFF180!

I loved absolutely everything about this graphic novel. To date, it is by far the best graphic novel I have ever read, and even surpasses my love for Saga. I am completely blown away, and will count down the days until Vol. 2 releases (June 6th, 2017).

This story follows a seventeen year old girl named Maika, whose story starts out where she is being sold as a slave. The reader will immediately notice that Maika has a very strange tattoo of an eye on her chest, and she is missing an arm. Yet, it becomes very clear very early that Maika is much stronger than what she seems.

Maika is struggling to hold in her monster, while also trying to get answers from her past. With the help of an adorable little half-fox and a poet cat, Maika is on a journey to discover herself, her past, and what’s truly inside of her, all while she carries a very mysterious and sought after item.

In this world there are five races:
Humans – Like you and me.
Ancients – Immortal, animal-like rulers with an immense amount of power.
Cats – Much like people, can speak and fight, but much more adorable.
Old Gods – Little to no knowledge of them.
Areanics – Half-breeds.

Also in this world, there are factions at war:
The Federation – Humans, who just hate magic users and refuse to let them live and breed. These humans will take Arcanics and make them slaves to do whatever terrible things they wish.
Arcanics – Magic users, who are sort of hybrids of the Ancients. Also, two powerful courts, the Dawn Court and the Dusk Court, have risen up to defend against the Cumaea.
Cumaea – Witch-like people that use Arcanic’s body parts to make Lillium.

People in this world will use a drug like substance called Lillium for power, regeneration, and in some cases, resurrection. Between the war and the use of this magical substance, this world is also now aware of things much bigger than the Federation and Arcanics.

This graphic novel is not only bigger than most bind-ups, but it has significantly more writing than most graphic novels, too! You receive a lot, and I do mean a lot, of information and very quickly. This really worked for me, because it became way more of an immersion, while also reading closer to a book. Yet, I can understand how this would be a different reading experience for some, so I felt the need to bring it up.

The story is so brilliant and impactful. I can already tell I’m going to be thinking about this world for such a long time, because this is the type of story that just sticks with you, while festering in your heart. I truly love everything about this.

The art was so magnificent and I found myself constantly just staring at some pages in disbelief that a human created it. This art also brought very many tears to my eyes very many times, constantly evoking so much pure emotion from me. On top of having an amazing story, it is the best art I’ve ever seen in a comic, ever.

Trigger warnings for human trafficking, slavery, child brutality, and many other dark themes that are in the violence and gore vein. This is a dark story, and it doesn’t shy away from that darkness or its brutality.

I loved everything about this graphic novel: the story, the characters, the art, the representation, everything. I honestly cannot see any graphic work ever beating this. I am in awe and my thoughts probably aren’t even coherent, but this is something unique and special. Please give this comic series a try if you haven’t already.

I swear to you with my entire soul, this is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is maybe even a once in a lifetime masterpiece. I never put graphic novels on my “best of the year” list, but I think this is the year I make an exception for Monstress.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

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Readalong for the BooktubeSFF Awards which is being hosted by Adriana from Perpetual Pages, Chelsea from TheReadingOutlaw, Samantha from Novels and Nonsense, Connor from Connor O’Brien, Elizabeth from Books and Pieces, Kaitlin from Kitty G, Sam from Thoughts on Tomes, Elena from Elena Reads Books, and Thomas from SFF180!

Alice lives in the land of Ferenwood, with her mother and her three triplet brothers. In Ferenwood, the world is filled with color and magic, but our poor Alice is as blank as they come. She is in a constant battle of accepting and loving herself, and feels very alone in this world. That is, until a secret keeping boy named Oliver offers Alice an opportunity to go on an adventure and rescue the only person Alice has ever felt loved her.

Together, Alice and Oliver are swept away in the many different, and every changing, lands of Furthermore! This is honestly the middle grade version of Caraval, except it touches on the topics of race and of loving yourself for who you are.

“Why must you look like the rest of us? Why do you have to be the one to change? Change the way we see. Don’t change the way you are.”

I loved some of the messages of this book, but I didn’t love the book itself. Maybe it was the hype? Maybe it was because I don’t read middle grade too often? Maybe this just wasn’t for me? Regardless, the journey that takes place in this whimsical story never completely swept me away, and it often came across as pretentious, if I’m being honest.

This book tried too hard to be whimsical and different. I was constantly being pulled out of the story by some of the passages and descriptions that were beyond words over the top, especially at the start of each and every chapter. I understand that this is intended for younger audiences, but I still couldn’t believe most of the descriptions Alice gave.

Overall, this was just okay for me. Nothing groundbreaking, a lot of flowery writing and a few missed opportunities. Again, I don’t read much middle grade, so it’s hard for me to compare it to other things out there, but I was a little let down by this.

“The simple truth was that Alice would always be different—but to be different was to be extraordinary, and to be extraordinary was an adventure. It no longer mattered how the world saw her; what mattered was how Alice saw herself.”


Okay, these are the things that really bothered me with this story:

➽The ending happened in the blink of the eye, and I thought I had to be reading wrong, because there was no way all this lead up was for that anticlimactic ending, but it was true. After all the problems and trials Oliver and Alice endured, it felt so wrong for them to have such an easy ending.

➽Alice’s mother seeing the right of her wrongs, and blatant abuse, all of a sudden felt really terrible to me, too. I loved that Alice had an unconventional family dynamic that made her question if she was loved. These problems are topics we need in middle grade to help kids not feel alone, not problems that get erased by turning the page.

➽Speaking of awful representation, can we talk about how Alice loses her arm, and they completely change the mission of finding her father to getting her arm back? My heart broke when I discovered this, because I actually thought that maybe she wouldn’t have an arm, and middle grade readers would have a disabled amputee main character for representation, only to discover Alice’s number one priority switched to being “fixed.” It felt so bad and was such a missed opportunity.

The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) by Brian Staveley

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1.) The Emperor’s Blades ★★★★★
2.) The Providence of Fire ★★★★★

Okay, let me pick my heart up from the floor and try to write a review for this conclusion masterpiece. This whole series was a roller-coaster, but this last and final book was just me experiencing love and heartbreak over and over. Seriously, the range of emotions this series made me feel is indescribable, but mostly I was an incoherent mess while reading. Not only does Brian Staveley write love so seamlessly and perfect, but he writes unconditional love, in an epic fantasy series, better than maybe anyone I’ve read.

“It’s not always up to a man,” the Flea replied quietly, “what he is, and what he’s not. Some things you don’t get to choose.”

I see many people saying this was the weakest book in this series, but it was easily my favorite and, in my very humble opinion, the best. This elaborate plot became even more addicting, these characters made me even more heartbreakingly empathetic, and this world left me breathless over and over.

I was concerned, because I had to put this book down a few times because of upcoming ARCS, so I was apprehensive about how I’d feel to pick it back up. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I was falling asleep last night, struggling to stay awake just so I could finish. I woke up this morning, rolled over, and finished the last ~10% of this book before I even made my coffee! If that is not a testament to my love for this book, I’m not sure what is.

This book isn’t just a fantasy novel surrounding the path of three could-be-emperors after their father has died, while they fight for his throne. This story is about humanity at its very core; the essence of it both ugly and beautiful and everything else in between. This is a tale of empathy and sacrifice and what it means to be truly selfless. This chronicle is about the different paths we each take every day in our world, and the priority we put on religion, family, friends, strangers, power, materialistic things, and everything else under the sun.

This being the third and final book in the series, it’s sort of hard to do a review justice without spoilers. Instead, I’ll just give my thoughts on some of the main characters, their developments, and how they made me feel.

Adare is a character I love and understand, even though I see many people hating on her. The growth she experiences throughout these three books is pretty insane. By the epilogue of this book, I was so moved by her and her sacrifices.

“It was a good lesson, if she somehow survived to remember it: silence had its own violence; some reigns ended in blades and fire; some with the barest nod of a head.”

Kaden got the short end of the stick, in my opinion. I’ll be honest, I cared about him less than Adare and Valyn, but I made up for it with my unwavering love for Triste. Plus, his chapters spent in Rassambur, home of the Skullsworn, were some of the best chapters in this whole book.

“There are words,” Gerra mused, “and there are deeds.”

Valyn, oh my poor Valyn. I’m tearing up typing out his name. I’m fine, completely normal and not too heavily invested in fictional characters. Valyn broke me over and over, and, obviously, I’m still a little broken from his character. I fell in love with him in this book, and he will be one of my favorite characters of all time. Also, his opening chapter shook my very core. Brian Staveley’s writing is seriously incontestably amazing.

“Sometimes you need to break a thing,” the Flea said finally, “in order to see what’s inside it.”

Gwenna‘s point of view ended up being my favorite. Again, I could write my own book about how amazing Brian Staveley writes women of all different strengths in this world, but Gwenna was something special from book one. My single complaint about this beautiful conclusion is that Gwenna deserved to at least tell her feelings to someone, because, on the real, she and that someone are literally OTP goals. Maybe eventually Brian Staveley will write that story, since he is already expanding this world in Skullsworn (which, holy moly, I need to get my hands on this now!), but until then I will be crying and praying.

Triste was my second favorite character, and she is pretty much everything that is good in this world. Triste is such a selfless character that never asked for the path she was forced to walk. I’m at a loss for words when it comes to her, because I’m not sure any will do her character or storyline justice. Seriously, perfection.

“I’m used to being given up by now. I expect it. But I’ll tell you what I won’t do—I won’t accept it. I won’t play along.”

Pyrre is also on a whole other level in terms of strong females in high fantasy today. This death worshiper somehow managed to fill my heart completely, and, again, I need Skullsworn immediately.

I encourage all my friends and followers to pick up The Emperor’s Blades and give it a try, especially if you’re a fantasy lover. This empire, and all the smaller places we get to experience, is something on a different level of fantasy. The characters will make you feel everything under the sun, whether it is love, hate, or pure empathy. The writing and prose are so beautiful, I found myself rereading passages over and over, even in very heated, life or death, battle scenes. This story is fast paced, thought provoking, and simply magnificent. I can’t wait to reread this trilogy over and over. This is now one of my favorite series of all time.

Me, pretending to be calm while actually dying inside over this book:

Into the Fire (Night Prince, #4) by Jeaniene Frost

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1.) Once Burned ★★★★★
2.) Twice Tempted ★★★★★
3.) Bound by Flames ★★★★★

I have been reading Jeaniene Frost for a very long time, and I’ve loved and devoured everything she has touched. This book was long awaited, and pushed back very many times for personal reasons (seriously, this book has the best acknowledgments I’ve ever read, and it made me love and respect Jeaniene even more so), but unfortunately this book didn’t work for me at all.

Now I’m questioning myself and wondering if I’ve just grown out of this series/world. I think back to a lot of books I’ve given five stars and loved when I was young and in high school and college, and I’m pretty confident they wouldn’t be five star reads if I reread them. When I was younger, I would ignore a lot of problematic shit that I no longer will stand for, and I felt like this book had a spotlight on Vlad and his problematic behavior constantly.

I used to love Vlad, I even wanted Cat to get with him over Bones, but the way he acted in this book was so unacceptable and inexcusable. Again, this really scares me about books I’ve rated in the past, because Vlad was controlling, belittling, secretive, and hurt many people in this book, including Leila, the love of his life and our main protagonist. It was gross, Vlad was gross.

And Vlad forcefully lying and stopping Leila from participating in the battles that directly impacted whether or not she lived was super fucking annoying. I mean, one time? He’s protective and maybe scared. Two times? Okay, he didn’t learn his lesson! Three times? This is getting old, really fast. One hundred times?

Also, another thing I used to love about this world was the amazing, top tier sex scenes (anyone else remember the shower scene from Once Burned?) And I’m not sure if it is because of Vlad’s problematic grossness, or what, but the sex in this book wasn’t even good. It was forced and unnecessary and I couldn’t care less.

Beyond everything else I can say and complain about, the biggest issue with this book is that it feels like a prequel setting up for Ian’s book, which will probably be super interesting, but it made Leila and Vlad’s conclusion feel extra bad.

Ian is a very old and powerful vampire we are first introduced to in the Night Huntress series. Like most of the badass vampires in this world, Mencheres sired/turned/made them, therefore Ian is very, very loyal to him, which he proves unquestionably in this book.

Ian is also a very big partier, who has no desire to settle down anytime soon. Ian was honestly giving me huge Elliot from The Magicians vibes, which makes me so beyond words excited! Like, we need all the pansexual representation we can get, and if Jeaniene is going to showcase that, I’m so here for it and will ignore this last Vlad and Leila book.

I’m just hoping that we weren’t already introduced to Ian’s, very female, romantic interest at the end of this book. All signs point to “yes”, but I’m still hoping. And if she has to be his love interest, let him have a lot of fun with both males and females before he turns into the protective alpha male who only wants to marry and sex up his brand new love interest.

Another side character that got a really big part, and I’m guessing will have a spin-off too, is Maximus, who used to be my favorite character. I mean, I obviously still like him, but the new relationship path he is choosing to take feels very strange to me, for many different reasons. Maybe I need to sit on this information for longer, but as of now I am not a fan of this forced matchup.

I think another important thing I need to say about this book is that it does have a Native-American depiction that I’m not sure is correct. This book, and all the twists and turns, are heavily influenced by Cherokee people, which I am not sure is an accurate representation. Reading these chapters made me a little uncomfortable, but, again, I am not a Cherokee Native and I have never lived on a reservation before, but I just thought I would state that this could be a problematic depiction.

All in all, this book didn’t work for me. It feels really bad, because I used to love this series and world so much, but I have to be honest with myself. I also owe it to everyone that takes the time to read my reviews to point out problematic and hurtful things. If you’ve followed this series for as long as I have, I hope you enjoy this closure on Vlad and Leila’s chapter, and I hope we all aren’t disappointed with Ian’s new beginning.