Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Reign of the Fallen (Reign of the Fallen #1)
By Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher:
Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: YALLFest

To Sum It Up: In the kingdom of Karthia, the ruling nobles have maintained their positions with the help of necromancers who raise them from the dead. The Dead must, however, remain covered by a shroud or else risk becoming lethal monsters known as Shades. Necromancer Odessa’s dedication to her job has been unwavering, until a tragedy shatters her world, and grief envelops her. Meanwhile, Shade attacks are on the rise, and Karthia needs its most skilled necromancer to stop them.

Review: As much as I try not to make any assumptions about a book based on the cover alone, sometimes it’s really hard, especially when a cover is particularly eye-catching. When I first spotted Reign of the Fallen at YALLFest, its cover totally called to me, and after reading the blurb—necromancers, undead creatures called Shades, a kingdom in peril—this book sounded exactly like my thing. Unfortunately, it ended up falling way short of my expectations.

This is one of those cases where I should have DNFed but got too far into the book to put it aside. I was also reluctant to DNF this because I had just DNFed another book. I wasn’t too many pages into Reign of the Fallen when I started feeling iffy about it because the book repeatedly mentioned how special the main character, Odessa, was. Odessa’s awesomeness quickly became tiresome.

Reign of the Fallen employs a lot of telling vs. showing, and this affects so many aspects of the book, from the world-building to the character development. The world is never really fleshed out, and I couldn’t buy into it. The King of Karthia and his fellow royals have ruled for two hundred years because necromancers have raised them from the dead. Those who have been brought back must, however, remain completely covered by a shroud because if any part of them is seen by a living person, the dead individual turns into a zombie-like Shade. There’s no explanation for why this happens; it just does. The book also doesn’t go into any detail about the necromancers’ magic. For a fantasy read, Reign of the Fallen glosses over its fantasy elements.

All of the telling also undermines the emotional punch the novel tries to deliver. Odessa suffers a terrible loss early on, but the depth of her relationship with that character isn’t conveyed effectively. This in turn lessens the emotional impact of a chunk of the book, which follows Odessa’s grief-driven spiral into an addiction to calming potion. Both the book’s title and synopsis focus on the plotline involving an alarming increase in Shade attacks, but it takes a long time for that part of the novel to move to the forefront. Even when the story shifts to the threat posed by the Shades, there’s zero mystery as to who’s behind it. I’d hoped for some kind of twist because the clues were so obvious, but alas, there was none.

In the end, Reign of the Fallen was not at all the book I’d thought it would be. It barely explored any fantasy, which was disappointing because the premise had so much potential. Instead the story veered down a different path, which would have been fine if the book had dug deeper into the weighty subject matter as opposed to just describing it through telling. I’d hoped to like this as much as Garth Nix’s Sabriel, another fantasy with necromancy in it, but sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

All in All: I should have listened to the part of my brain that said this book was not going to work out and given up after the first few chapters didn’t wow me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Six Years of Blogging!

It's hard to believe, but this little blog started six years ago today! So much has changed in six years. When the blog began way back in 2012, my cousins Ally and Melissa and I averaged reading probably 50 books a year each and posted on the blog at least three times a week, sometimes more. Those were the days! Now we're all busy with things like school and work and other adventures in adulting.

We don't read or post nearly as much as we used to, but I think we can give ourselves some credit for at least still being here, lol. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to chat with us over the years. Getting to connect with you has been the absolute best, and we're going to keep on reading and blogging away, even if it's at our current snail's pace, lol.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman
I Have Lost My Way
By Gayle Forman
Publisher:
Viking
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read

To Sum It Up: Freya, Harun, and Nathaniel are three very different people leading three very different lives, but they do have one thing in common. They have all reached turning points and know they are on the edge of something. A freak accident brings them all together, and in each other, they begin to find the intangible piece that’s been missing from each of their lives.

Review: On the rare occasion when I read contemporary, Gayle Forman is my go-to author for the genre, and she hasn’t disappointed me yet. Her latest novel, I Have Lost My Way, is another page-turner, centered around three strangers who meet by what seems like chance. Thanks to her magical storytelling, though, Forman convinces you that these three characters were absolutely meant to find each other.

I Have Lost My Way has a fairly simple premise that belies how deep the characters and the story are. I should say “stories,” because the book not only follows the development of the friendship between the three main characters—Freya, Harun, and Nathaniel—but it also explores their individual backstories. The book switches between third person omniscient and first person narration. Through the latter, we learn how the title applies to each character.

Freya is an up-and-coming singer who mysteriously loses her voice in the middle of recording her debut album. Harun is nursing a broken heart but can’t tell anyone, especially his traditional parents, because no one knows he’s gay. Nathaniel’s character poses a bit of an enigma, but as the puzzle pieces fall into place, what emerges is a story that will shatter your heart.

It’s been a while since a book captured my attention almost instantly and held it all the way to the last page. I devoted every spare second I had to reading this and was reluctant to put it down whenever real life called. Gayle Forman is so gifted at writing characters you feel compelled to read about and care about. I also loved her beautiful portrayal of the diversity that makes New York the greatest city in the world (in this native New Yorker’s not so humble opinion). If you enjoy exquisite storytelling with characters so authentic they could step right out of the pages, then this book is a must-read.

All in All: Another winning novel from Gayle Forman. Contemporary usually isn’t my cup of tea, but her books, including this one, are always compulsively readable.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

* This review may contain spoilers for the previous books in the series.

A Conjuring of LIght by V.E. Schwab
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)
By V.E. Schwab
Publisher:
Tor Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: With the shadow king Osaron on the verge of taking control of Red London and all of its people, Kell, Lila, Rhy, and Alucard race to discover a way to stop him. They find themselves bargaining with shady figures, making unlikely allies, and sacrificing whatever is necessary in order to stand even the smallest chance against Osaron. As unstoppable as the shadow king seems, though, his weakness may be underestimating the determination of those fighting to save Arnes.

Review: I may have set a personal record for longest amount of time taken to read a book while reading A Conjuring of Light. It took me about five months from start to finish. This had absolutely nothing to do with the book itself and everything to do with my mindset due to all the goings on outside the world of books. Finally, though, I found myself with some time to get reacquainted with this novel, and once I dove back into its fantastic world of magic, multiple Londons, and a many-sided coat, I devoured the remaining pages, reading more in two days than I had in almost two months.

The previous book in the series, A Gathering of Shadows, ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, and mercifully, A Conjuring of Light dives right into seeing its resolution. Don’t be fooled into thinking, however, that the book is done giving you heart palpitations because it’s only just beginning. I felt rather wrecked by the time I was done reading A Conjuring of Light. Even when there isn’t an action scene taking place, the threat posed by Osaron, the evil magic that’s taking over Red London, is always so palpable that you’re on edge for just about the entire book, waiting for the next stab to your heart, as sharp as one of Lila Bard’s knives or quips.

Osaron seems such an unstoppable foe, and every clash with the shadow king and the unwilling followers he creates by invading their minds is a fierce battle. Not only do Kell, Lila, and Alucard need to contend with that in order to escape Red London in the hope of finding an object that may help them, but they also have to fight off vicious pirates and literally bargain with their lives. Sacrifice also looms large over the main characters, both the ones who wield magic and those who do not, as they’re all pushed to their physical and emotional limits—sometimes beyond.

In addition to creating an incredibly immersive magical world, Victoria Schwab has exquisitely crafted complex characters. What I especially love about them is that they’re flawed. They make mistakes, and there are consequences, and that is what makes them so relatable. Schwab also possesses a knack for writing the best morally gray characters, like Victor Vale from Vicious and Holland from Shades of Magic. Holland has been an intriguing, complicated character from the outset of the series, and with the addition of some backstory in A Conjuring of Light, Schwab once again demonstrates just how gifted she is at creating characters with seemingly endless depth.

I absolutely love badass thief/pirate Delilah Bard. No matter how hard or how many times this resilient lady gets knocked down, she gets back up and keeps fighting. I can’t emphasize enough how intense this book can be at times, usually with Lila right in the thick of the action.

My list of favorite things about this book and this series could go on and on, so I’ll only mention one last highlight: the bond between Kell and Rhy. Of course, it goes way beyond just being brothers because of the magic Kell used to tie their lives together in order to save Rhy’s life. Here again, Schwab examines all of the facets of Kell’s actions back in A Darker Shade of Magic. Yes, Rhy is alive, but he continues to struggle with the weight of what happened to him as well as with the weight of his crown—a prince without magic whose people are under attack all around him. Rhy’s arc is as compelling as it is outstanding, and the same can be said for the arcs of Kell, Lila, Alucard, and Holland.

As a series finale, A Conjuring of Light delivers in every way imaginable. It’s heart-pounding, sometimes even humorous thanks to the witty dialogue, occasionally heartbreaking, and most definitely magical.

All in All: If you love books about magic, this series is not to be missed. A Conjuring of Light is an absolutely stellar close to Shades of Magic. Anoshe, indeed.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

March 2018 Recap

To those celebrating today, Happy Easter! I'm trying to pace myself with the Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. XD It's also April Fool's Day, and I wish this were an April Fool's joke: I posted once last month. :/ I wasn't going to bother with a March recap, but I did read 2 books and 1 short story last month, which is a lot more reading than I've been managing lately.

The short story was Maggie Stiefvater's "Opal," which is a segue between The Raven King and her forthcoming Ronan trilogy. Obviously, I highly, highly, highly recommend reading it. :)

I've got a couple of reviews backlogged, which should be posting soon-ish if I remember to type them up. I still do things old school, lol, preferring to write my reviews on paper first. It's an extra step, but in an ever-increasing digital world, I'm clinging to my paper!

Happy April reading and blogging, everyone!

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