Bites

Published: May 3, 2015
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.

When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.

Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood? (goodreads.com)

It’s a good premise, and the writing was compelling enough, but ultimately Morrison is in her characters’ heads WAY too much and it kept pulling me out of the story. Certainly not a bad book, but I think it could have been significantly better if more was focused on keeping the plot moving instead of constant internal monologues from the characters. Way too many questions asked within their heads as a means of substituting tension where, considering the plot, there was tension enough going on around them.

I liked the basic story and I think the premise itself was compelling. People born with this magical ability are hunted out of society for being dangerous and demonic. They’re called Shells, basically just flesh sacks for demons to take over. What they have to look forward to is a Cleansing, which will kill them, or a Draining, which is effectively a magical lobotomy that leaves them a numb husk of a person.

The story is told from two points of view, Cole’s and Aia’s (who’s also called Maia, but I don’t know why she drops the M). One is a Bender hiding in plain sight and the other is a Bender being hunted. Both end up working together to topple a theocratic regime more bent on ruling by fear than by reason.

Cole doesn’t experience a whole lot of character development throughout the story. Not really. Aia has somewhat of a lurching shift in character when she finds out about a characteristic of another character she’s supposed to be spying on. She then becomes infuriatingly passive to the point where it’s almost illogical when I just wanted her to crack some skulls. But that’s just me.

But the biggest issue I had with FROM THE ASHES, and why I’m probably not going to read further into the series, is that the characters kept getting in their own way. There was just way too much internal pontificating and in many cases it was a substitute for tension, but it just became glaring and annoying the more I read of it. It really slowed down the plot for me to the point where I was getting jarred out of it every time we got sucked into a character’s head to see how they were going to work something out. It’s one thing to be privy to the internal workings of a character when in first person point of view. It’s another thing when a scene pauses so the character can ask themselves questions about what’s coming up next. I can only handle so much of that.

Ultimately one of the better self pubs I’ve read. It’s not a bad book, by any stretch of the word. I think the world is compelling and Morrison has something good going here. I just wish the characters got out of the way more.

3

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: March 19, 2017
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Nothing happens by chance. Nothing is as it seems.

The Gauntlet: Intersection point of surrounding four cities and a melting pot for four Houses in which arithmencers are divided according to how they can manipulate electromagnetism.

Damian knows little about the culture and the way of life in each city, until he turns out to be an arithmencer and is expected to join the House his father leads.

But when the emperor who has been ruling over the cities for two hundred years disappears, the delicate balance between the Houses begins to shift.

More and more, Damian finds power and responsibility thrust upon him for restoring equilibrium to a world falling apart. (goodreads.com)

So I’ll say a couple things up front about BREAKING DAMIAN. I DNFed this book on a technicality. More on that in a minute. Because I DNFed it I won’t be rating it. I don’t feel like I can accurately ascribe a rating to a book I haven’t finished. I also feel like I shouldn’t be reviewing this book at all. Part of my feels I shouldn’t because of the situation, but the other part of me feels that certain things need to be said about the book and the situation itself. Obviously I’ve leaned toward the latter.

On the surface BREAKING DAMIAN looks really put together. The cover is gorgeous, the blurb is compelling. This little package right here is the reason why I accepted it for review. When you open the book, however, it’s a big ol’ mess.

The world-building is less building and more pulling random elements out of a hat and mashing them together. Originally the world feels old, without any kind of modern technology, placed in a non-descript time in the past. The magic is kind of odd, sort of science-y, but not really. And then flying cars and ice cream and portal-jumping and tribes and holograms come into play and my head’s spinning. I can’t keep track of it and I can’t situate myself in the world because there’s so much going on and there’s absolutely no consistency to it.

The characters are blah. Very unspectacular and uninteresting. Damian finds himself with a new power every chapter and gets shunted from one end of the world to another as these things keep cropping up. I just rolled my eyes every time he was able to do something new with absolutely no context for what he was doing. There was no backstory to what was going on so every time something new was introduced, whether it was with the character or the world, it felt like it was out of nowhere. I couldn’t keep up with it.

And the author’s use of grammar was blatantly incorrect. Throughout everything that I’ve read. Forgive me if I don’t describe this correctly because I’m not this level of grammarian, but he nounded words that shouldn’t have been nouns. And he used combinations of words like “a quicksand.” A quicksand what? Pit? Box? Tupperware? I couldn’t help but think of:

And the use of commas instead of periods, especially when dialogue was involved. Annoyed the crap out of me.

Now I get to the DNF part. This book was really difficult for me to read for the reasons I’ve said above. It was a slog. I was not getting into it. Then I get an email from the author saying that based on some feedback he’d received he’s going to consider the copy of the book I had an ARC (it was not originally an ARC) and he’s going to rewrite it. He wanted to send me the rewritten book and get my feedback then and make it even better.

Few things with this.

  1. I was fuming. A week of my life wasted when I could have been reading something I wasn’t suffering through.
  2. Authors, make sure what you’re sending out to reviewers is the final copy of the book. If it’s truly an ARC, pitch it that way so reviewers can tailor their reviews accordingly. Even if it is an ARC, it shouldn’t be a hot mess.
  3. Never do something like this. Ever. If, by chance, you do decide to rewrite the book in the middle of your marketing campaign, don’t tell the people whom you’ve already sent the book. Personally, I would have preferred to not have known. I would have finished reading it, reviewed it, and moved on. If the author decided to issue an updated, edited version, great! I would have been none the wiser. But I am wiser. And it makes me angry.
  4. Book reviewers are not your beta readers or your editors. That’s not why I accepted your book for review. I’m not providing a critical assessment of it. I’m just reviewing it. We’re not here to make your writing better. We’re here to tell people about your book. Two different things.

To his credit the author was very apologetic about the situation and all. It could have been a lot worse. But I’m not really placated. I don’t feel a need to actually go to the author and berate him for it. I’m not cruel. I may not even post this on Goodreads. But it still bothers me enough that I need to talk about it. It’s just at this point in the year I’ve accepted only a handful of self pubs. Nothing has really been catching my eye. And then when I do I get this. There isn’t enough exposure, period, to balance this kind of behavior out so it appears more overwhelming than what it rightly is. But it’s aggravating nonetheless.

So who knows. The new version that he’ll be coming out with could rightly be fantastic. I hope he gets it professionally edited because BREAKING DAMIAN sorely needs it. But what I read wasn’t good and I really didn’t like having what I thought was a finished copy of a book turn into an ARC instantly. Not okay.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed . . . (goodreads.com)

It took me a little bit to get into A FACE LIKE GLASS. The writing style is very whimsical and a bit wordy, but Hardinge created a great world that’s vivid and full of life even if the plot was a little slow-moving at times. Neverfell was a frustrating yet endearing character that seemed to be pushed along in the story more than she was an active participant in it. She really didn’t come into her own until the last quarter of the book, but the ending was so incredibly sweet and fantastic I pretty much forgave it everything with which I took issue.

The writing does take a little getting used to and it does get a little boggy at times, but it’s NICE writing. I didn’t necessarily mind that it took longer to get from point A to point B because the writing was nice to look at. Every once in a while it got in its own way, but that was an exception to the rule, where the story focused more on being quirky and whimsical than telling the story itself.

The world Hardinge created is fantastic. These are basically mole people with castes within their little mole universe that ends with what is effectively a peasants’ revolt. The people who live in Caverna are nutrient-deficient, are smaller than they should be, sallow-skinned, and weaker. But there’s one family circumventing all of that and thanks to Neverfell the lid is literally blown off of that secret. It’s a vivid, multifaceted world that’s just as realistic as any in our world (the overworld). Hardinge has created a universe under the earth, even making Caverna itself a character actively plotting against the welfare of the people who inhabit her. It’s almost sinister despite its whimsical air.

I do wish Neverfell were a more active participant in her story. She’s shunted from one plot to another as a naive, over-trusting character and her personality does occasionally grate. She’s very wide-eyed and impulsive, basically with the actions of a much younger child in the body of someone who should know better, but who should basically be feral because of the way she was raised. But she’s endearing nonetheless (if she wasn’t I would have just been fully annoyed with her) and by the end of the book I was rooting for her to succeed and really take charge of what she was after. Finally she did.

A FACE LIKE GLASS is overall a cute story with a sinister edge to it. It’s a whimsical fairy tale with a heart of blackness. A lot of the more dastardly stuff happens off-page, but the author doesn’t skirt by it. It’s there and plays a part in the story, even if not a main part. I do think there’s something for everyone here, but you ultimately need some patience for it because it is a little slow to get going. But at least the words are nice.

4

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: April 5, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A burning vengeance.

Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

A blood-based curse.

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.

Destiny’s fiery hand.

Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine. (goodreads.com)

Just as good as any book in the Seven Realms series, FLAMECASTER did not disappoint in the slightest. The Shattered Realms novels do stand on their own and can be read without having read the Seven Realms books but 1) why would you do that? And 2) you’re missing out on an incredibly well-rounded world.

One thing Chima doesn’t skimp on is world-building. The world around the characters is just as rich and independent as the characters themselves, acting as its own entity. From there you get characters that have some semblance of roots in the older stories (if you’ve read them) and they’re built around the world, being a part of it as opposed to standing apart from it.

Chima tore my heart out at the very beginning of the book. Awful, awful woman. Not cool. Of course it’s the catalyst for the whole story but still. THERE WASN’T ANOTHER WAY??? Ugh. My soul hurt after that.

I’ve always liked the way Chima sprinkled in characters and didn’t have it be overwhelming. There’s a lot going on in FLAMECASTER and you get the story from multiple points of view, but never once was I ever confused about who was talking nor was I ever not able to juggle all of the characters in front of me. They’re all introduced and managed wonderfully, being sprinkled in in such a way that they all stick as opposed to being rushed with characters and it taking multiple reads to get them all straight.

Of course the ending was a total cliffhanger and I’m salivating for SHADOWCASTER. Must get my hands on it. God, I love this whole series. All of it. The world is fantastic, Chima’s written amazing characters, from the heroes and anti-heroes to the villains themselves, and the plot just sucks me in from the beginning. It was nothing reading the book and it wasn’t nearly long enough for my liking. Must get MOAR.

5


Pub Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire. (goodreads.com)

Ugh. If there ever was a sequel just as good as the first in a series, it’s A CROWN OF WISHES. Written in the same golden prose as A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN with a story that stabs you in the gut and a heroine that would sooner set you on fire than save you, I couldn’t get enough of it. I just want to eat it all up.

But then I might turn into a werewolf creature. And that would be bad. Maybe.

Gauri is Maya’s sister, for whom A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN was about. And she does make a brief appearance in A CROWN OF WISHES, but don’t expect a lot. This is Gauri’s story. And she’s so incredibly fierce and determined and vengeful and sometimes pig-headed. I actually think Chokshi balanced her character well, creating a wholly likable person in Gauri while being incredibly flawed and not obnoxious. Personalities like Gauri’s, if overdone, can come off forceful and off-putting. But she was snarky, witty, and all around awesome.

And, like the first one, there was some prince being in need of rescuing. I love that Chokshi keeps flipping the story like that. Gives me the warm and fuzzies.

And let’s not forget the world. My god, the world! Just as strong and vivid as in the original, it’s its own character in the book, coming to life on the pages as Chokshi weaves a dark and dangerous and appealing web of her world. I couldn’t get enough of it, the world whore that I am.

If there were to be a third book, and I’m thinking there might be, I think I know just whose story it might be, and my god. I can’t wait. MOAR! When’s the next one coming out? What do you mean A CROWN OF WISHES isn’t out yet? How’s that relevant? MOAR!

5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click the link to read an excerpt from A CROWN OF WISHES! –> A Crown of Wishes_Blog Tour Excerpt