Audiobook Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Published: July 7, 2020 by Flatiron Books

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Review: ***Disclaimer I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for a free review. Thank you NetGalley and MacMillion Young Listeners!***

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It’s very eye catching and striking. Now that I have listened to the audiobook, I can say with certainty that it is the most perfectly descriptive book cover I have ever seen. The serpent twining around a rose is a perfect representation of this plot.

I found the audiobook narrator to be delightful for this book. There are a lot of words and names that are Persian in origin and quite difficult to pronounce, but she did perfectly. Her tone and characterization for Soraya was exactly the way I imagined in my head.

This plot was an interesting mix and was also where it lost a star for me. It started off with a huge bang. Within the first 20% Soraya’s entire world explodes in violent drama. Then the plot really slows down and frankly I didn’t know what the point was for awhile. It started to get a little boring. Then the ending picks back up and the pace races all the way to the end. I loved the story but I felt the middle could have been shorter and the book would have been better off for it.

And in one last fangirl moment, Soraya’s romance was so romantic. I mean, what more could a girl ask for than someone who promises to bring your enemy to you on their knees. Swoon.

Overall I really loved this book and the audiobook does it perfect justice. I highly recommend it.

Review: Anomaly by K.A. Emmons

Anomaly by K.A. Emmons

Published: April 7, 2020

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating:

Synopsis: 14-year-old Ion Jacobs just wants to belong to a family and feel normal. But his past is a mystery, his future is a question, and his whole life is about to change.

Tossed from one foster home to another and shadowed by his mysterious past, Ion fears he’ll never fit in — until one day, when he drops a pencil and instead of falling to the floor…it floats.

Shocked and bewildered, Ion searches deeper and discovers an undeniable truth about himself: he possesses extraordinary powers beyond his control. Healing injuries, levitating objects, and superhuman strength come as easy to him as breathing. Now Ion only has one goal: make sure no one finds out what he’s capable of.

Struggling to keep his newfound abilities a secret, Ion finds himself more isolated than ever — until he meets a mysterious stranger in the woods who seems to understand Ion better than anyone else. As tensions rise at home with his new foster family, Ion finds it harder and harder to control his powers. And when he accidentally sparks a fire that nearly destroys their home, Ion is forced to face the reality of his situation: not only is he capable of healing — he’s also capable of fatal destruction.

Anomaly is the gripping paranormal prequel to The Blood Race series by K.A. Emmons.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and K.A. Emmons!!***

This was an enjoyable litte novella. It introduced me to the world of Ion quite well. I assume that the first book in the series picks up where this left off, with Ion trying to figure out his powers. It was nice to get a sense of the things he is able to do. Obviously he can control things with his thoughts. But it isn’t fleshed out to a great extent since I assume that is the plot of the first book.

Ion was an enjoyable narrator. He felt genuine as a 14 year old boy who has spent his entire life in the foster care system. His anger and despair at being abandoned by his parents and then shuffled from home to home was poignant. I feel like this series was written for a middle grade, early high school audience and I think that’s the right audience for it. At an age when bullying and despair at not fitting in are common, Ion would be a relatable companion.

While this novella doesn’t get too deep into the world or the characters it did interest me enough to want to check out the series. So, it did just what it was intended to do.

Take My Money! Sunday

After a few weeks break, we are back! I had to search a bit through the covers I’ve seen recently for this one. Being sick took me out of the loop for upcoming releases.

A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson

Expected publication: September 15, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: While studying wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary in Montana, biologist Alex Carter is run off the road and threatened by locals determined to force her off the land.

Undeterred in her mission to help save this threatened species, Alex tracks wolverines on foot and by cameras positioned in remote regions of the preserve. But when she reviews the photos, she discovers disturbing images of an animal of a different kind: a severely injured man seemingly lost and wandering in the wilds.

After searches for the unknown man come up empty, local law enforcement is strangely set on dismissing the case altogether, raising Alex’s suspicions. Then another invasive predator trespasses onto the preserve. The hunter turns out to be another human—and the prey is the wildlife biologist herself. Alex realizes too late that she has seen too much—she’s stumbled onto a far-reaching illegal operation and now has become the biggest threat.

In this wild and dangerous landscape, Alex’s life depends on staying one step ahead—using all she knows about the animal world and what it takes to win the brutal battle for survival.

Why I’m Excited: This is the beginning of a new series, a mystery series that focuses on a wildlife biologist. That idea really interests me. Once upon a time I wanted to be a biologist of some sort when I grew up, so these kinds of stories always capture my attention.

Fable by Adrienne Young

Expected publication: September 1, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

Why I’m Excited: As much as I should say no to young adult fantasies that sound as good as this, I never can. I keep hoping that the period of crappy young adult fiction will be over. Maybe this one will be the one. Because it sounds great! This one is also the first in a new series.

New Releases Wednesday

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water by Zen Cho

Published: June 23, 2020 by Tor.com Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

Why I’m Excited: First off, the cover looks more like a painting than a book cover. I could stare at it all day. I was not familiar with the term “wuxia” when I happened on this book. But I looked it up and it means “martial hero”, so a hero of the martial arts. This just sounds so good! I want to read this so badly.

Sisters of Sword & Song by Rebecca Ross

Published: June 23, 2020 by Harper Teen

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

Why I’m Excited: The synopsis of this one made me want to learn more, so I did a little research. Turns out this book is an alternate history Ancient Greece. All of the gods/goddesses have left behind powerful relics that the Queen is on the hint for. Something goes wrong and Halcyon ends up charged with a murder. That sounds so good. And it sounds like a very good sibling story, where both siblings are good people who want to protect each other from the world. That appeals to me.

Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Published: October 1, 2019 by Ace Books

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth. 

Review: I think I fell in love with this book, and with Claire and Brevity and Hero and Leto. I feel such much emotion for all of them. Every single character is layered and deep, which is severely lacking in fiction these days. The plot was similarly complex and layered. Just when I thought the story had peaked it was raised to another level entirely.

Claire was one of the single best characters I have ever read. We are introduced to her as the surly, prickly Librarian of the Unwritten Wing of Hell. She takes no crap and expects everyone to follow commands without question. She is 100% certain that the role of Librarian is to prevent characters from rising from their novels because who knows the damage they could inflict on the world. She is steadfast, she has an iron will on this issue. But it’s not that simple. There is a heartbreaking reason why she feels this way. When it was revealed, I cried with her and for her.

Leto was a mystery when we are first introduced to him. He is a human who recently died and, for some reason, he has condemned his own soul to hell in the form of a demon. And he refuses to tell anyone why. Again, as we revealed the whole of his story, I fell in love with him too. I cried with him, I cried for him, and my heart rejoiced when he found his way.

My only minor complaint is that the story meandered quite a bit. I feel like this could have been a lot shorter but not sacrificed anything that made it wonderful. This world had so many layers and I loved exploring them.It is a very unique take on heaven, hell and all things in between. I also glanced rather uneasily at the unfinished manuscripts on my computer throughout this book, maybe I should work on those. I hope to further explore the different areas of this world in the next book, which I pre-ordered as soon as I finished this one.

Review: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Published: February 4, 2020 by Tor

Buy this novella at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review. Thank you NetGalley and Tor!***

This was a fun little novella and certainly a lot better than the one I reviewed from Sarah Gailey last month, River of Teeth. The biggest issue is that it was just so short. The hardcover is 176 pages and it came out to 99 pages on my Nook. There was almost no world or character building as a result. I liked the characters and I liked the premise but it had zero depth.

This dystopian world is one that is intolerant of lesbian or non-binary women. Some of these women choose to work as “Librarians” and deliver “approved” media materials for the masses. And they occasionally lead insurgencies and smuggle people to safer areas. But because of the lack of world building I have no idea why the world is this way. Is it just non-straight women that society objects to? What about gay men? What about transgender individuals? Are there racial issues there too? Usually intolerance is not limited to just one thing. Because we don’t touch on anything except that one aspect at all and since they haven’t explained the world to me then I can’t even make an educated guess.

Esther was a good character and I found her to be very sympathetic. Though it was a bit undermining to my sympathies that within a few months of watching her first love hang for the crime of having unapproved materials Esther is making starry eyes at the Assistant Librarian Cye. I felt a lot of deep emotion for Esther and her story initially. But then we immediately start mooning over Cye and I felt that sympathy fading because apparently she had gotten over it, so why shouldn’t I?

This was a good little story but I really wish it had been given more time and more pages. It would have been less tropey and been able to explore this world in a lot more depth. That would have only improved it for me.

New Releases Wednesday

The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of a daring deception that plunges a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible–until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.

Izzy’s disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy’s exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.

The Prisoner’s Wife tells of an incredible risk, and of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times. Bill and Izzy’s story is one of love and survival against the darkest odds.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a thrilling journey spurred by love and surrounded in tragedy. World War II historical fiction seems to be having a moment right now and I am very excited to see what it brings.

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

Published: May 26, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can’t transmute straw into gold.

With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she’s forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life – but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.

As Sepha’s deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?

My Thoughts: Fairytale retellings are quite possibly my biggest guilty pleasure. I love the new take on a familiar story. Not to mention this cover is absolutely spectacular. I really want to read this.

Take My Money! Sunday

This feature now has a better name. I’ve been thinking of one for awhile and then it hit me. These are the books that make me want to yell, “Just here’s my wallet! Take the money and gimme gimme!”

A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel

Expected Publication date: April 7, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

A compulsive family drama about a mother’s desperate search to reclaim her daughter from the horrors of her own past, perfect for fans of Then She Was Gone.

Beth Fraser finally has her life together. She’s built a successful career in the tech sector, has a bright fifteen-year-old daughter, and she’s completely erased all evidence of her troubled past. At least that’s what she thought.

Dana Fraser always wondered why she’s the only kid with two backup phones, emergency drills, and a non-negotiable check-in time every single day. When a stranger approaches her on the street claiming to be her grandmother, Dana starts to question what else her mother has been hiding. 

Soon Beth’s worst nightmare is coming true: Dana is in grave danger, and unless Beth is willing to pull one last con job for her parents, she may never see her daughter again.

Why I’m Excited: This sounds really good. A child who grew up surrounded by secrets and has to piece things together when it all comes crashing down around her. I really need to hurry and read the ARC I have of this one.

Hush by Dylan Farrow

Expected publication date: October 6, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

How do you speak up in a world where propaganda is a twisted form of magic?

In the land of Montane, language is literal magic to the select few who possess the gift of Telling. This power is reserved for the Bards, and, as everyone knows, the Bards have almost always been men.

Seventeen-year-old Shae has lived her entire life in awe of the Bards—and afraid of the Blot, a deadly disease spread by ink, which took the life of her younger brother five years ago. Ever since, Shae fears she’s cursed. But when tragedy strikes again, and her mother is found murdered with a golden dagger—a weapon used only by the Bards—Shae is forced to act.

With a heart set on justice, Shae journeys to High House in search of answers. But when the kind, fatherly Cathal, the High Lord of Montane, makes Shae an undeniable offer to stay and train as a Bard, Shae can’t refuse.

Through this twisty tale, Shae endures backbreaking training by a ruthless female Bard, tentative and highly-forbidden feelings for a male Bard with a dark past, and a castle filled with dangerous illusions bent on keeping its secrets buried.

But sometimes, the truth is closer than we think. We just have to learn to listen.

Why I’m excited: I have always loved the idea of words having actual power, so this seems to play on that theme. It begs the question of how much more careful would people be if they knew there was real world consequences for the things they say. Or would they be more reckless?

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825._SY475_The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Published: January 2, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Readers

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Rating: 5 star

Review: I admit that the only reason I picked up this book was because I keep seeing the cover for the upcoming third book in the series, and it is absolutely gorgeous. But I didn’t want to start with the third book in a series, so I started from the beginning. And it was glorious!

For the first half of this book it was a pretty typical YA book. A human girl who was spirited away to Faerie as a young child. She desperately wants to fit in and make it her new home, but gets relentlessly bullied by the other faerie kids because she’s human. She strives to be more than “just a human” but isn’t sure exactly how to do that. So far all of this is pretty typical and it was good. I enjoyed reading about Jude and the book was well written. I also loved that the world of Faerie was depicted in such a dark and cruel way, it was refreshing from how most faeries are portrayed in YA books.

Then, around the halfway point of the story, things took a drastic turn for the darkness. I was shocked. My jaw hung open and I proceeded to read the final half of the book in one sitting because I HAD TO KNOW! The deceit and deception got so much deeper and darker the longer I read. It was fantastic.

Just when I thought I had Jude’s plan all figured out, things took another turn that I did not see coming. I loved every second of this plot. I love that it lulled me into a false sense of security that this would be just like all the other YA books I’ve read and then yanked that dream away from me in a split second, and with no remorse.

Also, Taryn is possibly the worst person in the entire book. I knew I didn’t like her much from the beginning but she is just downright awful. At one point I just kept thinking “that #&U%(#, Jude stab her!” I know I would have.

This book was fabulous. I will be picking up the second book just as soon as I can, because I have to know what happens now.

Review: The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

51024058The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Published: April 7, 2020 by Orbit Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Harriet Bishop, descended from a long line of witches, uses magic to help women in need — not only ordinary women, but also those with powers of their own. She must intervene when a distant cousin wields dangerous magic to change the lives of two unsuspecting young people… one of whom might just be a witch herself.

Frances Allington has used her wiles and witchcraft to claw her way out of poverty and into a spectacular marriage with one of New York’s wealthiest new tycoons. She is determined to secure the Allingtons’ position amongst the city’s elite Four Hundred families by any means necessary — including a scheme to make a glorious aristocratic match for her headstrong and reluctant step-daughter, Annis, using the same strange power with which she ensnared Annis’s father.


To save Annis from this dark magic, Harriet reveals to her Frances’ misuse of their shared birthright and kindles in Annis her own nascent powers. Together, Harriet and Annis must resist her stepmother’s agenda, lest she — and the dashing young lord she suspects she could come to love — lose their freedom, and possibly their lives.

Rating: 3 star

Review: This book started as a 4-star book, then dropped to a 2-star book and finally by the end is an “it was fine” 3-star. The writing of this book was lovely. I found myself entranced by the prose and would look up to find that several hours had passed. Just last night I was so enthralled with the plot and the writing that I stayed awake reading until 2 a.m. It’s not surprising that the book only took me 3 days to finish.

I love books about witches, probably because I am one. I love books that explore the role of witchcraft in history and how women have historically used this knowledge to empower themselves. The characters were rich and I enjoyed them all. The basic premise is that Harriet and Francis are descended from a witch named Bridget Bishop. Bridget was executed in the 1600’s for witchcraft. Harriet’s side of the family tree has adopted the gentler side of the craft, using it mainly for herbalism and assisting locals with their various ailments and ills. Francis’ side of the family tree had adopted the “bad” side of the craft, manipulating and magically forcing others to do their bidding in order to gain power for themselves. Annis is a young girl from the family tree who is just coming into her powers and for whom Francis has nefarious plans. Harriet endeavors to stop this plot and it culminates in a clash between the two witches with Annis as the prize.

This book was a slow burn with not a lot of action to it, and I was fine with that. The information being presented was largely interesting and once we did get the showdown between Harriet and Francis it was really refreshing and exciting. That portion is what kept me up most of the night.

***Spoiler alert:*** From this point on there will be spoilers.

The biggest problems I had with the book are the ending and that this book didn’t know what it wanted to be.

Is it the story of Annis? A girl ahead of her time, bucking the norm, and determined to make her own way with her newfound powers. Is it the story of a 200 year old battle between two sides of a family to ultimately decide if they are bad witches or good witches? Is it a story of the temptations of good and evil and the blurry gray area in between? Unfortunately it could have been all of these things, but ended up being none of them. None of these things are explored in any depth and I was really disappointed by that.

The ending was very plain. James and Annis decide that they didn’t just have feelings for each other because of magic, they actually do love each other and want to get married. How boring. How predictable. And then we are subjected to a very long lecture about how James might seem like a good man, but we should keep his manikin around just in case he decides to start behaving like an ass later. Because he’s a man after all, so you just never know and a woman can’t be too careful. Why can a novel not show us strong women without equaling telling us about how all men are asses? Even ones who aren’t asses but they might decide to be later because….well they’re a man. I am weary of it. It is possible to tell a story about strong, empowered women without demeaning men. I promise it is.

There was also an unintended moral problem in the story. We are told early on that good witches use their powers to help, bad witches use their powers to compel. Bad witches will always succumb to darkness and be lost to a lust for power. But on at least 3 occasions the “good” witches use their magic to persuade people to give them things. A horse, money, and then more money. All for their own benefit. So while those people may not have been harmed, the man was reimbursed for the horse and the money was plentiful and wouldn’t be missed, does that make it okay? What is the difference between magically persuading someone to give you something and just outright forcing them to give you something? Unfortunately, I don’t think the author intended for this issue to be presented and so we never get the answer to that question. In the end, even evil magic can be tucked away in a corner for safekeeping…just in case, and one will still be a good witch.