The Girl in the Tower

34050917The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

5_stars

As Vasya is faced with the choice of the convent or marriage she decides she will take her life in her own hands. With the help of her friend Morozko she aims to see the world and experience a life of her own choosing. Yet attacks on villages has Vasya putting a halt to her travels to help them, drawing the attention of the Grand Prince putting her cross dressing adventure into a precarious position not only for herself but for those who know her secret.divider

The Story

I really liked the Bear and the Nightingale, but I loved The Girl in the Tower. Where the pacing in the TBATN could sometimes be slow, I thought the pacing in TGITT a lot more steady and kept my attention. I think what was particularly compelling about the book was how fierce and headstrong Vasya was. Like many books with feminist themes the book revolves around Vasya’s choices, and while they may not always be the most sensible or have results that she may regret later, they are still hers to make, as it is her own life.

I am not 100% sure but I am thinking that this was a loose retelling of Vasilisa the Priest’s Daughter. To my understanding there are a few Russian stories that include Vasilisa/Vasiya as a strong female character, and I really enjoy seeing it used in a similar fashion in this series.divider

The World Building

Where the Russian setting was essentially the same in the second book, Arden does an excellent job of immersing the reader into the cold vast world of Russian, culture and it’s folklore. All the magic and quirky demons add so much flavor to such a complex story. I think what I found really intriguing was Morozko’s power and am so eager to read more!divider

The Characters

I think Vasya has such a complicated character. There were times when I thought she was so selfish, but then she goes and puts her life at risk to save some village girls. She is so headstrong and stubborn, though that I want to just smack her up against the side of her head and say look what your decisions are doing, look how it affects those around you!  And I think towards the end she really starts to see what sort of mess she has caused.

Though it wasn’t entirely focused on him, I completely adored Morozko. I love that he is so powerful, yet so confused. His relationship with Vasiya is twisted yet so sweet as he battles with his feelings, his power, and his immortality. I often felt bad for Morozko because it seemed like Vasiya only called on him when she needed something from him, and I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t stand when a friend acts like that.divider

The Soundtrack

French for Rabbits – The Other Side

 

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Song of Blood and Stone Blog Tour Review

Book Description

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Title: Song of Blood and Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1)
Author: Leslye Penelope
Publish Date: May 1, 2018
ARC provided from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for a fair review.

From Goodreads

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers.

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.divider

Review

2_stars

The Story

This book has so many good things about it, the problem I found is that I think having it all in one book ended up taking away from the importance of each issue. Racial, refugee/immigration, power struggle, star crossed love, magical, social status, LGBTQ, and even good vs. evil all became too many good ingredients in the pot. Truly, there was so much good stuff in here, but I thought that they didn’t get the time spent for each attribute that it should be due. Although they each went hand in hand, the pitch seemed too much at once.

First of all, I thought the romance was a little unbearable. I’m all for instalove, but this just felt off to me. I’m not even sure where the romance was beyond Jack being healed by a woman who should have been scared for her life? I kept wondering if he would stop obsessing about her skin. And no, it wasn’t in reference to the color of her skin, but the smoothness. Hannibal jokes were passed between my BR and I, that’s how often her skin came up! Aside from that I never felt connected enough to either character to feel like I should be rooting on their romance. It was incredibly sweet, however, how kind Jack was towards Jasminda. In most of his actions, he often put her safety and position above his own. Albeit, it ended up repeatedly hurting her, his intentions were always good.

The story pacing seemed to bounce around quite a bit too. I do love that the book moved quickly and didn’t spend too much time moving the plot along, but I think in the end with the combined amount of topics hit within the story made it go from issue to issue to issue with stunted transitions. Meanwhile, the main characters sort of just go with the flow – sort of in a, if you say so I guess it’s true, sort of manner. Okay, so really, not that simple, but I kept thinking to myself, really? That easy? No questions, asked, just jump right in the foray.

I would like to point out how beautiful the cover art is. A part of me wants to rate this book so much higher because it is just so pretty. But I don’t personally think that’s fair. Just because the book covers so many important topics in a gentle way does not mean that it made a great book. I would have loved to read this book alone as a series where the issues were broken up a little bit more. Seeing that it is a series, I wonder what else can really be covered because the ending wrapped up so nicely for our main characters.

Trigger Warnings: attempted rape, kidnapping, violence, and racism.

The World Building

I loved the magical elements of this world. I thought that the imbalance of the magical power added to the conflict of the story. I think my favorite part was that the magic ultimately was used for peacefulness and never, except with the twisted or in self defense, was it used for violence or control.

I didn’t like how the word was built around a fantasy based magical realism. The fact that early 20th century vibes were underplayed with a fictional magical world just didn’t fit for me. I thought it could have gone full on fantasy and incorporated real world items like vehicles and telephones within those realms. It ended up making me more confused about time period and the possibilities to the world.

The Characters

Jasminda was such a sweet character. Her personality was one of acceptance and care with little resolve for self preservation. Throughout the story she continually puts herself in danger to help someone else. I think what I really appreciated about her as a character was that she wasn’t portrayed as the chosen one. There were many instances where she had the opportunity or capability to do something, and unfortunately, that wasn’t explained very well. What made Jasminda so much different than the other Earthsingers? Was she related to someone vital to the story? Don’t know, if I read it, I didn’t realize it was evident to the story. So even though Jasminda is a likeable character I just didn’t see how she was worked into the story with her greater purpose.

The Soundtrack

Nas feat Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled the World

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About the Author

Penelope, L._CREDIT Valerie Bey

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

 

 

 

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Suitors and Sabotage

34499243Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Publish Date: 4/17/2018
ARC received from Netgalley for a fair review.

4_stars

When Imogene has a good season in London, her family deems it best for the most suitable gentleman to join them over the summer. She is eager to get to know her suitor better as a proposal is bound to come, that is until she meets his younger brother. As Imogene and Ben spend more time together, they do their best to fight off their growing feelings. However, it seems that someone amongst them seems to be plotting against Ben as many incidents happen that when put together just couldn’t be accidents.

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The Story

How does Cindy Anstey do this? When I read her books I am reminded how much I just adore regency novels. All the proper manners and indirect speech. I love it. It gives more for the heart to yearn for.

So I docked a star solely for the fact that the book seemed to lag just a little bit in the middle. As Imogene and Ben got closer a lot of time was spent with them ignoring their feelings and just pushing it aside.Unfortunately for me I didn’t become really attached until Ben and Imogene were so wound up that they began to have a disagreement. Really it’s not the part where they are falling for each other, its the part where they just can’t be together that I find so riveting.

The fact that there was actually a 4-way love triangle at first seemed like such a terrible idea, but it turned out to work so perfectly. It made the growing tension more…intense. I just loved how much their affection grew as their denial was forced more and more. The complication of their feelings for each other affected so much more than just their own shyness or situation, it affected a brother and a best friend.

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The underlying mystery of who was trying to subtly attack Ben definitely added substance to a story that could have just been about a real awkward situation between best friends and brothers.

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The World Building

I loved the description of the homes and the ruins in this one! I absolutely adore old architecture, so the fact that our characters visited more than just one home over the course of the book, but also old castle just made my heart happy. I would just love to jump into this book and lounge about on a picnic while learning to sketch.

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The Characters

One of the best part of this book was that you were  subtly thrown into the mystery of who was trying to hurt Ben. With that being said we were introduced to a plethora of characters that could have had reason to hurt him. While I guessed it about half way, I still wasn’t entirely sure. I am not going to really discuss all the characters because I don’t want to give anything away. However, I could say I adore Imogene. It was so hard to read about her forcing herself to try to admire Earnest while watching her friend flirt with the man she was actually interested in. I loved that neither girl ended up being ridiculously catty about the men. They were both just sweet, tender hearted women.

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The Soundtrack

Cat Power – I Found a Reason

 

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Duels & Deceptions

Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
5_stars
Publish date: April 11, 2017

Received an ARC from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via Netgalley for a fair review.

“Chivalry and good manners were all well and good in a ballroom. However, being on a lonely road while rushing away from villainous villains was neither the time nor the place for excessive decorum.”

What a delightful story! Fans of regency romances will find romance, comedy, and even a little mystery and intrigue in this novel.

Duels and Deception is told from alternating points of views we are given a rich story of love, responsibility, and what a proper lady does with her time and money. Lydia Whitfield is in need of her lawyer to assist her with her estate. Robert Newton, her lawyer’s apprentice answer the call and their relationship soon becomes more than just a meeting here and there from your solicitor. An attempt to the safety of Miss Whitfield brings the two together as they make their way first to safety and then to solve the mystery of who exactly would be culprit behind her kidnapping.

Like Jane Austen, Cindy Anstey uses free indirect speech to help guide the interactions of the characters had the understanding of ritual that was proper and expected in that era. This allowed our characters a whole slew of backhanded comments and insults all the while keeping face and propriety.

The entire time I was reading this I kept snickering aloud to myself as I read the interactions between the characters. The actions of the characters were heightened even more as we read them from different points of views. Often we are pitched this genre of story from the female’s point of view, however, seeing the male point of view offers a few LOL moments.

“A niche was found for him next to Miss Elaine, who seemed to be suffering her usual eye affliction – batting and blinking – while leaning in closer and closer until Robert feared she might tumble from her chair.”

Our characters are given great personalities that develop as they have to deal with what is proper and what they really want to say or do. And what happens when someone is insulted? A challenge to a duel! Oh what fun duels are…miscommunication leads to the keeping of honor which leads to death.

This book was sweet and comical at the same time. The entire time we are wondering who done it all the while rooting for our unlikely couple. The characters are endearing, especially when they are drawing closer to each other despite the character flaws they both may have. By the end I was swooning and cheering on the two as they face their love vs. decorum.

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