My people had a saying about home, as they did about so many of the important things in life: a Varenian can never be lost at sea, because he calls the entire ocean home.
In the ocean city of Varenia law dictates that whichever girl the council of elders decides is the most perfect, the most beautiful, will move to the city of Ilara and marry the prince. This has been the tradition of the Varenian people for as long as they can remember. It is considered an honor to be chosen, or at least that is how you are expected to feel. In exchange for the beautiful bride the Ilarans will continue to trade with Varenia, buy their pearls, and keep the drinking water available to the community. The Varenians survival hinges upon this arrangement. Never are the Verenians allowed to travel on land and so they are at the mercy of the Ilarans.
Zadie and Nor are beautiful twins and the most likely to be chosen to marry the prince. Until Nor sustains an injury that leaves a scar upon her cheek and leaves Zadie to be the chosen one. But then the unthinkable happens and Zadie is gravely injured and Nor must go to Ilara in her place. Nor has always dreamed of traveling to land and discovering the world so this seems like it could be a dream come true for her until she learns the price that must be paid to be chosen for royalty. Prince Ceren, her betrothed, ends up being a cruel man who lives in a castle carved into a mountain where there is no sunlight or warmth. As Nor becomes close to Prince Ceren’s brother, Prince Talin, she begins to learn unbearable truths about her people and the maidens that were chosen before her. She also realizes that her family and all the other Varenians could be in grave danger and she is the only one who can help them.
The premise of an ocean city is what originally drew my attention to this book. The city is not below the ocean, but above. Houses are built on stilts and traveling from place to place requires a boat or you must swim. This turned out to be the most interesting part of this story. The plot is heavily reliant on the beauty trope for the first half of the book. At least for girls who have a chance at being chosen to marry a prince. The family of that girl is in turn heavily rewarded and would not have to worry about starving or the fact that they are able to find less and less pearls to trade to Ilara or less fish to feed to their family. In this case Nor and Zadie’s mother is completely obsessed with keeping Zadie absolutely perfect. She must not sustain an injury or have a scar of any kind. She must be perfect. Which is why it made no sense to me that she was allowed to go diving in dangerous places and continuously put herself at risk.
Nor and Zadie are extremely close. Nor has accepted that she will never go to Ilara and instead dedicates her life to protecting her sister and diving for pearls to feed their family. Zadie is the more demure of the two as she has been constantly practicing to be a queen since she was old enough to talk. She seems very willing to do her duty and leave Varenia forever no matter how much she’ll miss her family. That’s why Nor is shocked when Zadie requests the impossible from her. But Nor cannot refuse her beloved sister anything and the events that follow leave Nor going to Ilara in Zadie’s place. I did enjoy the portrayal of sisterhood. The two sisters really loved and cared for one another and Nor grieved the loss of Zadie pretty hard.
Unfortunately there are parts of this book I found lacking. Once in Ilara Nor uncovers many truths about both Ilara and Varenia. The conflicts during this second half of the book were simply not convincing. I felt the problems could have easily been fixed with much simpler solutions than putting an entire community of people at risk. There was one scene in particular where Nor could have made a very simple and easy decision that would have in turn saved both the Ilarans and Varenians in one fell swoop… and she just didn’t. It went against her morals. I found this to be extremely annoying. It just didn’t add up.
As for the courtier life and relationships that Nor built once in Ilara, I found that part of the book to be very bland. Not much happens at all until the end of the book when a large plot twist is revealed. The plot twist was probably my favorite aspect of the book and the only part of the story that made me even slightly compelled to read the next book. The building romance left me feeling nothing at all. I didn’t care about it. I felt it had potential when we were first introduced to the character but then it just fell flat. I’d say that the book would do fine without it but so much of what happens next will be reliant on that relationship. I especially wish it had been a more interesting element since it’s so necessary to the story.
The book was definitely written well and I liked the main character and her gumption but the other characters were not fleshed out well enough and in turn did not inspire me to care about them at all. The story didn’t have enough intrigue to make it shine among a million other books just like it in the YA fantasy genre, either. Even though some of the aspects were definitely unique and not something I had seen before, the bare bones of the story were just like so many others before it. I do think this book offers a sense of adventure for someone who’s looking for that in a book. It’s also pretty easy reading. Between these things and the strong main character I think this book could definitely appeal to some people, it’s just not the book for me.
Hello, Friends!! In the month of August I participated in the Magical Readathon hosted by G from the YouTube channel Book Roast. This is a two-part read-a-thon that begins with the O.W.L.S. in April and finishes with the N.E.W.T.S. in August each year. The read-a-thon is themed after the wizarding tests taken in the Harry Potter books and they are so much fun! If you love to read, whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, I enthusiastically recommend joining us in April of 2020 for the next round. It’s an amazing community and adds a bit of a challenge to your reading which just spices things up a bit! Ok, enough about that; let’s get to the books!
I actually found that I read a bit less than my average in August which is totally fine but surprising. Although, I did read a couple lengthier books! My Stats for August:
Reading Goal: 129/150 (28 books ahead of schedule)
Books Read: 14
Pages Read: 5,249
Longest Book: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) By Sarah J Maas 645 pgs
Shortest Book: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 296 pgs
Genres Read: 8 YA/Adult Fantasy, 5 YA/Adult Contemporary, 1 Horror (of these 14 books 12 are physical books, 1 is Audiobook, and 1 is a Graphic Novel. 8 are Young Adult, 6 are Adult.)
And finally… here are the books from lowest rated to highest! 🖤
The Bookshop of Yesterdays completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book between 350 and 390 pages.
This is the book that doomed my reading this month. I was so bored with it that it took up an entire week of my life and prevented me from reading anything else. I know I should have DNFed it but the mystery involved had me intrigued enough that I wanted answers. Once I got them I was pretty underwhelmed and regretted my decision to continue reading long past the ‘I’d rather go to the dentist than continue this book’ stage. No one is to blame but myself for this one! The writing isn’t bad but the main character is extremely annoying, the relationship between the MC and her boyfriend is completely unnecessary to the story and not even a good representation of what a relationship should be like. The MC is also spoiled rotten and terrible to her mother which was never addressed. Instead it was meant to be accepted because of the sad things that happened to her. BOO-HOO. No. You’re a crap person, Miranda. Please don’t show up in any more books.
Ironside completed the Challenge: History of Magic-Read a fantasy.
I read this book as part of the Faerie-A-Thon as well as the N.E.W.T.S. Faerie-A-Thon is hosted by the sweet and truly lovely Melanie from the YouTube channel Meltotheany. She can also be found at her blog of the same name. If you do anything at all today, visit Melanie. You will instantly love her! This read-a-thon is also hosted by the wonderful Alexa from the YouTube channel Alexa Loves Books, Kristin from the channel Super Space Chick, who is so sweet and gives me serious bookshelf envy, and Jane from the fantastic YouTube channel It’sJaneLindsey. If you’re ever looking for some BookTubers to follow these gals are a great place to start. As for the book; it was mediocre. Not bad but about what you’d expect from a YA Fantasy book published in 2007. It was entertaining, a super easy read, and a great introduction into Holly’s world of faerie which is the same world the The Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air, #1) is set along with the rest of the series and her other previous books!
Say You Still Love Me completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Cover that includes an actual photo element.
I received this as an ARC for review from Netgalley and Atria books. To see my full review of this book visit this post. I was really hoping to love this book since I had heard such rave reviews for Tucker’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, which I have on my shelf and haven’t read yet. I found this book to be pretty average. It definitely wasn’t a bad book but it didn’t do anything special or manage to stand out in my mind in any meaningful way. If you like second chance romances with a female MC in a position of power I’d recommend this. I think there are a lot of people who will love this book; it just wasn’t for me.
Britt-Marie Was Here completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with green on the cover.
Fredrik Backman has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’ll read anything he writes. He’s just so gifted with words and really specializes in human emotion. He just GETS people. All of Backman ‘s books tell poignant stories about self-discovery, self-reflection, and relationships. That being said this was my least favorite book I’ve read by Backman so far. Even so, this book is still really well done and funny. Britt-Marie is a character we first meet in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. In that book I pitied Britt-Marie but I didn’t like her. I found her to be meddling and annoying. This companion novel promised to tell her story and change the way you see her once you know who she really is at heart. It succeeded. I ended up caring about Britt-Marie and hoping for everything good in the world to happen for her. I’d recommend this book and anything else written by this author… even his grocery list.
Vassa in the Night completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with the word night in the title or series name.
Vassa in the Night is an extremely strange retelling of the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful. This book made no sense at all and all the sense in the world. It’s twisty, weird, maniacal, and entertaining as hell. Even though this is possibly the strangest book I’ve ever read I still marveled at the authors imagination and ability to draw you in and keep you reading. The writing was spectacular. If you were to pull elements of this book apart and look at them separately you’d probably find that you weren’t interested in this book. Amputated hands that do their master’s evil bidding, a convenience store that dances on chicken legs, a talking wooden doll. All of these things seem so childish on their own but brought together they work seamlessly to create an extremely dark and creepy tale. This isn’t a book that can be explained, you just need to read it for yourself.
The Wicked Deep completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with a moon on the cover or anywhere in the title.
This was the August pick for my reading group on Goodreads, The Reading Frenzy. There are 4 of us MODs and we create new read-a-thons and challenges each month to keep reading fun. Anyone can join, it’s a group for lover’s of all books and all genres. September’s Pick is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and we have something special and exciting planned for October 👻☠️🎃👀. As for the Wicked Deep, I went into this with very low expectations based on some of the reviews I had seen. Due to that I was pleasantly surprised. I quite enjoyed this witch-y book set on a spooky island, completely separated from the town. Ernshaw knows how to build up the atmosphere, that’s for sure. I love being surprised by a book and even though some of the plot twists were predictable there were some that I never saw coming. If you haven’t read this yet and want to I’d recommend holding off until we really get into Fall. It’s the absolute perfect book for the Halloween season.
The Right Swipe completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Read a book set in our world.
I read this book with the Goodreads Dragon’s and Tea Book Club hosted by Melanie (meltotheany) and Amy (acourtofcrownsandquills). This reading group focuses on marginalized and own-voices authors. I’ve been reading with them for several months and have had a successful reading experience so far. This month they are reading Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson. Y’all should definitely check it out! For the first time since joining this book club I was wavering on whether to join in on The Right Swipe; mainly because I had such a lengthy TBR already and it just wasn’t a book that was on my radar. After seeing so many people getting excited closer to its release I decided to go for it. I’m really glad I did. This book was great. It features an intersectional MC, which is always refreshing to see represented. The book doesn’t explicitly say that the MC has any mental health issue but it’s clear that she does have something going on. It read to me like anxiety and I personally thought it was well represented and realistic. This book also features a woman of color in a position of power and she’s tough as nails. I felt she was too tough at times but was able to understand her better by the conclusion of the story. If you like diversity, second chance romance, feminism, or football players 😉 than I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
Origin is the only title I read outside of the Magical Readathon this month. I listened to this on audio.
What is there to say about this book? It’s an oldie but goodie that I just recently discovered! I’ve been slowly listening to this series from book one. It’s become my guilty pleasure when driving to and from work or running errands. Although, guilty pleasure is just a figure of speech; I’m not feeling guilty at all. 😉
Wilder Girls completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with a flower on the cover.
Ever since the day this cover was revealed I wanted to read this book. I didn’t even need to know anything about it. I’m exciting to do a post at the end of 2019 featuring my favorite covers of the year. This one will be at the top of the list, guaranteed. I read this book with my Goodreads book club, The Reading Frenzy, for the Bookish Treasure Hunt Read-a-thon that I created. This was another creepy island story but instead of witches and ghosts like you find in The Wicked Deep, this story features an all girls school quarantined to their island while a sickness called The Tox spreads from the plants to the wildlife to the girls and women who live there. Grotesque things are happening to their bodies and rarely are any two girls sharing the same symptoms. When one of the girls in a particular friend group disappears after a flare up it becomes clear more is going on than meets the eye and the story really takes off from there. This book was fantastically gory and creepy and twisted. I loved it. The only real criticism I have is a pretty big one and one that prevented me from giving this five stars and that is the ending. The ending was bad. Period. This is a stand-alone story and yet the book just abruptly ends with a lot of things still unanswered. This isn’t a spoiler as many things are cleared up and the way in which it ends is still a mystery if you haven’t read it but if you go to Goodreads and read any random review you will see the majority of people complaining about the same thing. The terrible ending. Maybe some people could see past it and maybe it’s supposed to have some metaphorical meaning, but I didn’t see it. I was just annoyed. I’d still recommend this though if you like body horror. it’s a damn good book.
The Grand Dark completed the challenge: Arithmancy- Read a book that ends on an even page number.
I reviewed an ARC of this book that was provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager. To see my full review visit this post. This was the month of strange and unconventional books. This is another title that was so unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It felt like a mixture of steampunk, gothic architecture, 1920’s Noir, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it off. The world was brutal and dark. The characters range from savages, disabled, desperate, poor, rich, sick, healthy, powerful, and weak. The is a twisted story set in a twisted world and I definitely recommend it!
Legendary completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read a book that’s black under the dust jacket.
Reading Legendary was so exciting since I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to get to it. I wasn’t disappointed. While this book was much darker than the more whimsical setting of Caraval, the main character’s had much better chemistry and the angst was palpable between them. I am so glad I have Finale already on my shelves after that kicker of an ending!
Heartstopper Vol. 2 completed the challenge: Transfiguration- Read a book with LGBTQ+ representation.
This graphic novel is everything. These characters were first featured in the full length novel, Solitaire, as side characters; this is the second volume of their back story. The MC’s are literally precious and I just want to hug them. Alice Oseman has a very distinct art style that I’m living for. The color scheme is beautiful as is the story she tells. If you’re looking for a queer graphic novel than look no further. This is a gem of a book!
An Easy Death completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read the first book you remember from your TBR.
Charlaine Harris is an auto-buy author for me. She writes two of my favorite series, the Sookie Stackhouse series which is the inspiration for the HBO show True Blood, and the Midnight, Texas series, which was adapted into a T.V. show on NBC. I would never have picked up a book classified as a western under normal circumstances but all I needed to know before purchasing this book was that Charlaine wrote it. I was not disappointed. This book is so unique; I’ve never read anything even remotely like it. At first I was weirded out by the writing style because it was unusual and nothing like the author’s other books. But I quickly realized that she wrote the whole book in the way the MC thinks. It’s genius, honestly. The next book in this series, A Longer Fall, releases January 2020. I’ve requested an ARC so hopefully I’ll have a review up soon. Fingers crossed!
Queen of shadows completed the challenge: History of magic- Read a book that includes a map.
I’ve been slowly making my way through my reread of this series along with the girls hosting the #TOGreadalong, Kassie from MissSassyKassie & Brittni from Brittni’s Book Finds. Queen of Shadows was just as amazing the second time around. Shit. Goes. Down. in these books and I’m living for it! I’d lay down and die for my boy Rowan. I don’t think there’s much to say about this series. People either love it or hate it. How you could hate it is beyond me but hey to each their own! Next up is Empire of Storms and then there is only one book between me and Kingdom of Ash! I cannot wait to finally read the last book in this series… I’m sure it’s gonna kill me but sacrifices must be made.
That’s it for last month’s reading wrap-up. Also, I am now a Book of the Month YA affiliate! Click on the links on my page to sign up. I receive a small commission when you do, thank you kindly! I’ll see you soon for more bookish content!
ARC provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.
Largo is a bike currier in Lower Proszawa, traveling all over the city dropping packages to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. The Great War has just ended and the people of this ravaged city drown themselves in sex, drugs, and parties to forget the terror recently visited upon them. As they give themselves up to pleasures of all kinds they fail to notice that the reality around them is dire. Automata are running the streets, taking jobs from the humans when they most need them, more and more genetically engineered creatures being kept as pets or instruments of war, and the general morbidity of the The Grand Darkness, where very realisitic murders are played out on stage in all it’s gory glory. Despite being a drug addict, Largo makes it to work each morning and when the Chief Courier goes missing his job is offered to Largo. Things seem to be looking up for him, with a new promotion, his beautiful girlfriend, Remy, and all the drugs he could possibly need, Largo is living in a state of bliss. But all good things must come to an end.
This book was a beautiful chaos. It was like a mish-mash of gothic architecture, 1940’s noir, automatons, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it all off. Lower Proszawa is a place you can’t picture the sun shining or any life outside of its reality. I listened to the audiobook while reading along because the names and places were entirely impossible to pronounce; the names and places making me think it was inspired by the German language. Men and woman are referred to has “Frau”, “Herr”, and “Fräulein”. While listening a lot of the accents also sounded French. Yet there was nothing that implied that these places even existed in the world. Simply put, this world is entirely unique and palpable. While reading I felt completely immersed. I was THERE. Kadney truly is a gifted storyteller with a vivd imagination.
Largo and his actress girlfriend, Remy, along with most of the population, are addicted to a drug called Morphia. When they aren’t using Morphia, they are sniffing cocaine or getting drunk, seeing morbid plays that use a type of remote control doll to enact bloody scenes of murder and death, or having sex. In the absence of war, the people of the city have given themselves entirely to pleasure. But just below the surface dark and terrible things are stirring and there’s word that the war will be coming again. The Bollocks, or police, are trying to sniff out the people in the resistance and in turn end up brutalizing and jailing innocent people. Walking down the street isn’t safe, especially from the law. On every street corner the Iron Dandies can be found. Men that have returned from the war so maimed and disfigured that they must wear iron masks to cover their faces. There’s word that people are being abducted from the streets by slavers and everyones jobs are constantly at risk of being taken over by the Mara’s, genetically enhanced creatures that some keep as pets. And to top it all off there is a plague, known as The Drops, inflicting random people and no one is sure how it is contracted. It’s a bleak world and all anyone wants is to hide from reality.
I really loved the characters in this book. This story features a m/m relationship along with a few bi or pan (not entirely sure which) characters as well. There is also a lot of disability representation in general but two of the main characters specifically. One is blind and the other is disfigured and disabled. They were all well fleshed out and interesting and they all showed amazing character growth throughout. Some of them were utterly unrecognizable by the end of the story. I loved how most of them reacted when faced with hard decisions and the things they were willing to do to protect the ones they loved. Previously seen as frivolous and uncaring, they now showed outstanding grit and determination in the face of their adversaries. The plot was fast-paced and held my attention until the last page. Most of the places this story took us I never saw coming and it was brutal. Kadney held nothing back, there’s blood and gore and death aplenty.
This is definitely a book that speaks more for itself than I can. It’s very hard to explain a world this detailed that is pulled from so many different things to create this one amazing place. Lower Proszawa is really a character all it’s own with it’s carnival, its slums and upper-classes and all it’s crisscrossing streets and alleys; it has it’s own personality and moods. Kadney really created something unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m only sorry it ended like it did. As far as I know this is a standalone. It did resolve the most important plot points but there are a few burning questions that never got answered. That is really my only criticism.
There are some triggers to be aware of: Addiction (alcohol and both real and invented drugs), PTSD (maimed & disfigured soldiers are very prominent), Homophobia, Police Brutality & abuse of power, minor animal cruelty (not that any is ok!), Violence (a lot of blood and gore), Sex (not really a trigger but there is a lot of sex or sexual behavior throughout the book), Spreading of Disease/plague, Brutal Death of a Parent (witnessed by child), Brutal Death of a close friend (witnessed by child).