Tag Archives: 4.5/5

How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima
Published in 2011 by Voyager.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But danger isn’t far behind, and Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. Meanwhile, Princess Raisa

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’ Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells to the safety of Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

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This is the review for the second book in the Seven Realms series. My review of the first book, The Demon King, is here. Go read it if you’re new to this wonderful series because this review here will contain some spoilers for book one!

People, I have no excuse for waiting as long as I do between reading sequels in a series. Yet I always seem to wait and wait and then I forget half of what was happening in the previous book. So it took me a while to get into The Exiled Queen (this edition also came without a map, so I was a bit confused about the geography, as there’s a lot of travelling at the beginning of the book), but when I did, it was one wild ride.

Raisa is the princess heir of her queendom (How cool is it that there’s a queendom? I’ve tried to translate that into Slovenian and it just doesn’t work! “Queen” is “kraljica” while “king” is “kralj” and “kingdom” is “kraljestvo”, so it’s weird because “kraljica” is a derivative from “kralj”… Anyway, you didn’t come here for a language lesson.) and is currently on the run because the High Wizard tried to marry her off to his son (also a wizard), which is forbidden by law. She’s being escorted to the military school by one amazing Amon, her personal guard – ohh, their story was the best! Raisa is bent on studying hard to become the best possible ruler to her people, which I found admirable. She knows she’s not equipped to rule a nation if she’s seventeen and knows very little about the world. I liked that aspect a lot.

Han is a wizard! Yeah. That happened. So he’s on the way to school to study magic, only he’s indebted to the clans that paid his tuition and he keeps forming alliances (against his will) that stretch him in too many ways. And now a girl he met at home (hint: our lovely royal) is attending the same school, the other wizards hate his guts, and the clans are breathing down his neck. Lots of tension! (Also: excuse me, this review is completely incoherent.)

I’ll always be a sucker for stories that happen at schools for magic. Or any other type of school, really, as long as there are loads of people stuffed into a limited space and emotions run high and there’s kissing involved. *happy sigh* We also meet some students from other kingdoms, which brings some diversity into the story, but I do wish these characters had more prominent roles.

A note on the kissing: I really liked that Raisa kisses more than one boy/young man in the course of this series. I could dislike her because she’s one of those young women boys seem to go crazy about while she insists she’s nothing special, but I liked the matter-of-fact approach Chima has to youthful relationships: of course you’re going to kiss more than one boy before deciding one of them is your true love. In any case, there’s no judgment involved on this, which is refreshing.

I loved the secondary characters in this story, especially Amon and Dancer (Han’s best friend). They are both loyal to the bone and help their friends even when said friends are bent on doing stupid things. The antagonists (especially the Bayar family) are well-written, too. I hope we’ll see more of their stories in the future. The political intrigue is growing more complicated, so I really need to read the third book before I forget everything that happened in this one.

Seven Realms continues to impress and is one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve read in recent years. I can’t wait to see what will happen to Han, Raisa, and their crews in The Gray Wolf Throne!

zmaj-levo

Have you read The Exiled Queen yet? What did you think?

Do you prefer to wait until a series is finished before you start reading it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published in October 2016 by Thomas Dunne.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Thomas Dunne for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA magical realism.

My rating:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

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When the Moon Was Ours is Anna-Marie’s second novel – I also reviewed her debut, The Weight of Feathers, which I enjoyed a lot. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be reading whatever she writes next because frankly, her writing is beautiful.

When the Moon Was Ours is a book that made me think. It stayed with me for weeks after I’d finished it and it got me to consider questions and topics I’ve never really thought about before, so even if everything else was shit, I’d cherish it for that alone.

Of course, everything else wasn’t shit – I really liked her style. I guess it might be too flowery and full of comparisons for some people, but I mentioned liking Anna-Marie’s writing in my review of The Weight of Feathers already. The fact that she writes magical realism, where the main character, Miel, has roses growing from her wrist, combines perfectly with the unusual metaphors and an almost too-rich language. Her writing is what I imagine synesthesia to be like: a burst of colours, sounds, and flavours.

I loved the characters as well. They were wonderfully diverse and while the outlandish elements of the genre might have made them seem weird (there are four sisters, for example, who basically function as one four-bodied organism – it’s strange), they are surprisingly relatable.

Miel, who lives with her relative Aracely, is an orphan with some bad, repressed memories. She came to live in the town after she was found in the old abandoned water tower (I know, it sounds weird) and her wrist-roses change colour depending on her mood. Super cool.

Sam, the other half of the main couple, is a transgender boy. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with transgender characters before and I really have no way of judging if the representation is accurate – but I think it might be. Very much so, in fact, because the author’s husband is a transgender man and it seems like this topic is incredibly personal to her. The book deals with the topic in this gentle way, but it’s pretty damn eye-opening, too.

All things considered, When the Moon Was Ours is a strong story with important issues and loveable characters. It’s a standalone, which is another plus, and I think it’s well worth reading.

srcek

Have you read When the Moon Was Ours? What did you think?

Do you have any magical realism recommendations for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Published on October 11, 2016 by Amulet Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Amulet Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical urban fantasy.

My rating:

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

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Iron Cast was one of those impulse requests on NetGalley that usually turn out to be horrible – but I am very, very glad I let myself be pulled in by this gorgeous cover.

This is the story of two best friends, Corrine and Ada. I’ve recently talked about friends and cited this novel as a good example of a bookish friendship – and I stand by this. These two young women are an unlikely pair but I think their relationship is what made the book for me. I loved their loyalty, their willingness to sacrifice their own safety for the other, their acceptance of the other’s flaws (but not blind acceptance, mind you). This is what true friendship is about and I loved how Soria portrayed them.

As characters, Corrine and Ada are very interesting. They are both hemopaths – their “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to manipulate people’s emotions and create illusions through words and music – but their gifts are very different. Corrine, a daughter of an important and wealthy family, is headstrong, impulsive, and often too brash; Ada, a girl shunned not just for her ability but for her dark skin, is calm, thoughtful, and steadfast. I liked the contrast between their personalities, I think they worked very well together.

The supporting characters were well-fleshed out, too – I enjoyed their stories and the fact that I never knew who to trust, who to like. I’m not entirely sure whether this is meant to be the first part of a series but the story, while featuring a perfectly good ending, definitely made me wish for more. I hope Soria will continue Corrine and Ada’s story.

loved the world and the worldbuilding. The pre-Prohibition era isn’t a historical period I know well – it certainly isn’t very common in literature, at least I haven’t read a lot of books in set in that time period (I can only think of The Great Gatsby, which I hated). It wasn’t just about the dresses and the illegal clubs, though, Soria did her homework well and created a rich environment where the glitzy high society meets the underbelly of the city. The asylum brings a note of horror to the story (but not too much, it was fine for me and I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror).

The magical system was very interesting as well – art as magic is a fantastic idea, especially since we have different types of hemopaths that use words, music, painting for their illusions and manipulations. The ethical implications of such abilities were very intriguing, too, and I liked that Soria took the time to explore them.

All in all, this is a really good novel. As far as I can tell, this is Soria’s debut – and you can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for her next novel, whether it’s a sequel to this one or something else entirely.

srcek

Have you read Iron Cast? What did you think?

Do you have any recs for books set in the same time period?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Published in 2015 by NAL.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you NAL for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA historical fantasy.

My rating:

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

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Well! This one was a nice surprise! You can never be sure what you’ll get when you start a new series – even though Ink and Bone got some highly favourable reviews from blogs I follow – so I was very happy that it turned out so well.

Ink and Bone is an imaginative historical fantasy set in a world where the Library (of Alexandria) rules in the sense that it controls all knowledge and learning. The idea of a world where books aren’t readily available gives every bookworm the creeps, I’d bet, but this was done really well – the knowledge is there, just distributed and parcelled out according to who you are. The world is really complex – and I liked the addition of steampunk elements like the scary automatons the Library employs to protect its books and premises.

The story follows Jess, the son of a London book smuggler, who is on his way to become a scholar at the Library. His training is to be completed in Alexandria, where he meets other hopeful young people. I love every kind of school story involving magic (hello, Harry Potter), so I was excited, at first, when I figured out where Jess would be going, and disappointed when his training didn’t involve much magic at all.

But the complex relationships between the students, their mentor, and the political intrigues soon overshadowed any disappointment I might have felt. The writing itself (or maybe the pacing?) might have been somewhat stilted in the first third of the book but the story picked up when I came to the halfway mark – and I read the last 40% of the book in one sitting, which is unusual for me these days.

As more and more dirty workings inside the Library were uncovered, I was pulled into the story and found myself rooting for Jess and his friends. The fact that the seemingly pointless academic tests they had been subjected to in Alexandria were replaced by some very real field experience didn’t hurt the pacing, either. I loved the fact that Jess and his fellow characters were complex and not at all morally white – I never like perfect characters and Caine wrote some really great gray souls.

Overall, I’m very excited to get to Paper and Fire, which has been published in July this year. I haven’t read any of Caine’s books previously, though she seems to have published quite a few (including some vampire UF!). I’ll have to check those out as well.

zmaj-levo

Have you read Ink and Bone? What did you think?

Can you imagine a society where owning original books is punishable by death? O_o

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Published in 2014 by Tor Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: high fantasy.

My rating:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

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I’ve had The Goblin Emperor on my to-be-read list for a while now and I finally decided to give it a go, partly because I included it on my Summer TBR list and I like crossing things off lists. It makes me very, very happy that it is a standalone novel and that reading it doesn’t mean I’m in for six more 500-page books. (I’m slightly disillusioned by series these days, *sigh*.)

I usually start with the good things in a book because it’s just more optimistic, but here I’ll go with the bad first because the good definitely wins (which I totally mistyped weens right now) over the bad. So. The bad things.

I pity the poor audiobook narrator. Look, I know it’s a fantasy world so the author has the right to do anything she wants, but the names (both character and place names) were so hard to keep track of. I have to say that my paperback version included a pronunciation guide and a list of weird expressions at the end, but I didn’t find it until I had already finished the book because I have this irrational fear of paging through to the end of the book (*whispers* I hate spoilers). So I never check if there’s a guide like that at the end.

It’s not just that the names were difficult to pronounce – each character is called about four different names, depending on the social situation, their place in a family, function at court, and also gender. It was very confusing but I kind of got used to it by the end.

The other thing that I have to say is that if you dislike courtly/political intrigue, this might not be the book for you. It took me a while to really get into the story because all the relations were so bewildering and convoluted, but then that’s exactly the point: Maia, the main character, is thrown into this horrible situation where he’s expected to run a nation with zero experience. So the confusion I felt was probably nothing compared to what he felt at being thrust into this role.

And that’s it. Everything else was really, really well done. You can see that these two points didn’t bother me all that much – I only removed half a heart/star. :)

The main reason I loved this book so much is Maia. He is the best leading character I have read in a long time. He is such a good guy! I can only compare him to Julius, who is also adorable. Maia is just so inherently good despite the unhappy childhood he’s had, he is trusting and smart – and I wasn’t even bothered by his occasional naïveté, because it definitely made sense for a country-bred half-goblin to be naïve sometimes. His self-doubt was heartbreaking at times, especially because I just felt how he must have suffered as a kid to have gained such a poor opinion of himself.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters. There are a lot of them and while Maia was hated by some for the simple fact that he became emperor, he really insipired loyalty in others. The secondary characters were well written and fleshed-out, so I liked them despite having trouble with their names.

The pace of the story really picks up in the second half of the book. The first half encompasses the events of a week or so – the death of Maia’s father and his older half-brothers, Maia’s arrival at court, coronation, etc – so it’s very detailed and there’s a lot of world-building and explaining (though I never felt bored, there aren’t any massive info dumps if that’s what you’re worried about). But the schemes and plots really come into play in the second part of the book, so I got sucked into the story. I read the last 150 pages in a single evening, unable to put the book down.

I think this is one of those books that benefits from being read in a short amount of time, instead of being stretched over several weeks, for example. I think it would be even harder to keep track of all the names and relationships. So I’m glad I took the time to read it in a relatively short period of time, I think it made me like it even better! I’ll definitely be looking out for Addison’s next book (I know she writes under another name as well, so I might even check those out).

zmaj-levo

Have you read The Goblin Emperor? What did you think?

Do you like courtly intrigue or do you prefer quest-oriented fantasy?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.