My Review of Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1) by Rena Barron

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What the f*** was that??

WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT???

Okay, pardon my language but I cannot form any coherent thoughts after reading that…THAT ENDING!!! I cannot digest it, like nope nope nope nope nope!!! My mind is all jumbled and tangled and flailing right now because this book is so so brilliant and amazing and has an ending that’ll make you puff and blow!!! Gosh, why the hell did I delay reading this book for so long???

(Fanarts by Alexis Castellanos)

*incoherent pterodactyl screech*

*fangirl screaming*

*faints*

In 2017, I had seen this book in PitchWars and blown away by the pitch and the 250 words excerpt even back then (it was then titled THE LAST WITCHDOCTOR, which appears in the book too, don’t worry 😉 )

But what sets this book apart, from a lot of fantasy books, is not just its unique West African setting and vivid premises, but also because it establishes throughout the book how gods (called örishas in this world) aren’t the absolute, invincible, and almighty powers; and that legends are often filled with lies and rumors to adjust/serve to the one who narrates the legend. Often in history, we have seen how the topdogs have always controlled the narrative of the events that unfolded, how they are always painted themselves in a positive light while the underdogs are painted as the villains. KINGDOM OF SOULS shows us how we should never accept any legend or narrations of historical event in blind faith, as the only narrative of the event, rather that history is subjective and often biasedly written. This is shown throughout the entire book, something I rarely see shown in books, let alone in fantasy genre.

When I put down the book (eARC more like), I was left (and still is) reeling from a mindblowing ending. The ending will leave you breathless, and checking to see if there are more pages left. Honestly, I love how intertwined the protagonists and the antagonists are in every way possible. How much the lines blur in their actions and thoughts and choices. I love how vast and solidly built this world is. From kingdoms and gods and politics, to slangs and foods and clothes. Even weapons!

(Map artist: Kathryne Moody)

Honestly, I cannot give a more coherently written review than this. I mean, if you’re up for an incoherent fangirl scream and babblings full of spoilers, I’m all up for that. But since this review will also be sent to the publishers, LOL I’ll leave it at this.

Suffice to say, Rena Barron, I’m now dying, writhing, perishing to get my hands on the sequels. Like I am so so wishing to be able to time travel so I can get my hands on those copies before anyone else, LOL.

Thank you, NetGalley and Harper Voyager providing me an eARC of this astonishingly gorgeous book.

Advertisements

My Review of THE WENDY (Tales of the Wendy #1) by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve started this book last night and finished it this morning, so you can see how I’ve devoured it, like gorging and binging on it. I’ve never expected to be pulled in so quickly and deeply into the book, it’s that good.

This is a Peter Pan retelling, set in 1790s England, a time when women aren’t allowed into the army or any “manly” jobs. Here, Wendy Darling is a 17yrs old ambitious girl, who, since childhood, has wished and worked diligently for her dream to join the Navy and be as an officer. But the society will not have any of it.

Before I tell you what this book is, I’ll tell you what it is not.
It is no court intrigue or scheme.
It is no giant “saving the world” venture.
It is not a sharply fast fantasy with huge fantastical worlds in it.

It is a quiet fantasy, about a young girl with no wealth, no prospect, and no ties in the high places to fulfill her ambition, and how she still achieves her dream. Men around her grunt and grumble, and laugh and leer, and mock and muse over her attires and skills and dreams, to the point they even grow hostile toward her and her dog, Nana, on board. This book is a quiet journey of a young girl discovering herself into a world where men do not want to relinquish their positions of dominance over women. A world where magic is viewed as something diabolical and demonic. A world seeped with prejudices against woman and magic.

I love Wendy’s unwavering determination. She does not resort to curses or screams of protest against the sexist men. She rather quips at them with sharp yet calmly uttered words, logic, and retorts. She proves her worth and proves them by dint of her hardly earned skills.

I have two complaints with this book though.

First, there was such a lack of person of color in the book. We only find one person of color throughout the book, a Black African man, previously an enslaved man, who also earned his way to the top. His conversation with Wendy upon first meeting strikes out hard truth and is very endearing. But later he disappears very unceremoniously from 80% of the book, so as a person of color, it’s made me sad and disappointed.

The other thing is how Wendy has to rely on the favor of the men around her to achieve her dream. She does a lot of planning and proving by herself, but despite that, she still relies on the men around her. Firstly on her childhood friend, Charlie, and her mentor, the Olaudah Equiano, the ex enslaved Black man; then on her friends in the navy, John and Michael; on Peter Pan, and on the antagonist, Captain Hook as well. The only other significant female characters we encounter were the motherly Mrs. Medcalf and pouty Tinker Bell; the latter hating Wendy for her beauty. I wish Wendy had more female characters and PoC characters to depend on for help. It would have been so nice to see some female friendships, and seeing them blossom through the book and Wendy’s journey. I hope the next books will give us some female friendship at least.

Overall, I love this book, enough to take a break from my revisions and devour it within a day.

Thank you, NetGalley UK and Trash Dogs Media LLC for providing me with the eARC.

My (Spoiler Filled) Review of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Because the place you are born isn’t necessarily the place you belong.”

Before I write this review, I want you to know this book is very personal to me. It has hit me at a very personal level, a place still raw and sore and tender and sensitive, so sensitive that when I recognized myself in January, I was left stunned and reeling for some time.

No book has ever hit me personally like this.

This book is not an ordinary magical realism book. It is not your typical fantasy book about portals to another world and finding meaningful adventures in your mundane life.

It is about, at the core, family.

All her life, January has considered her white rich foster father as her family. A neglecting and disinterested and aloof father figure. A parent who thinks their kids are silly little kids and so let’s leave them be until we need to uproot those silly little fantasies.

See it, right there?
Uproot.

Mr. Locke, the white man, the white rich man, the white rich powerful man, the one January has considered a parent and loved him accordingly, is the true villain in the book.

And I saw myself in January. Her life being shaped according to her parent’s belief that it was for her best without consulting her first. Her privacy being invaded and ignored because kids cannot have privacy from their parents! Her mind being slowly slowly manipulated and coaxed and shaped so her own desires are abandoned and she becomes a numb, hollow, mewling weakling per her parent’s model.

Sometimes our abusers, our worst and biggest villains, are the ones we love the most.

And this book, January’s tale, shows exactly that.

“Maybe all powerfully men are cowards at heart, because in their hearts they know power is temporary.”

60% through this book I was so so angry and annoyed and exasperated at January. I was on my way to typing up a review declaring her a spineless milquetoast. But if January Scholar is a spineless milquetoast, then so am I. I might not be biracial, but I am a colored person. I might not be racially discriminated in my country, but I have faced white folks owning things over me online. I might not be held up as a bargaining chip by a parental figure, but I have been abused mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. And the ones who did it and still do it are my loved ones and they do/did it most times in good intention (“For your own good!”) and because they truly love me.

As I said before, sometimes our abusers, our worst and biggest villains, are the ones we love the most.

“That was a lie; I was dangerous and he was a coward, and cowards don’t let dangerous things live in their spare bedrooms. Sometimes they don’t let them live at all.”

Another reason why I am so ashamed of my earlier negative opinion of January, my exasperation at her passive and reactive behavior, is because I saw myself in her. She is almost me at the core, and by hating her, back then, I was hating myself, I was hating me all the times I was pushed back and lectured on and told to mind my place and not be so difficult and disobedient. I hated her passivity and reactionary behavior because I hated all the times I was passive and reactive. All the times I wanted to rebel and fight back but I just couldn’t. I hated her because I hated me.

But now I don’t (I hope not!).

Because resistance isn’t always loud or big. Resistance starts small, resistance starts silently, resistance starts first in your heart.

“Well. In this world you cannot be black-skinned and found near a dead white man in uniform.”

And January, being a colored child living off of her wealthy white ward’s “kindness”, shows much more courage and resilience and resistance than I have ever done.

She is a colored biracial girl during the Edwardian era America, a post Civil War America still full of racism and discrimination. She is a girl who has no connection, no special power, no money to fend for herself. And despite having powerful white people hounding after her, in a world where white people are the saviors and the colored ones are either greedy outlaws or helpless damsels, she did damn damn well. She is someone I aspire to be. She shows you don’t have to rebel big, rebel loud, rebel spectacularly. You can rebel in your heart, through small words whispered back at your abuser’s loud clamor and their loaded revolver pointed at you, their white privilege protecting them and not you, and their supernatural power almost dominating your mind. She is one of the strongest character I know now, and I wanna be like her. Like her, I wanna come out of abusive relationships, I wanna come out of them head held high and into loneliness, and I wanna be damn proud of myself.

“There is nothing quite like the anger of someone very powerful who has been thwarted by someone who was supposed to be weak.”

It isn’t easy for an abused person to turn back on their armed and influential abusers like January did. It isn’t easy to come to terms with the ugly truth of the abuser’s once-kind-but-now-hideous face. It isn’t easy to turn down an offer that promises you a life of luxury and comfort and shield from racism, but in exchange for your freedom and free will smothered out.

January did all that.
January faced all that.
January survived all that.

“You don’t really know how high your hopes have gotten until you watch them plummeting earthward.”

Sorry if this isn’t the type of review you expected. Like I said in the beginning, this is a very personal book for me. It hit at a very sore and tender and raw and sensitive place. And so the review came very personal as well. Sorry if I failed to meet your expectations.

But as January has done in the book, I got my own expectations to meet. And this review perfectly summed up what this book has made me feel.

Thank you, Ms. Harrow, for this very special book. Thank you, NetGalley and Orbit Books, for providing me with an eARC for my honest opinion.

CW for the book:

Parental abuse, animal abuse, refugee, violence, mental asylum, ableist language, racism, the N word, anti-blackness, white privilege, blood, gun violence, self-inflicted cuts, racist slurs, mention of human zoo.

My Review of The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

CW:

Body mutilation, self-harm, suicide, murder, death, blood, mention of severed body parts, pedophilia, child marriage, lynching, castration, misogyny, sexism, toxic masculinity, violence, cannibalism, homophobia.

“We may be without powers, but we are nor powerless.”

I’ve never read LORD OF THE FLIES or THE HANDMAID’S TALE. I’ve only seen the former’s 1963 film adaptation, and heard a lot of buzz about the latter’s TV series.

Despite this, learning THE GRACE YEAR is LORD OF THE FLIES meets THE HANDMAID’S TALE, I immediately requested for it on NetGalley. A dystopia that eerily resembles the one from Margaret Atwood’s one is not just a selling tactic from the publisher.

It is 100% true.

This book’s setting and premise gives me shivers. I’ve had my share of bleak dystopian books and let me tell you, none of the ones I’ve read come any closer to make my heart chill than THE GRACE YEAR. And when the middle of the book eerily begins to resemble LORD OF THE FLIES, I just could not stop being haunted by the events that transpired. I haven’t read the classic book but I have seen the 1963 movie and it was one of the scariest movies I’ve ever watched that’s not a horror outright. It can be called a survival horror, yes, but not a horror that requires any supernatural creatures presence. But I guess that’s the thing about true horror. It isn’t smack dab gory and ghost-y. It’s something that preys upon the readers’ minds and haunts them long after the book has finished.

Anyway, the book’s comp titles from above do not lie. This book is a strong contender in their categories. It is a dystopia. It is a survival horror. And the amalgamation of both is bone-chilling, marrow-freezingly scary. I should probably describe to you the setting and premise first to help you understand.

The story is set in the Garner County, an isolated town surrounded by woods and lake on all sides, and thus cut off from the rest of the world, just like it was in the Shyamalan movie, THE VILLAGE. The townfolk are mostly women but the men rule here, as it is in THE HANDMAID’S TALE. The population firmly believes that for a girl, the age 16 is a dangerous age, when they reach the peak of their maiden magic, using which they can lure and trap any man they want. So the male population forces the girls of 16 every year to walk to an encampment in the woods and live the whole year there with other 16yo girls. No going out into the woods, no returning back to the County. But on the eve of their journey into the woods—said to be haunted by ghosts and supernatural creatures—the girls are rounded up like broodmares for sale, and from among them, the eligible bachelors choose a bride of their own to marry when they return from the woods a year later. Those who are not picked are sentenced to work in the fields, mills, markets, etc. The age of the “eligible bachelors” can vary from 16 to any age, aka pedophilia is widely celebrated and practised here.

But…

The woods aren’t only filled with magic and supernatural creatures. They’re also filled with poachers, the bastard sons of the women living on the outskirts, the women banished from the County for breaking any laws not worthy to get lynched or guillotined for. The poachers hunt the girl for their body parts, said to be potent with maiden magic that can keep you young and beautiful, a practice that’s frowned upon but practised in secret anyway. These poachers are more deadly than the forest itself, wearing shrouds and carrying sharp blades and addressing the girls as not “she” but “it”.

“This is the one night a year when the women are allowed to congregate without the men. You’d think it would be our opportunity to talk, share, let it all out. Instead, we stand isolated and petty, sizing each other up, jealous for what the other one has, consumed by hollow desires. And who benefits from all this one-uppery? The men. We outnumber them two to one, and yet here we are, locked in a chapel, waiting for them to decide our fate.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s the real magic trick.”

So begins the journey of the 16yo protagonist, Tierney James, an unruly, tomboyish girl who is best friends with the most eligible bachelor in town. As her grace year—what they call the 16th year of a County girl’s life—nears, she begins to see all is not right, for the men subjugate and treat the women like nothing but pets, playthings, and possessions. To be born as a woman here is a curse, a rotten luck. The only freedom you can hope for is not marriage to the most eligible bachelors but hardworking days in the fields as servants and workers. Women are submissive possessions and the men would love to keep it that way forever.

As she begins her grace year in the woods, Tierney fears losing both her life and her sanity. Which could be worse, ending up dead, or ending up insane? Or ending up banished to the outskirts? Or worse of all, ending up as the wife-slave of a sexist, misogynist, tyrannical man?

The thing that impressed me most is the writing. How Ms. Liggett gets into your head and makes your question everything alongside Tierney herself. The hallucinations and illusions Tierney and the other girls experience in the woods are so so questionable. Tierney isn’t an unreliable narrator. But she cannot rely on her own self, let alone her fellow grace girls, in the woods. Her mind is played, poked, and prodded like the insects of a child’s play. This survival horror is truly terrifying once you realize how one slip can make you fall and fall only to death, if luckily not to a fate worse than death.

The villain of the book is also something I’d like to discuss, for almost every character is a villain, an antagonist who thwarts and blocks Tierney’s chances of survival, even her best male and later her new female best friend. At one point you’ll also realize her own mind is also her antagonist, playing tricks on her mind simply by making her overthink.

Overall, this is a really amazing book and I cannot recommend this more. It’s a standalone, something I’m still struggling to come to terms with, for many things in the book are left open to interpretation. But I am very pleased to come upon a writing so strong that it successfully invades your own mind and makes you feel all that the character feels and suspects.

Thank you, NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK, for providing me with an eARC for my honest review.

Blog Tour: Review for Eclipse the Skies (Ignite the Stars #1) by Maura Milan

⭐⭐⭐⭐

CW for the book:

colonization, concentration camp, war, violence, refugee situation, slavery/mention of slavery, human/alien trafficking, death, sibling abuse, “bury your gay” trope.

OMG at this sequel!!!

I was left breathless and dazed by that ending. It killed me inside, let’s just say.

I loved this book so much (save for a few minor flaws) and OMG I am just sitting here, still dazed and blinking my eyes as my mind tries to distill that ending and the entire damn book!

Where can I even begin?! The story began exactly where it ended, Knives, Ia, and Brinn heading back to the academy. After the death of the headmaster, Knives has to take over and throughout the book, he tries his best to come out of his general celebrity father’s shadows to become his own person. I liked his arc here, but not much compared to what Ms. Milan has planned in store for Ia and Brinn.

Ia, OMG this girl is just so mind blowing. I love love love her in this book even more than I did back in Ignite the Stars. She digs deeper into more of what she is, and OMG I just cannot stop loving her. Her decisions in the end almost had me in tears and I am breathlessly a fan of her.

Brinn… Well, she is vast different from who she was on Ignite the stars. Without any spoilers, let’s just say those of you who loved her in book 1 might not love her, or might love her even more for what she becomes.

The rest of the characters not that significant to me personally. We meet Ia’s old crew, Vetty and others. They were mentioned vaguely in book 1 but book 2 brings them up on flesh. I was also super super curious to meet Einn too.

As for the book in whole, it’s a lot darker and serious and fast fast fast than book 1. It explores lots of themes and serious topics and I think Ms. Milan excels in this. Her portrayal of colonization and refugee situation and everything made me nod in approval. I’m really glad she made the sequel darker and more serious in tone.

Overall, I gave it four stars, cause that ending, oh God, that ending, personally killed me and I cannot still digest it completely (part of me still hopes there’s a secret sequel lmao). Nothing about the book as a whole, just that gut wrenching ending, that’s all.

[Thank you, NetGalley and Albert Whitman for providing me an eARC in exchange for my honest review, thank you, Caffeine Book Tours and Shealea, for hosting the blog tour. My review was completely honest and free of any bias]

Blog Tour Schedule:

Don’t forget to check out the blog tour launch post to not miss any of the important links.

August 26 (Monday)

Blog Tour Launch (from Shut up, Shealea)

•Review from A Logophile’s Love

•Review and favorite quotes from Mashleas Reads

•Review and favorite quotes from thr4sam

•Review from Will Read For Booze

August 27 (Tuesday)

•Review and favorite quotes from The Last Reader

•Review and favorite quotes from Not Just Fiction

•Review and favorite quotes from Sincerely Karen Jo

•Review from Your Tita Kate

August 28 (Wednesday)

•Review and favorite quotes from Books and B

•Review from Lori’s Bookshelf Reads

•Review from Moonlight Rendezvous

•Review, own quote graphics, and own playlist from Your Words My Ink

August 29 (Thursday)

•Review and favorite quotes from A Book Devourer

•Review from Alys in Bookland

•Review, aesthetics/moodboard, own art and own quote graphics from An Arm And A Meg

•Review and own quote graphics from Utopia State of Mind

August 30 (Friday)

•Review, favorite quotes, and own playlist from The Bookworm Daydreamer

•Review and favorite quotes from Bookable Reads

•Review and favorite quotes from Oro Plata Myta

•Review and favorite quotes from Trisha Almighty

August 31 (Saturday)

•Author interview (from Shut up, Shealea)

•Review, favorite quotes and own art from The Bibliophile District

•Review and favorite quotes from bookdragonism

•Review and favorite quotes from Camillea Reads

•Review, own art, and own quote graphics from celuna maria

Giveaway:

Enter this giveaway on Twitter to win a signed hardcover of IGNITE THE STARS or a signed ARC of ECLIPSE THE SKIES to two winners, open for Philippines residents only. So hurry, hurry, it ends on 9/29.

BOOK INFORMATION

Title:

Eclipse the Skies

Author:

Maura Milan

Publisher:

Albert Whitman

Publication date:

03 September 2019

Genres:

Young Adult, Science Fiction

Synopsis:

Ia Cōcha never thought she’d be working for the Olympus Commonwealth. But that was before she found out her trusted brother Einn was trying to tear apart the universe. Now, Ia, the Blood Wolf of the Skies, has agreed to help the Royal Star Force on one condition: when she finds him, she gets to kill Einn herself.

Brinn Tarver has just come to terms with her Tawny identity when the public lashes out against her people, crushing her family. At her breaking point, she starts to question everything she believes in—including Ia.

After the death of his mentor, Knives Adams is doing his best to live up to a role he didn’t ask for as Aphelion’s new headmaster. Still, with each new step deeper into war, he feels torn between his duties and the pull of Ia’s radical—sometimes criminal—ideas.

As they fight to keep darkness from eclipsing the skies, their unpredictable choices launch this breathtaking sequel to explosive new heights.

Book links:

Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Maura Milan currently resides in Los Angeles, where she can be found hanging out in cafes and drinking matcha lattes. In her free time, Maura enjoys watching Korean dramas and hanging out with her schipperke, Thor, who she believes should become a professional comedian.

To this day, Gilbert Blythe is her ultimate boy crush.

Website | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter | Tumblr

My Review of Ignite the Stars (Ignite the Stars #1) by Maura Milan

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m not much of a reader of space opera and space SciFi, but this book blew me off. And I’m lowkey mad at most SciFi fans right now that they’ve been sleeping on such a gem!

I was really intrigued by the Goodreads synopsis before I had signed up for the ECLIPSE THE SKIES blog tour, and that synopsis included two words that sold me off:

Criminal mastermind

*drops the gravel*

I. Am. Sold!!!!

Truly, I live for criminal mastermind type characters, and I hype them to the utmost. And Ia Cōcha (pronounced Eye-yah, the girl literally corrects a cruel warhero in the first chapter before gunning at his troops, how badass is that?!) did not disappoint me.

“I love her” is really underestimating my feelings for this girl.

When Ia Cōcha, the criminal mastermind and devilishly talented pilot, is captured by the Olympus Commonwealth (a space empire equivalent to the British empire), she is sent to, not a prison, but to the Commonwealth’s elite school for pilots, the Royal Star Force Academy. On her first day, Ia arrives in handcuffs and with guards flanking, as well as her heart wrapped and trapped by an advanced device that will give her heart attack from pressing one button if she attempted to escape. From here begins Ia’s journey inside the school and with its teachers, students, and borgs, all of whom hate her guts.

Parallel to her POV we find the school’s youngest teacher, Knives, who is the only one who matches Ia’s wit, grit, and endures all her shit. He resembled a lot to the DIVERGENT series’ main male protagonist, Four, so if you loved Four, you’ll love Knives too.

We also meet Brinn Tarver, Ia’s unfortunate roommate who hides her refugee identity to not be bullied by peers and persecuted by authority. From her viewpoint, we find situations from the Commonwealth’s side.

Overall, this is a dazzlingly brilliant book, which fans of STAR WARS, STAR TREK, THE POPPY WAR, and even DIVERGENT will love. I’ll recommend this book wholeheartedly.

Thank you, NetGalley and Albert Whitman for providing me an eARC in exchange for my honest review. This has not, however, impacted my opinion in any way.

My review of NOT EVEN BONES (Market of Monsters #1) by Rebecca Schaeffer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content warnings for the book:

Body mutilation, cannibalism, body dissection, murder, blood, sadism, fire, gun violence, gore, human trafficking, kidnapping.

OMG this is one of the best books of the year!!

Seriously, this book has not only made me question deeply about grey shades of life and morality, but also about my own book and how poorly I’ve created the stakes in my book. I cannot think of any other book that surpassed this one when it comes to stakes and consequences.

I MEAN, WHAT COULD BE MORE SCARY THAN BEING EATEN ALIVE???

I started this book three days ago and devoured it so quick, it’s so bloody good (pun intended). I mean the book left me reeling and I’m worried I might get book hangover now (considering I’ve got a blog tour coming up this month, this is NOT good!!).

This isn’t your typical YA urban fantasy. This is a really mature, sophisticated, insightful, and thought provoking book. Here, no character is a good person. Every single one of the characters have done questionable things. Nowadays a lot of YA books are addressing this, showing us grey moral characters and I love that! But in NOT EVEN BONES, you’ll find the whole world corrupted and grey. Moral persons are almost nonexistent, and love and trust are temporary and switching abstracts. This is a dog eat dog world and I’m so so amazed by the stakes, the world building, and the way the author explores the deepest darkness inside all of us. You are on your own here. Death is not a bad thing, rather the author shows us how death is better than living this world, where you cannot fully trust anyone but yourself, and always have to watch over your back.

“In movies, whenever the bad guys fell, it was “what they deserved” and “karmic retribution.” The thought had crossed Nita’s mind that she deserved this after everything she’d done in her life. But that wasn’t true. There was no karma; there was no balance. Nita wasn’t making amends for her actions by experiencing this. She was experiencing this because [redacted] had betrayed her. There was nothing deeper.”

Anyway, the story begins when Nita, a teen forensic expert illegally aiding her mom, an unnatural trafficker, in dissecting and selling any unnatural’s body parts to black market. Her life changes when her mom brings home a living person for Nita to dissect while still alive. Plagued by her conscience, Nita sets the guy free, and faces consequences that puts her on the dissecting table this time. To survive this ordeal, she must set aside her conscience and dissect her own morals to find out what she must do to survive.

I love Nita. Gosh, she is such a breath of fresh air! This year has brought me so many YA heroines who are giving me both joy and sides to side with. Nita is practical, intelligent, cruel in a morbidly funny way, sentimental only when she needs to be, and above all, an excellent survivor. She survives everything life throws at her, and comes up stronger, if not more vengeful and cruel, than before. All her opponents foolishly underestimate her and thus fail to see her for what she truly becomes. I feel like Taylor Swift’s LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO will fit her quite well.

“Or maybe fear was like tears. Once you cried too much, it was hard to cry more. So if you were permanently scared, you just became numb to it.”

Kovit is another grey moral character, and he’s a zannie, the kind of unnatural who greedily consumes other people’s physical pain without consulting with their conscience. His dark and dry humor and sarcasm make him a character not much found in urban fantasy, at least not on sides the book wants you to side with. His way with a switchblade and his sadistic natures make good for a supporting character in this kind of story and world.

Mirella, an unnatural in whom Nita finds friendship, albeit brief and ever changing, as well as an ally. Though she appears comparatively briefly in the book, her character is very important.

The villains, in this book about villains, are truly creepy creepsters and utterly gross. Their cannibalism is just skin crawling and stomach churningly disgusting.

The world building is truly amazing. It is not in USA or Europe, so again a breath of fresh air. You’ll find yourself in all the exotic yet deadly places of South America, and be both mesmerized, terrorized, and revolted by their beauty and lethality. And here, everyone is cruel and capable of doing anything to survive, regardless of your background. Here, there is no right or wrong. There is just survival, and in NOT EVEN BONES, you’ll find a marketplace as fittingly dangerous as the arena of THE HUNGER GAMES, if not more, to survive and leave behind.

That brings me to the stakes in the story. My God, the stakes! The stakes!! The bloody stakes!!! They rise with every pages, heck, every lines and words, and not once can you bat your eyes before something changes the course of the story, or sigh in relief before something upends all the progress on the protagonists’ tide. The author is a master in rising the stakes and I’m just in awe of her abilities. This is a skill not everyone can master and I feel like I’m gonna be so stressed reading the sequels after this.

OMG the sequels! The end was so, so gut punching you’re not gonna be ready for it. At. All! Trust me, this is coming from someone who does not easily get sucker-punched and gobsmacked by books and their endings.

Read this book, I guarantee you, it will not disappoint you. You’ll feel repulsed by some of the things in this book, so better be going in with an empty stomach and all moral judgments set aside. If you can’t enjoy the gory, cruel sadism in this book, you won’t enjoy it as a whole.

My Review of The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the most quintessential Jewish fantasy book I’ve ever come across. If you loved and adored SPINNING SILVER, this book is much more seeped with Jewish folklores, myths, and beliefs. If you loved WINTERSONG for its retelling of Christina Rossetti’s THE GOBLIN MARKET, you’ll love how much more faithful than WINTERSONG this book remains to the original poem. If you loved the rural settings and the supernatural creatures of THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE, you’ll love this book for the same fantastical and rustic feel. If you love to read both prosaic and poetic novels, this is for you.

Finally, if you love historical fantasy tailored by real life events, this is the one for you. The author has explained in details in her note at the end, how the setting in the book is real, as well as its cruel history against the Jewish population there.

Like I said, it is one of the best Jewish fantasy I’ve ever read.

The story is about two sisters, Liba and Laya Lieb, who lives in the town of Dubossary, with their parents, Tati and Mami. With a family secret that could compel their own Jewish community to oust them, they live at the outskirts of the town, adjacent to the ancient and mysterious Kodari woods. The sisters’ lives change when one night, their father receives the news of his own father’s dying health. Leaving Laya and Liba in Dubossary, the couple sets out to meet the dying Jewish elderly for one last time. Soon, Laya and Liba face several enigmatic characters who enter their town and slowly upend their lives.

What made me love this book and set it apart are many things.

Firstly, how quintessentially Jewish the book is. Everything about this book, from the main protagonist, Liba’s everyday diction and vocabulary to her beliefs and worldviews to her life decisions. Her faith, her religion dictates everything. And not in a negative way, oh no. We often think a person who is deeply devout and pious are narrow minded and backdated. But here, her faith is her strength, her shield, her weapon. Liba’s faith does not corrode or corrupt her mind. Rather it uplifts her spirit and supports her during the most trying times in the climactic scene. I’m truly in awe of her. Even in the face of supernatural adversaries that could end her life easily, she stands her ground and holds on to her faith, as her faith supplies her with endless support and encouragements. She is the devoted and devout older daughter, and her character is truly stereotype-breaking. She is a character, a person who deserves a standing ovation with thunderous applause at her bravery, resilience, and utter devotion to her family.

On the other hand, I tried and tried but could not relate to Laya. Her point of view chapters are in poetic prose, unlike Liba’s ones. She, at first, felt lost and lonely. But soon she starts to act all bratty and spoiled and vain and rude. I get it, she is a teenager who feels like an outsider among people who are always considered as outsiders by others. But her choices are always wrong and to the point of ridiculousness and ludicrous. Her decisions often land both her and Liba in trouble. Honestly, I just couldn’t stand her after 60% of the book. She shows real ingratitude toward Liba.

The rest of the characters are good. I loved Dovid, he makes a very cute and adorable love interest for Liba. His family is also amazing, especially his mother, who reminds me dearly of Molly Weasley. Mami and Tati are mostly absent from the book, except for the beginning and the ending. The antagonists felt a bit underdeveloped and one dimensional, the archetypal goblins who aren’t charismatic and charming like Der Erlkönig from WINTERSONG.

But above it all, I loved loved loved how Jewish this whole book is. It not only included and showed us Jewish lifestyle and traditions and customs. It also showed us their pain and traumas and deeply buried sufferings they’re often subjected to. The Jewish people have always been through sufferings and tragedies. Their history is a painful and bloody one. Through allegorical and metaphorical contexts, the author shows us how much they had to endure and survive all over the world.

“It is not safe for Jews anywhere.”

Throughout history, the Jewish folks have either been villainized (mostly the Jewish men are, e.g. Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, or Barabas in THE JEW OF MALTA), or fetishized (mostly the Jewish women are, e.g. Biblical character, Salome, or Rebecca from IVANHOE). They are caricatured and convicted, fetishized and villainized, and never perceived as just another human being. This book shows what it means to be a Jewish person, what it means to be othered and scrutinized, blamed and punished for every single wrong things happening to the society, even though most times the Jewish folks were blameless and innocent.

But the author just stops here. She also shows glimpses of hope, in the climactic scene where the Jewish folks stand up for themselves. The climax shows us this through the following wonderful line:

“I feel as if I’ve seen into their souls and I know—and I know that they know—that we will survive, because being a Jew is worth fighting for.”

So pick up this book. It doesn’t contain many blockbuster action packed scenes and unique settings. But it does show you what it means for a Jewish person to be Jewish in a world that is mostly antisemitic, a world that does not want to accept them but for selfish gains, and blame them for all the bad happenings in the society. This book shows the pains they go through, and how they still harbor and harvest hope in their hearts.

“The one thing we Jews know how to do best is survive.”

Yes, they’re survivors, and survivors are a thousand times stronger than any warrior or fighters out there.

Blog Tour: Review, aesthetics/moodboard, excerpt and favorite quotes from WAR OF MIST (The Oremere Chronicles #3) by Helen Scheuerer

⭐⭐⭐⭐

FINALLY!!

I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THIS SERIES!! 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩

I was so eager to get my hand on WAR OF MIST after finishing REIGN OF MIST, I couldn’t wait for long after finishing the latter one.

And WAR OF MIST is soooooo good!!

The prologue! OMG, the prologue is so so good!! I love it so much!! (You’ll find an excerpt of the prologue down below 😉😉) Ms. Scheuerer has taken the story to a whole new action-packed, tension-filled level, full of continuously rising stakes and gut-wrenching plot twists. I love the way we explore the continents back and forth, and find new adventures and adversaries to face. This is a fast paced book, especially from the 40% mark. Before that, the author swiftly and deftly places all the foreshadowing and hints that later come back to bite you in the ass.

The story starts where it has left off last in REIGN OF MIST. As you can read from the title of the book, the main attraction and attention of the story is the brewing war between our heroes and their villains. Told from the four original protagonist POV (Bleak, Henri, Dash, and Swinton), we find our characters finding each other and ganging up to face and fight the ultimate evil, the false queen of Oremere. I love how the author parallels Henri with Eydis, while Swinton with Arden in case of character arcs. You’ll find out soon 😉😉

I really love how little romance this series focuses on. I don’t mean to belittle any fantasy books heavy with romance, I love romance, but in Bleak I’ve never found any wishes or cravings for romance in life; and Ms. Scheuerer also does not force it upon her. Bleak flourishes even more than before, her powers growing as well as her assertiveness and confidence. Similar to Bleak, we find meek and humble Dash rising in his abilities and confidence, and becoming the knight in shining armor he always longs to become. Swinton also redeems from his initial morally grey character, his actions and decisions gearing toward helping his kind, the people rallying against the false queen. And lastly, in Henri, we find so much development, I’m squealing in joy. She becomes this empathetic, kind, and understanding queen who slowly begins to soften and flex her kindness toward others. I love her, I love her, I love her!!

The supporting cast is also superb. Olena, Fiore, Luka, Athene, Eydis, Nazuri, Allehra, Sahara, Casimir, and Ermias. They all group together to form a coherent and cohesive cast of supporting characters, who do not blur into the background, rather help and support our heroes rise to their moments of glory and also be glorified equally.

Though this book fills almost every expectations I have from it, it also has let me down in two prospects.

Firstly, one of its biggest weaknesses of this entire series is the lack of development in the villain characters. Though through providing us ample back story for the main antagonist, it offers no such back story or motivations for the minor villains. It kind of sucks, cause if their motivations have been explained even in one sentence, it would be enough. Villains without motivation that drives them to their goals so vehemently is just one dimensional. There are several minor antagonists among the group of heroes (antagonist, NOT VILLAIN as in working 100% against the protagonist), who oppose the protagonists in their goals in minor ways. I’d love more than anything to know what drive them to do those things.

Another thing that irks me is a problematic trope in the climactic scene. While I cannot describe it for fears of spoilers, I will say it is a quite harmful trope that can hurt some people. I wish it wasn’t in the scene, but I want to acknowledge its existence to warn the readers.

But overall, this is a stunning and epic ending to an equally epic series. I love every moment of it and I’ll sorely miss Bleak and gang. Do pick up this book. You’ll love the world, and its people wholeheartedly.

Check out the stunning excerpt below:

Excerpt:

The king’s suite was dark but for a beam of pale moonlight streaming through the window. King Arden lay in the canopied bed, pale-gold beard tipped to the ceiling as he snored softly. Ines gazed at him with distaste from where she stood naked by the glass. He had cost her much in recent months. The fool had failed to detain Henrietta Valia and Alarise Thornton. He’d let the prizes slip right through his manicured fingers, too concerned with boasting of his minor victories to see what was happening beneath his own nose. The woman shook her head and turned to look out onto the dark castle grounds.‘If you want something done right, do it yourself,’ she muttered under her breath. Her fingers toyed with the layered necklace resting against her collarbone, a pretty gift from the infatuated king. She was fond of this piece in particular, adorned with rare jewels from lands long forgotten. It reminded her of something her mother had worn so many years before. A piece she was meant to inherit, before they’d taken her and stripped her of all her rights and belongings. The order of the high priestesses allowed no effects, no personal property, but now … now she had many things to call her own.Below, the castle maze sprawled across the grounds, and beyond the walls and gatehouse, the whole of Ellest bent to her will. It was all hers. She had taken it easily, as was her destiny. The instinct of the magic in her veins drove her to take and take, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to add to her kingdom, her collection. The need to do so raged within her, a demand, a drive to fill the gaping hole in her chest.Then, there were those who threatened to take away all she held dear now. Tonight, along with all the other nights, the thought of them, and what they were searching for, kept her from sleep. She had begun her own search for the item they planned to use against her. The maze, the armoury, the jewel vault had all proved fruitless, but earlier in the week, she’d had a breakthrough. The old library. She had felt its presence. Demanding solitude, she had locked herself away and combed through every volume the damn room held. Nothing. But she knew it was in there. And she would find it. Rheyah help the realm when she did.

Giveaway

Win Audiobook copies of WAR OF MIST and REIGN OF MIST, one winner takes it all.

Open international.

Enter here.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Don’t forget to check out the blog tour launch post to not miss any of the important links.

July 15 (Monday)

July 16 (Tuesday)

July 17 (Wednesday)

July 18 (Thursday)

July 19 (Friday)

July 20 (Saturday)

July 31 (Wednesday)

  • Review and aesthetics/moodboard from Holed Up In A Book
  • Review, creative feature post, creative photos, excerpt, favorite quotes, and own art from Pretty Little Bibliophile

August 01 (Thursday)

  • Review from Book Hooked Nook
  • Review and excerpt from Bookish Wisps

August 02 (Friday)

  • Review, excerpt, own art and own quote graphics from The Night Faerie
  • Review, aesthetics/moodboard, excerpt and own quote graphics from Reading in the Clouds
  • Review, aesthetics/moodboard, creative feature post and creative photos from Your Tita Kate

Also on August 3 is the blog tour Twitter chat, totally spoiler free, and anyone is welcome to participate. Hosted by @CaffeineTours, the #CBTTC Twitter chat will start from 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST)/9:00 PM Philippine Time. Don’t miss it, friends 😉😉

Author Bio:

After writing literary fiction for a number of years, Helen Scheuerer was inspired to return to her childhood love of fantasy thanks to novels like Throne of Glass, The Queen’s Poisoner, and The Queen of the Tearling.

Helen is also the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online learning platform for emerging writers. In its first year, Writer’s Edit reached thousands of new authors, and soon became its own small press, with Helen overseeing the production and publication of three creative writing anthologies. It’s now one of the largest writing websites in the world.

Helen now lives by the mountains of New Zealand and writes full time. She has many more books planned for the future.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

My Review of Reign of Mist (The Oremere Chronicles #2) by Helen Scheuerer

⭐⭐⭐🌠

CW:
Blood, minor-adult par romantic relationship/courtship, physical abuse, intimate scene, dehumanizing perception toward sex workers

(Review copy received for my honest opinion. This, however, has not impacted my review in any way.)

(If you haven’t read the first book, HEART OF MIST, either refrain from reading this review, or proceed at your own risk)

Finally!! I finished REIGN OF MIST!! I was so excited to pick up this book after the map of the realm at the beginning revealed the secret continent of Oremere for the first time. It got me so so excited, and a lot of my excitement and enthusiasm were rightly paid off.

In the HEART OF MIST, we explored the continent of Ellest and its matriarchal kingdom of Valia. In REIGN OF MIST, Scheuerer takes us to the rest of the realm; Bleak in the misty and mysterious continent of Oremere; Henri to the continent of ice and snow, Havennesse; Swinton in the desert and firestorm continent of Battalon, and finally Dash half in Ellest and half in sea journey. We also explore the doomed prison island of Moredon Tower. I’m so excited to start WAR OF MIST after this, hoping we get to see more of the continents plus the smallest continent in the realm, Quatrola, still unexplored.

Anyway, the story picks up exactly from the places it ended in the last book. Bleak starts off in Oremere, looking for answers regarding her past and everything that is going on around her. She is rescued by Sahara, Henri’s sister, who turns out to be alive and well. Bleak, through the Valian, soon joins an underground rebel organization, who are tirelessly working against the evil self-proclaimed Queen Ines. I loved Bleak more here. She is confident, assertive, and no more a passive, reactive character.

“How well could you ever know someone? And if you could know someone well, did they ever change?”

Swinton starts his journey through navigating the tricky and foreign country and court of Battalon, again torn between loyalty to his master, King Arden, and loyalty to his people, his kind, and his best friend, Fiore. IMO, Swinton is written much better and clearly than before, and we get to know more about the grey moral commander who plays both a desperate father and a overly loyal soldier.

Henri is given more POV than the last book. In fact, all characters were given more space and chapters here, though Bleak dominates and I crave to see more of her POV (sorry!). Anyway, Henri comes to seek out Queen Eydis of Havennesse and her help in fighting back King Arden and Queen Ines. Diametrically opposite to Henri’s serious and take-no-shit personality, Queen Eydis is a breath of fresh air, who is simultaneously an eligible and capable leader, a caring lover, a funny and friendly ally, and a strict and stern enemy if you cross her. I love how much she changes Henri, making her laugh and smile and relax despite being in grave situations.

Lastly, Dash! Oh this boy goes through so so much in this book, my heart breaks for him. He spends half the book in Ellest, lost and lonely and confused but committed. I love being in his POV that shows us the bleak and grave situations in Ellest, taking us back to the original setting to show us how things are going back home for our protagonists who are busy in the other continents. Dash goes through enough for one child’s lifetime. I hope to see him more assertive and confident in WAR OF MIST.

As for the rest of the cast, I loved the newest additions. Rion, Bleak’s teersh panther reminds me of Nailah, Zélie Adebola’s lionaire. His unquestioning loyalty is so adorable!!

Sahara is so much opposite to Henri and yet they share so much similarities that are not just physical. She supports and helps Bleak like a true mentor, and I love her for it.

Fiore I love more than before. He goes through so much and is put through so much because of cowardly and selfish Swinton.

The rebels are mostly lost in the background after the initial introduction, sadly. The mysterious character of The Tailor is a bit too on-the-nose enigmatic. I liked Casimir but he felt too lost and confused and passive as a character. Princess Olena is amazing and I love love love her tart replies and quips toward Swinton, shutting him up effectively. She is very sharp-tongued and outspoken ❤❤❤

The pace of this book is too fast. One moment you’re in Havennesse/Oremere and the next you’re sailing through a stormy sea. The pace is a fast for my taste, and compared to the first book. I wish it could’ve been a bit more relaxing but judging by the plot situations, I think maybe it was the right pace? Who knows!

My main complain about this series, so far, is the continuous negligence toward character development of the villains. In HEART OF MIST, we saw almost zero development in King Arden, like he was such a cardboard cutout villain, one dimensional whose motivation for being power hungry is unknown and not explored. I get it, that because he was an absentee villain most of the first book, he couldn’t gain any character development. But the same happened here with Queen Ines, and one of her main lackeys, Langdon. We meet Queen Ines only a handful of times and even then there were ample opportunities to establish her as a solid villain. She is also talked and thought about often by the protagonists, but not once we find the motivation and back story for her conquering-the-world goal. She is simply the Disney villain who wanna stand in your protagonist’s path to hinder their journey AND conquer the world for no reason. Like I did not find her motivation behind taking over the world. Do you have any idea how hard it is to rule just one kingdom, let alone five continents? Why the drive to kill off or exploit the magical Ashai race, her own kin? (She sounds like a neutral evil with no motivation.) What made Ines crave for so much power? Simply greed? Nah, it’s hard to believe that. I wish she were more like The Darkling and others, but she felt too one dimensional. Rather she reminded me of the King of Hybern from the ACOTAR series, and her two commanders, Langdon and Farlah reminded me of the twin sibling commanders of the King of Hybern; Dagdan and Brannagh. They also resembled Alecto and Amycus Carrow, Voldemort’s henchmen who were also siblings.

Langdon was also left unfinished and underdeveloped. I really hoped he would at least show some signs of development but nope.

Another thing I didn’t like is how sex workers are demeaned, devalued, and dehumanized here. Like in most fantasy books, they’re merely a plot device for setting development, and/or used as a decoy for the protagonists to use to throw dust in the bad guy’s eyes. This is a bit too disappointing, given that sex workers are still dehumanized, belittled, and treated like trash in real world too.

Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars. It could’ve been better than the last book, or just good, but ultimately it bit off too much than it could chew.