Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · Reviews

Book Review: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles (Book 1) by J.M. Sullivan

Alice

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Pen Name Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: “Always protect your queen.”

Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

Opinion:

How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail…?

Apparently with a bleakness as black as night, and a book review that just says:

Fail.

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Look. The first book in Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles isn’t necessarily bad…it’s just …not great.  I found it boring, dull, overly dramatic and cheesy, and felt that I had already seen/read this same plot about thirty other times. With that ridiculous zombie movement that hit Hollywood and every book shelf a few years ago, it’s hard not to feel like you have read EVERY single zombie story out there. But when I saw this, I had to request it from Netgalley because I LOVE an Alice retelling.

I’ve read the twisted versions, and I’ve read the sweeter versions. I had even read another Alice/zombie version years ago, Alice in Zombieland, and absolutely loved it. So naturally, I assumed this was going to be another series to add to my love of Alice in Wonderland retellings.

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I found Alice to be…okay. Her character felt simple and not fully developed, almost like the author was just riding the coattails of the Alice that we already know and love and assuming they wouldn’t have to put much effort into giving her a full-blown personality makeover. I found that I enjoyed how much she talked to herself, which reminds me greatly of the original character, because it gave another instance for the reader to find out what was happening instead of us just “sitting in her head” and “watching” through her eyes. But the constant moments of her jaw dropping when the moment BARELY called for a jaw drop, or her saying things like “awesome” and “how interesting” without being given a chance to see WHY those things were “awesome” or “interesting” was just…EXHAUSTING.

As I continued to read, it seemed that none of the characters really had much substance or excitement spewing from their made-up pores. Chess was a slightly interesting character, with a creative name, and I liked that his character was left shrouded in mystery for a good length of the story. In my opinion, he was probably the most interesting of all the characters just because it seems like he had the most thought put into him by way of snarky comments and pet-names for Alice. There IS a love triangle in this story that involves Alice, so if you’re ALSO starting to tire from these shapes, then beware. It’s a romance crammed into just a few days, so enjoy if that’s your sort of thing.

My grumblings and negativity aside, there were some positives in this story. You’ll notice while reading there are random bold letters in different words and paragraphs. If you want to take the time, like you KNOW I did, then it will spell out a little message. I found it a cute little touch for this story, and a little treat for the reader if they caught on…even if it didn’t spell out a clue to the story, I still found it intriguing. Another positive was the action and fight scenes that were spilling from the pages. There was a LOT of exciting moments for Alice to show off her skills, even though I’m still wondering how she learned all those deadly and murderous moves.

OH, SHE JUST KNEW HOW?!

For sure. I get it.

Anyways…I was hoping this story was going to blow me out of the water. Instead, it just blew up an inflatable water toy for me and I floated around a pond for a while. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t keep my attention or really grab me in at any time. I had little invested in the well-being of these characters by the end of the story and even went as far as skimming most of the last half of the book just to end it. Hopefully the next Alice story I read, which is waiting patiently on my Netgalley shelf, will be a little better.

2-stars

 

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A Danger to Herself and Others

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen, Fiction, Contemporary, Mental Health, Suspense

Plot: Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Opinion:

My heart just cracked wide open.

This book is beauty and sorrow.

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Hannah has just been institutionalized for something she didn’t do. Soon they will realize that this is all a mistake, that she’s innocent, and they will let her go home, right? After all, Agnes was her best friend. She would never do anything to hurt her. Well, not intentionally anyway. It’s all just a big misunderstanding. Hannah is a straight-A student after all. She might even know more than the people that work in this institution, but she has to be smart. If she wants to get out, she must follow along with their tests and show them just how sane she is. They will see the truth when Agnes wakes up. It was all just an accident…wasn’t it?

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A Danger to Herself and Others is everything, and nothing, I expected it to be.

Hannah is the most fascinating character I have come across in SO long, and it’s precisely because of the multitude of layers and substance that she possesses. As soon as you think you have this girl pegged, you will be told to keep listening. As soon as you think if she is innocent or guilty, you will be told to be quiet and to sit back down. As soon as you think the last sentence of each chapter is a tell-all for what the point of this story is…well. You’d just be wrong.

I love nothing more than a blindside, and A Danger to Herself and Others is just that.

Hannah is every single opinion and idea I had for her while reading, and that is EXACTLY how she was designed to be. I found her to be slightly arrogant and a know-it-all, but also humbled for the extravagant life she had led before the institution. She is focused and sharp, but is easily pulled into her thoughts and fantasies. In one instance she comes across as incredibly rational and straightforward, but in the next she is breaking apart and analyzing things in a highly erratic way and repeating phrases over and over in her head. Every time she would say or do something, my opinion of her innocence and person would change. She’s innocent and sane, she’s guilty and insane. Back and forth, back and forth.

But what I can say is true for Hannah, is that she is BOTH of EVERY side.

She is sane and insane.

Rational and irrational.

Content and irate.

Morbid and Neutral.

Happy and Miserable.

Lonely and comforted.

She is all these things and none of them. And as soon as you figure that out, you start to wonder just how different and not so different you are from her.

Because Hannah is every single one of us, and none of us at once.

She is the victim, and she is the villain.

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The author, Alyssa Sheinmel, has a gift for entwining suspense into this story and making me question every single aspect of it. She would beautifully make a statement from Hannah or Dr. Lightfoot that sounded factual, whilst turning it with a flick of her wrist so you questioned every single sentence thereafter. I couldn’t help but dissect EVERYTHING that was said, because I was completely caught up in finding out the truth as quickly as possible. I kept comparing myself to her, thinking about what I would do or say in her situation, and then usually coming to the conclusion that she’s being framed or she deserves to be there. I didn’t actually believe the outcome until the book finished.

Making a reader continually question a book until the end takes SERIOUS talent.

As I read through my notes on this book, I am noticing every single instance where my opinion is thrown around, and every time I question something I thought I knew was true. But as I move down my notes of wishy-washy-ness, it comes to a sudden halt at the bottom when I realize that this isn’t the mystery/suspense story I thought it was. Because suddenly my notes change from accusing Hannah of WHAT and WHO she IS, to only this:

I think this just broke me.

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Hannah at the end of A Danger to Herself and Others is…heartbreaking. I kept saying “oh honey..” out loud and wanting nothing more than to reach into the pages and hold her. I think it can be quite easy for an author to make a reader love and care for a character. But to make the reader feel empathy, loneliness and sorrow when the character feels those things?

That’s just magical.

At the beginning of this read the publisher has a letter to the reader, in which they state how they only strive to publish books that change lives. I can confidently say this book has shifted my thoughts and being into one with much more compassion and love. This story isn’t just a work of fiction, it’s a message and an alarm clock to wake you up.

Read this.

 

And to Sourcebooks Fire I say this:

You succeeded in your goal.

 

5-stars

 

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Pre-order · Reviews

Binding of Bindings: Ball Gowns & Royals

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Once Upon A Time and A Kingdom Far Away,

is how every tale begins and how it will stay.

Stories of honor, battle and conquest,

courtiers who scheme and who fight to be best.

Some fight for kingdoms and some fight for love,

Some lose with class and some with a shove.

There is magic, wands, fairies and spells,

so they better be good or they’ll be put into cells.

Heroes, Heroines and Villians fill these pages,

Some perform on thrones, and some on stages.

This is about those who are fierce and most loyal,

this showcases simply:

 

Ball Gowns & Royals

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Amber Sky (C.O.I.L.S. of Copper and Brass, Book 1) by Claire Warner

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Amber Sky is a fantastic way to start off this Ball Gowns & Royals post! A title that is less-known by the book community to my utter astonishment, and one that is a whirlwind of a read! In this story the nobility control everything from food to resources, which leaves many poor and dying in the mines. Our main character Tay is forced to beg for help from a noble named Darius after her father is arrested, and in return she makes a dangerous deal. Tay is thrust into the palace of courtiers and lies, whilst all the while fighting for the rebellion.

Think badass female spy in a ball gown.

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Enchantée by Gita Trelease

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If you have joined the obsession that is Enchantée, or you haven’t, allow me to overindulge you.

This is a BEAUTIFUL Fantasy/Historical Romance set in Paris right before the French Revolution. If you have a Marie Antoinette obsession, a Versailles obsession, or you are looking to get obsessed: read this now!

It is about a girl named Camille who begins to use la magie (magic) to turn cards at Versailles in order to bring in money for her and her sister. It goes through the repercussions of her decisions, the beauty and vile nature of the courtiers in Versailles, and even has some romance and the occasional hot air balloon.

 

Glitter and Shatter by Aprilynne Pike

 

 

Just like Enchantée, these two books are set in Versailles and have the same decadent yet vile vibe. Danica is forced to go to court by her mother, a place she loathes, and is eventually forced into the despicable young Kings hands by her mother, who is nothing but a social climber. Danica wants a way out, and that way is buy selling Glitter, an addicting drug in the form of makeup, to every courtier in the palace.

This series gets quite dark and gritty, and there is PLENTY of deviousness to go around. Danica is definitely the courtier dressed in black and up to no good.

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Kiss of the Royal (Book 1) by Lindsey Duga

Kiss of the Royal

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It’s like any other Disney fairy-tale, Princesses and Princes kissing.

Except this one has a comical and BRILLIANT spin!

In Kiss of the Royal the Princesses are who save the Princes. They follow the princes into battle, and wait on the sides until their prince is injured so they can rush to him and give him a healing kiss.

But Ivy isn’t okay with being a dainty Princess on the sidelines, as she shouldn’t be!

This girl gets RIGHT into the action to fight off evil, and eventually ends up on a long quest with a mysterious Prince from another land.

This book is ACTION-PACKED and VERY funny.

 

The Lone City Series by Amy Ewing

The Lone City Series

Look, if you guys are tired of me talking about this series….I get it…

But I also don’t give a s**t.

THIS SERIES GIVES ME BREATH!

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Or takes it away. It’s a tough call.

It’s a Handmaid’s Tale vibe for the YA book world. Less devastating, but equally f****d.

Extravagant mansions, nobility dripping in diamonds and throwing away money like it’s an apple core, and the ever-casual slavery and forced surrogacy.

OoOoOoOo…sounds fun, right?!

 

The Carnelian Legacy series by Cheryl Koevet

 

 

I have only read book one in this series, so I guess that proves just how behind in books I am!

This series is about a girl who is thrust into an alternate dimension where there are nobles, horses, battles and a few magical creatures. It’s a YA romance with our main character Marisa being the epicenter of turmoil and a possible full-out war in Carnelian.

I thoroughly enjoyed book 1, so I plan on reading the final two books….eventually.

 

The Frost Chronicles by E. Latimer

 

 

I requested Frost from Netgalley before its release date, and then tried to get Flame, but was cruelly DE-NIED.

HARD.

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Anyways, I mentioned Frost in my Winter Reads post not too long ago, so naturally I’m bringing it up again. It’s a YA Fantasy set in a world where Fire and Frost Giants are at war with each other. Our main character is forced to choose a side to fight with, but naturally gets to be decked out in a few fabulous dresses first.

 

The Kanin Chronicles by Amanda Hocking

Frostfire Series

Another series from my Winter Reads post, and absolutely one worth mentioning again!

The Kanin Chronicles promises readers another fierce and badass female lead who wants nothing more to compete next to the “big boys” as a member of the King’s elite guard. When a former lover of our heroine begins kidnapping changelings, she is forced to travel to surrounding kingdoms in order to keep a war from breaking out.

This is an annual reread for me, so that HAS to tell you how good it is. Not only that, but it’s set in a snowy kingdom! What’s not to love?!

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Roseblood by A.G. Howard

Roseblood

Roseblood was a HUGELY anticipated release in 2017, and after reading, I knew exactly why.

It is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that is set in the aftermath of this well-known romance. Rune is sent to a prestigious French arts conservatory in an opera house for her singing. She soon meets a boy named Thorn who is both secretive and entrancing. So begins a whirlwind romance doused in sweetness and sadness.

This book will satisfy that musical craving you didn’t know you wanted, while also serving you a little taste of finery and class.

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The Blood Rose Rebellion series by Rosalyn Eves

 

 

With only having read book 1 in this series, I can still tell you with full confidence that these books are a MUST for your TBR list.

Our story starts out with our leading lady, Anna, making a s**tstorm of her sister’s debutante ball by accidentally breaking her sister’s “coming-out-in-society” spell. In this world, magic is what makes you rise in the ranks in society, and to her family’s dismay, Anna is barren. Or…so they thought.

Blood Rose Rebellion tracks Anna as she is exiled to Hungary and learns the truth of the magic wielders, the Luminate. It is a story of oppression and rebellion, so put on those glass slippers and jump in!

 

The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski

 

 

I know I keep talking about this series, but it’s the perfect Ball Gown and Royalty story!

Kestrel is forced to choose between joining her fathers military or get married. She comes across a young slave boy up for auction, makes the rash decision to buy him, and so ensues a tale of romance and rebellion. This story was FANTASTIC and has an old-timey feel to it.

I mean, there’s nothing better than a female who rocks a dress and then fights in battle.

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The Selection series by Kiera Cass

 

 

Probably the MOST royal set of books on this list!

These books are a dress addiction waiting to happen, so tread carefully you fashion slaves!

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The Selection is your typical story of a prince finding his princess through a televised competition. It’s a literal fight for the crown, and naturally a few skirts will be torn and punches will fly ❤

 

The Ash Princess Trilogy by Laura Sebastian

 

 

If you want to talk about a fierce Princess, let’s talk about Theodosia.

The poor girl has had her kingdom ripped out from under her, her mother’s throat slit in front of her, and is now the mascot in her own castle to the Kaiser who conquered her lands. She is paraded around at balls with people who despise her race, and forced to wear a crown of ash to show that she is a princess of nothing.

Brutal.

And yet, I CANNOT wait to read Lady Smoke!

 

The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

 

 

*Sigh*…let’s start this exactly how I start every conversation that involves these books. Shall we?

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THIS SERIES IS DEVASTATION!

DO NOT read this if you’d rather not have a cursing episode of anguish after finishing The Wicked King.

Because you WILL fall into a coma of DESPAIR and REGRET and I won’t be able to pull you out because I’M ALREADY IN IT!

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass

A TRUE MASTERPIECE AND FLAWLESS STORY!

I LOVE A Face Like Glass. And when I say LOVE, I mean I’m die-hard psychotic for it.

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This world, is WILD. Expressions do not exist in the city of Caverna, so the rich pay “Facesmiths” to be taught how to show a facial movement like sadness or excitement. For Neverfell, she has a face so terrifying that she has worn a mask since she was a young child. But when she is shown that her face can make expressions on its own, she is thrust into turmoil.

The book is insane and CRAZY addicting. The “high society” is ravenous, extreme and makes the people in the Capital of The Hunger Games look like men in boring suits!

Don’t think. Just buy!

 

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards

A book I have not had the pleasure of reading yet, but one I have on my list!

The premise is exactly what it sounds like, a tale of royal bastards. Tilla is the daughter of a Lord who cast her aside after he was gifted with “trueborn” children. Only wishing to be accepted as a royal and to wear beautiful dresses, Tilla and the other bastards are shunned by their peers.

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It promises rebellion, action and romance…so it’s an obvious MUST for me!

 

Coiled by H.L. Burke

Coiled

Another retelling…and another book I haven’t read.

This one is a twist on Eros and Pysche (if you know of it) and is about a Princess who is made bait for a serpent by command of her parents. She soon meets a Prince who has a curse of turning those who look at him into a serpent, and fights to free him.

It looks positively PRECIOUS!

The Forest Queen by Betsy Cornwell

The Forest Queen

ANOTHER RETELLING!

And this one is based off your favorite man in tights…

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…except this Robin Hood is a female. WOO!

Sylvie runs away to the forest with her friend in order to help the poor survive the abuse her brother inflicts on them. It sounds like a classic tale of rebellion and fighting for justice!

 

Now, for the upcoming releases:

 

The Blood Heir Trilogy by Amélie Wen Zhao

Blood Heir

This series looks like it is going to be AMAZING!!

It is a story about a world where affinities are detested and a Princess who fights to keep her liking for blood a secret. But when her father is murdered and her yearning for blood is shown, she is framed and said to be the culprit.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

House of Salt and Sorrows

IT’S A RETELLING EXTRAVAGANZA!

A twist on the fairy-tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, of a family that is cursed by the Gods.

After four of her eleven sisters mysteriously die, Annaleigh suspects that the deaths were something more sinister than just an accident. She finds that her sisters have been sneaking off to nightly balls where they dance and dance for hours, and soon meets the mysterious stranger they are dancing with.

 

Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter

Never-contented things

That cover though, am I right?!

It’s a tale of the scary kind of fairies who entrap and seduce you, so get ready! If you’re needing a cure for you Cruel Prince and Wicked King hangover, maybe this will help. I know I’m willing to try anything at this point, and this cover and premise just hooked me!

 

The Bloodleaf series by Crystal Smith

Bloodleaf

Bloodleaf is about a princess and a marriage arranged at birth to a Prince in another kingdom. Aurelia fights between doing what is expected of her and what she wants, which is the typical princess tale…is it not?

Well this one sounds a WHOLE lot more in depth and exciting, so I am ready to get it started!

 

That is THAT for the Ball Gowns and Royals!

Was it as magical for you as it was for me?

I love hearing what you guys think, so let me know if you have read any of these or if you found some new ones for your growing TBR lists!

Until next time my magical witchlings!!!

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Enchantée by Gita Trelease

enchantee

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Flatiron Books, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Plot: Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…

Opinion:

There once was a young French girl and her little sister,

Who were poor beyond belief due to their gambling brother.

The death of their parents turned their life quite tragic,

That’s why the eldest sister Camille turned to gambling and magic.

A dress that requires blood to enchant and disguise,

Was all that she’d need to sneak into Versailles.

But little was said about the toll on the soul that trickery would take,

Or the consequences that come from a life lived fake.

Livres, love, ball gowns and hats,

Hot air balloons so high, that one tip and you’ll splat.

Versailles may be enchanting, with a Queen like Marie 

But nothing in Versailles is black and white, and nothing is free. 

Hold on to your wigs, there’s a new Versailles tale in town!

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My dear Vicomtes and Vicomtesses, Enchantée is EVERYTHING and MORE that you could EVER ask for in a historical fiction set in late 1700 Versailles!

It is extravagant, it is DANGEROUS, and it is exactly what you would expect a palace of courtiers to be like.

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JEALOUSY is CLAWING at my insides, my brain is working mercilessly to assure me that I will never be able to step into this beautiful world, and it is taking EVERY bit of self-control to not throw myself on the ground and weep.

Weep because I will never experience the abhorrent glory that was Versailles in 1789.

OR a Versailles with magic and trickery.

Enchantée was all the things I hoped for when I read its description: cinched waists, expensive dresses, powdered faces, dapper men with MANNERS galore, magic….and cake. But that’s a given. I think we can ALL agree that any and ALL Versailles retellings are welcome to us book lovers, especially when a Fantasy aspect is thrown into the mix.

You had me at aristocrat and la magie.

Though the beauty of Versailles may pull you in to reading this book, or even the cameo of Marie Antoinette, I can assure my lovelies…you will stay for the characters, plot and writing. Gita Trelease has outdone herself! This book is elegant and suave, delectable and enticing. I was swept away in the world that she presents on a golden platter smattered in frosting and wine, and I am horribly STRICKEN that it is over. The author has fused fact with fiction and given readers a story that is both historical, while also fantastical in that it is filled with magic. She included events leading up to the French Revolution, the prices in bread increasing and the eventual riots, while also capturing the voices of the rich and the poor beautifully. These courtiers are the typical snooty aristocrats that you know and love, so enjoy.

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Camille is the main character of this story, and her story is quite a sorrowful one at that. Her parents had both died from small pox, her brother is a drunk and gambling addict who cannot control himself, and she must work la magie to provide food for her and her youngest sister. Once things turn worse for Camille’s brother, she is forced to work la magie on a higher scale. She infiltrates the Palace of Versailles posing as a Baroness, in hopes of earning money through gambling by changing cards with her magic. She is quickly swept up in the allure of the courtiers and the palace, and who could blame her?! There are masquerade balls, endless parties and games in the gardens, and cakes and wines all around! Courtiers strewn every which way, running wild with little to no rules to hinder their wants and needs.

 

Though a wonderfully created world, the truly amazing aspect of this story is the writing. The author has combined French words and phrases with this English version, and it made it THAT much more real and authentic. The reader will feel like they are in Paris in the late 1700’s, walking the streets with Camille or dining with her in Versailles! The creative writing was fantastic, and the setting was described impeccably. The characters were given such vast and comical personalities, while also proving to be well-versed in the etiquette and “ways” of the time period.

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Don’t worry darlings, there is INDEED a romance to be had. It is a truly touching and gentle romance at that, and one that I wish I could catch and put into my pocket. It will give you the audible *sigh*, the immense feels, and of course…make you wonder why the hell men aren’t this chivalrous anymore! I thought the author did a wonderful job of keeping the characters true to the era by ensuring proper rules for courting and attire, and even found it to be amusing at the modesty that was displayed back then.

“If he took off his coat, she might expire”

I wish I could say more! With all of that said, I think it’s obvious that I LOVED Enchantée to the gold-encrusted moon and back! It was an incredibly fun and creative read, and I only wish this was a series and not a stand-alone! I suppose I will just be here waiting and hoping that Gita Trelease will write another story that can compare and compete with this. Because I feel as I do at the end of every beautiful party, sorrowful and nostalgic.

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5-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Dream Keeper (The Dark Dreamer Trilogy, Book 10 by Amber R. Duell

dream keeper

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, The Parliament House, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance

Plot: The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…

For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora. When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.

When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.

(Please note: This story contains vivid death scenes.)

Opinion:

When I saw Dream Keeper on Netgalley, I just knew I had to have it.

A retelling of the Sandman, the weaver of nightmares, and a young girl caught up in the middle of it all? Sold. A YA story or romance, fantasy and magic? Sold.

A Lord of Nightmares, and a Lord of Dreams.

A Night World, and a Day World.

It ALL just promised to be SO. AMAZING.

I mean I just…loved it…

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With the description above basically giving away the ENTIRE book, I realize that it would be vastly unnecessary for me to give my own synopsis. So, let’s just jump right in, shall we? I have a feeling this review if going to be short and sweet.

Well…short and sour.

This book had a TON of promise, but really fell flat for me. The reason for that MAY be because it feels like it targets a younger audience, Pre-Teen/Teen, by the characters coming across as childlike and adolescent rather than somewhat mature. The author chose to use phrases like “sorry, not sorry” in one instance, and then words like perturbed and grotesque in the next. Though the writing is VERY descriptive and paints a beautiful picture of the dream and nightmare world, I felt like I was caught in a wind tunnel of conflicting writing styles. At one point it feels eloquent and mature, and the next it is simplistic and feels cheesy. I almost felt like I was reading a soap-opera at times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a strong connection to Nora and the Sandman, especially when it came to their romance. When the reader starts this book, they are thrust right in the middle of the story. There isn’t much of a premise, so it eventually “backpedals” you through past events to catch you up. Sometimes this works in stories, but in this case, it was just confusing. Due to the quick start, and even quicker romance, it doesn’t give the reader adequate time to connect to Nora and the Sandman. The Sandman ended up sounding like a brooding teenager even though he’s supposed to be decades old, and Nora didn’t seem to have much of an emotional response to the murders around her…which is strange. Shouldn’t she be freaking the f**k out? I would be! So instead of exciting and fresh, these characters came off as quite dull and unimpressive.

The flow of the writing and the structure of this story also left me a little unsettled. With the beginning starting from nowhere and being rushed, it made me think that this series was going to be PACKED with exciting moments. I mean, it would have to be for this to be a trilogy and start that way, right?! Well, yes and no. I wasn’t bored while reading, but I DID feel like there wasn’t a lot of meaningful and necessary moments happening. Things felt a little out of order, or rushed in spots and slow in others. My editing brain kept wanting to rearrange different paragraphs and sentences, so it was a bit hard to get through.

Another confusing aspect was that a bunch of REALLY important characters didn’t come into this story until the end. By the time I got to these new characters, I was already checked-out of the story and skimming the lines. Maybe if they were introduced earlier, it would have kept my attention and interest more. I thought the character of Baku was very creative, so I wish he would have had a bigger role and made a stronger connection with Nora or the Sandman. It could have been a memorable and amusing duo for the reader to get hooked on.

This really came off more negative than I was anticipating, which is unfortunate. This story had a lot of great ideas and moments, but I think some final editing could have really improved it. Though I am slightly curious to see if the writing and characters improve in book two, I probably won’t be picking up the next copy. With the characters and flow of writing falling short, Dream Keeper turned out to be a real dud for me. This is of course, is just my opinion. A lot of other readers really enjoyed this story, so don’t use my words as law. Even though you could. 😉

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2-5-stars

 

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Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases · Pre-order · Reviews

Book Review: The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Cold is in Her Bones

The Cold is in Her Bones will be available for purchase on January 22, 2019.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Teen/Fiction/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Opinion:

Something slithery this way comes.

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Gather ‘round my cunning Slytherins!

I’ve got a retelling of our dear mummy dearest:

Medusa

If Milla knows anything, it is that she must be a good girl. She must do her chores efficiently, must always stay clean and tidy, mustn’t ask questions that do not deserve answers, and must always pray to keep the demons away. But Milla’s’ life is one of loneliness and solitude. She does not have the luxury of traveling to the nearby village or making friends, and her mother shows her much less attention and affection in comparison to her brother. Though the arrival of a young girl named Iris gives Milla someone to finally talk to and befriend, Milla finally learns of the reasoning behind her forced solitude. These is a curse on the girls in the village, one that makes each of them go insane, and Iris is showing signs of possession. Milla races to help her new friend, but soon finds that she might be changing as well.

Without a doubt, this is my first official positive WTF read of 2019.

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The Cold is in Her Bones is supposed to be a retelling of dear mother Medusa, but it’s a loose retelling. The tale goes as such: A young girl named Hulda lived with her mother and father, and her dearly beloved Sister. As young children the sisters were inseparable, sleeping so entwined with one another that they would wake with their hair knotted together. But as they grew older, the sisters drifted apart. Hulda was not given the same adoration and attention as The Sister, and grew lonely and isolated. To fulfill her loneliness Hulda spent her time in the woods, making friends with the snakes, learning their names and letting them burrow in her hair. But when one of the snakes was seen in her hair, it was ripped out and thrown into the fire by The Sister’s betrothed. For the anguish and grief that Hulda felt for her snake, the others saw her as being possessed. Her family took her into the woods, buried her in the snow, and left her there in the hopes that the demon would leave her body. When Hulda woke with vengeance in her heart, and a body consisting of snakes, she cursed the village and all the inhabitants so they may never again feel peace or content.

You know those horror movies set in the 1800’s where there is a family, with their farm, and they churn butter and chop wood? Where an older sibling will tell the younger children folk-tales about witches and curses, so as to scare them into being good? This is EXACTLY like that…

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except much more sad, and way less gruesome.

This feels like a Tim Burton film waiting patiently to be made, or at least one of similar taste. It has the oddities and dark tones that every great children’s horror has, but it is also loaded with all the necessary lessons and positive morals that one is told as a child. Or should have been told. It centers on themes of family values, being kind to others, having compassion for differences, and the cruel nature of vengeance. There are many small tales within this tale that is told to the reader, and each one enhances the grittiness and somber themes that envelope this story.

Once the reader is told the tale of Hulda, the story then switches off to Milla. It explains her home life and the struggles she endures to constantly be good and to please her parents. Milla lives in the shadow of her kind and seemingly-perfect brother, and she feels like she is a disappoint and burden to her family. She is unable to travel to the village and is kept under tight lock and key, with unknown reasons as to why. The story begins to unfold when Milla meets Iris, a girl that will eventually be married to her brother. The girls become very quick friends and create a fierce bond, but it all changes when Iris becomes possessed. Iris is taken somewhere called “The Place” where she will be held with other girls who have become possessed. Milla learns that it all stems from a curse that was placed on the village. A curse that was placed by her aunt, Hulda.

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The writing in this book is AMAZING. The author did a fantastic job of making the story feel like a folktale in how the characters spoke to one another, how the setting is given to the reader, and even during Milla and Hulda’s inner dialogues. But where the author REALLY shines in The Cold is in Her Bones is when she describes very beautifully heartbreaking moments where Milla feels like an outcast.

’Pretty is as pretty does,’ Gitta had always said to Milla. But Milla knew that couldn’t be right. Milla had never done anything but behave, and still she wasn’t pretty the way her mother was. If she were, she’d know it. She’d see proof of her prettiness in her mother’s eyes, or her father’s. Instead what she saw there was disappointment. Perhaps it wasn’t true that pretty is as pretty does…”

Though I can confidently say that I enjoyed this read, it DID take me a week to read it. Usually I can fly through a book in about two days, but this one was really taking me awhile to get through. The story moved a little slow for me, and at times I was feeling a little bored and irritated that I wasn’t moving on to what happened quicker. BUT, once I was finished, I realized how much I didn’t care at all about the pacing or how long it took me to get through it. I LOVE a creative and unique story, and that is EXACTLY what this is.

I recommend this to anyone who is looking for something different to read, who doesn’t get weirded out too easily, and who doesn’t have an affliction to snakes. Don’t go into this expecting an only slightly twisted retelling of Medusa, because this is completely different! The story has given me the inspiration to go on to read Peternelle van Arsdale’s other horror story, The Beast is an Animal, which is apparently in development to becoming a movie. Excitement!

If you want a little magic, to hear some folktales, dive into a curse, and even meet a witch (fangirling) then you MUST give The Cold is in Her Bones a try!

It’s so creative that it makes me wish I had snakes growing out of my own head.

4-stars

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · Reviews

Book Review: Evenfall (Shadowfire, Book 1) by Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos

Evenfall

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: As if waking up in an unfamiliar world isn’t enough of a surprise, Ember gains a new title to her name. Savior.

Hunted by the Crescent Prince and his lethal shadows, she accepts a young Mage’s help to navigate the land of blood magic and its many illusions. But where Ada sees the good in her power, Ember discovers something else.

An icy darkness, designed to take lives, not save them.

The only thing worse than not being able to rely on her senses—or the reality she had once believed to be true—is knowing that she cannot trust her heart. Especially as it seems to draw her to the one person in whose hands she can never fall…

Opinion:

 “The thing I noticed above all else when unconsciousness released me from its talons of darkness, was that for the first time in my life, I found myself gazing at the night sky.

The second, just as enchanting, yet infinitely more unbelievable, was that the world around me was no longer mine.”

Ember wakes to find the various hues of black, blue and velvet of the night sky staring down at her. Where her world is flushed in light, this new world is flushed in darkness. With no recollection of how she must have traveled between worlds, Ember finds herself exploring a city called Nysa during their celebrated winter solstice. But the warning from a young girl named Ada brings caution to Ember. Their planes have been fractured, broken, and only a child born of the three worlds may have a chance at repairing them. The Crescent Prince seeks the savior, the one, to use in his quest for power and complete control. As a powerful mage, Ada feels that Ember is the one they have been waiting for. As Ada works to hide Ember from the cruel and ruthless prince, they formulate a plan to sneak into his palace to steal one of the three fragments that could keep the worlds from falling apart. But Ember soon finds that nothing is as it seems, especially when it comes to the past.

“But what truly drew my gaze was a fountain of starlight, pure and mesmerizing, a work of art that commanded the space with singular grace.

I was stunned by its simplicity, by the beauty of thousands of minuscule stars, cascading down the three levels before they were drawn up to the top again to repeat the cycle. I wanted to sit down before it, stare at this wonder until the flickering specks were imprinted on the backs of my lids…”

If I was to pick a set of authors to describe a fantastical world to me, it would be these two. Somraque is a world of night, of starlight and dark shades of color. It is a world that I fell in love with instantly, as did the main character, Ember. Walking with Ember as she explores the city and witnesses the various types of illusions and magic, was exhilarating. The writing is exquisite and beautiful, and it crafts a detailed and pulsing world for the reader to easily visualize in their minds eye. But as bewitching as the writing is, the construction of the plot felt over-drawn and dragged-out.

Truth be told..

…I was practically falling asleep during the first half of this book.

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About HALF of Evenfall is story-building and fillers. For nineteen chapters I was slipping in and out of consciousness. There was some speed-reading, some page scanning for dialogue, and the ever-true sign of a book you just CANNOT get into: I put it down about thirty times. I DID enjoy some aspects of the first half, such as the descriptions of the city and the explanation of the fate of the worlds, but I felt like I was drowning in words that were completely unnecessary. I NEVER thought I would say this in a book review, but the first half of this book was WAY TOO WORDY. It felt like I had lived through the stone age before the story started to pick up and pull me in.

But once I hit chapter twenty, something magical happened.

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~*I woke up*~

My advice:

Stay and get to Chapter Twenty.

It will fulfill at least SOME of your dreams.

“A touch so gentle it barely existed, yet it enveloped every inch of me, radiating through my veins and crackling through the very shadows that reached towards the starlight sky beyond the illusion.”

THIS is what I was waiting for! The point when the authors would throw a rope around my ankles and drag me into the midst of turmoil and heartbreak. Chapter twenty is when you will get hooked, when you will swoon, and when you will finally be able to make sense of what is going on. Here we are finally blessed with the prolonged presence of the crescent prince, not just a snippet or two of him. He is dark and mysterious, stone-faced and stiff, but is he…cruel? I just wasn’t seeing it.

“And yet it wasn’t his face or elegant demeanor that stole away my breath. It was the shadows- tendrils of pure silver that seems to unfurl from his body and dance in his wake.

Horrifying. And beautiful.”

For the entire first half of Evenfall characters are telling Ember how horrible and cruel the crescent prince is. That he is a murderer and only craves power. That he wants to enslave her and bend her to his will. But when we finally “meet” him, he just seemed…blah. I was expecting the Beast that trapped the Beauty, the High Lord of the shadows and night, the Cruel Prince with sarcasm and charm. But he wasn’t any of those things. He may have been described in a beautiful way to make anyone swoon, but his character fell flat. For all the time it took to build the first nineteen chapters, I would have expected twice the time to build up his and Ember’s relationship.

But alas, the details and buildup of that relationship was just as quick as my eyes fluttering shut at the beginning of this book.

The relationship between Ember and the crescent prince had barely any beginning before it jumped right into the middle! This man has lived for years upon years in isolation, so how is he so quick to be familiar with Ember being around? A gradual relationship was what was needed for this story. One where the reader could REALLY connect with both characters on a different level. This would have been the opportune time to really sharpen and mold Ember and the crescent prince.

I am left feeling like I know the characters as if another reader had explained them to me, instead of me seeing them for myself. The authors touched the surface of them, but I feel no depth and no kinship to them. I think the only character I TRULY care for in this story, is the dog. And what a precious dog she is! Though I don’t feel a strong and heart-wrenching passion for these people, my interest is still peeked for what happens and the possibilities of what COULD happen. This story ends with a cliff-hanger that DOES leave me wanting more, if only to know what happens to the cruel-but-not-so-cruel prince.

Though my review comes off more negative than positive, I find that I am much more appreciative of this story than I sound. It was creative and beautifully crafted, I just wish there was an even and consistent flow throughout the read. I wanted to be engaged and hooked the entire time while reading, not just for the last half. I am hoping the characters will have a stronger presence in the next story, which I plan on reading. It was a beautifully woven tale of magic and adventure, so hopefully it is in book two where I will really fall in love.

3-5-stars

 

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