The Black Witch

25740412The Black Witch by Laurie Frost

5 Stars

“Real education doesn’t make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.” 

Okay, so here’s the deal. There are a plethora of long reviews (both bad & good) going over this book. So, I have decided to make this as to the point as possible. Before I start, let me just say one thing. I am incredibly glad that I read the book instead of heeding the reviews imploring people to stop supporting the writer & publisher.

The Story-Elloren Gardner comes a family that is descendant of a famous mage that essentially lead a revolution against the races that were controlling and killing their kind. She is now at the age where she can either be wandfasted (married) or go off to university. Her uncle is steadfast in having her wait to be wandfasted and has her go to university. Throughout the book she has to deal with the pleasures and ramifications of her genial history. The major conflict she must deal with is the prejudice that has been ingrained into her society against every other race.

The World BuildingLaurie Forest did an amazing with the world building. She has taken quite a few of paranormal creatures and molded them into a new world rich with history, violence, and hatred. From elves, werewolves, mages, to some adapted creatures such as Kelts, Urisk, etc. I found it incredibly fascinating to find so many types of races and being who I am, I took a great interest in trying to find out where some origins came from. I question things like are the Kelts supposed to be Celtic? The Elves have several races within the race, such as a Smaragdalfar, a green scaled elf, is that rooted from smaragdnine which basically means emerald in color? Are Icarals rooted from the winged God Icarus? Forest did such a wonderful job integrating all these races and creating history for each of them. She really made it plausible as to why the Gardnerians are SO racist. From the history they are taught, to religious aspects, to even their toys, they are raised to hate everyone and put themselves on pedestals. The fact the Elloren changes at all is a miracle since every other race is pretty much super awful to her. Why would she want to be more accepting of them? 

The Characters-This is the one place that I felt the book lacked, but it wasn’t enough to dock even a half star for me. I mean, I adored Elloren for the most part, but really, is Lukas Grey really worth all the torment she’s getting? I was really proud of reading her transform her opinions, even if it does take almost the entire book for her to drop most of her prejudices. But honestly, she’s 18 years old and her environment is not exactly promoting the change, so lets give her the benefit of the doubt and appreciate the fact that she even does get past how she was raised. Also, could Fallon Bane be any more of Regina George?

I mean I was really expected a little bit more than teen drama when it came to boys…

Anyway, I loved the book, and I can’t wait to read the next installment and see what other secrets we can discover about the world.

-Scrill

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I Believe in a Thing Called Love

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

4 stars


“I had always assumed that when relationships went bad, that was the end. But the entire premise of K dramas was that they always ended happily. And that if you looked closely, there was a formula for making a guy fall in love with you.” 

I believe in a thing called love is about Desi, a go-get-it kind of girl who is good at everything she tries except boys. In fact, she is so bad when interacting with boys that she likes that her best friends call her flirting, flailure. In an attempt to snag the guy that she likes, she decides she needs a step by step plan that she can follow. Her inspiration, Korean dramas. The ultimate romantic drama from her very own culture.

Guys, when I first saw there was a book about a girl who uses k dramas as a plan to land the guy she has a crush on, my reaction was something like this:

I was going to give this book 3 stars, but you know what? This book nails the whole K drama thing. There is seriously a huge culture to just the clichés of K dramas and I think it did pretty well. Although, I am not sure if anyone who has never seen a k drama would quite understand the hype, much like Desi is in the beginning of the book. I LOVE k dramas. They are fantastic, and incredibly addictive (as seen in this book). As we first get to read firsthand how Desi is around boys, I was then all for the idea of doing a k drama plan.

As the story progresses I started to realize, holy shxt, this is actually pretty dang crazy, and beyond manipulative. The things that Desi puts on her list was absurd. Never really coming out quite how she planned but still landing her a check mark next to each cliché that can be found in a K drama. Luca is definitely not the ideal lead for a k drama as he doesn’t seem to pick up on all the ques that Desi keeps dropping. I mean duh he never chased after her in a moment where she walks away and grabs her wrist. But you know what? She manages to create all sorts of scenarios to help her get the result she was aiming for.

The stunts that she pulls are both dangerous and incredibly manipulative. How can she go from completely sensible to so crazy! Poor Desi is so caught up in her plan that she can’t step away from the situation and look at what she is actually doing, even if her intentions were sweet. Sometimes, I thought, I know there are some girls out there like this. Then I thought, oh gosh, I feel bad for every single person alive & thank God I don’t have to go to any extremes to get the guy to look at me. The entire time I was reading I felt more like this:

Despite thinking that she was crazy the entire time, I adored the book. Her father is endearing and I loved their dynamic. There were many a time that I read the conversations with her dad and thought, awww I wish I had a Korean dad. But then I remembered I had a Filipino mom and she does the same type of stuff in her own way too.

-Scrill

Our Dark Duet

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

5 stars

 

“How much does a soul weigh? he wondered.
Less than a body.”
 

Okay, so it’s been a few days and I think I have had sufficient amount of time to adjust to life after reading this book. Just a fair warning that I do not even know how to begin reviewing this book, but I will do my best. Let me just start off stating that I listened to the audiobook on this because that was the first version I could get my hands on from the library. I listened to most of it at 1.75x or 2x speed because I could not get through it fast enough to find out what was happening. With that being said, the audiobook version was excellent and Therese Plummer is amazing.

ODD picks up 6 months later with Kate in Prosperity. She’s being her usual bad assness kicking butt, taking names, and slaughtering monsters. Unfortunately, she’s skirting her responsibility in her own city. August is still in Verity and is smothering out the small amount of humanity that he has learned to harbor within himself. Both are haunted by the demons of their past (quite literally) and it takes a new monster that feeds on chaos that brings them together where they both confront each other and said demons. 

The World building
Let’s face it, there really isn’t much word building aside from the monsters in these books. I mean, there really isn’t any need for it. We get it, it’s a city seized by monsters. So where Schwab spends most of her world building is within the cruelty of each monster race and the desperation of the people still residing in the city. It is a newly accepted culture of fight with the FTF or be fodder to the Corsai and Sunai.

The Characters
Let’s start with Kate, just because she is a little easier. The entire first half I was pretty mad at how she could sit in Prosperity trying to pretend she’s not selfishly in a safer city while her home essentially rots from the inside. In the meantime she is trying to make up for it by protecting some other city. Screw those guys. However, I was honestly a little disappointed not to see anymore of her friends from there after she left. Schwab spent a little time introducing them, but we didn’t really get much out of it.

August is just as sweet and tender as the first book. He may not believe it, but he is the more human than the humans. His ability to have empathy about the souls that he is reaping is just mind blowing since the other Sunai don’t seem to grasp it. He is no monster. He is a tiny little kitty, with hidden claws that come out in the form of his violin and bow that slash through the corsair. I just love how conscious he is of all his actions. The moment I most loved about August was when he realizes just how much power he has through his music on people. 

To keep this review spoiler free, let’s just group all the other monsters together. They are creepy AF. I feel like we get a little more of a taste of the Corsai & Sunai, and their mentalities are so twisted. The flesh and torture that they obsess over just might be what helps us put August on such a high pedestal. 

The Story
Guys, this book was flawless. Schwab has created a monster that we love, a damaged girl who is the one person who keeps him human, and a monster so scary I was thankful that I didn’t do the book at night time. This book made me appreciate the nightlight in my room. The way the story plays out really isn’t so much about the war that is going on between the humans and the monsters as much as the war each of our characters has with themselves and what they have to do. We are left wondering, are we who we are based on our actions, or do our souls way more than that? 
Despite how beautiful the book ends it will leave you broken.

-Scrill

Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

4 stars

 

“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.”

Flame in the Mist was supposed to be a Mulan retelling, right? After finishing I have decided it to be more of a inspired by type of story. Mariko is off to an arranged marriage when her transport is attacked. In an attempt to retain her family honor and find out who was behind the attack she makes a resolve to infiltrate the Black Clan. The bandits she believes responsible for the attempt on her life.

The world building was fantastic. When I first noticed that it would be a Japanese version rather than Chinese my interest peaked and was never let down. First off, lets just point out that a majority of the book was set in the Jukai Forest, AKA Aokigahara. 

This forest is incredibly lush and dense, naturally giving off an eerie vibe. This is a forest that is infamous for death, from ubasute a cruel form of killing off an elderly by abandoning them lost in the forest, to being noted as the perfect place to die by Wataru Tsurumi, author of The Complete Suicide Manual. Just at the mention of the Sea of Trees gives me the chills (despite Japan’s efforts to deter the dark imagery surrounding the forest). Even if you didn’t already know the background of the forest, you should be given the hint by the reaction of the Samurai escorting Mariko. Their thoughts are clearly that only evil lurks in the forest. I loved the addition of yōkai spirits and jubokko trees. All these little bits of Japanese folklore really make me anxious for what haunts the setting.

Mariko was exactly what I expected. Here was a privileged girl who wanted to be seen as more than surface value.

“Her tears stained the front of her kimono silk. She refused to die like an animal locked in a cage. Like a girl with nothing save her name.”

Throughout the story there was never a moment when she was suddenly a superior warrior by any means. Even her intelligence and wit was met evenly. It’s only realistic that no matter how determined she was to evolve her mind that she would still have some limitations due to her limitation on just life experiences. The part that makes Mariko was her determination, her resolve, and her courage.

“And in doing so, she’d displayed one of the seven virtues of Bushidō:
Courage.
The way of the warrior.”

I loved Ōkami. From the moment we meet him I couldn’t get past comparing him to the fox (I know not a wolf) yōkai, Tomoe, in the anime/manga Kamisama Hajimemashita. The handsome but broody and sly personality played very well with the sense of loyalty that he had towards Ranmaru. He was also the perfect type to keep Mariko on her toes and not get too comfortable.

The romance was very sweet and was woven nicely into the story. Though it was an element that was important to the story it did help the characters come to make decisions that affected their situations. After a while of just dancing around the subject, the romance certainly came on a bit strong out of nowhere. 

All in all, I was very happy with the book and cannot wait to see what the next one has to offer. Renee Ahdieh has a way of ensnaring my interest easily without over complicating a story. And of course, with Japanese inspiration I am almost always hooked.

-Scrill

Mr. Big

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Mr. Big by Delancey Stewart

 

Publish date: August 29, 2017

I received an ARC from Netgalley for an honest review. 

3 stars


Before I start my review, let me just say, please don’t let the cover or even the title of the book give you any indication of what the contents of the book are. Because I know this looks like some giant sexy book, but I swear there is more to it!

With that being said, let me just say that this book was surprisingly delightful. Mr. Big is about a CEO who lost his parents and with that his identity. It’s not until he meets fierce, plan-everything, Holland that he actually starts to get his life back together.

What I loved about this book was how much both our characters battled with their own worth from how they were raised and who their parents or family was. This wasn’t a whirlwind romance between a CEO and a woman out to prove herself—okay, it was, but that wasn’t the entire premise of the story. It had depth in a way that hit familial issues as well as what you do when you find out you are into your boss.

Oliver/Hale was seriously a huge dick. It wasn’t something that went away either. There are times that he is a shining example of what some women might dream in a man. But oh my gosh, sometimes he really is a self-centered ass hole. He really was a man who acted like the world revolved around him, and sadly when he wanted to do something for Holland, I almost felt like he was doing something for Holland almost as a self-gratification to be feel like, I did this, I put that smile on her face, even if it wasn’t explicitly said in the text. It was honestly, just the vibe I got. 

It was sort of hard not to root for Holland. Here was this selfless, hardworking, undervalued woman taking the bull by the horns. She had a plan and she was going to make it happen. There were times when I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her yelling, “of course you got here on your own merit!” But alas, she is a woman working in a big business that favored men.

This book was delivered everything I expect out of a good chick-lit novel. A story about a girl getting her life together, no matter how hard the world batted against her. A steamy romance that wasn’t a huge factor to change it from chick-lit to erotica. A gripping moment that has your heart aching right along with our protagonist. It’s there, it’s the whole package. It wasn’t the best I ever read, but it was most certainly entertaining and moving.

-Scrill

Dramatically Ever After

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Dramatically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Publish date: May 6, 2017
Received an ARC from Netgalley for a fair review.

5 stars


“I became a character, bur the character was actually me. I’d been so busy pigeonholding myself into characters everyone else believed I was this week that I almost let go of full, three-dimensional Em who had dreams and potential. The Em who could be pretty amazing, in her own way.” 

The kids from PCHS are back, and this time we are following Em, one of Phoebe from Bookishly Ever After‘s friends. Super confident and flirty Em has her chance at a scholarship that could help fund and convince her parents to let her pursue her theatrical dreams. Unfortunately, she is pitted up against the one boy in the school who she feels puts on more of a show than she does center stage.

This book was ridiculously cute. It had just the right amount of teenage uncertainty, teenage hormones, teenage maturity, and teenage heartbreak. In the first book, Phoebe drew from the characters in her books to give her confidence. In this book, Em uses her skills as an actress to befuddle the competition, and I just love how we all know that its going to definitely blow up in her face. Fake it till you make it is one of my mottoes, and in this case she literally does. 

Em is such a ridiculous girl. Now, despite her feeling that she is pretty much a love guru, it turns out when it comes to her own situations she is as blind as a bat. It was agonizing (in a good way) to read her struggle through her relationship with her hot German boyfriend who no longer lives on the continent while juggling her flirting with the competition and keeping face against the other 100-so competitors. I loved that despite her lack of esteem in her skills, she still puts up a brave face and fights through her situations. She may make some pretty dumb decisions, and oh my gosh, the way she responds about Wil is just so….ughhh how is she so dumb?! But you know what? I know girls misunderstand the way she did all the time, and it was so frustrating (again, in a good way) to read her through it.

Kris. Dreamy Kris. Of course he has to be so freaking dreamy and all around perfect. Good looking, talented, kind, good Samaritan, and incredibly smart. Of course Em thinks he is a fake! At first, I was a little annoyed that he was so perfect too. And though I know as a reader that he is probably supposed to actually be all those things, I couldn’t help but side with ridiculous Em and her accusations, thinking, NO ONE IS THAT ANGELIC! I was happy to see that he did actually have faults and his own learning curve when it came to his own actions.

I loved how Isabel Bandeira worked in phrases/terms that incorporate the dramatic aspect.

“I needed Wil’s perfect leading man sotic support, the big silent shadow behind me always willing to hold me up.”

“We were both actors in this high school drama and our roles were already scripted for us.”

“Despite my natural cynicism, hope crept into me and I felt like breaking int a musical number like something out of thirties film.”

If you want a cute YA romance with just a dash of heartbreak and a spoonful of gushiness, then this is the book for you.

-Scrill

Frost Blood

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Frostblood by Elly Blake

4 stars

 

While I was reading Frostblood, I felt like I had read it before. Like deja vu, but only because there were so many elements about it that made me think of other books. Here’s what you might find familiar from some other books:

 

-Two different blooded people pitted against each other (frost vs fire)

-A dark matter/being controlling someone

 

And of course other stuff that’s pretty common

sort of a love triangle

-girl with sad back story has life changing power

Okay, so what? So, there are a lot of familiar aspects in this book. I don’t even need to summarize the story because just pointing out the elements right there should have done enough for you. But it was still good! I enjoyed it quite a bit and am excited to see where the story takes us. Sure, there were a few romantic scenes that were almost cringe worthy in sappiness. But that’s okay, it worked okay in the book. 

Our characters were great. Between our little snarky fireblood who’s personality burns as hot as her power and a broody, scarred frostblood who gets the sparks flying. The dynamic of their relationship made the first half of book go by really quickly. 

My favorite part I think might have been the arena. Super gladiator-esque but with opposing elements. In fact, I thought most of the action sequences were very well done, and helped the pages fly by.

-Scrill

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han


2 Stars


“At college, when people ask us how we met, how will we answer them? The short story is, we grew up together. But that’s more Josh’s and my story. High school sweethearts? That’s Peter and Gen’s story. So what’s our then?
I suppose I’ll sat it all started with a love letter.”
 

So this was my first official buddy read, and it was with the rocking Emi. And thank God it was her, because turns out we had a lot of similar comments. Hooray for BR’s and hmming and haawwwing about things as they progress. This was just a first for me doing it via the interweb, there is definitely something about reading right next to my love Amanda though and seeing her face light up at the same time as mine.

Okay, to the book. This ended exactly how I expected it to, even if I wasn’t exactly happy about it. I may have an unpopular opinion about this book, which surprised me since I enjoyed the first two…however, now that I’ve read this one I think I would notice all the stuff that made me cringe through this one in the first two.

I am not sure how I didn’t notice it in the first two books, but I really just think LJ is super immature. I am not sure if it’s because Peter is her first fake/real boyfriend. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been 18 and young&inlove in a long time. But I really just wanted to strangle the girl and tell her to stop being dumb. This isn’t going to be a great review because I just don’t care enough. 
Here are the particulars about what really ruined this book.

-LJ’s ridiculously possessive of Peter & sort of treats him awfully getting him to do stuff he doesn’t want to do. But then again, Peter acts like a little whipped puppy.
“Is there anything more intoxicating than making a boy bend to our will?”

-LJ & Peter pretty much don’t ever have any serious conversations. In fact, at one point they quipped back and forth about boys taking 2 steps at a time vs girls taking just 1 step at a time.

-There was so much nothing happening in the book that all 325 pages can be summed up in probably a sentence: LJ struggles to figure out what to do for college and how to handle her relationship with Peter post graduation. You can honestly read the synopsis of the book, and be like okay great, that’s what happens. That way you don’t have to read in the filler play-by-play of LJ’s days including stuff like sitting around sorting shoes with Margo…THIS scene drove me nuts, because I wondered, hmmmm maybe something about this is important to the story…it wasn’t though, just a half page of text.

-I had a very hard time relating to LJ. I know it happens, truly I do, but can we just point at LJ and say you’re whole family is spoiled and you take it for granted? She bought a 2lb bag of chocolate for $30! She puts a deposit on a university like it’s no big deal, all the while her sister is studying in Scotland! I’m pretty sure LJ hasn’t ever had to wonder, if I ask my dad for money for X, will he say no? NO! Because he also apparently funds her to go stay at a beach house for a week with a bunch of other teenagers. I CAN HARDLY AFFORD THAT AS AN ADULT, WHAT IS A TEENAGER GOING OFF TO DO THIS SHXT FOR?!

-And then there is Peter. There is one other character I have encountered that I hated as much as Peter. Dean Forester from Gilmore Girls. Here’s this all around well liked guy that is, lets face it sweet, but super boring and doesn’t have a thing in common with LJ. He likes to eat cookies. But is super clingy and is a little bxtch about her going to college. MKAY bye Dean #TeamJess

-Scrill

The Alchemists of Loom

 

The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga, #1)The Aclemists of Loom by Elise Kova

5 stars

“This dragon and she had embarked on an odd journey with each other. It was a winding path that had taken them across Loom, and what she thought was to be their final destination had turned out to be a resting point before the next, greater trek.”

 

TAOL was fantastic! Kova gave us a rich new world full of history, a unique culture and races, and complex characters. Initially I was just stoked for another Elise Kova book, then I saw dragon, then I saw the cover art by Nick Grey). It was one of my 2017 most anticipated and it did not let me down. The story follows Ari a chimera, both fenthri & dragon, as she helps a dragon, Cvareh, on his mission to meet with the Alchemists guild of Loom. They have help from their friends, and with their combined skills they make their way across Loom with defeat around every corner.

Loom is the dreary world bellow the clouds, made of different guilds of Fenthri with different professions/skills. Nova is the colorful world above the clouds where the Dragons live. These are not your normal dragons, they are human like, but with retractable deadly claws, pointed ears that have exceptional hearing, and brilliant eyes that see better than any of Fenthri could imagine. Their worlds are drastically different in more than just the colors of the skin and the flatness or sharpness of their teeth. Their cultures and social understanding show how much they come from different worlds. Hitting the ground running, almost quite literally, Kova starts the story from Ari’s point of view in one of her many missions that are against the Dragons. The world is not dumped on you, but you are slowly wrapped into it as you learn about where these characters are and the history that has morphed their personalities.

Ari is such a complex character. She always has another card up her sleeve, and even by the end, I felt that I was just barely getting to know this vicious character. I loved reading about all her special skills and general badassness. Especially the action sequences that had her propelling herself with her gold cords.

Cvareh was a much more open character as he didn’t seem to be hiding as much as Ari. I loved their interactions and how much they played off each other. They are both so strong willed that I am amazed that they even learn to be civil towards each other, especially with Ari’s seething hatred for Dragons. Their duo would not have lasted long if it wasn’t for Florence who helped buffer the awkwardness and overall atmosphere that hovered between the two. Florence also added a little zing to the equation. I imagined her as a little gnome like the ones in WoW to be honest.

I loved how different the characters the races are. We weren’t given typical humans or elves or whatever. We were given humanoids. The Fenthri are monochromatic in color and are classified to their guild and status by tattoos on their cheeks. The Dragons are brilliant in colors for skin, show off their muscular bodies, and even bleed gold. And then we have the Chimera, like Ari, who are Fenthri with stolen Dragon parts. Like how freaking awesome is this??!

The back of the book had a handy reference section that I checked frequently. Listing pronunciation, Dragon houses/social ranking, guild brands. My only problem with the book was just how I had to figure out what the purpose was for the guilds. It wasn’t until the end that I was entirely shore about each specialty. I sort of wished it was just a little bit more spelled out rather than just guessing based on context.

Because the world building is slowly given throughout the story, there really isn’t a dull moment where you are just reading descriptions of the land or about the culture. The pacing of the book is non stop action that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

-Scrill