The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy, #2) by S.A. Chakraborty

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

1.) The City of Brass ★★★★★

“It is time we get some vengeance for what they have done.”

Friends, this was such a phenomenal installment that was such a treat to read. This is an own voices Muslim Fantasy series, and a historical setting of the early 1800s, which barely touches upon the Ottoman Empire. And The Kingdom of Copper picks up five years after the events of The City of Brass

This is a story about djinn, and magical cities, and people being able to harness powers that they don’t fully understand. This is also a story about oppression, and privilege, and the terrible things people are willing to do in the name of pure blood. The mixed bloods in this world, shafits, are treated horribly and without a second thought. This book very much mirrors present day and the refugee crisis; people are unable to get food and shelter, while others are dying of things that could be easily healed, all because of fear, prejudices, and hatred.

Our three main characters are all very separated and all living very different lives than when we last saw them in the first installment. But they all have also grown tremendously during the five years, and now all have very different goals.

“A threat to a loved one is a more effective method of control than weeks of torture.”

Nahri – gifted healer who is trapped in the royal court of Daevabad and trying to make the best out of an alliance that was forced upon her.

Ali – djinn prince exiled by his father, constantly in fear for his life, while also trying to learn his new abilities.

Dara – one of the best warriors, who is watching soldiers being rallied, who are willing to do terrible things in the name of peace.

“Everyone knew about Darayavahoush, Nahri. They just couldn’t agree if he was a monster or a hero.”

My biggest complaint about this second installment is how long it took for Dara and Nahri’s storylines to actually meet up. Obviously, I ship them pretty hard, so I was just really disappointed when it took forever for them to even interact with one another, especially with what Nahri believes. Also, as much as I love the queer side characters in this story, I’m not entirely sure how I liked how one of them was handled. Also, I very much thought Ali was going to give us some bisexual representation in this book, but it appears that we are just going to get a hetero love triangle, which makes me sad.

But this story was impossible to put down, because I was so enthralled on every page. I feel like this 600+ page book was just completely packed with action, and I never wanted it to end. I love S.A. Chakraborty’s writing, and I think she really expertly crafts three very different characters, with three very different perspectives, all of which I completely adored.

“You don’t stop fighting a war just because you’re losing battle”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and the last line of this book will leave you utterly breathless. I have such high hopes for book three, and fully expect that it’s going to be a perfect conclusion with the way all the threads of this story leave off. This is such a beautiful Middle Eastern story, that ties in so much of the culture’s folklore in an absolutely beautiful and seamless way. I completely recommend this series with my whole heart.

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

Content and trigger warnings for graphic violence, torture, death, murder, slavery, human trafficking, talk of stillbirth, talk of past threat of rape, and war themes.

Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤

 

Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White

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“Hatred makes monsters of us all.”

Friends, I’ll be honest with you, I have been dreading writing this review. I don’t know what’s wrong with me or my reading tastes, but this series just isn’t the series for me. So many of my friends love this series more than anything and you should check out their reviews: Chaima (Muslim ownvoices), Elise, and Emily! But, sadly, I’m calling it quits and I’m not reading the third book. And if you want my honest opinion? Read The Traitor Baru Cormorant, because it’s a better version of (Radu’s storyline especially) this story.

I didn’t hate this book by any means, it’s just really a 2.5 star, middle of the road book for me. And I’m going to try to keep this review short, because I completely recognize that this series just doesn’t work for me! But this is a historical reimagining, starring two children during the fall of Constantinople, but one of those children is a genderbent Vlad the Impaler.

“The world will destroy her in the end. Too much spark leads to explosions. But your sister will destroy as much as she can before she goes out. She will go down in flames and blood.”

Lada is my favorite. She’s cutthroat, ruthless, and such a wonderful character to read about. She, to me, is the shining star of this book. Radu, is alright. I enjoyed his storyline in this book, but again, it was so reminiscent of The Traitor Baru Cormorant, but just done not as well.

I’ll be honest with you, and this might be a tiny bit spoilery so don’t read any further if you want to go into this tale completely unaware of anything, but I hate love triangles where both siblings like the same person. Maybe it is because I’m so close to my brother, and would never do that to him, but it just makes for a truly painful reading experience. And the character in the middle of it? I hate them with a fiery passion already.

But what I loved is Kiersten White’s writing. Every book I pick up by the author, blows me away with one-liner after one-liner. Such a beautiful and lyrical writing style, and I gobble it up every book. And it makes me even more excited to pick up Slayer.

“Perhaps she had never stopped being that girl lost in a place where she could never have power.”

Overall, I think most people would enjoy this series. Hell, I think most people do enjoy this series. And there really are so many good themes and a lot of representation. So, for sure take my review with a grain of salt. And, again, make sure you check out the reviews of the people I linked in the top paragraph. This series just isn’t for me, and that’s okay. Mehmed is legit the worst character in the history of YA. But Nazira and Fatima are worthy of five stars, though.

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The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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“Charming princes weren’t always what they seemed. Shining armor went out of fashion with the Crusades. And if fairy godmothers existed, hers was running several years late.”

Wow, The Duchess Deal single-handedly restored my faith in historical romances. Seriously, all of 2018 has been me being disappointed with every historical book I pick up, but this one? Friends, I was laughing out loud, I was clutching my pearls, I was melting into a puddle of goo on the ground. This book made me feel everything, and I can’t wait to read so much more by Tessa Dare in the new year!

The Duke of Ashbury – After coming back from the war, most of his body is completely burned and scarred. It has taken him a long while to recover, but when he does his engagement is broken off from his betrothed. Now, Ash keeps himself mostly locked away on his estate, but he is in desperate need to sire a son.

Emma Gladstone – Seamstress, who made the wedding dress for Ash’s fiancé. Yet, no one paid her once the wedding got canceled. But Emma has been living on her own, and is in desperate need of the money, so she marched right up to the Duke’s estate to ask for it.

“Your days will be yours to do whatever you wish.” His voice darkened. “Your nights, however, will belong to me.”

Yet, the Duke is not only willing to pay Emma for her dress, he is also willing to make her an offer that is very hard to refuse; he asks her to marry him and allow him to make her a Duchess, even though she has been on her own and doesn’t have a name that holds any power. But the marriage offer isn’t because of romance, but convenience. Ash will expect Emma to wed him in name only, but he will come to her every night to try to conceive a child, and once she is pregnant, he will give her a house of her own to raise his heir in. And Emma’s friend secretly needs a place to lie low for a few months, and Emma also realizes that this is an opportunity that could change her world forever.

I only really have two negative things to say. First being that Ash would jump to conclusions a little too much for me. Emma does every single thing to prove she is being sincere, and I get that because of what happened to him that it would be hard to believe, but my good dude was being pretty dumb at times. The only other thing, that completely doesn’t impact this review, is that the cover of this book is a little not cool. I do think Ash’s burns are mostly on one side of his body, but I still think that whoever picked this cover could have done better and given us some really cool representation.

“You’re here…In my heart. Somehow you crashed your way into it when I wasn’t looking. The same way you barged into my library, I suppose. But you’re here now, inside.”

Overall, this was just a treat to read. Every scene with the cat had me giggling out loud. The entire staff that Ash employs are the real MVPs and them just wanting him to be happy really warmed my heart. The banter in this book was perfection! I loved Emma so very much, and she was easily a main protagonist that I just wanted to protect at all costs. And this book was hella steamy. Like, unexpectedly steamy. But your girl was living for it. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and to devour much, much more by Tessa Dare!

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Content and trigger warnings for abandonment, emotional abuse, talk of past war themes, and just for a main character that has very low self-esteem, who is constantly belittling himself.

Buddy read with Julie at Pages and Pens! ❤

And I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

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ARC provided by Flatiron in exchange for an honest review.

“Remember—magic is a cheater’s game, and everyone who sees it wants to play.”

Enchantée is a book that is set in historical Paris, during 1789, but this is a version of Paris unlike any other. Yes, the French Revolution is beginning, and the people are starving and rioting, while Marie Antoinette and other aristocrats ignore their pleas. But some people in this alternative history are able to wield magic to help make their lives a little easier.

In this world, there are three different types of magic:
Magie Ordinaire – changing things
Glamoire – changing oneself
Magie Bibelot – making objects sentient

This book stars Camille, a young girl able to wield magic, but is very scared to get caught because the stakes are so high. Yet, she still turns magic into scrap metal so that they have a little money to live off of. But her younger sister Sophie is not in the best of health, and both of their parents have just died to smallpox. The only person who is supposed to be looking out for them is their older brother, Alain, who is drinking and gambling away what little money they do have.

But when Camille helps out a couple hot air balloon makers, then she finds a magical dress that is hidden away in a secret trunk, and she ends up taking her and her sisters future into her own hands and will stop at nothing to ensure their health and safety. From there, she throws herself into a world of aristocracy, filled with nobles who do not even realize the food they are wasting while people in the streets are starving.

I wanted to love this so much, friends. But sadly, it just fell so very short for me. I felt like the author was trying to cram so many important things that happened in France in that time into this book, while also trying to write her own story, and both elements just made this entire story feel disjointed and left a lot to be desired. And honestly? Even my synopsis of this book sounds a lot better than the book actually is.

I was so bored throughout. I just kept waiting for something more exciting to happen, but it never did. The twists and turns were so predictable and so lackluster. And them ignoring the gross behavior that Alain displayed made me so angry. And their constant views on sex workers made my eyes almost roll out of my head completely. Oh, and the villain was straight up from a comic, twirling his mustache, I swear!

I will say that one of the main side characters, Lazare, is biracial (Indian and French) and he does have a really good discussion about how he feels like the French never let him forget that he isn’t white. I really appreciated that. I also appreciated that Camille was willing to do whatever it took to care for Sophie. You all know I’m always here for good sibling relationships. But besides these two elements? I really didn’t enjoy this one.

I’m so sorry, friends! I do feel like I’ve been really not enjoying a lot of the historical stories I’ve read in 2018, so maybe you will enjoy this a lot more than I did. A lot of my friends have actually given this one really high praise, too. But I’m wishing you all happy reading, always.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for degrading comments about women (I honestly feel like I read the word “whore” at least twenty times), slut shaming, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, illness of a loved one, alcoholism, gambling addiction, loss of a loved one, blood depictions.

Buddy read with Mia at Pens and Parchment, Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills, & Kayla at Books and Blends! ❤

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

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This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box!

“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’s story; and I’d failed. Because make no mistake, this was his story—his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter.”

Hi, my name is Melanie and 2018 has been the year that I constantly talk about my love for Greek mythos retellings. The Silence of the Girls is a feminist reimagining of Homer’s The Iliad, centering on the Trojan War, but is told in a completely different light than ever before. Yes, we get to see the Trojans and Greeks battle and Achilles be the hero the world knows and loves, but this tale is all about a voice that is never heard in other renditions.

Briseis is a woman that has lost everything; her family, her city, her freedom, but this story gives her an actual voice, unlike all the other tales, but also shows how much more she was able to lose after Achilles is at the gate of her city. This is a very brutal book. Major content and trigger warnings for graphic murder, slavery, pedophilia, cheating, war themes, loss of a loved one, a lot of detailed rape, suicide, self-harm, abuse, PTSD depictions, animal death, sacrificial rituals, the death of children and babies, and heavy war themes and battle depictions. Please use caution with this book and make sure you are in a safe and healthy mindset.

“Another successful raid, another city destroyed, men and boys killed, women and girls enslaved—all in all, a good day. And there was still the night to come.”

I also want to say that I just reread The Song of Achilles a couple weeks ago, and I’m not sure if that heightened or lowered my reading experience. I will say that Patroclus is a sweet angel in every retelling of The Iliad and that didn’t change in The Silence of the Girls. But Achilles? This book makes you truly dislike him and… I just wasn’t expecting it. This book really shows how the stories are always told from a man’s voice and view, and they are always something to be glorified. But Pat Barker gives a voice to the women who are just background noise in all then men’s stories, deemed unworthy.

This reading experience is so unique because the Greeks are hailed as the heroes the entire time, but in this book we get to see behind the heartbreak and devastation they cause on and off the battlefield. Meanwhile, women are just prizes of the war that they never asked to be a part of. And even though Briseis has it a better than a lot of the women taken and enslaved by the Greek, seen as nothing more than spoils of war, her pain is never subsided and never viewed as lesser. Yet, that doesn’t make seeing things from her perspective hurt less. This book truly is heartbreaking.

“Nobody wins a trophy and hides it at the back of a cupboard. You want it where it can be seen, so that other men will envy you.”

My favorite part of this book, as heartbreaking as it is, is how each generation of children (girls, boys, nonbinary) are learning and living in this broken cycle with these expectations and gender roles forced upon them. The cycle never stops; it is just continuously passed down. Yeah, this is a Greek retelling trying to make a statement, but the parallels to our world in 2018 are thought-provoking and leaves an even scarier statement.

And there is a big emphasis on how war will also be passed down from father to son, generation after generation, along with their prejudices, their hate, and their need for revenge. Again, it is never ending and will never be enough. The suffering will just continue and continue being passed down. Meanwhile, the pain and fear will never subside.

“Silence become a woman.”

Overall, I think this is a really important book and I feel very fortunate that I was able to read it. I’ve always loved reimaginings of Homer’s works, but I’ve never read one like this before. Again, this is a really hard book to read and it gets very dark at times. But it really shows how rape will always be about power, not lust. And how men that lust for that power are capable of the evilest of things. And how these men can already have immense power, but it still won’t be enough. How these men and be rich, how they can be good-looking, how they can be the hero of the story.


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Buddy read with Imi at Imi Reviews Books! ❤

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood, like a hundred golden urns pouring out the sun.”

I read The Song of Achilles many years ago, before I got into book reviewing, but it always bothered me that I didn’t have a proper review for this beautiful book. I was a little apprehensive about rereading it, because I wasn’t sure if it would hold up and impact me the way it did many years ago. But, friends, this story is still everything.

I feel like this is still a hard review to write, because I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I feel like everyone knows how this tragic tale ends. But friends, the ending of this story literally broke me and my heart into a million pieces all over again. But if for some reason you do not know the story of Achilles, please stop reading this review, pick up this book immediately, and have your life changed forever.

In high school I became really obsessed with Greek mythology. I couldn’t get enough of the adventures in The Iliad and The Odyssey. And the Trojan War is almost a decade worth of adventures that I fell completely in love with. And I always had a special soft spot for Achilles, son of a god and a king, being convinced to join the Greek army by the Greek commander, Odysseus, to become the greatest warrior in the world. But so much happens before that deadly battle between Hector and Achilles outside the gates of Troy. And The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s love letter to Achilles complete story, and it is an actual masterpiece that is the best reimagining I’ve ever read in my entire life.

This is also a story about Patroclus, also a son of king, who was exiled from his kingdom when he was only ten-year-old. But when he is sent away, he is sent to Achilles’ kingdom, where Achilles claims him as his companion, and they become best friends. And eventually, they become more than friends.

“We reached for each other, and I thought of how many nights I had lain awake loving him in silence.”

Patroclus is totally bi or pan, and obviously Achilles is for sure queer, but I am not actually sure if he is only gay or where he falls in LGBTQIAP+ because I feel like he was questioning gender and gender-roles during this reread, too. But regardless, this is such a beautiful m/m romance that will leave me swooning and crying forever.

This is a story about the cruelty of men and war and how that impacts so many others. This is a story about how sometimes we can become what is not expected of us, but sometimes the expectations are impossible to hide from. This is a story about love, and friendship, and honor, and what it means to sacrifice everything for those very things. This is a story about how those things never end; not even in death.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Overall, if you want a reimaging that will completely break your heart, but also heal your very soul, this is it. Madeline Miller has created something so magnificent that it truly transcends words. This is one of the most beautifully told and crafted stories I’ve ever read in my entire life. I recommend the book with the sum of who I am.

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Content and trigger warnings for murder, death, slavery, abduction, abandonment, torture, mention of rape, blood depictions, human sacrificing, physical violence, human trafficking, graphic mention of a plague, self-harm, child abuse, and war themes.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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“Some stories don’t have happy endings. Even love stories. Maybe especially love stories.”

I know what a beloved book this is in the community. Recently, I did a blog post about the highest rated books on my TBR and The Nightingale was number one with a 4.55 average star rating, with 414,290 Ratings and 44,440 Reviews. Like, those are some powerful stats. But basically, after writing up that post, I knew that I had to read this beloved book and find out my thoughts on it.

This is a heartbreaking, historical fiction, WWII story that stars two sisters living in France, when the Germans take over in 1939. But we get to see present day glimpses from 1995, that star an older woman thinking about her life and all the harrowing events that she was forced to live through before immigrating to The United States. But it really develops this complex guessing game where you are not sure which sister is this present day narrator.

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

Vianne – Living in a small town in Carriveau with her daughter and husband, while grieving that she might not be able to have another child. But that fear and sadness take a backseat when her husband is forced to go to war.

Isabelle – Living in Paris with her father, since she has gotten kicked out of every finishing school that she’s attended. Their father has always been distant from them, but once the Nazis begin to control Paris, he sends Isabelle away to Vianne’s.

And these sisters are so very different in every way. Where Vianne only wants to protect her family, Isabelle wants to fight the Nazis from within France itself. And I’ll be honest, I feel like Isabelle makes sense to be my favorite sister, but her constant recklessness would put Vianne and her daughter, Sophie, in danger all throughout the book. And it only made me crave Vianne’s chapters and dread Isabelle’s.

This was a five star read until Beck’s storyline. No spoilers, but for me Beck was truly the shining light in this book, which I feel awful typing because he was a Nazi. Lord, forgive me. But his storyline really showed how *normal* people have to suffer the wars that powerful and greedy men create, and how nationalism can be terrifying. I don’t know, I just actually hated how his storyline ended and I didn’t care about this book near as much after it. I couldn’t put this down, I was completely captivated, I couldn’t wait to see what came next! And then the most pointless, stupid, and anticlimactic thing in the world happened and I just didn’t care any longer. Truly. And the more time and distance I put between myself and this story, the more I get irritated. (Please don’t think I’m a horrible person.)

Overall, this was a haunting but beautiful book about family and the things we are willing to sacrifice in the name of the ones we love. And how family will always be the people that we choose, not necessarily the blood that runs through our veins. I completely understand why this is such a beloved book in the book community, but maybe it was just a little too hyped for me. Also, my loss of connection really made the ending not as emotional for me, therefore I don’t think that impacted me as much as many other readers, too. But I still really loved most of this story and I can’t wait to read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!

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Content and trigger warnings for war, loss of a loved one, loss of a child, abandonment, miscarrying, violence, gore, death, anti-Semitism, talk of suicide, cancer, slavery, labor camps, sexual assault, rape, and abuse. This is a very dark book at times, so please use caution before reading.

Buddy read with May at My 1st Chapter & Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤