ARC Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Rating: ★★★

Publication Date: February 5,2019

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. It features a much darker story then the old classic. With the “beast” being cursed to repeat the same three months over and over until he find the person to fall in love with him. After three hundred seasons and countless bloodshed, this is finally

Friends, I gotta be honest. I completely forgot what this book was about until I started reading it. I’m not the biggest fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I have read some good ones in recent years. I was really excited to read this book, but it was just so so for me.

“Failure isn’t absolute. Just because you couldn’t save everyone doesn’t mean you didn’t save anyone.”

Harper is from DC and she’s had a Rough ™life. Her mother is dying of cancer and her family cannot afford medical treatments. Her brother, Jake is forced to work for the crime lords to just scrape by. Harper also has Cerebral Palsy. Based on my own personal experiences with this disability and the story itself, its given that Harper is a little more high functioning. She was a pretty cool character, who stuck to her guns and just wanted to make sure her family was safe. She was badass and had no problem telling anyone off including the prince.

Rhen is pretty much over everything and it shows. Reminded me of Rhys a bit from The Court Series. Every time a girl doesn’t fall in love with him, he turns into a different beast and no one is safe from him.

Grey was my dude. Probably my fave character. Loyal to a fault, he is the only one left with Rhen and has seen what happens after every single season. He is also given the ability to travel between the worlds and kidnaps the girls for each season.

The problem I always have with Beauty and the Beast retellings is someone is still kidnapped and held against their will. What made this book so interesting was that Harper was not the intended target, it was a mistake for her to be taken. And so she is already beyond apprehensive about Rhen and Grey and the whole curse. It made Harper’s relationships with both men more realistic and I appreciated it.

“We are not always presented with the choices we want, but choices exist nonetheless.”

My favorite part of this whole book was the theme of choice. Y’all know I love Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier and damn, Rhen and Bucky would be self-loathing best friends for sure. Rhen has been cursed by Lilith and in turn, has killed many people close to him. Harper has had to watch her mother slowly deteriorate and her brother does questionable things. But sometimes things are out of our control. Yes, there are choices we can make, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what is chosen, things still happen.

Overall, I didn’t hate this and I didn’t absolutely love it either. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a LONG book and sometimes you really felt how long. Some things were a little cliched and Lilith showing up was just annoying sometimes. The ending felt rushed and scrambled, but I saw this isn’t standalone. So maybe I’ll like the second one a little better.

But while I wasn’t the biggest of fans for this book. I can see how some people would really enjoy this. This still had some cool twists and turns and was a good retelling of a beloved classic.

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The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3)

Author: Katherine Arden

Rating: ★★★★★ (all the stars)

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

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  1. The Bear and the Nightingale– ★★★★★
  2. The Girl in the Tower– ★★★★★

Many years ago, Baby girl Smith was born… me! I wouldn’t meet my parents for another month, but today is my birthday! And since we are just beginning winter I thought today would be a perfect day to release my review for not only my favorite book of 2019 but also the perfect winter read.

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark. One man’s monster is another man’s beloved. The wise know that.”

I probably talk about this trilogy at least 3 times a week, so everyone knows about my deep devotion to the first two books. So of course, the last book in this trilogy has been at the top of the most anticipated reads of 2019. I was fortunate enough to finally meet Katherine Arden this year at NYCC and man did I cry. I walked out of NYCC practically cradling The Winter of the Witch.

The Winter of the Witch picks up right at the end of Girl in the Tower and the action is there. Not going to lie, I was stressed at some points. The stakes have never been higher for Vasya and we see that in this fast-paced plot. From the very first moment, you are captured by the story of it all. I said Bear and the Nightingale is a breathtaking fairy tale and Girl in the Tower is an epic adventure, but Winter of the Witch is both. All those easter eggs you were given in the first two books come together in the most creative and imaginative ways. We see where Katherine Arden wanted to take us; a wonderful journey filled with the most fantastical of characters.

“What use am I? None. I have made more mistakes than I can count, and the world has no place for me. And yet, as I said before, I am still not going to die to please you.”

Katherine Arden character development is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. Vasya is no longer the little girl who stole honeycakes from her nursemaid. Instead, she is this amazingly strong woman who has defied all expectations people had for her. Brilliantly flawed, Arden gives Vasya more character development in just a short time. I say it every day, but Vasya is my all time favorite female character. But it’s not just the main characters brilliantly written in this book. Even the most minor characters show a depth that expertly adds to this folkloric story.

Just like the previous two we are introduced to more fairy tales. This installment adds many whimsical elements that are sure to entice any reader. Midnight roads, quirky characters and legends of old add an extra level of fairytale to this story that reminded me of Bear and the Nightingale.

Friends, I WAS NOT ready for the range of emotions Arden would deliver. I cried, no, BAWLED my eyes out. I felt knocked down multiple times but slowly was put back together by Arden’s story-telling. This book is sure to give you feelings. And that scene…… I…. just.. *cries*

This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I could read 100 more books about each character. BUT this is the perfect ending to a beautiful story. The characters, the setting, the story all feel completed by the end.

Winter of the Witch really cemented my love for this Trilogy. You may see me hugging these books around town. This is my favorite series of all time. If you ever want my recommendation it is The Winternight Trilogy.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Thank you to Del Rey for this arc 🙂

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The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden


“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you,” she said at last fiercely. “But my life is not your game.”

Title: The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy #2)

Author: Katherine Arden

Rating: ★★★★★

Publication Date: December 5, 2017

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  1. The Bear and the Nightingale  ★★★★★

The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my favorite books so of course, I was beyond excited to reread The Girl in the Tower. If Bear and the Nightingale is a breathtaking fairy tale, than The Girl in the Tower is an epic adventure. 

The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale ended. Vasya needs to make a choice: go to the convent or marry. But for Vasya, she chooses a third option: travel the world with Solovey. But it’s hard to travel as an unmarried female, so Vasya travels disguised as a boy. Although Vasya enjoys the freedom, she is still grieving the loss of her father. It is hard to travel alone and soon Vasya runs into people who need her help. Unable to do anything but help others in need, Vasya is once again put back into society. 

Vasya then crosses paths with her older brother Sasha, who had become a monk and her sister Olga, who has married a prince and has a family of her own. Meeting her siblings unexpectedly forces Vasya to keep up the disguise of being a boy. This creates some tension for Vasya and her older siblings who have also not seen her in over 10 years.

Most of this story takes place in Moscow and it is very much different from the life Vasya is used to in the wilderness of Northern Russia. The kind creatures she has been so used to are powerless in the more modern world of Moscow. Vaysa has yet to find out what her disguise means for her siblings and their lives in Moscow. Betrayal is coming and Vasya will soon discover the city is not at all as it seems.

“I did not know I was lonely, she thought, until I was no longer alone.”

Once again I found myself really connected to the story because of three things: the characters arcs, the setting and the overall themes of the story.

This series has some of the best characters, I’ve ever read.  While Bear and the Nightingale had Vasya growing physically, Girl in the Tower has Vasya growing emotionally. I think her growth as a character really shined in this sequel. We see Vasya struggle with her loneliness, her family and a new city. She discovers her lies and half-truths have real consequences to her, her family and for Moscow.

But it’s not just Vasya, Katherine Arden is able to create a beautiful world filled with some of the most interesting characters. Not a single character is wasted in terms of development. We get more frost demon, Morozko!! With his much bigger role, Morozko was able to give us great balance to Vasya’s wildfire spirit. We learn more about him and his motives for always coming to Vasya’s aid. 

“Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen.”

It’s been two months since I read this last, and I already want to read it again. The setting for this sequel has changed a little, with us being in Moscow. But it’s still just as atmospheric. You feel how old and new Moscow is to Vasya. Rich and descriptive, you will think you are actually transported into the world Katherine Arden has created.

“Do you think that is all I want, in all my life— a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me”

The Themes!!! Vasya is the biggest feminist, ahead of her time.  She has never tried to follow social norms and her clear want for freedom is so prevalent in Girl in the Tower. This whole series is about a girl who refuses to conform to gender roles and just wants to travel. I mean what an icon. She knew traveling would be hard for a women, so she disguises herself as a boy. She risked her life to save other girls who had been kidnapped. Vasilisa Petrovna’s entire character is wrapped around this theme of gender roles and social norms. It’s what makes her a great protagonist. She’s independent, strong-willed. She’s not afraid to fail and she does fail a lot in this book. She knows the risks of being unwed, but it’s worth it to her to find her own happiness.

“A woman married. Or she became a nun. Or she died. That was what being a women meant. What then, was she?”

Her step-mother acted as a foil for Vasya’s attitude towards magic and tradition. But in this sequel, it’s her sister who acts as the foil. The opposites of having a family vs wanting to be free. While Olga misses some of her freedoms, she does understand her sense of duty to her family and her role as a woman. Whereas, Vasya clearly wants to be free of the burdens of being married. I absolutely love the way Arden uniquely, creates tension between the sisters centered on this plot device. Honestly, I could talk about Vasya until I’m blue in the face.

This series, this book, these characters mean everything to me. If there’s one series I wish I could reread over again for the first time, it’s this one. Do yourself some self-care and pick up this book. Come fall in love with a frost demon, a talking horse, and a girl who just wants freedom.

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Arc Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Something Dark and Holy, indeed. My friends, I hope you’re ready for April because Wicked Saints is ready to sweep you away. Are you ready to enter this dark, new world? Reminiscent of The Grisha Trilogy and Joan of Arc, Wicked Saints takes the reader on a journey where right and wrong aren’t always black and white. 

Happy Monday friends! I just got back from Yallfest last night and it was such a fantastic weekend! I’ll be sharing a recap of the weekend tomorrow.  But after this weekend I’m more excited to be sharing this review. This weekend I met a bunch a girls who all had Wicked Saints ARCs and I couldn’t help but fangirl over it with them. So this review is dedicated to my 5 new friends who let me  rave about this book while standing in line for an hour.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)

 

Title: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Ratings: ★★★★★

Release Date: April 2,2019

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Something Dark and Holy, indeed. My friends, I hope you’re ready for April because Wicked Saints is ready to sweep you away. Are you ready to enter this dark, new world? Reminiscent of The Grisha Trilogy and Joan of Arc, Wicked Saints takes the reader on a journey where right and wrong aren’t always black and white.

Trigger Warnings: Self Harm and Abuse are very much a part of the entire novel. The author has been very vocal about this but please stay safe everyone. You can read her review and explanation here.

“Intentions were not always kind nor just.”

Most clerics hear the voice of one god to grant them a particular power. Nadezhda Lapteva hears the whole pantheon of gods and they each give power as well as a divine calling. Nadya grew up understanding she was the last cleric and her will was the gods’ will. Her country is at war with the neighboring country, a country her religion calls “heretics”. People who have shunned the gods and practice their own form of magic, blood mages.
When Serefin, the high prince and a dangerous blood mage, attacks her monastery, Nadya is forced to flee her home to fulfill her divine calling. While on the run from the enemy, she finds a group of so-called rebels. These people have decided not to choose a side but would still like for the war to be over. Their leader, Malachiaz, convinces Nadya to go against the god’s wishes and infiltrate the enemy from within the palace. This begins Nadya’s journey into enemy territory while not know who she can trust.
The magic system was one of the best things I’ve ever read. This is a big part of the plot and it was so cool to see. Clerics vs. the Blood Mages; two sides of the same coin. Both sides of the war believed they were right and the other side were the heretics. I definitely questioned both sides multiple times. (I was raised Catholic and I know who Joan of Arc is as well as the idea of a holy war. So for me, I think it added a lot to the plot.)
This story is told in dual POV. While I enjoyed Serefin’s character development I am more excited to see where he will be in the next book. They left it so open-ended, I think he’s going to be a huge part of this overall story. Nadya is my girl. Her character development was amazingly on point. Who she was at the beginning is not how she ended up by the ending.

“We’re all monsters, Nadya.” Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. “Some of us just hide it better than others.”

The ROMANCE!!!!! The perfect ship. The optimist vs. pragmatist. Light vs. Darkness. I can’t help but think of Alina/The Darkling from Grisha and Damon/Elena from TVD. Morozko from The Winterwitch Trilogy.

Duncan’s writing gives off the best medieval vibes. Nadya has strong characteristics to Joan of Arc and other medieval martyrs. The story was so intriguing to read. Betrayal and the blurred line between faith and heresy makes Wicked Saints a perfect story for fans of Grey areas. Raw imaginary make this an extremely easy and fast read. This is a one of a kind story that takes the reader on a journey through medieval cathedrals and ruins of a war-torn country.

I think I lot of people will fall in love with Wicked Saints come April. I quick-paced book sure to thrill any fan of dark fantasy YA. Be sure to keep Wicked Saints in your sights in April 2019!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

 

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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“Will you tell her? asked the mare. “Everything?” the demon said. “Of bears and sorcerers, spells made of sapphire and a witch that lost her daughter? No, of course not. I shall tell her as little as possible. And hope that it is enough.” 

I have loved many books in my life. I’ve loved books that tell of fantasy, friendship, and adventure, but I have never loved a book liked I love The Bear and the Nightingale. One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, it reached deep into my soul fall truly in love with this book. Bear and the Nightingale is on the list of books I wish I could reread over for the first time. I could talk all day about how beautiful this book is to me.

Where does one begin describing their favorite book? This book is magical. The writing is lyrical, it is everything I could ever want in a book. This book is truly a centuries-old fairytale. Russian fairy tales are intertwined to make for a brand new fairytale. A story about family dynamics, gender roles in society, and faith vs tradition are wrapped up in beautiful prose.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a girl named Vasya and her bravery in keeping her family safe from horrors that seem to be right out of the stories her nursemaid would tell her. Vasya has the special ability to talk with some of the magical creatures from her nursemaid, Dunya, stories. She befriends these creatures and in turn, they befriend her and teach Vasya the secrets of the magical world.

Vasya’s wild and care-free nature is strained when her father takes a new bride who also can see the creatures. While both Vasya and Anna can both see the creatures, Anna considers them to be demons and treats Vasya cruelly for acknowledging them.

“It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.”

Then an arrogant priest is sent to the village dreaming of a higher calling.  But after talking to Anna about the old ways of honoring the magical creatures, he decides he is the village’s salvation. Fearing demons are everywhere, the priest uses fear and intimidation in the village. Frightened for their souls, the village slowly follows the priest’s crooked ways and turn away from past tradition.

With the priest and Anna’s own cruelty, Vasya finds herself even more of an outcast. But a frost-demon has taken an interest in her wild heart. He tells her stories of the old ways and of his wicked brother. Thus begins the tale of a girl, a frost-demon, a bear and the nightingale.

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.”

I love many things about The Bear and the Nightingale, but a few things really connected me to the story: the character arcs, the setting, and the deeper themes of the story.

Vasya is probably one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is a very strong-willed, compassionate, care-free protagonist and it’s easy to fall in love with her. We get to see Vasya grow from a child loved by her family for her antics to a young girl who is desperate to stay free. Her need for independence is probably the compelling part of this book.

“Wild birds die in cages.”

The antagonists of this story are very complex because while the main villain is the Bear, the villains in Vasya’s immediate life are her stepmother and the foreign priest.  The stepmother is a perfect foil for Vasya because she can also see the magical creatures but to her, these creatures are not friends but demons who need to be purged. She takes her anger out on Vasya and her cruelty towards her stepdaughter was really the true villain to Vasya’s life. I even consider the priest a villain in the way he strokes animosity and anger toward Vasya. His hatred for her masks underlining feelings he can’t define towards her. Instead of confronting his own arrogance, he blames all of his problems and the problems in the village on Vasya.

Katherine Arden has absolutely stunning writing. I keep forgetting this is a debut because the visuals the reader can get is astounding. You really feel a part of the story. 

The setting for this book has everything:

*wintery setting

*magical forest

*demons

* Characters who are good, bad and somewhere in-between

*mythology and folklore

If you’re looking for a great wintery read or dark fantasy with great themes, and even better character arcs, The Bear and the Nightingale is for you. The audiobook is also beautiful because you actually feel like you are listening to one of Dunya’s stories.

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Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Did you ever watch the Legend of Korra? If the answer is yes, then we should probably be best friends. If the answer is no, you should watch it so we can then be best friends. One of my favorite quotes from that entire show is “When we reach our lowest point, we are opened to the greatest change.” What am I talking about Legend of Korra in an Heir of Fire review? Because that quote perfectly encapsulates my feelings on why Heir of Fire is my favorite novel in the Throne of Glass series.

 Fireheart – why do you cry? “Because I am lost,” she whispered onto the earth. “And I do not know the way.”

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The Throne of Glass series has always been Aelin Ashryver Galathynius’ story. Heir of Fire is special because this is the story of Celaena’s lowest point. We finally get to fully see broken Celaena. Up until this point, Celaena has been a strong, badass woman who sasses the hell out of everyone. But after the ending of Crown of Midnight, we are left with a Celaena who is still grieving the loss of her dear friend, Nehemia. Heir of Fire is a different type of a strong, badass woman; we see a woman who is grieving.

“Because she is dead!” She screamed the last word so loudly it burned in her throat. “Because she is dead, and I am left with my worthless life!”

Celaena is grieving the loss of her friend, her lost love, and the past she tries so desperately to hide. For a good chunk of Heir of Fire, Celaena is in such a state of self-loathing and guilt. It’s heartbreaking to see a character so down, but it helped me really connect with Celaena as a character. Seeing her struggles, I was able to relate way more to Celaena than I did before. She hits rock bottom, but she builds herself back up to becoming Aelin. And that’s why she’s such a strong character. Because even when she hit rock bottom, Aelin found a way to come out on top, and be a stronger person for it.

But where there is darkness there is also light. And SJM does a wonderful job of truly giving Celaena the best character development. Celaena is finally confronted with her past and she’s a better person for it. She chose the future instead of looking at the past. And she finally is beginning to lean on others for help.

I could talk for 100 years about the Heir of Fire being the best character development for Celaena, but there are other people who really make me love this book too soooo…….

“Their hands clasped between them, he whispered into her ear, “I claim you, too, Aelin Galathynius.”

ROWAN…. My fae prince. I absolutely love that grumpy old man. Seriously, one of my favorite book boyfriends. I love me some rough around the edges-broken men, hide their heart of gold under a thick skin of asshole. He fits right in.  Rowan was just as broken as Celaena but in his own way, and they learned to be better together. They became good friends who were able to lean on each other for strength.

 

MANON…. Finally some witches. This was such a great addition to this story. I loved how she was death incarnate but her wyvern loved to roll around in wildflowers. I think Abraxos was really the start of her slowly becoming less ruthless. Asterin is also fantastic and Book 4 is where she really shines.

 

CHAOL….. Unpopular opinion, I’m not a fan of Chaol. I never really was until like the very end of Queen of Shadows. I don’t know he just isn’t my cup of tea. But I did like seeing him be unsure of everything. He made a bunch of mistakes and he’s learning from them. He doesn’t know who to trust. But he’ll get there, he’s just going through some stuff.

 

“You cannot pick and choose what parts of her to love.”

DORIAN….. I loved how Dorian had the most character growth after Celaena in Heir of Fire. He really has the worst luck, but he’s always willing to be a good person. I love Dorian staying true to himself. But man this guy cannot catch a break.

 

This is an emotional rollercoaster, but if you stick with it the end of this book is simply amazing. We are finally getting to the true plot of the series and how it all fits together. I could talk about this forever, but don’t want to give too much away!

“She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.” 

✮✮✮✮

 

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Mini- Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Image result for the iron kingAfter how much I loved Shadow of the Fox, I decided to read Julie Kagawa other books. I picked The Iron Fey and I used my new library card for the first time. (Yay!) First, I was drawn to the fantasy aspect including faeries. The Iron Fey series is a little older, so of course, you also run into old YA tropes.

The Iron King starts the series off with Megan Chase, a sixteen-year-old girl who is an awkward, loner at her high school. She discovers there is a world unlike her own when her brother gets kidnapped and taken to the Nevernever. She must then go to Nevernever to rescue her brother with the help of her friend, Puck. Along the way, Megan uncovers many dark secrets about Nevernever.

Despite being very much a part of the old YA, this book does have a different feeling compared to most YA paranormal stories. Routed in fantasy, The Iron King gives more of an adventure fantasy novel instead of a romantic angst central plot. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has great references in this book and it really gave this book a unique feel. Yes, there was still a love triangle with a best friend and clearly a bad boy, but it wasn’t that bad for me.

“Oh, we’re playing nice now? Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?”

I really think Julie’s best writing style is her use of making fun and interesting secondary characters. In their own way, Puck and Grimalkin were exactly what was needed to move the plot along. Puck’s comic relief, this sarcastic character was exactly like Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. While Grimalkin was very much like the Cheshire Cat, who only provided help when it suited him. Charismatic and fun, these characters along with fast-paced fantasy makes for an exciting story.

“I’m a cat.” 

The Iron King was a cool series started for what could be an interesting series. This was a very easy read and I was able to finish in just a couple hours. With  Great illusions to a great Shakespearean play, charismatic characters, and pretty interesting villains, The Iron King set itself apart from other YA fantasy from the 2000s. Now onto The Iron Daughter.

✮✮✮✮

 

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