Review | The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction, LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 513

Blurb from Goodreads:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

My Thoughts-01

Finally! Finally, a YA book I could shamelessly give my five star rating to! Because here’s a book that hits all the right notes. Everything came to me as a brilliant surprise. I guess it help that I didn’t read the blurb or any reviews before going into this book. I just checked its average rating and it was high enough that I decided to go for it. Which is a damn good decision, I think. There’s always an added magic to reading a book with completely no hint of what it offers. Just like the characters, I’m oblivious to what would happen next and somehow that gives a “part of the gang” vibes. Like I’m in this adventure with them and knowing only the things they knew. Of course I’m only speaking based on my experience but if you do want to go into this blind, stop reading this now because I’ll be gushing about this book in the next minutes.

Love may be a grand thing, but goddamn if it doesn’t take up more than its fair share of space inside a man.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is everything I could ask for in a historical fiction. It is adventure-filled. It is populated with very diverse characters. It talks about diverse subjects. There’s also a tiny speck of magic in it. And it is abso-bloody-lutely rib-tickling! This one is oozing with humor. The last time a book has made me laugh like this was My Lady Jane and it felt like ages ago. It doesn’t often happen that a book finds and tickles my funny bone but this one did! By far this is the best read I’ve had for 2017. This is the book to beat, YA! Read More »

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Review | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #3
Author: Erika Jokansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 478

Blurb from Goodreads:

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

My Thoughts-01

Tell me there’s going to be a book four! No? Well, drats! I’ll just go and drown myself in tears then. Considering how much I disliked the first book of this series, I never thought I’d get so invested in its world and its characters. This book in one word? Irresistible! How can I put it down when it’s spilling all the answers I’ve been dying to know? Spilling it in a riveting way, if I may add. Because there were lots of unexpected cards played in this stunning conclusion to this trilogy. And then everything just interlaced beautifully with each other and connects with a perfect fit.

The Fate of the Tearling definitely outshined the first two books. It was just… more. More growth, more intense action, more problems to deal with. What I enjoyed the most about the whole thing is getting more answers about Tearling’s early history and seeing how it gradually started to move away from William Tear’s ideal of peace. And of course there’s the revelations about the characters I’m most curious about—Row and the Fetch. I’ve had my eyes on the Fetch since the first book so imagine my excitement when this one opened up with his POV. Even if I wasn’t so curious about the Fetch, I think, his would still be the perfect POV to start this story with. That’s because the mystery that surrounds him has a way of reeling readers in.Read More »

Review | The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Invasion of the Tearling

Title: The Invasion of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: June 09,2015
Genre: AdultFantasy
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…

Erika Johansen’s fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling.

My Thoughts-01

This is why I’m thankful for not giving up on a series so easily. The Queen of the Tearling was a bit disappointing but this book is a huge improvement. The first book might be annoying for it’s lack of much needed explanations, but it actually served as a good foundation for this installment. There were still some subtle issues that I found along the way but I think this series has gone into a surprisingly unique and interesting direction. One that had me engrossed and left me wanting to know more about the world, the magic, the mysteries, and the characters’ fate.

Invasion of the Tearling feels like reading two different books about two different worlds—Kelsea’s and Lily’s. It’s like two treats in one. On one side we have a medieval-like world that faces war and is bound to lose everything. On the other we have a world rich in technology but is losing humanity. It’s good that the world-building has finally started to make a solid shape in this book and light has been shed on the whys and the hows that I had in book one. Not just intriguing, these worlds are also quite surprising. In fact, this is the first time I see the modern world of technology collide with the world of fantasy and magic. And it actually worked! It was confusing as hell at first, and I even thought the first book was ridiculous, but now it all made sense. I didn’t thought I was going to say this, but man, this is actually a great idea!Read More »

Review | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #1
Author: Erika Johansen
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Harper
Release Date: July 08, 2014
Genre: AdultFantasy
Pages: 448

Blurb from Goodreads:

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

My Thoughts-01

This book was a mixture of likes and dislikes for me. There were certain aspects of the story that were quite gripping but there were also a lot of plot holes and missing explanations and character issues that I just couldn’t ignore. So I’m kind of sitting in the middle with my rating.

I don’t want to end this review ranting so the bad stuff goes first. I’ll try not to spoil this book but know that sometimes I get a little carried away when I’m laying my issues on the table so a bit of spoilers might slip through.

What’s Disappointing

Kelsea. There are two different angles in which a reader could see Kelsea’s character. You could choose to see her as this young queen who acted on impulse and doomed her Kingdom with a single act the minute she was in power. Or you could choose to see her as this queen with a fierce determination to right the wrong. Either way, she’s the Queen. And now it falls on her to lead the Tearling, protect its people, and free the kingdom from Mortmesne’s clutch. Read More »

Review | Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My Thoughts-01

And here’s yet another of my highly anticipated retelling that just turned out to be such a disappointment. Hunted has the finest ingredients for a retelling—Beauty and the Beast mixed with a number of interesting Russian tales—but still it lacked flavor. The whole thing was quite dull. Its characters were flat. The world was even flatter. The plot sticks very closely to the Beauty and the Beast story. And because I prefer my retellings to venture a bit further from the original tale, I didn’t find this very interesting. It simply lacked the twists and the pull to make it different from the original. And it was so slow, I was bored to tears.

I usually don’t have problems with slow-paced books as long as their reason for being slow is:

A.) It is trying to build a solid world for me to enjoy.
B.) It is focused on giving depth to the characters to make me want to care for them.

This book did none of those. The world-building was so vague but I don’t think it’s with the writing because I quite liked Spooner’s writing style. I think it wouldn’t be hard to picture a world with her writing if only there were enough details given for me to visualize. There isn’t much detail with regards to the world in this book except that it snowed a lot and that our main protagonist, Yeva, used to live in luxury with her family and later moved to a cabin in the woods after her father’s downfall. Then there’s the Beast who lives in a crumbling castle in the middle of the woods. I’m assuming that this castle is somehow warded by magic because it’s so hard to find but… so easy to find? Okay, hell, that was confusing. But that’s it for world-building. Read More »

Review | Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

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Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Published by HarperCollins on September 27, 2016
Genre : Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages : 437

The Blurb-01

Sabriel meets Romeo and Juliet in this stunning and atmospheric novel—the first in a duology—from the author of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound.

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . .

My Thoughts-01

Once upon a time, she believed she was only a sword. Now she fears she is only a girl.

When you say retelling, Rosamund Hodge is the first author that comes to my mind. Being a huge fan of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, I’d read anything with her name on the cover. Hodge’s worlds were always very complex and intricate that it has the tendency to become a bit confusing at a point. That’s how it goes with her first two books and I ended up loving them anyway. But such was not the case with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Reading this felt like being in a maze and I found myself lost a lot of times.

Yes, this is a retelling! Of Romeo and Juliet! And it comes with necromancers! And zombies! And magic! I thought I was hitting a lot of birds with one stone. With Romeo’s and Juliet’s name on the blurb this book screams romance, which is what I’m so into lately. Also I was just really curious as to what this classic couple’s chemistry would be like under Hodge’s imagination. And seeing how Hodge can expertly weave an addicting romantic fantasy and develop extremely unforgettable characters in her previous works (Hello, Ignifex!), I thought now is the time to start reading this book. Read More »

Review | Yesternight by Cat Winters

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Yesternight by Cat Winters
Published by HarperCollins on October o4, 2016
Genre : Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Adult, Fantasy
Pages : 374

THE BLURB

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From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core. A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

MY THOUGHTS

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I’ve only read The Uninvited from Cat Winters and it was perfectly amazing—from the creepy plotlines to the carefully delineated characters. I instantly adored her and she became one of my favorite paranormal authors. Yesternight shares the same eerie concept as The Uninvited as well as Winters’ fluid writing style but it just wasn’t as captivating. The premise was good actually, but that ending left me unimpressed. For a story that started out solid and strong, this book had a rather sloppy and unsatisfying end to it. It was a good four star read until the final quarter of the book that felt like such a letdown. It gave me the feeling that the novel was ended in a rush. It’s as if the author built up all those nice things from an interesting foundation and just got lazy and want out.  Read More »

Review | This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

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This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published by HarperCollins on July 15, 2016
Genre : Paranormal, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages : 427

THE BLURB

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Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

MY THOUGHTS

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For the past few weeks, I’ve buried my face in a series of books about princes and princesses, castle politics, and scheming villains. This Savage Song has none of that which makes it a perfect breather. What it bears are Monsters!

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.”

I’ve heard countless stories about monsters as a child, but it’s never a common one with Victoria Schwab. Her stories were always deliciously unique and just the right amount of creepy. An engrossing supernatural tale is what this is. The moment I started reading, I was completely absorbed and it was just impossible to set down.  Read More »

Review | Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

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Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Published by HarperCollins on January 24, 2017
Genre : Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery & Thriller
Pages : 387

THE BLURB

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Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

MY THOUGHTS

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Tiffany D. Jackson presents a riveting thriller complete with family drama, complex relationships, deceit, and deeply buried truths, in her haunting debut novel, Allegedly. In nearly 400 pages, Jackson lets us into the life of Mary —an alleged baby killer —showed us the struggles she has to make to change her life for the better, and showed us just how messy life can be. She creates a realistic portrait of teenage life in its roughest form and it was painful to read. Allegedly is a disturbing story about how far a child could go to protect her mother, and later, what a mother is prepared to do to keep her child.  Read More »