Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Days of Blood and Starlight

Published: November 6, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2

Pages: 517 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?


As soon as I finished DoS&B I downloaded the sequel, Days of Blood & Starlight, because after that ending, how could I not!? I was impressed to find that this book was even better than the first- no sophomore slump in sight.

Days of Blood & Starlight drops us back into the story several months after the events of Daughter of Smoke & Bone and much has changed since then. Karou knows of her chimaera heritage and has joined the fight against the seraphim, though their group of rebels is pathetically small and they have a special hatred for Karou despite her usefulness. She’s miserable, lonely, and scared despite the assurances of safety given her by Thiago, the rebel leader and killer of Madrigal. Akiva has returned to his seraph brethren, but continues to feel guilt for the slaughter of chimaera and distraught because he thinks Karou has died. The POV now switches between Karou, Akiva, Zuzana and Mik, with the addition of a few minor characters. I still enjoy chapters featuring the Zuzana and Mik- they’re just so cute!

The plot line (or should I say lines?) in Days of Blood & Starlight is considerably stronger than that in the first book. The action is in full swing, bringing more battles and intense scenes that left me wide-eyed with concern! Characters that were mere mentions in the previous book become much more fleshed out and can I just say that I’ve really begun to hate the Seraph king and his scarred brother? What evil creeps!

I recommended this series after the first book and now do so wholeheartedly. The story keeps you at the edge of your seat, unthinkingly holding your breath in anticipation of the next scene. There are loops and twists and awesome moments where you just want to jump up and cheer a bit. I can’t wait to dig into the third and final installment. I think I mentioned this in my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but allow me to reiterate that the audio edition is really fantastic!

Waiting on Wednesday: Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Age of War

What a stunning and dramatic cover! Age of War is the third book in MJS’s The Legends of the First Empire series, detailing the history that is so frequently mentioned in the books featuring Royce and Hadrian. It looks as if we won’t have to wait an entire year for this to come out, as Amazon is showing a release date of February 20, 2018! The humans are about to war with the Fhrey and it sounds rather ominous if you ask me. I can’t wait to have this lovely book in my possession.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw – Review

Cover- Strange Practice

Published: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Dr. Greta Helsing #1

Pages: 400 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.


Strange Practice was such a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what kind of quality to expect when I requested it, but the synopsis was far too interesting to pass up. The cover art makes you look twice and better yet, the story inside bundles of somewhat morbid fun.

Greta Helsing is doing what she loves – running her own medical practice in a prestigious location with a unique clientele. You see, Greta doesn’t cater to mere mortal humans like the rest of us, she is doctor to the hidden, inhuman class of London. She creates replacement bones for deteriorating mummies, treats depression in ghouls, patches up sanguivores, and prescribes cough medicine to infernal accountants. Her already unusual everyday life gets turned topsy-turvy when a group of semi-possessed monks begin murdering both human and supernatural people in an attempt to cleanse and destroy London. Much madness ensues and beautiful dry humor shines through even in the most perilous moments.

I absolutely loved the characters and the plot in Strange Practice. The supernatural is present, but in a more reasonable way than I expected it to be. Rather than being gaudy and laughable, the inhuman characters are credulous in behavior, appearance, and how they fit into society. Plus, the fact that they actually need doctors is pretty original in my opinion. Why wouldn’t they? Greta is a fabulous character in her own right, being intelligent, capable, and compassionate, but the secondary characters are absolute gems. Fastitocalon (our infernal accountant) has been a friend of the Helsing family for many years and he seems quite lovable, despite his unsettling powers. Lord Ruthven is a 400-year-old vampire (classic Dracula type) with a penchant for spending and a surprising adeptness with modern technology. Sir Francis Varney is a vampyre (lunar type) who seems to abhor his own monstrousness and is getting somewhat jaded with the whole idea of living. Cranswell is a normal human who happens to be aware of the supernatural and he also works in a museum where recent events have gotten in the way of his first exhibit. These short descriptions give you the most basic insight about the characters, but trust me when I say that they are much more than this!

Strange Practice was the perfect blend of serious plot and dry humor for my tastes and has enough action to keep anyone interested for the duration as it was well-paced and didn’t seem to rush or drag in any noticeable way. I was pleased to find out the second book has a title (Bad Company) and a short excerpt included at the end of Strange Practice, though a release date doesn’t seem to have been announced as of yet. Vivian Shaw is an author I’ll be keeping an eye on because this debut was quite impressive and I don’t want to miss any of her work!

Currently Reading: 7/24/17

cover-the-list

The List by Patricia Forde

I feel a bit guilty because I’ve had this hanging out on my Kindle since like January. Now, at long last I’m going to read it! This is a middle-grade, which I tend to steer clear of, but the synopsis was pretty intriguing.

 

Cover- Wicked Like A Wildfire

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

IF I actually have time, I’m also going to be reading this rather purple looking YA debut this week. The manipulation of beauty sounds pretty cool!

 

 

cover-lord-of-shadows

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

I’ll also be finishing up the audio version of this book probably today. I’ve only got a smidge left and then I’ll be typing up a pretty judgmental review. 😀 Also, If I featured this last week (I don’t think I did, but I’m too lazy to look) forgive me!

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – Review

cover-age-of-swords

Published: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Legends of the First Empire #2

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In Age of Myth, fantasy master Michael J. Sullivan launched readers on an epic journey of magic and adventure, heroism and betrayal, love and loss. Now the thrilling saga continues as the human uprising is threatened by powerful enemies from without—and bitter rivalries within.

Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhune make it all but impossible to unite against a common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess makes the Fhrey indistinguishable from gods?

The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race who feels nothing but disdain for both Fhrey and mankind. With time running out, Persephone leads the gifted young seer Suri, the Fhrey sorceress Arion, and a small band of misfits in a desperate search for aid—a quest that will take them into the darkest depths of Elan. There, an ancient adversary waits—an enemy as surprising as it is deadly.


I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Michael J. Sullivan’s books because even after reading so many, I’m still so entertained and enthusiastic about them. His characters are lovable (or at least likable) and the plots are always top-notch.

Age of Swords literally goes from 0 to 100 in about 5 pages. It was one of the most incredible intros that I’ve ever read because I was NOT EXPECTING IT AT ALL. I mean really, tornadoes pretty much never happen in fantasy books, and MJS made it into this great moment that set the mood for the entire book. Not kidding, this entire event sequence kicks the story into high gear and far outstrips the pace of the previous book. Persephone is now the chief of Dahl Rhen and she sets about to call for a meeting of the clans to elect a keenig, which is basically a king, so they may make war upon the Fhrey. Throw in some dwarves, a pile of Tolkein-esque action and monsters, a few heartbreaking moments, and you’ve got one heck of a story coming your way. Go ahead and set aside whatever tasks you thought you were going to do because you’ll want to binge read Age of Swords.

The characters develop significantly throughout the course of events and I grew to like them even more, though not so much as I loved Royce and Hadrian. These characters just don’t have the same witty banter and camaraderie as those two, but this is set in a very different age. Persephone continues to kick butt mostly by having common sense and a level head. I think she makes a fine leader, especially since she surrounds herself with bright and clever people that totally support her. Brin and Suri both become older, wiser, and more world weary. Suri in particular becomes quite the spectacular butterfly, though she is such a different person at the end. Raithe is somewhat frustrating and Mawyndule has actually gained some sympathy from me because his sheltered and soft lifestyle left him stupidly naïve.

Overall, Age of Swords has left much more of an impact on me that Age of Myth did. It’s got so much more going on and I wasn’t bored for a second! The ridiculous pace at which things were invented/discovered (writing, the wheel, the bow and arrow etc.) made me laugh just a little because it was like society was on fast-forward. The Lord of the Rings influence was very strong for a portion of the book which was simultaneously amusing and overbearing. I’ll tentatively say that I rather liked it, but the whole Gandalf v. Balrog parallel was crazy obvious (I’m making the assumption it was intentional). However, I am REALLY looking forward to the release of Age of War because I can only think this series will continue to gain in awesomeness.

Excuses and Libraries

I’ve been slacking lately on the blog, reading, etc. but all for a good reason! Not only am I planning a wedding + honeymoon, but I’m also setting up house and moving my books into their new home!

IMG_20170722_165507_560

I’ve still got to move about 70 (maybe more, who knows) books and I’ll definitely be doing some re-arranging once I have everything in the same place. Now to find the vintage prints I’m looking for, a nice industrial lamp, a comfy reading chair, and maybe a record player.

If you’re curious, we got the whole set from Ashley Furniture, but they don’t seem to have the items listed in the online catalog.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana – Review

Cover- The Library of Fates

Published: July 18, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Pages: 354 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?


Fair warning for all the people like me that were excited for a book that seemed to be about a mystical library that could change the past – The Library of Fates is barely about a library at all. I suppose you could say the title and synopsis are somewhat misleading.

The plot of the story was fairly interesting – the country of Shalingar is being visited by Sikander of Macedon (obviously Alexander the Great) who’s offering them a lovely trade deal that includes the engagement of Princess Amrita to Sikander. Amrita and her father are none too happy about this because Sikander is a pestilent old despot with golden front teeth and a nasty habit of enslaving and murdering his way across continents. Amrita escapes with a Seer named Thala and they go on quite a journey to find both the Library of Fates to alter the course of events that lead them to their current situation and warn the Sybillines, a secretive people who produce a coveted drug, that Sikander is determined to find and enslave them. Sounds like a riveting read, no? Well, not really.

The Library of Fates has the benefit of a beautiful and exotic setting reminiscent of the romanticized version of India that we are often presented with. There are glittering palaces, lush gardens, elephants, and mountain temples visited by a steady tide of pilgrims. I couldn’t help but to imagine how wonderful it might be to live in Shalingar, as our protagonist Amrita does, because at times the description of the setting is vivid. Unfortunately, the story suffers from a lack of depth by which I was rather disappointed. I liked the characters, but the author wasn’t exactly going to any great effort to wring emotion from my cold, jaded heart. Really though, this read more like a lengthy bedtime story than an actual novel and I know that sounds like a callous judgement (it is), but the story did nothing for me other than to fill a few hours of my day. It wasn’t a truly bad book and I liked the concept, the gorgeous setting, and the overall plot of the story. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, then by all means, check it out but don’t set your expectations too high!

Overall, The Library of Fates simply lacked the depth, detail, and character engagement that would garner a higher rating. This is a young adult book, but aside from the discussion of drug use and withdrawal process, it would read more like a middle grade novel.  The plot threads were wrapped up very quickly and rather easily in my opinion, but the author left enough open ended that a sequel is definitely possible. I think I will refrain from reading the sequel unless reviews sway my opinion otherwise.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Published: September 27, 2011

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1

Pages: 422 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


I never realized how much I needed Laini Taylor’s madly awesome books in my reading repertoire prior to last month. Now I’m doing that thing where I obsessively read everything a new favorite author of mine has ever published. In this case, that meant beginning Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which before now was something I wasn’t really interested in. Now I’m pretty much head over heels for Karou, Akiva, Zuzana, and Mik!

Many books tend to have either characters or plot developed much more than the other. With this particular book, the characters shine most brightly at the beginning but as the book progresses the plot begins to shine almost as brightly. From the very first pages I was unbearably curious about Karou’s misfit family of chimaera. Where did they come from? How did Karou come to be raised by them? What’s with all the teeth?

That last question is really the most interesting. Karou’s chimaera family are in the business of trading teeth for wishes. Hunters, grave robbers, slavers and worse come through the doors of Brimstone’s otherworldly shop to bring teeth from every toothed species you can imagine to trade in for wishes of varying degrees of strength. The teeth are sorted and inspected and sometimes Karou will even travel through other portal-doors to collect from those banned from Brimstone’s shop (like a magical blue-haired mollisher). Karou doesn’t know what the teeth are for and therefore neither does the reader. This grabbed my curiosity by the throat and shook- WHY THE TEETH!? Rest assured, you do find out eventually but I won’t be the one to spoil your fun!

Here it is, the fourth paragraph, and I’ve barely even mentioned the characters! There is, of course, Karou of the naturally blue hair, bullet scars, and 90+ sketchbooks who plays the starring role in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Then there’s her BFF Zuzana whose petite frame is filled with mock malice and judgement. Akiva is also kind of a big deal, what with his tiger’s eyes and burning wings. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s an angel (or more correctly, a seraphim) and they happen to be the mortal enemies of the chimaera? Then we’ve got Brimstone, Issa, Yasri, and Twiga who are Karou’s unusual family. I especially liked Brimstone for his gruff fatherliness and Issa for her love of human gossip.

Overall, this book was really, truly awesome! My only real complaint is that Akiva + Karou kind of have that insta-love thing going on and it does get a bit over the top with ooey-gooey feelings. What starts out as completely silly insta-love does get explained after a major plot reveal later in the book, so it’s definitely something I could live with. I was so hooked that I started the second book almost immediately afterwards! I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend because the narration was beautifully done and really enhanced the experience of the story. I’ll be continuing with this format for the rest of the series because it was great!

Stacking the Shelves: 7/15/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Ladies, gents, and literary scallywags, it’s been nearly a month since I last did a Stacking the Shelves post and this is going to be a little crazy. I might even be missing books… and I’ve got to go with the basic cover image rather than my occasionally snazzy pictures because I have books scattered between 2 houses right now!

Received for Review:

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

I featured the eGalley I received of this book in my last Stacking the Shelves post, but I also received a finished copy from Berkley. Thanks!

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

A doctor that treats the undead… how awesome is that? Can’t wait to dig into this upcoming release from Orbit.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David D. Levine

I really enjoyed the first book in Levine’s Arabella Ashby series and am looking forward to the sequel. Thanks to Tor for a finished copy.

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

This is a debut novel from Orbit that made its way into both my mailbox and my Kindle. Huge thanks to Orbit for the ARC and eGalley!

Blackwing by Ed McDonald

It’s no secret that Blackwing is one of the most anticipated grimdark debuts of the year and I finally got an eGalley!! Thanks to Ace and NetGalley.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

This will be my first Ryan Graudin book experience and it sounds like a fantastic start. I snagged a copy from NetGalley a few days ago.

The Imposters of Aventil by Marshall Ryan Maresca

EEEK!!! More Maradaine awesomeness!! Thanks to DAW and NetGalley.

My Purchases:

I’m slowly collecting hardcover copies so my library shelves are matchy-matchy. That meant I needed hardcover copies of  The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and Saint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell.

I also picked up an audiobook copy of The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst in order to catch up on the series as the latest installment was recently published by Harper Voyager.