Book Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Summary: For Cate Cahill and her sisters, keeping their magic a secret is the difference between life and death. After she uncovers a secret that changes everything she’s ever known, keeping her sisters and herself safe becomes almost impossible.

Thoughts: For a book that heavily revolved around romance, I really really loved it. Months before her seventeenth birthday, Cate must choose whether she’ll marry or choose the sisterhood. Except she doesn’t want to join the Sisterhood – which is basically a convent. And as for marriage, who will she marry? All that aside, Cate and her sisters are all witches and if anyone finds out the truth about them, then they will be sentenced to the mad house or sent to a prison ship.  I loved Cate’s relationship with her sisters and I loved how much she fought to keep them safe. Cate’s narration and her ability to read into things, really made the story and plot that much more engaging. The story is set in New England in the 1890’s, and it follows an alternate timeline. However, one thing pulled me out of the story, which was the mention of other cities in the world – specifically Dubai. Ugh Dubai is a very new city that did not exist in the 1890’s and the history geek in me could not let that slip. That aside, the story was full of so many secrets that really heightened the stakes. Cate was a strong heroine who didn’t shy away from doing what was right even though it was hard and would have cost her what she wanted most. The setting was beautiful and Spotswood’s prose made the story read so real! I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Summary: While breaking into the house of the man who allegedly murdered her mother to steal incriminating evidence from his hard drive, Tina gets caught by his son and her childhood friend, Michael. To stop her from releasing all the information, they strike a deal to investigate her mother’s murder before releasing the evidence. But her crime boss is waiting and the more she waits, the more her life is in danger.

Thoughts: I was really looking forward to this book because it was pitched as The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo meets Gone Girl but set in Kenya. I think that pitch set my expectations too high. While it was an enjoyable mystery, it wasn’t a page-turning kind of thriller. The setting was great, and the characters as well even though they read a bit too mature for their age, but then again, it makes sense that they would be having gone through the things that they have. I loved how focused Tina was on avenging her mother, but at the same time, it was that very focus that made every thing else around her seem unimportant. And that includes her relationship with Michael. I feel like if the romance aspect was taken out, I’d have enjoyed the book more because I just couldn’t believe it when it happened. Tina was such a fierce and determined character, and her capacity for love was clearly evident in how much she loved and tried to give her sister a good life, that the Michael thing read a bit forced and unnecessary because Tina herself was only aware of it sporadically and most of it was concentrated towards the very end. However, what I loved most about this book though, and what set it apart from many other books out there, is how Anderson sheds light on real atrocities happening in the world and to the Congolese people specifically – like crime, war, violence against women, greed etc. If you’re looking for a YA novel set in Africa, with an interesting plot, great characters, and some real world stories, then you will really like City of Saints and Thieves. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read any page-turning thrillers with interesting settings that I need to read ASAP. Happy reading!

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pascat

Summary: After Damen’s half-brother takes his throne from him, he gifts him as a pleasure slave to the prince of an enemy nation. Caught in the middle of a manipulative court, Damen must hide his identity from Prince Laurent because if there is one person Laurent hates, it is the Prince of Akielos, Damen, who killed his brother in battle.

Thoughts: Ahhh, where do I even start? I love this book so much I’m thinking of rereading it right now as I type this review. The first book was really a 4/5 for me but by the end of the second one, I was more hooked than I was after the first. The plot follows Damen as he’s sent off to Vere as a slave to the manipulative and sadistic Prince of Vere, Laurent. There he struggles to hide his identity in a court full of violence and lies and constant manipulation and back-stabbing. *sighs* What’s not to love, right? Add to that combination the one and only villain of his kind – Laurent. I want to wrap Laurent in bubble wrap and hide him from the world. I have so much love for that well-developed psychopath. Both Laurent’s and Damen’s character growth is amazing for a series as fast paced as this. The world-building in this book is flawless. It feels like you’re reading a historical fic and not a fantasy novel. I won’t say more, because really, these books leave you speechless, but I highly recommend you read them. If you haven’t read many m/m fics, this and The Song of Achilles are really good books to start with. Of course the latter will leave you crying into a bucket, so I’d start with the Captive Prince Trilogy and then move to TSOA. Happy reading!
Stars: 5/5!!

Book Review: Wintersong by S Jae-Jones

Summary: When Elizabeth’s younger sister Kathe gets kidnapped by the Goblin King to become his Queen in the Underworld, Elizabeth sacrifices herself in exchange. But life as Queen of the Underworld and wife to the Goblin King is not as Elizabeth thought it would be. She soon finds herself falling in love with the Goblin King and creating beautiful music but it all comes at a price that is bigger than just her life.

Thoughts: This is the book I’ve wanted to read for so long but I didn’t even know it. Even though the stakes aren’t so high, the writing is transportive from the very first page. Elizabeth is such a flawed and relatable. She starts off being very level-headed and selfless as the big sister taking care of everyone, and I loved how I got to see the other side of her after she struck the deal with the Goblin King. Who also made it into one of my top ten favorite male characters list, coming a close fourth after Will Herondale. A very high honor in my book. But my favorite character in Wintersong is hands down: Constanze, the rude-mouthed, salt-spraying and superstitious grandmother who I really really missed once the story progressed into the Underworld and left Constanze behind. You would assume that the setting would get depressing once it shifted to the Underworld, but the opposite is true. It’s so rare that I find a book where a character is passionate, actually passionate, about something like Elizabeth is about music and composing music. Reading about it really brought all the underlying emotions to life and I’m pretty sure my ears have been opened. Wintersong is ultimately a story about the selfish and selfless things people do for love, and it’s such a dark and raw book full of amazing mythological beings and music that you can feel.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Summary: After a failed assassination attempt on the day of her coronation, Crown Princess Rhiannon vows to reclaim her thrown and seek vengeance on the person who led to her family’s murder years ago. Alyosha is the star of a reality show and a war refugee who is framed for the alleged death of the Crown Princess Rhiannon. Both Alyosha and Rhiannon travel across the galaxy in search of answers.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. For starters, it’s a beautiful blend of science-fiction and fantasy, with great and complex world-building that is boosted by a diverse cast of characters facing real-world problems (like being refugees and immigrants in a place they’re not wanted). The book is fast-paced and full of daring adventure and it’s this very thing that made it so hard to connect with the characters. There’s scarcely a moment where they stop running to take stock of themselves and one another. Everything is happening so fast, that by the end of the book, I was more familiar with the plot than the characters. There were a few things that I found repetitive like Rhiannon’s determination to seek vengeance. It just pulled me out of the story every time she mentioned it, and I think it reads repetitively because there was more “telling” than “showing” her need for vengeance. Despite what the blurb said, the fugitive and empress don’t actually join forces to do anything. The one scene where they met was when they spotted each other across a crowded room, for one second, and used each other’s presence to make their own individual escape. I was sort of let down by that because I kept waiting for them to cross paths and join forces. The big spoiler at the end wasn’t a spoiler, really. I saw it coming, and I think the ending would have been much stronger if it wasn’t so obvious. Nevertheless, Belleza’s prose was very beautiful and aside from characterization, repetitiveness and a sort of misleading blurb, this was an enjoyable read with great world-building and high stakes.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Summary: Set in alternating historical and future time periods, the story follows Katherine and Mathew as they are born again and again only to fall hopelessly in love every time before being tragically separated.

Thoughts: You know that feeling when you’re reading a book and every page is better than the one before and you can’t stop reading and you’re just following an upward trajectory of awesomeness but then you reach the end, and that trajectory slopes downwards so suddenly? That’s what it felt like. The book was so amazing, almost perfect enough to get five beautiful stars of awesomeness, but then the ending happened and I wasn’t satisfied with the answers I was getting. Despite that, this was a beautiful story about the power of love and its ability to transcend time and hardships. It was unlike any time-travel story I’ve ever read because of its focus on the romance more than the other aspects that kept pecking at my brain (time-travel, reincarnation – how is this happening?). Wanting the answers to these questions and wanting to reach a time period where Catherine and Mathew weren’t terribly separated, was another thing that kept pushing me to finish immediately. The story followed Mathew and Catherine through 4 different time periods, but they were woven together so flawlessly and the attention to historical detail was very well-done. The history geek in me has to praise this. As for the futuristic time-line, it read very realistically and a bit like modern-times rather than the super technological future you’d probably have in mind. Catherine’s voice was so real and funny that it lightened whatever dark and sad road the story was about to take. Overall, if you’re a fan of historical novels, or romance novels, or light sci-fi novels, then I highly recommend you read this book (it being a brilliant mashup of all these things). However, bear in mind that the ending may not go as far as you’d hoped.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Proxy by Alex London

Summary: Syd is Knox’s proxy, meaning that he will take the punishment for anything that his privileged patron, Knox, does. On the run from Knox’s father and the society that will have Syd pay for Knox’s infractions, they both flee across the country in hopes of finding a secret society of rebels where they can both find freedom.

Thoughts: This review is long overdue!! I read Proxy a while back, and ever since, I’ve been recommending it to anyone who asks me “what should I read?” and even buying it for my friends and forcing them to read it. This is one of my favorite books ever, and not only because of how awesome and well-written it is, or because it made me cry. This book brings to light such an interesting concept of debt and punishment and how whatever privileges you’re offered, there is someone out there paying the price for them. I loved Syd and Knox, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Knox at the start. By the end, his character development was a perfect arc from rich-boy asshole to a human being ready to stand up and claim personal responsibility for his past and actions. Proxy is thought-provoking and action-packed and funny yet intense. I appreciated the racial diversity and the LGBT elements and I highly recommend you read this book. I’d go so far as to say it should be required reading for everyone. If you don’t know what a brain feels like when it cries, then you will after you’ve read Proxy. That’s all I’ve got to say. Happy reading!

Stars: 5/5