Review of Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz

Synopsis:
1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration–museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!

But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo’s desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart’s desire or lose the love of her life forever?

Review:
Do you ever buy a book, and put it on the shelf, and know you want to read it, but you’re sure you’ll know when? This book was everything I didn’t realize I needed. I could hardly put it down. I read it quite quickly and found myself completely enthralled in it. While I know the original subject matter quite well, this is the first retelling of the story I’ve read, and I have to say I absolutely adore it in every way. Despite having an idea of how I thought (and wanted!) things would turn out, there were still so many twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate and I was left saying this isn’t how it is supposed to go! (Sometimes out loud!)

This book is, by far, one of my favourite retellings of an original novel/story. It kept the feel and joviality of the first one, and it capitalized on points that seemed to have been shoved to the wayside in the original, which, as said so many times, might have been because the author of the original, Alcott herself, hadn’t wanted to marry everyone off. There is also so much about how it can be so difficult to make the words come out and force yourself to write, and how often when you do it comes out wrong and messed up and I feel that I, and every other author out there, can deeply empathize with that! All in all, I adored this novel, and highly highly recommend you read it if you love Little Women.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Synopsis:
Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth have grown up in enemy countries locked in a long-standing fight for dominance over their shared planet. When Akos and his brother are kidnapped by the ruling Noavek family, Akos is forced to serve Cyra, the sister of a dictator who governs with violence and fear. Cyra is known for her deadly power of transferring extraordinary pain unto others with simple touch, and her tyrant brother uses her as a weapon against those who challenge him. But as Akos fights for his own survival, he recognizes that Cyra is also fighting for hers, and that her true gift—resilience—might be what saves them both.

When Akos and Cyra are caught in the middle of a raging rebellion, everything they’ve been led to believe about their world and themselves must be called into question. But fighting for what’s right might mean betraying their countries, their families, and each other.

When the time comes, will they choose loyalty or love?

Review:
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book but from the beginning I was pulled in. The story flowed well, and I quite enjoyed learning about all of the different characters and nuances between the different countries. It was neat having a heroine who didn’t need to be saved, at least, not physically. The way Cyra and Akos counterbalance each other is unique and refreshing. The way that grief and guilt is dealt with is realistic and heart wrenching; in a word, perfect. I quite enjoyed reading and I cannot wait to read on, so much so that I made sure to buy the sequel (since I had the first in paperback) before finishing this one!

An interesting note here is how Cyra’s situation mirrored rather similarly that of Katsa in Graceling, and yet the stories are not at all the same.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Fated by K. M. Shea

Synopsis:
I thought I hated not fitting in. Turns out I hate having a target on my back even more.

Someone wants me taken out. To accomplish that, they leaked the secret of my magic to all the Packs in the Midwest. Now, almost every Alpha in the region has traveled to my hometown in hopes of convincing me to join their Pack.

And some of them don’t seem to think I should have a choice.

Greyson won’t stand for that—something he makes deadly clear to the other Alphas. What they don’t know is that I’m his long missing mate. But wolves and hunters are enemies, and my hunter magic blocks me from accepting the bond…even though I’m starting to wish I could.

Our incomplete mate bond is a constant drain on Greyson. Its existence puts him in danger—something he stubbornly ignores.

But as risky as our bond is, I have to stay focused on the biggest threat at the moment.

Whoever shared the secret of my powers wants to destroy our Pack. And we’re about to find out how far they’ll go to make that happen.

Fated is the final book in the Pack of Dawn and Destiny urban fantasy trilogy and is part of the Magiford Supernatural City world. It features werewolves, hunters, and fae, and is filled with humor, adventure, and a sweet romance that will have you laughing outloud.

Review:
I waited so long for this, it felt like forever, but like all of K. M. Shea’s books it felt just like walking back home as I rejoined the world of Magiford. I was so ecstatic to see how much Pip grew in this book emotionally. There was so much she had to really think about before she could do much, and getting to see that internal struggle that we all face when we aren’t sure where we fit, or if we should fight for what we care about and believe in, was great. I loved getting to see more of Leila from the Court of Midnight and Deceptions books, which I loved and got me truly hooked on this series (and are likely still my favourite of the three trilogies set in Magiford, though I have loved them all)! It was great seeing Greyson as a person beyond his faults, and accepting of faults he may have. I loved the ending, loved the series, and this was definitely worth waiting for! I do hope we continue to see the other two hunters in future Magiford book series.

And thank you Mayor Pearl!

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm Book 1) by [Kristin Cashore]

Synopsis:
Kristin Cashore’s bestselling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace… and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.

Review:
I picked this up by chance at a local game shop’s sale table. This book is deceptively deep and introspective. Everyone, graced or not, has things they are good at and things they could work to get better at, and Katsa was never given the chance to think that, or even consider herself beyond the label that was given to her. The relationships are real, and Katsa is very much the type of girl you’d expect if only allowed one thing and never taught about the more beyond killing. Though some reviews say she is a Mary Sue, I would argue that having a lot of mental anguish and uncertainty in one’s

self is just as much, if not more, of a hinderance than many other typical problems presented. There are some that would argue that Katsa’s take on marriage suggests the wrong things to the audience, but I would say that they need to consider the time period in the book more thoroughly, as well as the implications that a wife was only meant to stay home, produce heirs, manage the estate, and see to visitors. That was never going to be Katsa. There were a few instances and suggestions in the book that really made me personally feel it was more New Adult than Young Adult. I found the ending frustrating, unexpected, but ultimately uplifting that Katsa remains true to herself.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯

Unrelated to plot gripe: My main issue is that this book had many spots where it seemed that the ink in the printing press ran out, and you had to guess what some spots would say, usually just a word or two, but that can really jar you from a book, yet it was a good book nonetheless. I hope that others do not experience this and get turned off from the book because of that.

Review of Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Synopsis:
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Review:
While the book might take a little bit to fall into, the world is vast and well described, quickly letting the reader become absorbed. I quite enjoyed Elisabeth’s journey from start to finish, a library child, and one that was raised with biases that she will have to work with and against in order to save everything. I loved the idea of redemption, and especially the thought that things in the world are usually not black and white- there is the possibility for something to be dark and evil, but just as much possibility for it to be used for good. This was bittersweet to finish, and wish I could’ve had a few more chapters to hear just a bit more of what happened at the end…

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Sky of Wind: An East of the Sun West of the Moon Romance by Emily Deady

Sky of Wind: An East of the Sun West of the Moon Romance (Fairy Tale Royals Book 4) by [Emily Deady]

Synopsis:
He’s my fake husband. Our kingdom’s only hope.
And he has no idea that I’m desperately in love with him.

I’m not strong and powerful like my brothers. I’m just a princess. A rather spoiled princess. My skills will not help us win this war.

But turns out, my mischievous mind and diplomatic mouth are perfect for subterfuge. By marrying Sol–a magic-wielder–I can sweet talk our way directly into the enemy’s headquarters where Sol can destroy the source of their power.

I just can’t let myself get distracted by my fake husband’s stormy eyes, or the gentle pressure of his hand on my arm as we exchange pleasantries with fellow dignitaries.

Pull it together, princess. Your people come first.

Sky of Wind is a standalone sweet romance with a happily ever after set in a larger fantasy world. It can be read on its own, but if you don’t like spoilers, start with Shard of Glass.

Review:
I absolutely loved this book. Having just finished the book about Robin when she was younger it was so great seeing not so young Meena. I absolutely loved seeing Robin again as well, especially with the knowledge that Lady or Maid gave. Meena shows that she had deep feelings and puts others first, even if her family never gives her the chance to ever do anything. Perhaps it’s because she’s a girl, perhaps it’s because she’s youngest, but seeing her learn of the real world and plight of other people was both heartbreaking and endearing. She took everything in stride and worked so hard to try to keep her people, and Sol, safe. This series is magnificent and I loved this book. Highly recommend this series and Emily Deady as an author.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Lady or Maid: A Goose Girl novella by Emily Deady

Lady or Maid: A Goose Girl Novella (Fairy Tale Royals) by [Emily Deady]

Synopsis:
Most people wouldn’t complain about being sent to live in a palace.
But I’d rather stay in my forest home.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice. I’m far too young to inherit Lockwood and the king of Iseldis is now my guardian. His luxurious feasts, blazing fires, and fancy clothing will do nothing to ease the fresh pain in my heart.

But my maid has an excellent suggestion. If we switch places before we arrive at the palace, I can grieve my lost parents in peace before my entire life changes.

What could go wrong?

Lady or Maid is a short story about Ian and Robin which takes place ten years before Shard of Glass. It is a sweet retelling of The Goose Girl and takes place during the Iseldan version of Christmas. Cuddle up for some cozy snow, sour berries, and a first crush.

Review:
This book was just perfect. I loved how donkeys were worked in instead of merely horses; it gave an interesting and neat development to the story that hasn’t been done. It was also neat how Robin showed herself to Ian despite supposedly being a goose girl, and how much he could see from his interactions with her. His keen insight after studying under his father to become king was quite well shown. I quite enjoyed this novella, and didn’t want to set it down. It was easy to read, but what really drew me in was how it really revolved around the emotions, relationships, and connections between the royals and their inner circle. Absolutely loved it.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Synopsis:
Kingdoms will clash. Choose your side.

The incredible conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

Face your fears, fight the battle.
Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone–even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

Review:
I waited and waited for the two factions to end up together and honestly I was not disappointed when they were together. However, when the parties were separate, it really seemed like Harper and Rhen left any sort of real connection for most of the book. When they finally came back together, their spark was undeniable, but it remained very obvious that Harper never really found a purpose in Emberfall, though she originally tried to help out in previous books. Jake finally found a purpose, which was great to see, but, Harper really failed quite a bit and really played the part of “uncertain little sister” in this book. The men were great, grew, had good arcs. The women, however, seemed to grow less certain of themselves. Harper’s spark was seen when she fled the castle, but Lia Mara never truly seemed to become fully confident in herself.

While I loved the last chapter and where it seemed to be going I felt like we dropped off with part of the story left untold. Harper still had no real “end” and while we can assume Noah and Jake are together we don’t know where they are staying or what they plan to do. It feels like there should be another book to tie up loose ends, which is to say, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one set 16 years in the future or so…

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯

Review of A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Synopsis:
Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

Review:
This book is just as epic as the last, however, in different ways. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one. I wasn’t a fan of Lia Mara and moreso the concept at first because I loved the dynamic of Grey, Harper, and Rhen. Unfortunately, this book really made it more and more apparent that Rhen isn’t the protagonist he may have appeared to be previously. While there are understandable reasons for his actions and reactions, I have found myself disliking him more and more… but also liking Grey more.

My personal opinion at the end of this is that Harper would do better as ruler herself, and that there better be a damn good final book in the trilogy to somehow tie this train wreck together. It would have made quite a bit more sense, in my head, for Rhen to have told Harper, and ended up with Harper himself. Instead, everyone seems completely different than they were, and while I enjoyed seeing Grey go out and find a love of his own, it seemed as if there was a major plot missing because as some other reviewers have mentioned, Rhen had lived with Grey for years and should have been able to spot there was an issue. Clearly, the heart so fierce and broken was Rhen’s, in retrospection.

I am not a fan of the actual ending at all. Who would do that after all those three had been through?!

Star rating: ✯✯✯

Review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (The Cursebreaker Series Book 1) by [Brigid Kemmerer]

Synopsis:
In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Review:
Firstly, I love that this book featured a character with disabilities. It was a fun take on what made the heroine less capable and have to work harder to manage her goals. That being said, there were several times, especially towards the end, where this condition didn’t seem to make a difference and there was no mention of it. Overall, it was a great addition and way to explain both Harper’s knowledge of skills many no longer have (without giving it away) as well as her tenacity to keep trying, even knowing that she may not be as good as others.

Rhen truly grows, but there is a lot of intensity between Grey and Harper, so it becomes hard to tell who is truly starting to care for whom. While that can be interesting, in many ways, all three characters seem to grow and resonate at the same time with each other and it becomes an interesting take on understanding what the other is going through.

This is a great epic fantasy and I would definitely recommend it. It does a great job of pulling you in and making you want to see what happens next. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was the ending, however, I hadn’t realized it was the beginning of a trilogy before I started writing this.

Star rating: ✯✯✯✯