Ash by Malinda Lo

Rating: 3.75/5 Stars Ash

Length: 264 pages

Series: Ash, Book 1

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Fiction, Retelling

Publication date: September 1, 2009

 

“Every time you come near me,” he said, “you come closer to the end of everything.”
“It does not feel that way,” she said. “It feels like I am coming closer to the beginning.”

After her father’s death, Ash finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Filled with grief, the only bright part in Ash’s life is rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her.

The day she meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to changed. Instead of chasing fairies, Kaisa teaches Ash how to hunt. Instead of staring at the past, Ash learned to look at the future. But Sidhean has claimed Ash as his own, forcing Ash to choose between her fairy tale dreams and true love.

 


 

Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Lo is Chinese.

3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: Both of my parents are still alive and together so I’ve never needed to deal with a stepparent, let alone one that despises me. I’ve also never met a fairy in my life or made a deal with them, met royalty, or loved someone enough to risk everything for them.

 


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The Fallen Angel by Kenneth B Andersen

Rating: 4.5/5 stars The Fallen Angel

Length: 293 pages

Series: The Great Devil War, Book 5

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, European Literature, Danish Literature

Publication Date: May 28, 2020

 

Almost two years since Philip left Hell for good, things have changed – but so has Philip. Haunted by terrifying nightmares, he’s never felt so lonely or angry.

When the impossible happens and Philip finds himself back in Hell, he’s surprised to learn that it wasn’t the Devil but the Almighty himself that brought him there. The Great Devil War might have ended, but the worst is yet to come.

 


 

This amazing book comes out today, and if you haven’t yet picked this series up I highly recommend you do. Thanks to Andersen I had the chance to read this fantastic book before the release date, the latest installation in a series I’ve quickly fallen in love with.

Below are my quick, spoiler free reviews about this fantastic novel. I’d highly recommend picking the book – the entire series if you haven’t yet – up to read just how great a series this truly is. Then, once you’re caught up, come check back here in a couple of days so we can have a full, spoiler filled talk about the tale.

 


 

Spoiler free Review:

This book continues with what I’ve loved so much throughout the series so far. Andersen does an amazing job at creating and evolving his characters, to make them feel real. Their decisions feel like they actually have weight in a world I can imagine being in. Not that I’d love to be in Hell, but it’s fascinating to see how the world has changed and grown over the years.

Philip is still dealing with the consequences of his actions – has been doing so, alone, since his return. Everything he thought he did right, every change of fate he took, he’s now second guessing. Everyone he used to talk to about these things, gone. The people he trusted the most in the world – in any world, in fact – are lost to him.

And all of that’s just the consequences of the first four books in the series. In The Fallen Angel, Philip has to come to terms with consequences he didn’t even think about. His actions not only effected himself, but also those around him and the worlds themselves.

The war might be over, but that doesn’t mean things are fixed. On the contrary, things have escalated and Philip is needed once again. Finding himself in a world he never thought he’d see again, Philip has to overcome his anger and loneliness and fight back.

 


 

Reviews for this series:

  1. The Devil’s Apprentice (Book 1)
  2. The Die of Death (Book 2)
  3. The Wrongful Death (Book 3)
  4. The Angel of Evil (Book 4)

 

Subaru by Masahito Soda, Vol. 3 – 6

Five year old Subaru no longer has time for friends or play. Kazuma is dying and slowly forgetting everything, even his twin. Subaru visits him every day, talking and dancing all to try to make him remember her. And he always does by the end of the day. Encouraged by a friend to try a ballet class, Subaru does and falls in love with the dance.

 


 

Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Soda is Japanese.

2. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who you can relate to: Subaru is a ballet dancer and I took 16 years of dance classes (including ballet). She’s also clear in her distaste to compete while it took me a while to start enjoying dance competitions.

3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: Subaru had a twin that ended up dying due to a brain tumor whereas I have never had a twin and my older sister remains in good health.

 


Continue reading “Subaru by Masahito Soda, Vol. 3 – 6”

Subaru by Masahito Soda, Vol. 1 & 2

Five year old Subaru no longer has time for friends or play. Kazuma is dying and slowly forgetting everything, even his twin. Subaru visits him every day, talking and dancing all to try to make him remember her. And he always does by the end of the day. Encouraged by a friend to try a ballet class, Subaru does and falls in love with the dance.

 


Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Soda is Japanese.

2. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who you can relate to: Subaru is a ballet dancer and I took 16 years of dance classes (including ballet). She’s also clear in her distaste to compete while it took me a while to start enjoying dance competitions.

3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: Subaru had a twin that ended up dying due to a brain tumor whereas I have never had a twin and my older sister remains in good health. 


Continue reading “Subaru by Masahito Soda, Vol. 1 & 2”

Stain by A.G. Howard

Rating: 5/5 stars Stain.jpg

Pages: 516

Series: N/A

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Romance

Publication date: January 15, 2019

 

Scorch trotted up and snuffed her fuzzed head. He then sat on his hindquarters to gawk at her. “Humans are strange creatures. Moved to tears by emotions. Moved to laughter by physical exertion. And you, tiny trifling thing, are the strangest of all.”

(Ch. 17, p. 265)

Lyra, a princess incapable of speech or sound, finds herself cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt. Saved by a witch who steals her memories and raises her in an enchanted forest, Lyra is disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, the prince of thorns and night is dying. The only way for him to break the curse is to marry the princess of daylight as she is his true equal. But while Lyra is finding her way back to her identity, an impostor princess appears to steal her prince and crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice and strong enough to pass a series of tests.

I have yet to read an A.G. Howard novel that I didn’t love, and Stain is no exception. This novel brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion, yet at other times make me laugh out loud. I fell in love with the characters and felt heartbreak when they did.

While I won’t go too in depth on the subject because it would be considered a pretty big spoiler, there were two characters in this story that held my heart in their hands. I was instantly in love with them and wanted nothing but the best for each. Both of these characters sacrificed so much in order to bring the two kingdoms together and both of them managed to pull tears from me. While both challenging at times, they were two of the sweetest and most caring creatures I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time with. I look forward to doing it all over again the next time I pick up this book.

Lyra goes through unprecedented challenges in her world, all to prove that she’s worthy – and all without knowing that she’s doing it. She must prove that she’s tough enough to sleep on a bed of nails and loud enough to be heard without a voice. Born a rose and stripped of her thorns, Lyra proves time and time again that though she might have been stripped of everything she’s ever known she’s still a strong spirit that won’t be broken.

While I found this book to be slow at times, every word is worth it. Those slow moments sometimes held the most important clues and only looking back on them did I see how truly impactful the scenes were. Howard is amazing with words and I look forward to reading anything else she writes.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in twisted retellings of fairy tales. Stain is an amazing retelling of the Princess and the Pea, all while being twisted into something almost unrecognizable. Almost, but not quite. The unique spin on this classic tale is one of the things I loved most about it. And if you love this read, I highly recommend reading Howard’s other novels as well.

One of the things I love so much about Howard’s novels is that they’re so great to jump back into time and time again. Having first been introduced to her works through Splintered in high school, I can honestly say that I adore going back and reading everything I have by Howard. I’ll be here, shielding my heart for the emotional turmoil within Stain, until I’m again able to jump into this story and feel the emotions packed into its pages.

 


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Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 5/5 stars Sea Prayer.jpg

Length: 48 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Short Stories, Historical Fiction, War, Refugee

Publication date: September 18, 2018

 


 

Reading Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Hosseini is Afghan.

3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: I have never been a refugee, nor do I have children.

 


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Her Majesty’s Necromancer by C. J. Archer

Rating: 4/5 stars Her Majesty's Necromancer.jpg

Pages: 246

Series: The Ministry of Curiosities, Book 2

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Steampunk, Historical, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance,

Publication Date: August 24, 2015

 

“He has parents, I know that much.”

“Does he?” Gus asked mildly. “Thought he was spawned by the devil.”

“Or the Reaper.” Cook grinned as he held out a plate with a scone on it. “That be why he’s called Death.” (Ch. 2)

Bodies have started going missing from the cemetery, leaving Lincoln and the Ministry of Curiosities to wonder if there’s something supernatural going on. Of course, as a lowly housemaid, it isn’t Charlie’s job to get involved in Ministry business.

Instead, Charlie begins an investigation of her own. Searching for details about her birth mother and making inquiries into Lincoln’s past might very well keep Charlie busy in her limited spare time. Especially when what she’s learned has the power to destroy the fragile trust growing between them.

This novel continues my descent into love for the Steampunk genre. I really did enjoy seeing Charlie start to understand her powers and how using them might be beneficial, seeing Lincoln try to come to terms with relying on others. I enjoyed seeing them trying to use their enhanced knowledge of the occult to solve crimes happening around them.

I might not know as much about history as my sister (who just so happens to have a history degree), but I greatly enjoyed seeing the mesh of Victorian England and fantasy. I loved seeing the way that the past seemed so effortlessly mixed with advanced technologies/techniques, of medical “advancements” in ways I never would’ve dreamed of.

On top of expanding my horizons in regards to genres, Archer did a fantastic job at expanding this world and its characters and making it all feel real. I almost felt like I was right there with Charlie as she tried to decipher Lincoln’s moods, when the gang was joking around with each other. Winding my way through London with Charlie felt like I was actually tagging along on her adventures – those that were both intentional and not.

Once again I find myself on the edge of my seat, waiting to see where the story will go next. I love hanging on Archers’ words and eagerly await the time that I can pick up the next book in the series, Beyond the Grave. Further, I can’t wait to see what else the Steampunk genre has in store for me. In case it wasn’t obvious, I certainly recommend giving this book – and this whole series – a read.

 


Continue reading “Her Majesty’s Necromancer by C. J. Archer”

To Wake the Dead by Sarah Lampkin

Rating: 4/5 stars To Wake the Dead.jpg

Length: 420 pages

Series: Dead Dreamer, Book 2

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, New Adult, Romance, Ghosts, Spirits

Publication date: December 2019

 

If you set foot in the woods on the night of a new or quarter moon, you leave yourself vulnerable to the creature’s claws. Should you survive the night without a scratch, you will be blessed. But should you be marked, you will perish within a year.

(Ch. 1)

More than ever before, Brenna teeters on the edge between the living and the dead. In her sophomore year at Nephesburg College, she’s more determined than ever to stick to the living side of her life. But with her own soul trying to kill her and a new Dead Dreamer fighting her for power, Brenna can’t help but be drawn back to the land of the dead.

Meanwhile, the Gatekeepers are doing everything in their power to regain the power they once held over the town. With the appearance of mysterious twins, Brenna needs to decide what’s more important: her secret, or fighting for what she believes is right. Brenna knows the stakes are high as her decision might result in her permanent death. Will she be able to choose wisely?

This book gave me more of what I enjoyed in To Dream is to Die. Brenna continues to try and balance her life in the Fade with her year of schooling in Nephesburg. Having been through post secondary myself, I know it’s not always the easiest to balance school with everything else – and that comes from someone who didn’t have to try live in two different planes. And here I thought being on a varsity sports team while balancing a double major was challenging. At least I didn’t have to juggle my soul on top of all of that!

The world continues to be filled with mystery and intrigue, leaving me with more and more questions and wondering how Breanna’s going to get herself out of the mess she’s in. Of course her friends are still there, but there’s only so much that they can do to help. And, of course, Brenna’s a strong personality who’d rather keep the weight on her own shoulders than force those she cares about to deal with the burden.

In this read we see Brenna continue to learn about her powers and what they mean. Having never met anyone with the same abilities as her before coming to Nephesburg, it’s no surprise that Brenna continues to be shocked and awed by the things she finds out. The more she and her friends learn about the powers of the Dead Dreamers, the less they seem to understand about what’s going on around them. It’s true what they say: too much information can make your head spin.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. The speculative elements kept my attention and the questions raised throughout the story keep me coming back for more. I look forward to seeing how Brenna will deal with what comes next and who she’s willing to open up to.

 


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To Dream is to Die by Sarah Lampkin

Rating: 3.75/5 stars To Dream is to Die.jpg

Length: 296 pages

Series: Dead Dreamer, Book 1

Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy, New Adult, Romance

Publication date: August 27, 2012, January 8, 2019 (Parliament House)

 

“Well, that’s one hell of a trick.”

I tried to play the stupid card. “What are you talking about?”

Damon closed the door quietly behind him and walked over to Erica’s desk chair to sit down. “Oh, I don’t know, leaving your body whenever you want? I’ll admit it was the first time I’ve seen that. I knew there was something different about you.”

If murder weren’t a crime, I’d kill him. “What do you want, Damon?”

(Ch. 3)

Brenna Whit expected freshman year of college to give her a new start and let her meet new people. However, she hides a dark secret. An accident that happened to her three years prior resulted in her spirit leaving her body and wandering the Fade whenever she sleeps. When someone spots her in spirit form, Brenna fears that her secret is out. Trying to balance new friends, a new crush, and possible new enemies, Brenna has a hard time juggling her first year of college.

The premise if this story is what originally drew it to my attention. What would it be like to be able to walk the plane of the dead before you yourself have died, to experience things that no one does before permanent death, all while waking up in the morning in order to go about your life?

Brenna might have been dealing with her nightly activities for three years before college, but she still wasn’t prepared for what Nephesburg was going to throw at her. Getting to experience everything with her, to be along for the ride while she learns where her powers come from and how she can use them, was a fascinating tale. To learn that there’s more to this world than Brenna expected and to know that even more is to come was a great way to peak a reader’s attention.

While this book has a slow start to it, I believe that it’s worth pushing through to when things pick up. If you’re looking for a unique young adult tale with speculative elements to it, this is a good book to pick up. The creation of the intricacies of this world are enough to keep me coming back for more. Lampkin did a fantastic job with this first installation of Brenna’s story and I, for one, look forward to reading more about it.

 


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The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

Rating: 4.5/5 stars The Kiss Thief.jpg

Length: 320 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult, Adult, Fiction, Dark, Politics

Publication date: January 6, 2019

 

I found my bride sitting in front of her vanity mirror, wearing a tight black velvet dress – it looked like we coordinated something other than trying to stab each other – a lit cigarette dangling from the corner of her luscious lips. She was shoving mud into a pot, gardening in the middle of her bedroom, in a Chanel evening dress.

She was crazy.

And she was my crazy.

(Ch. 6)

Francesca believed that a first kiss should be earned, not stolen. That the vows you make on your wedding day should be cherished, not broken. That your heart only beats for one man. That it isn’t split and bled for two rivals who’ll fight until the bitter end. She believed that all great love stories have a happy ending, but found herself erasing and rewriting her story until the very last chapter.

Francesca Rossi wanted nothing more than to marry her first love, Angelo Bandini, heir to one of the most powerful families in the Chicago Outfit. Yet instead she finds herself taken by Senator Wolfe Keaton who held her father’s sins over his head. Somewhere in the middle of this mess, she’s going to have to find her forever.

It took me a while to get into this story, and I’m very glad that I stuck it out until the tale had its claws stuck into me. I picked this book up because I was interested in its premise – who wouldn’t be interested in reading a modern day romance surrounded by the mob and political ambition? What, not everyone? Okay then. – but I wasn’t really sure what I’d gotten myself into. After all, the synopsis of this story doesn’t really let you know what’s in store for you.

This turned out to be for the best as I had no expectations going into the read, which allowed me to be blown away with what I found in the tale. Too often a synopsis will over promise things, leaving me feel let down when the story doesn’t blow me out of the water. The way that Shen left her synopsis purposefully obtuse allowed the story to do all the talking and I loved it.

Having taken a couple of Classics courses myself, I adored the casual use of Greek mythology in small ways throughout this tale. While the story of Nemesis and Narcissus isn’t the most well known, it’s a great tale and I encourage everyone to look it up if you don’t already know it. Having this myth play even a small role in this story made me smile and enjoy it that much more.

The thing that I most enjoyed about this read is the way that Shen made the relationships and characters messy. Too often I find that books try to make their characters seem perfect and infallible. Not here. Instead, Shen does a fantastic job at having the characters undermine and underestimate each other. She uses the lens of youth as a tool to allow the characters to make mistakes, while traditions help force people down paths that they wouldn’t otherwise have taken. These tools allowed the people and their interactions to feel more real than they would’ve otherwise.

I’d recommend The Kiss Thief to someone looking for a romance that deals with heavier topics such as political corruption and the mobster mentality. While I can understand that this read might not be for everyone (my earlier joke aside), I really did enjoy my time in this world. I think it was a great standalone romance, creating the perfect amount of world and character to fit into this tale to leave me satisfied without craving for more.

However, I’d like to give a quick warning about a near-rape scene in the story. If something like this is hard for you to read, I would look elsewhere. While the scene in question is not considered rape by the characters in it, it’s close enough that I’m sure some people will be uncomfortable reading it.

There are also scenes of domestic abuse in this tale. While these do not take the forefront of the story, they do play a role in it. If these scenes make you uncomfortable, you might want to find another read.

 


Continue reading “The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen”