REVIEW: The Candle and the Flame – Nafiza Azad

39821312Title: The Candle and the Flame
Author: Nafiza Azad
Rating: ★★★★

I try not to be too predictable, but if a book’s synopsis features the word djinn there is a 100% chance I will be reading it. I went into The Candle and the Flame without knowing too much about the plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this immersive, beautiful story.

The Candle and the Flame is a slow-paced novel. Books without a whole lot of action are really hit or miss with me, and while I struggled at first with the pacing, the story really hits its stride by the middle. The third person omniscient narration was an adjustment as well, and although I would have preferred first person, I think the third person was excellently done and fit the tone of the book perfectly.

The writing was absolutely gorgeous. I loved how diversely rich in culture and history the book was; the author’s descriptions paint a vivid picture for the reader. There were a lot of words and terms that were unfamiliar to me, but a wonderful glossary is included in the back of the book (which I didn’t realized until I had finished). However, if you’re naturally inquisitive like me, it was simple enough to Google the words to learn more about them.

Nafiza Azad has mentioned that this is a book about women being women, and I couldn’t agree more. There were numerous female characters, each with distinct personalities and likes/dislikes, which made them unique in their own fantastic way. I really loved all the different characters, relationships, romances, and the political intrigue featured in the story. I honestly wish the book had been a bit longer because I would love to have seen what happens next!

The Candle and the Flame was an excellent, beautifully written debut. I had been waiting for its release for months and it was definitely worth the wait! I look forward to reading more from Nafiza Azad in the future.

REVIEW: The Girl King – Mimi Yu (ARC)

38232365Title: The Girl King (The Girl King #1)
Author: Mimi Yu
Rating: ★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

The Girl King is an East Asian inspired story full of fantasy elements, a magic system, and sisterly betrayal. The synopsis is really intriguing and I was invested in the plot, however this was a difficult review to write, because while there was a lot I liked about the book, there were also a few things I didn’t enjoy. 

One of the things I liked was that I was never bored while reading. The pacing was well-done, and I never had a problem with the story capturing my attention. There were even a times when I had a hard time stopping and wanted to continue to read chapter after chapter. The story was told through three different character POVs: Lu, Min, and Nokhai. Each chapter was told in third person, which made it harder to connect with the characters. I liked reading Lu and Nokhai’s chapters; I really loved Lu’s narrative arc and Nok was such an interesting character that I hope to learn much more about in the next books!

Another aspect I really loved about The Girl King was the dichotomy of personality between Lu and Min, and how each sister changed and adapted to their situation as the book progressed. I wasn’t a fan of Min’s chapters, although I did appreciate her transition from a guileless and quiet young girl into arguably the antagonist. Her naivety and youth were frustrating to read, especially when it came to some of the choices she made, but I can’t argue that she makes an intriguing character for upcoming sequels. 

I wanted to love The Girl King much more than what I did, but unfortunately there were a few aspects of the story that made it harder to connect with and enjoy. Despite the things I didn’t like, there were quite a few that I did really like and so I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series!

REVIEW: The Winter of the Witch – Katherine Arden (ARC)

36621586Title: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3)
Author: Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

“Come with me, Snegurochka. I know a house in a winter forest.”

When I read The Girl in the Tower last year, it quickly became one of my favorite books ever, which was a total surprised since The Bear and the Nightingale was enjoyable, but not mind-blowing. The Winter of the Witch was not only a satisfying conclusion to the series, but an absolutely stunning and magical story all on its own. 

“But who could do it other than she? You can be a bridge between men and chyerti, Morozko had said. She thought she understood that, now.”

As with the second, The Winter of the Witch picks up right where the last book left off, making it easy to transition back into the story. Vasya continues to be one of the best written female protagonists I’ve ever read – and one of my very favorite heroines in literature. Her character growth throughout the series is amazing, and her bravery, strength, and compassion are admirable traits that only speak to some her well-roundedness. In addition to Vasya, there were so many other characters whom I loved reading about: Sasha, Olga, Marya (although there wasn’t as much of her in this one), Dmitrii, Ded Grib, and Pozhar to name a few. And of course, there’s Morozko, our morose winter-king. My adoration for that brooding frost-demon only grew in this novel, and I couldn’t get enough of his scenes, especially the angst with Vasya. Chapter 17 very nearly put me in an early grave, you guys. 

She whispered, “You are not alone anymore.”
“I know,” he whispered. “Neither are you.”

I’ve said this before, but the atmospheric setting in these books is one of the best I’ve ever written. Katherine Arden is such a talented author: her lush writing, vivid descriptions,  and carefully crated historical and fairytale elements create such a magical story. And the wintry setting made this a perfect read for winter time. 

He was only half there; the wind seemed to blow through him.
“As I could, I loved you too,” she whispered.
Their eyes met. Then he was gone, gone on the rising wind, blown through the wild air. 

There is so much to love about The Winter of the Witch, and I will never stop recommending this series to people. From the writing to the characters to the storytelling, The Winternight trilogy is an enchanting, whimsical story perfect for those who love a blend of fantasy and folklore. 

REVIEW: The Caged Queen – Kristen Ciccarelli

35843937Title: The Caged Queen (Iskari #2)
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Rating: ★★★

After I finished this, all I felt was overwhelmingly conflicted. When I first heard that The Caged Queen was going to be a companion novel told from Roa’s POV, I was initially disappointed that I wouldn’t be following more of Asha and her story. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Roa in The Last Namsara, I found her backstory and relationship with Dax to be intriguing, and so I attempted to go into this book with an open mind. Unfortunately, it still didn’t stand up to my enjoyment of The Last Namsara.

I really love the world that Kristen Ciccarelli has created here, and she’s a talented author whose compelling writing can easily draw you into the story. And even though I appreciated being back in this world and with these characters, I spent a majority of this book extremely frustrated. Probably 99% of the issues and conflicts that happen could have been solved if Dax and Roa had simply talked. The lack of communication between them caused so many unnecessary understandings and after a while I began to get both annoyed at Roa and at the plot. There were so many of my favorite tropes employed here: enemies-to-lovers / childhood friends-to-lovers / arranged marriage but the fact that I found no enjoyment in them because of all the poorly done angst really speaks to my disappointment. 

For the most part I enjoyed all the characters, even Roa began to grow on me at some point. Dax quickly became my favorite character in this series: he’s a sweet cinnamon roll who must be protected at all costs and I, for one, would love nothing more than to reach into this book and pull him out of the pages and into my life. The other really disappointment aspect about The Caged Queen in comparison to the first book was there were NOT ENOUGH DRAGONS. Those wonderful creatures hardly make an appearance, so I really hope there are more in the next book. 

I found The Caged Queen to be an enjoyable enough companion novel, but there was a lot of plot lines that frustrated me to the point that it really affected my liking of the book overall. Too much miscommunications between the characters leading to unnecessary conflicts and not enough dragons!

REVIEW: My Plain Jane – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

36301023Title: My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows
Rating: ★★★½

“It became clear from the moment she arrived; something was amiss at Thornfield Hall.”

Reader, I thought I would love this. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classic novels, so I was expecting to absolutely adore this retelling. The book started out strong, but it kept loosing stars as I read on. Despite that, My Plain Jane was a witty, light-hearted, entertaining read from start until finish.

“He was everything she’d ever dreamed about. Tall. Dark. Brooding. But he also had a penchant for lying, and making Jane think she was crazy, and not telling her the full story.”

The humor and quips were along the same vein as My Lady Jane, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Even though Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics, I appreciated all the jokes and small ways the author poked fun at the original text. My Plain Jane is one of those books where it remains best not to take it too seriously. Helen’s observations and comments while Jane was at Thornfield Hall were spot on, and she becomes the voice of reason that our love-struck heroine ignores. I also really loved having Charlotte Brontë as a secondary character and Jane’s best friend. It was fun following her along as she comes up with inspirations for her novel based on the story’s events. 

My biggest issue lies with the last quarter of the book, especially in regards to the romance. I understand why the authors went in the direction they did, but it still irked me. The plot also began to move a bit too fast towards the end, compared to the rest of the book which was even paced. Overall, I enjoyed the silliness and humor of My Plain Jane, but I didn’t end up liking it as much as I thought I would for a Jane Eyre retelling.