Monthly Wrap-Up: December 2019

Hello! It’s the last monthly wrap-up of the year, can you believe it?! I’ve been off from school and work for the past two weeks and it has been so wonderful to have a break and some time for myself. Since I didn’t have any new releases from this year left to read, I got to catch up on a lot of ARCs that had been piling up.


43979540STARSIGHT: After finishing Skyward at the end of last year, I knew the sequel was going to be one of my most anticipated releases for this year. And while I really enjoyed Starsight and thought it was a fantastic sequel – plenty of action, great new characters, lots of continued world-building – I really missed the characters from the first book that I had loved so much and I spent a lot of the book wishing they would reappear.  ★★★★

41721210DIAMOND CITY: This is a case where the book started out really strong but slowly lost steam as the story went on. One thing I thought was great was the world-building–a world caught between industrialization and religion. The struggles between the two sides felt very believable and added depth to the story. I also really loved the main character, Aina, and the intriguing relationship she had with the Blood King.  ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.  [review]  ★★★½

46378697A MURDEROUS RELATIONS: This series is usually so much fun to read. For what I assumed was the last book in the series it was extremely underwhelming. There was hardly any action or plot and I was very bored the entire time. And the thing that irritated me the most was that after all the angst and sexual tension built up between Veronica and Stoker, the moment when they finally got together was bland and completely unsatisfying.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. ★★★

42248816SCAVENGE THE STARS:  This story is a gender-bent retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, which is not something I had every read before. A quick google search of the synopsis helped me appreciate the cleverness of this book much better. I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m really looking forward to the sequel and seeing what happens next for Amaya and Cayo.  ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.  ★★★½

42595554FOUL IS FAIR: The book is a loose retelling of Macbeth that revolves around a group of teenage girls enacting revenge on a group of prep boys after one of the girls was assaulted at a party. The first major issue I had with the book was the writing. To put it plainly: I couldn’t stand it. The scenes were very abrupt and the way the dialogue was written felt so stilted and unnatural. My other problem with the book was that a lot of the things that happened felt very far-fetched and unbelievable.  ARC provided by the publisher.  ★★

book coverBEYOND THE SHADOWED EARTH: This is a companion novel to Beneath the Haunting Sea rather than a sequel. The story is about Eda, who makes a small appearance in the first book as the antagonist. Honestly, the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was Eda. She’s not written to be a very likeable character–she manipulated, lied, and murdered her way to be Empress. This is a redemption story for her and I really enjoyed reading about her growth as a character.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [review]  ★★★

48341787._SY475_TO HAVE AND TO HOAX:  I’m so thankful the publisher reached out to be about reviewing this book. This was the best of two genres: rom-com meets historical romance. After an argument led to a falling out between them and cold detachment between the couple for the past four years, James and Violet begin a series of hoaxes and manipulation in the attempt to up-stage one another while insisting there are no feelings left between them.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [review]  ★★★★★

25614492SALT TO THE SEA: This is actually my third time picking this up. I had DNF’d this two times previously before getting even a quarter of the way through. Ruta Sepetys did an excellent job of grabbing my attention throughout the novel and telling some very compelling stories with the characters. I found myself loving Florian, Joana, and Emilia and was intrigued (although very disturbed) by Albert. The author once again has told a marvelous story about a period of history that is often unremarked upon.  [review]  ★★★★½

42867745._SY475_HUSBAND MATERIAL: Unfortunately, I had to call it quits shortly after the halfway mark. I skimmed quite a few parts from the remainder of the book, so I fairly good idea of what happens and I’m sorry to say that had I finished it, my final opinion would have been just as bad. The first issue I had was the overly descriptive writing. My second issue is that the “love interest” – if you could even call him that – was terrible.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [reviewDNF @ 58%

43822778TWICE IN A BLUE MOON: I usually love Christina Lauren books, but this one was not my favorite.  Half the book is told in the past, and half is told present day which didn’t really work here. Because of that, the present day part of the felt very rushed. I think that had the story been told totally in present day with flashback chapters between, it would have worked much better. That being said, the writing was as wonderful as always and the love story was very touching.  ★★★½

42281865ASHLORDS: The premise is unlike any other I’ve read. The story is about three characters from three very different backgrounds as they enter an annual competitive race featuring phoenix horses. The concept of phoenix horses and using alchemy to rebirth different breeds of the horses was so well-developed and extremely interesting. Once I got into the meat of the novel, it was hard to pull my attention from its pages.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [review]  ★★★½


OTHER

WWW Wednesday #24 | Top Ten Tuesday: Books with a Wintry Setting | The ABC Book Challenge – T | Young Adult Fantasy Standalones of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with a Wintry Setting

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. I was originally going to post this a couple of weeks ago for the freebie topic, but, well…time just got away from me 😆 There’s something so atmospheric and whimsical when reading stories with snowy, wintery descriptions and scenes.

25489134._SX318_1. THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE
This entire series is an enchanting, magical story full of wintry landscapes and Russian history and folklore. From the vivid descriptions to the lush writing to the compelling characters, Katherine Arden writes a mesmerizing story that is perfect for curling up next to the fire during a snowstorm. And because this is a trilogy, it means more cozy nights spent reading this winter.

368968982. SPINNING SILVER
This is one of the most atmospheric, captivating stories full of European folklore and magical elements. It’s a very loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that follows the point of views of three very different girls. Naomi Novik did an amazing job writing this compelling story with its dark wintry setting. From the character growth of the heroines to the two hate-to-love romances, this book is a wonderful choice for a wintry read.

400460303. ECHO NORTH
Joanna Ruth Meyers does a fantastic job of retelling the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon while blending in elements of Tam Lin to create a unique, whimsical story. I was completely enamored by the magic within the pages. I loved following the heroine’s journey as she attempted to care for and save the enchanted house after making a deal with a mysterious white wolf.

386407294. EAST
East of the Sun, West of the Moon is one of my favorite fairytales and this is one of my favorite retellings. The cold, snowy setting is the perfect backdrop and the spellbinding writing does an excellent job of drawing readers into the story. Everything about this book is so well-crafted and wonderful, and I definitely recommend it for anyone looking to spend a winter night in reading.

378540495. THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD
This is another wonderfully written story based on Eastern European folklore. This book was a story rich with fairytale elements and yet historical aspects were seamlessly blended in. It’s a reimagining of Goblin Market and the setting is so atmospheric and magical. I really adored this story and the complex, loving relationship between the two sisters.

40148425._SY475_6. WINTERWOOD
Shea Ernshaw really excels at writing deliciously atmospheric stories. She does a great job of tying in mystery with magic, and writing it with such beautiful words and descriptions. It’s no surprise, given the title of the book, that this book is set in mysterious, magical forest in the dead of winter snow storm. If you’re looking for some more creepiness in your winter read, then this is the book for you!

398635177. WHITE STAG
This is a much darker book and deals with some tougher subjects, but I really enjoyed this story about goblins and the Wild Hunt. The setting of this novel is placed in colder, harsher climate, but the added element of malicious goblins and the fantastical writing had a certain whimsical feeling to the story. This book would be great for someone looking for a more thrilling, darker fantasy to match a brewing snowstorm outside.

247636218. WINTERSONG
Another really well written story featuring goblins and loosely based on Goblin Market. This book was completely atmospheric and beautifully written. There was such a soft, lyrical quality to the story, and the wintry setting is absolutely perfect for the kind of tale the author was trying to tell. It would be easy to get lost within the pages of this emotional, compelling story.

347264699. SKY IN THE DEEP
Even though the focus of this story is more on the fantasy and fighting aspects, the majority of the book takes place during winter. There are many descriptions of the story’s frigid environment, snowy landscapes, and icy waters, and it’s very easy to imagine yourself fighting amongst the Riki or Aska clans in the dead of winter. This is one of my absolute favorite books ever so I am always recommending this stunning debut!

2695822610. EVEN THE DARKEST STARS
This book is less atmospheric than the others listed, however it’s set in a magical, Himalayan-inspired world that boasts of mountain climbs, blistering snowstorms, and avalanches. If anyone wants a fun, mountainous adventure without actually climbing any mountains this winter, then this is the book for you.

REVIEW: Diamond City – Francesca Flores (ARC)

Title: Diamond City (Diamond City #1)
Author: Francesca Flores
Rating: ★★★½

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter. 

What is this book about? Diamond City follows Aina, an assassin working for one of the worst crime bosses in Koshima. When presented with an opportunity to break away from the Blood King and start her own establishment, she takes on a high-profile assassination job. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and she gets caught up in a game of politics, conspiracy, and murder.

What did I like? This is a case where the book started out so amazingly but slowly lost steam as the story went on. I thought the world-building was clever: a world caught between industrialization and religion. The struggles between the two sides felt very believable and added depth to the story.

I also really loved Aina! It was refreshing to have an assassin that actually commits murders without qualms. Orphaned at a young age, she struggled to overcome poverty and homelessness, and is eventually “saved” by the Blood King, the leader of a ruthless gang. Speaking of the Blood King, Francesca Flores did an excellent job exploring the kind of power and emotional control people like Kohl have over impressionable younger girls such as Aina. Aina transitions from romanticizing him and their relationship to finally opening her eyes to the kind of person he truly is.

What didn’t I like? Towards the end of the book, the story started to lose a bit of steam. The action really picked up, but the conflicts were resolved quickly and without much fanfare. There were also a few aspects and “plot twists” that felt a little forced and a bit too clean for the kind of story this started out as.

Overall thoughts: I highly enjoyed this debut book from Francesca Flores! The world-building was unique and different from what I was expecting for a novel about a young assassin, and the heroine was truly the heart of this book. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Young Adult Fantasy Standalones of 2019

December is almost over, which means I survived an entire year of nursing school! 🎉 Sorry I haven’t been active the last couple of months, but now that I have a two week break from school/work I plan to spend that time reading, relaxing, and catching up on blogging! This year, I’ve noticed a lot more standalone novels being released in the YA genre and I am loving it. I’m a big fan of a series as much as the next reader, but there’s so something so satisfying about a really well-written standalone novel. 


ECHO NORTH

40046030The was such a breathtaking, brilliant retelling of one of my favorite fairytales, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The book completely blew my expectations out of the water. Joanna Ruth Meyer did such an excellent job in taking the original elements of the fairytales in which the book was inspired by, and adding little twists to create a whimsical story that was both true to its roots, and yet totally unique. The vivid descriptions and writing had me completely enamored by the book. The ending was a little bittersweet, but it was entirely satisfying and wrapped the book up perfectly. 


STAIN

34842208This book blew me away. It was a hauntingly beautiful fairytale unlike any other. The dark, gothic elements and vivid descriptions made this such an atmospheric read. There were so many clever intricacies to the plot and the small details were woven together so carefully and in a way that made this a really well-constructed book. I also loved the theme of a rose gaining thorns in regards to Lyra’s character growth throughout the story.


WARRIOR OF THE WILD

43446574This book was so much fun to read. It was action-packed, fast-paced adventure with a loveable, fierce warrior girl as the star of the novel. The action starts from the first page, and doesn’t let up until the last. Rasmira was such a wonderful heroine and I enjoyed reading through her point of view so very much. In addition to our protagonist, we also are introduced to two side characters, Iric and Soren, and I loved the interactions between those two boys and Rasmira. The book has an important and inspiring message of overcoming adversity and growing into the person you want to be, regardless of what others believe of you.


DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE

36430989This book might be low on the action, but it’s high on the suspense and political intrigue. I actually really enjoyed the slower paced story and how the focus was instead on the intricacies of the murder mystery and the inner court machinations. Hesina was a character that I greatly enjoyed following as she attempted to navigate her struggles between her personal wants/beliefs and what she needed to portray in order to gain the support and find justice for her father’s murder.


THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME

39821312This was an excellent, beautifully written debut. 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. And of course any story featuring djinn is a story for me! I really loved all the different characters, relationships, romances, and the political intrigue featured in the story. I wish the book had been a bit longer because I would love to have seen what happens next!


SORCERY OF THORNS

42201395This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I had a lot of fun reading it! This book contains sentient books; a fierce, sword-wielding librarian; and a handsome, broody sorcerer with a tragic past. What more could any bibliophile ask for in a book? Margaret Rogerson did an amazing job with the world-building and the magical aspects of this story and I cannot wait for whatever she writes next!


THE BONE HOUSES

36524503The story follows a gravedigger and a mapmaker on an epic adventure full of family, magic, and the undead. The book heavily features elements of Welsh mythology, meanwhile other parts were reminiscent of The Black Cauldron. The eerie, atmospheric settings gives a haunting feel to this mesmerizing story that reads as if it’s a dark fairytale.

 


Do you enjoy standalones? What was your favorite one you’ve read this year? Let’s chat in the comments!