Fantasy, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy

Series Review: Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

 

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Title: Kate Daniels Series
Author: Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Ace
Length: Varies from 260-400 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Overall Series Rating: 4 folded pages out of 5

Magic Bites Blurb:

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic…

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles.

The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shapechangers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings—and the death of Kate’s guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Review:
What better way to start my comeback than with a huge series. The Kate Daniels series, by the husband and wife writing duo Ilona Andrews, currently has 9 main books, 5 novellas, and one online only snippet from a different character’s point of view. The tenth and probably final book is set to come out early 2018.

Let me just say, I LOVE this series. I read the entirety of it in about 3 weeks. I was so sad when I realized I had to leave the wonderful world and character building behind because I’d finished all the books available. I’m not even one to read novellas for series I love because usually I find they don’t really add much for me. But I read every single one.

I want to be Kate Daniels when I grow up. She’s fierce, independent, and caring. Honestly, reading from her point of view and seeing everything she does in these books made me want to start taking some kind of martial art or self defense course so I could be just one tenth of a bad ass that she is. Through the series you see her grow and develop in a way I hadn’t realized a book character could. Keep in mind this is the first series I’ve read that’s longer than Harry Potter.

I love all the side characters pretty much equally. Even the ones your supposed to hate or at the very least find annoying like Saiman. I was always sad when her adventures didn’t bring her into contact with the him even if he was absolutely infuriating at times.

On top of all this, Andrews’ writing is superb. It’s fast paced and snappy. I hardly ever found myself bored even in the middle of info dumps or plot set up; both of which get absolutely tedious in fantasy novels for me.

This series is a must read for urban fantasy lovers. It’s so good I’m already considering rereading it to try and catch things I may have missed. Also, don’t be put off by me saying it’s also a romance. It’s very light and definitely stays on the back burner when compared to the plot.

As a side note: The covers of these books are absolutely horrendous and it’s a surprise I read them at all but please don’t let them fool you. The stories inside are amazing.

Fantasy, romance, steampunk

Book Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

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Title: Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 448 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Warning: Spoilers for books 1-3 possibly in blurb and review!

Click to see previous book reviews for the series – First book: Soulless Second book: Changeless Third book: Blameless

Blurb:

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines, Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

Review:

More and more with this series I find myself both really enjoying and kind of not enjoying it. Heartless had me completely enthralled for the first 200 pages or so but then it got to the action bits and the climax and I sort of lost interest. I think I just don’t care for the way Carriger writes her action scenes but the build up is always a lot of fun.

As always, Alexia was delightful. I loved how it was obvious to everyone the pregnancy was effecting both her brain and her body but she refused to see it. It seems like something Alexia would do. She couldn’t believe she could change simply because she was pregnant even though she was definitely more forgetful and emotional. I really enjoyed seeing this side of Alexia.

Lord Akeldama and Floote were just as charming as before, too. Carriger has no problem building and maintaining interesting characters and I’m very glad to see this. However, Lord Maccon was absent just a bit too much in this novel for my liking, especially considering the previous novel had Alexia and Lord Maccon fighting and not being together.

I still really enjoyed this novel and once I have a small break from the steampunk I’m excited to read the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 426 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Warning: Might be slightly spolier-y. I can’t tell, but better safe than sorry.

Blurb:
On a continent ruled by three empires, everyone is born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others. Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries long war is about to end, the balance of power-and the failing health of all magic-will fall on the shoulders of a mythical pair called the Cahr Awen.

The biggest thing on Safi and Iseult’s minds is saving money for their planned future in the Hundred Isles. Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the emotional Threads binding the world. Safi, on the other hand, is a Truthwitch-she always knows when a person is telling a lie. A powerful magic like that is something people would kill to have on their side-or to keep off their enemy’s side-and so Safi cannot even admit what she truly is.

With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and a ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must rise above their doubts and fight to learn who they are and what they are made of, if they are going to stay alive and preserve the balance of their world.

Review:
I’m not sure if it was just me or not but I found this book a little hard to get into. Once I got past the first 100 pages or so I couldn’t put it down but it didn’t hook me like I thought it would from all the reviews I’d read up to this point.

Let me start by saying that even though the story jumped into the action from page one, the beginning was boring. I had no reason to be invested in the characters or care about why they were in that predicament so I didn’t really want to read it. I also had a hard time differentiating between Safi and Iseult for the first 100 pages or so. I think this is a world and book that could have used a bit of build up instead of jumping straight to action.

I do appreciate the connection Iseult and Safi have. It’s refreshing and fun for the main story line to revolve around a female friendship and have romance be the side thing instead of the other way around. That being said, I had expected more of this because of the hype. The majority of the book Iseult and Safi spend apart. I hope the next book can showcase them as friends more and have them actually be together so I can get more of their dynamic.

I also think that the romance involved is very insta-love. Even more so, it feels, because it’s such a side thing. There’s not love confessions and I appreciate that. But there unavoidable attraction to each other is weird.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Dennard builds out this world and how the story continues. So far the Truthwitch series is a definite improvement over Something Strange and Deadly which I DNF’d before 50 pages. I can definitely see an improvement in her writing.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

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Title: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 624 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 2.5 Folded Pages

Review of Book 1 and Book 2.
Warning: Possible spoilers for books 1 and 2 of this trilogy.

Blurb:
What power can bruise the sky?

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited–not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

Review:
I have to be real here. I was super disappointed by this book. I was SO bored while reading, especially during the first 300 pages or so. I’m pretty sure I skimmed at least 50% of it, if not more. According to my status updates on Goodreads, I didn’t start to get interested in it until about page 464. For a 600 pages novel, that’s pretty bad.

For me, I think the novel had too much exposition. Taylor could have cut out a lot of Akiva’s and Karou’s point of view and still got the point across. She didn’t need pages and pages dedicated to how they were pining for each other. It was so annoying.

I usually hate when new characters are added in the last novel of the series but for this, I found myself enjoying the new characters POV more than the main protagonists. Of course, I have to say Zuzana’s POV was still my favorite and she’s still my favorite character. But you didn’t get much of her or Mik.

The action packed scenes were really good and I was thoroughly invested in those which saved this book from being a 1 folded page review. Honestly, I think the only reason I didn’t DNF this book is because it was the last in this series and I wanted to finish the series since I had already invested so much time in it.

I hate how disappointed I was by this novel because I LOVED the first book and the second book I thought was good. It wasn’t great but I still enjoyed it. This one, however, was so hard for me to read. I found my mind wandering a lot because it wasn’t engaging.

I really do like Taylor’s writing style, but I think she needs to cut down on the exposition and maybe stop repeating the same idea over and over, IE how much Akiva and Karou want to be together but can’t.

Fantasy, young adult

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Length: 336 pages, Mass Market Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.

The Hatter sisters–Sophie, Lettie, and Martha–and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?

Review:
I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me say this, but yet again this was a reread. I loved the Studio Ghibli film of the same title though it’s very obvious once you read the book that the movie is VERY loosely based on it. My friend made me read it when she saw how much I loved the movie and she wasn’t wrong. Although the two are very different both are amazing.

The basic characters are all the same, Sophie, Howl, Calcifer, Witch of the Waste, Michael and so on. But with the book the plot and conclusion is a little bit different. Also, you get so much more from all the characters. I feel like the movie didn’t have the proper time to flesh out the characters like the book does considering there are so many.

Sophie is so stubborn and annoying but in the most perfect way. You can really see the effect the witch’s spell has on her in the book. The movie, I don’t think, does that justice. Sophie’s emotions are so raw and real and her change in character brought on by the spell is amazing to read.

Howl, Calcifer, and Michael all have their own unique personalities as well that are so fleshed out and yummy. I might be just a tad biased though because this book holds a special place in my heart. I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve reread it in about 8 years.

The plot itself is a little confusing and a little frustrating but I think it was like that in the movie as well. Honestly, you get a lot more explanation in the book and it helps clear up the confusion I had with the movie before I read the book.

I do think the Jones waits a little too long to reveal everything. The ending is a whirlwind of action and resolutions and it can almost give you a headache there’s so much information dumped on you.

Still aside from that tiny flaw, I thoroughly enjoyed my reread and I look forward to the next time I reread because I’m sure I will many more times in the years to come.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 464 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review:
I’m not sure if something’s wrong with me or not but I think this book may have been overhyped. I definitely didn’t love it as much as others seem to. That’s not to say I didn’t like it but I’m not sure it deserves all of the glorifying it’s received since it came out.

I like Laia. She seems very real. She’s destined to save the world or something but she still has doubts about herself and her skills. I like that. I’ve had enough of the heroines who just decide they no longer have fear and suddenly have skills. It’s a breath of fresh air.

I also like Elias. He just wants to escape the hell he’s been forced into. He’s not really out to save the world or anything. He’s sweet but doesn’t know where he stands and I like that about him.

Honestly I love all the characters. From Cook to Izzi, to Keenan and even the Commandment because she’s evil but that kind of person exists in the real world and we even get to see bits of other sides of her.

Tahir does an amazing job with her characters honestly. I really enjoyed them all. Her writing is also beautiful.

So why don’t I love this?

I found it incredibly boring at some parts. I’m not exactly sure why either. The book was mostly action packed and yet there were certain parts where I was like oh my god is anything different going to happen.

As I write this, I’m realizing it might have to do with lengthy exposition. As much as I like Laia and Elias, I think Tahir may have spent too much time writing out their inner monologues that say the same things about the character over and over in different words. It was boring. There’s a reason one of the biggest pieces of writing advice is “show, don’t tell” and I think Tahir did a little too much telling sometimes.

Aside from this, I absolutely loved the book. I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’m also hoping it will be better. This was Tahir’s debut novel after all so I’m hoping she grows from book to book.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

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Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 528 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

See my review of the first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, here.
Warning: Possible spoilers for book 1 in the series.

Blurb:
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Review:
So I actually listened to first 200 pages or so on Audiobook but it was too boring that way and switched to hardback. I think that kind of sets the tone for how I feel about the book.

I was super excited to see what happened next between Karou and Akiva and all their friends and the two worlds but this book was SO SLOW. Both on Audiobook and paper book. Some parts were lightning quick and others just dragged and dragged and dragged. I spent the first half of the book wondering when something would happen and when the point of view (POV) would stop changing.

The first book didn’t feel so jumpy when there were POV changes but I think Taylor went a little crazy in the second book with unnecessary character jumps and it made the book feel that much slower.

Eventually, around the 250 page mark, it really picked up and I wasn’t able to put it down. Still, the first 250 pages shouldn’t be that slow in the second book of a fantasy series. This book could have gotten a solid 4.5 folded pages if it wasn’t so excruciatingly slow in the beginning.

However, it’s definitely worth reading once the plot picks up. Also, the book ends with a massive cliffhanger so I’m eagerly awaiting my hold on the third book. Overall, I think it was good but it could have been so much better and I’m disappointed Taylor didn’t manage to do it because her writing is beautiful.

Fantasy, paranormal, romance

Series Review: Southern Witch Series by Kimberly Frost

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Title: Would Be Witch, Barely Bewitched, and Halfway Hexed
Author: Kimberly Frost
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 308 Pages, 322 Pages, 339 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal
Rating: 4 Folded Pages, 3 Folded Pages, DNF’d

Would Be Witch Blurb:
In the small town of Duvall, Texas, the only thing that causes more trouble than gossip is magic.

The family magic seems to have skipped over Tammy Jo Trask. All she gets in the way of the supernatural are a few untimely visits from the long-dead, smart-mouthed family ghost Edie. But when her locket—an heirloom that happens to hold Edie’s soul—is stolen in the midst of a town-wide crime spree, it’s time for Tammy to find her inner witch.

After a few bad experiences with her magic, Tammy turns to the only one who can help: the very rich and highly magical Bryn Lyons. He might have all the answers, but the locket isn’t the only thing passed down in Tammy’s family. She also inherited a warning…to stay away from anyone named Lyons…

Review:
I picked these books up on the ebook system my library offers. I was craving a romance heavy fantasy and these books looked perfect. There’s five books in the series so far and I fully read the first two but I couldn’t get through the third unfortunately.

Tammy Jo has endearing moments especially in the first book. I liked her character. She was flawed and fun and a little bit stupid but I could handle it. The second book her character ebbed more on the stupid and in the third book I couldn’t handle it as it just got worse and put the book down forever.

I’m not sure how but as she learned more about her powers she lost intellect. Maybe this has a plot point somewhere, but for me, I can only take so many stupid actions by characters before I get completely fed up and put the book down.

I’m sad because I really loved the first book. It was fast paced and funny. Even with the not so great love interests (one a controlling asshole and the other a manipulative asshole) I enjoyed the storyline and even the over the top tropes of the guys in her love triangle.

Speaking of the love triangle, by the end of book 2 it was very obvious which of the assholes was better. She had more chemistry and dependence on the less assholely of the two and yet she still wavers between them and was still doing so in the beginning of the third book. One of the guys wasn’t even in the picture at that time because he left on some soul searching journey or something.
I’m angry that these books got progressively worse because the first one was SO good. I really liked it and I wish Tammy Jo had progressed forward instead of backward. That would have saved this series from ending up on my “never finish” list. There’s 5 books in the series so far and I’m not sure if she plans to write more but I know I’m never going further than this with the series.

Fantasy, romance, young adult

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Length: 12 hours, 33 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn’t know where she came from, but she’s about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over. Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

Review:
Honestly, I had absolutely no idea what this book was about going into it. I just knew that I’d seen it all over book blogs and booktube and the cover was pretty. I was looking for an audiobook on my library website and it was available instantly so it worked. I’d never read the blurb until I had to find it to write this review.

I was very pleasantly surprised by it! It’s very interesting and the story feels fresh. Even the insta-love feels fresh because of how Taylor built the story around it. It’s still insta-love and kind of gets so cheesy I found myself thinking oh get a room while listening to it but I still enjoyed the romance aspect.

The book itself felt like three separate books. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook version but I didn’t mind that it felt kind of separate. It’s quite a long book to listen to so I think the feeling of 3 books in one made the pacing feel faster.

I really love Karou. She’s bad ass but isn’t afraid to feel her emotions (most times). There were times where I was annoyed with her actions/decisions but that happens with every character. I do think her personality changed it bit drastically in certain parts but circumstances in the book may be able to account for that.

My favorite character is by far Zuzana, she’s feisty and definitely the voice of reason in the story. I’m not sure how I feel about Akiva. Sometimes I think he has a personality and other times he feels as flat as a sheet of paper. I hope he’s fleshed out more in future books.

The narration for this audiobook was amazing. Hvam uses different accents and tones for different characters and it totally immersed me in the story. She’s very good at various accents as well. Her pacing was perfect as well.

I really enjoyed this book and I’ve already started Days of Blood and Starlight. I really enjoy the titles in this series, too. They feel majestic.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 320 pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 folded Pages

Blurb:
Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays (who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school . . .

Review:
I’m finally reaching the point in my Harry Potter reread where it doesn’t feel like Harry is a little too young for me to relate to. The first two books Harry is 11 and 12 and now he’s finally reaching his teen years and matured a bit more reading is going a lot faster. Which is evident in the fact that it took me two days to finish the book.

I’m also enjoying seeing the differences in the book versus the movie. The first two movies are extremely accurate to the book and it’s only in Prisoner of Azkaban that they began having to cut thing to make it more adaptable to the movie format. There were so many things I had forgotten! It’s kind of crazy.

I’m excited to continue my Harry Potter reread and I think it will only get better from here. In my editions of Harry Potter Goblet of Fire is almost exactly double the amount of pages of Prisoner of Azkaban so I think it might take me a little longer to get through but none the less my Harry Potter reread is finally moving along.