My Plain Jane (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows)

The Lady Janies are back!! Many of you may remember that back in 2016 I reviewed their first book, My Lady Jane. That book came as something of a surprise to me, so with this book, I knew to expect the unexpected and a really good time. I wasn’t disappointed.

If you think you know the story of Jane Eyre, think again. A penniless orphan who suffered a miserable childhood, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall. There she meets the broody Mr. Rochester, and despite his mood swings and their fairly substantial age difference, they fall in love. But… what if that wasn’t really how things went down?

Now is probably a good time to give a teensy, tiny disclaimer: I’ve never actually read Jane Eyre before. For a voracious reader, with a few exceptions, I have a notoriously difficult time getting myself through the classics. I knew the basics of the plot, and honestly, that was enough. I don’t feel like I missed anything major by not reading the original. Sure, I should probably read it someday. In the vague future.

At any rate, just like the previous Jane, this one was an immensely good time. I can’t speak to how well this follows the source material, obviously, but I know that (spoiler alert) there weren’t any for realsies ghosts in original. This is full of characters that you love to love, love to hate and some that are mysterious, including a bunch of ghosts. If you keep a good eye out, you’ll notice a good amount of (HILARIOUS) political commentary.

While it’s pretty hard to beat My Lady Jane, in my opinion, this definitely gives it a solid run for it’s money. For a formula that I never was sure would work, these authors have seriously hit it out of the park with their sophomore entry. I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next book.

Legendary (Stephanie Garber)

“Legends were supposed to be better than the truth.”

-Legendary

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

Legendary picks up pretty much immediately after the events of Caraval. While Legend usually only holds Caraval once a year, he is doing a second one in honor of the Empress Elantine’s birthday. Donatella Dragna should be celebrating escaping her violent father and saving her sister, Scarlett, but Tella has made a desperate bargain- to turn over the identity of Legend. To learn his true name, Tella must once again enter into the dangerous, magical competition. She finds herself in must deeper than she ever could have expected: between a bloodthirsty heir to the throne and dense web of secrets, its difficult to tell how much is real and how much is only a part of the game. Caraval has always required cunning and bravery, but this time around, it’s asking for much more.

I was late to the game with Caraval, but it was one that really encompassed that dark, dreamy atmosphere that I’m forever rattling on about. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it seems to me that Stephanie Garber is really hitting her stride in this universe with this second book. Caraval was intricate and fascinating, but a bit confusing at times. Legendary manages to be even better- more of everything that made the first book outstanding, with less confusion.

It’s actually a little difficult for me to pick a favorite character here. There are not too many to keep track of, but they are all pretty fascinating. I think for me, it comes down to Jacks, the mysterious and perhaps murderous heir to the throne who is far more than what he seems and the Empress Elantine herself. While the whole plot is centered around the celebration of the Empress’ birthday, she is really only briefly featured. However, it’s quickly apparent in her few brief scenes she is canny and captivating. I certainly wouldn’t say no to a spin off series (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Overall, Legendary is dark and glittering, just a touch over the top and wholly entertaining. It’s a perfectly fantastical escape that feels just a little decadent. I don’t know if Stephanie Garber is planning on any more books in the series, but it certainly feels far from over to me. (*Edit*: Upon reading her website there is ONE more book, coming next year.)

Bruja Born (Zoraida Cordova)

I received a free copy of Bruja Born in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Some of you may recall that awhile back I reviewed the first book in this series, Labyrinth Lost… there was a badass themed wreath involved.

Bruja Born switches the focus to Alex’s older sister, Lula. Between Alex’s new encantrix powers and the return of their father, Lula is feeling more isolated than ever. Fortunately, she can always find solace in the affection of her boyfriend, Maks, at least, until a horrific bus accident takes the lives of not just her classmates, but Maks, as well. But, Lula is a healer and she is convinced that she can bring Maks back, even if she has to go against the laws of the Deos. And when all is said and done, her boyfriend isn’t the only one to come back from the dead.

First things first, there is definitely not enough Rishi in this. However, this is balanced out by the fact that there is more insight into Nova. I particularly found myself to be something of a fan of his grandmother. She sort of stole the scene.

Overall, I think I might have like Bruja Born even more than Labyrinth Lost. Zoraida Cordova did an amazing job building a sense of urgency. This was a very fast read for me. Not because it was short, but it really sinks it’s hooks in and pulls you through. It’s dark and emotional, but also a lot of fun.

This is definitely a completely worthy continuation to the series and a perfect summer book. I can’t wait to read more!

 

Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Yes. I’m leading with the cover on this one, because look at it. Stunning.

When magic disappeared from Orïsha, Zélie lost not only her mother to the hate of the ruthless King Saran, but all hope, as well. Now, in a twist of fate Zélie has the chance to bring magic back to her people with the help of a runaway princess and her own non-magical brother. Will they be able to navigate the many dangers and escape from the crown prince who hunts them single-mindedly?

This is a book that I had been anticipating for quite awhile, along with, I suspect a ridiculous number of other people. I read a few other reviews of Children and Blood and Bone after I finished the book, and found I did not agree with them. They were critical of it for being unoriginal and overlong. I can’t totally speak for the unoriginal critique, as I’m not familiar with The Last Airbender, which was apparently a strong inspiration. I could see some of the parallels with Ember in the Ashes, but overall, it felt original to me. As to it being overlong, well, I love really long books. Most of the chapters were quite short, so that helped keep the pace up for me.

Overall, I thought it was wonderful. I finished it and immediately had to look online to see if there were going to be more books. While I loved Zélie, I particularly enjoyed Amari. It was fantastic seeing her grow from fearful and damaged into someone much stronger. I’m also just desperate to see what happens with Inan in the next book. There is so much potential here and I’m super excited to see where it’s all going.

YA and Wine

If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know I enjoy pairing books and booze. And if there are two things I’m particularly passionate about, it’s young adult novels and a decent glass of wine. I can’t honestly claim to be an expert on either, but I can’t think of many things that would go better together. It’s likely that I’ve mentioned some of these series before on other lists, however, they are certainly worth mentioning again.

 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This is a series I have definitely mentioned before, probably paired with a cocktail. I stand by that, but I feel like it would pair equally well with a good mead. I know, typically it would be something better suited to a more medieval setting, but bear with me here. Southerners like their tea sweet, right? Why not their wine too? Being that Beautiful Creatures is very Southern, it just makes sense to me. And mead feels a little more “grown up” to me than most other sweet wines. Any mead will obviously do, but my absolute favorite is actually local for me, from just down the highway in Hermann, MO, an orange blossom mead.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is a series I only recently finally picked up. It’s still ongoing, with the third book in the series coming out this May. While there is definitely hope to be found, they are still pretty dark, so I endorse something dark (and pretty strong). Sip on a nice port. It’s certainly a wine that can stand on it’s own feet, like Laia.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This is another series I’ve only recently given a shot, but quite surprised myself by enjoying. I’ve only read the first book so far, but I plan on picking up the rest of the series. It’s a little bit like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but with better fashion. It’s not all pretty dresses and wooing a prince, but it still feels like it needs something pretty and a little decadent. I would suggest a nice, dry, sparkling rosé.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I’ll be honest, I initially picked up this book because I thought the cover was pretty. I really wasn’t sure what it was about, but I really ended up enjoying it. Pretend like you are rich and perfect enough to live in the penthouse of The Tower and dive in with a nice (but cheap) champagne.

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

I’ve previously reviewed this book here, but if you haven’t checked that out, I cannot stress enough how fun it is. It seems fitting that the wine I chose to pair with it is a little old fashioned; pretty much every 18th century and Regency set novel I’ve ever read has gentlemen drinking claret. It’s not a wine you see much these days, but Coppola Winery has a particularly nice one. I can’t normally recommend a specific wine, but this is the only time I can remember seeing a claret and it’s definitely well worth it if you can track it down.

Do you have any wine and YA pairings you’d like to recommend? Share them with me below!

The Case for Jamie (Brittany Cavallaro)

Holmes and Watson are back- not only Charlotte and Jamie, but Leander and James, as well.

It’s been a year since Jamie Watson (or anyone else, for that matter) has seen Charlotte Holmes. After the events that lead to the death of August Moriarty, Jamie has been going through the motions, trying to finish his final year at school. When strange things start to happen, he can’t help but wonder if it’s his imagination running wild, or if Lucien Moriarty could be behind it all.

This third installment in the Charlotte Holmes series is definitely chock full of teenage angst, but what might have been cloying, works here. The chapters rotate between narration from Jamie and Charlotte. While it would be easy to write Jamie’s affection for Holmes off as misguided, her chapters help add a layer of insight into why she is the way she is. Removed from Watson’s pedestal, she’s more human. Damaged, absolutely, but far more like the rest of us than she ever previously seemed. Hearing from Charlotte herself was one of the things I really enjoyed in the last book, and I was pleased to see it employed more here.

Jamie’s girlfriend Elizabeth proved to be an interesting character, as well. While I know she was in the first book in the series, A Study in Charlotte, she’s a complete blank for me. Here, she proved something of a surprise, not only for me, but for Jamie Watson, as well.

A Case for Jamie provides all the twists and turns that one should expect from a Holmesian novel. There is plenty of action and more than a few surprises tempered by emotions, but all in all, it strikes a good balance. While I have enjoyed all the books in the series so far, this one might be my favorite. The Last of August (see my review of that one here) got a little hard to follow at times. I like complex mysteries, but I don’t like to be left in the dust.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I really feel like this series is a do not miss. Same if you are a fan of YA.

The Thirteenth Gate (Kat Ross)

Sorry that there has been a bit of a delay on posts. I spent last month working on another book related project that I might be sharing some time in the future. Anyway, on to The Thirteenth Gate.

Last year, you may recall I review Kat Ross’s The Daemoniac (catch up on that review here). That book was a prequel to this one, which is the first in the Dominion Mysteries series. While The Daemoniac ends just shortly before the Jack the Ripper murders, this one picks up shortly after they ended.

Here we met Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec Lawrence, on their way to the Greymoor Lunatic Asylum in the dead of a rainy night. Really, can a book begin in a better way? Initially, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have more adventures with Harry and John. They do show up and play a major role, but not until a little ways into the book.

That disappointment did not last long. This book somehow managed to delve even further into the supernatural, but still managed to maintain the mystery element that was particularly fun in the previous book.

It did lead me even further down the rabbit hole, however. Now, having been introduced to Vivienne and Alec, I wanted to know more. I knew Kat Ross had other books that had a connection to this series, but I had not yet sought them out. As it turns out, Midnight Sea is available to read for free. It was, of course, amazing. I picked up the entire trilogy and devoured them. She is also two books in to another connected series. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on those yet, but I will and I definitely recommend you do to.

So, if you feel like losing yourself for awhile, you really can’t go wrong with a little Kat Ross.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)

I know. Some of you are completely floored that I am finally getting around to actually posting something substantial. I really am sorry. You know that I always have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way sometimes. And boy, let me tell you, life has certainly made its presence known these last few months. Breakup, family death, sick pets, car troubles… to say it’s been nuts would be an understatement. But, I’m trying to get back into the swing. Bear with me.

Back to my book this week: Kendare Blake‘s sequel to Three Dark Crowns: One Dark Throne. When I initially read Three Dark Crowns a few months ago, I enjoyed it, but wasn’t totally in love with it.  The twist at the end was enough to bring me to the second book and I am glad I decided to stick with it. This might not make much sense to you if you haven’t read the first book, and… well, you should. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

ANYWAY. We catch up to our three sister queens of Fennbirn with the Ascension year well underway. Queen Katherine, once considered the weakest is now stronger than ever; Queen Arsinoe is grappling with how to make her newly discovered secret gift work to her advantage; Queen Mirabella, once the certain choice to be Queen Crowned faces fights that put those she loves in danger.

Katherine was a particular favorite in this book. It was fascinating to watch her slip further and further into darkness, becoming more and more unstable. While Arsinoe and Mirabella each grew, as well, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just more fun to watch a villain develop than it is to watch a hero.

There was plenty of time spent with the supporting characters as well, but there were times when I felt they were in my way. I know supporting characters are necessary. However, the three queen’s are so satisfying to read, that sometimes it was hard to let them share the stage.

There also seemed to be a heftier dose of teen angst going on here than in the previous book. Or maybe I’m just getting old and just noticing it more than I did before. Who knows?

Overall, One Dark Throne was enjoyable and full of enough twists I’m going to keep going with the series. (Apparently, this was originally going to be a duology, but it was popular enough she decided to expand to four books.) For all my fellow YA fantasy lovers out there, it is certainly not one to miss.

End of July Roundup

I know. I’ve been distant lately.

But truly, it’s not you, it’s me.

Writing a book is hard. I sort of suspected it might be, since I had never just written one before, but the reality is harder than I could have guessed. The good news is, things are still moving along well with the book, despite several stalls over the course of the month. I’ve just begun chapter 10, which is more or less the halfway point in my story. This journey has been excited and made me really proud of what I can accomplish, but it’s also been incredibly stressful. I second guess myself all the time. I’ve thought about giving up, because there is no way anyone would want to read this garbage.

But, I’ve kept going. I don’t write everyday, but I do most days, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I’m not yet one of the super disciplined writers who can sit down and churn out several thousand words a day. Aside from discipline, I don’t really have the time. The book will get done, but it may take some time.

I’ve also been reading lots. Since reading is helpful in dealing with my stress and I’ve been VERY stressed out lately, it has helped make the month tolerable. I’ll have full reviews coming up on some of what I’ve read, which I’ll note, but otherwise, I wanted to summarize my reading list and maybe give you some ideas for your summer reading.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’m late to the Grishaverse. I ordered Six of Crows several months ago looking for books with amoral protagonists and it languished on my TBR piled for quite awhile before I finally picked it up last month. I order Crooked Kingdom well before I ever finished the first book. The world Leigh Bardugo has built is rich and engrossing and the characters were fascinating. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I’ve always had a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, so this seemed like it would be right up my alley. It was definitely well written and creative, but overall the story didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t expect a happy ending, and certainly didn’t get one, but I sort of hoped for something less bleak.

What the Raven Brings by John Owen Theobald and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Each of these books is, respectively, the second books in their series. You might recall I reviewed the first books (These Dark Wings and Menagerie) last year. I finally kicked myself into gear to read these. Look for full reviews of each in the next month.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

I was surprised as anyone to find out the legendary basketball player was not only writing books, but fiction books. With a soft spot for Sherlock and a great deal on Kindle, I decided it was worth trying. It was actually pretty good, occasionally bordering on a little stuffy, but hey, this is Mycroft we’re talking about. Definitely a worthwhile read if your into all things Holmes.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy– Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman

This has seriously been collecting dust on my TBR since November. Which is weird for me, particularly since I usually gulp down anything Shadowhunter related pretty fast. Once I started, this one was no exception. Despite 600+ pages, I read it in an entire day. It was enjoyable and certainly helped fill in a few gaps between the Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices.

Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAlister

The usual Katie MacAlister Dragon craziness, distilled down to novella size. Here, we finally get a little more with the First Dragon. Of course I loved it. I always do.

Dream World by Erin A Jensen

I had many of the same issues with Dream World as I did with the first book, Dream Waters, which I reviewed awhile back. It wasn’t a bad book, I’m intrigued enough to keep going, but it wasn’t great.  The switching between perspectives got a little confusing and I’ve seriously never seen so many variations on ‘pissing oneself’ in my life. This made it hard for me to read for long periods of time without having to step away. But, I’ll stick around and see what the next book holds.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Ok, so technically I read this one last month, but I’m including it anyway. This was one I picked up at the same time as Six of Crows and it waited in the TBR pile for awhile. I really loved this one, guys. It had moments where things got a little confusing, but I chalked that up to the atmosphere of Caraval. It was dark and magical. Cannot wait to read more.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)

As Henry “Monty” Montague prepares to set out on his Grand Tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy, he fears his days of pleasure are fast approaching an end. He is expected to return from the trip more mature and ready to learn how to take over the family estate. On his trip Monty’s father expects him to be on his best behavior or disinheritance looms. Monty has different ideas and plans to drink, party and flirt with Percy the whole way across Europe. When their trip takes a sudden dangerous turn, Monty will find himself calling everything about his life into question.

I first discovered The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a few months ago. One of the many bookish sites I follow on Facebook was advertising the first four chapters of a new YA novel. Why not? I thought to myself. I was in love before I finished the first chapter and the next several months of waiting were absolute torture.

Completely worth it. Mackenzi Lee certainly did not disappoint. This book was fresh, fun, fabulous and full of heart. It’s not often that I can say a book genuinely had me laughing out loud at points, tense with anticipation at others and in tears at the end. When it first arrived I was surprised at it’s length and was a little worried about finishing it within the deadline I set for myself. Turns out, there was no need to be concerned. I finished it in just slightly over 24 hours. It would have been faster, but I still have to go to work.

If there is anything I like in a historical fiction book, it’s a rakehell, and I was not left wanting. Monty is the lovable kind of rake that warms my heart. Percy is dreamy and sweet while Monty’s sister Felicity is sharp and sarcastic. All in all, a group that suits each other and the story well.

The 18th century has long held my interest (I have a BA in art history with a focus in 18th century painting, super useful, but that’s another story…). Art related to the Grand Tour was definitely something I studied, but it was honestly a little dry. This brought it to full, dramatic life. While Monty, Percy and Felicity’s Tour was certainly out of the ordinary and full of danger, it was still a fun romp through 18th century Europe.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I finished it less than an hour before writing this and I already am looking forward to reading it again. Read it. Read it now. It’s witty and fast-paced, certainly a book to devour.