Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Earlier this week I told Kate that I keep trying to Quit Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters but just can’t. This was after a discussion of authors continue stories of characters after the story had ended. She felt that Clary and Jace, Simon and Alec’s story ended up after the original trilogy. Not that I totally disagreed with her. I didn’t really like the second Mortal Instruments trilogy as much as the original but it did bring about some interesting characters that wouldn’t have existed if Clare had stop after the first three. I keep reading her Shadowhunters novels because Clare knows how to write characters. The secondary characters in The Dark Artifices are so well constructed it really brings to life the story. I have nothing against Julian and Emma but I was far more interested in Diana, a transgender shadowhunter who lived in fear of being found out. Despite her own fears she remained a well respected in the community. As cliche as it sounds, it took the Gwyn the fame leader of the Wild Hunt to see her as she is and without question to give her the strength to stop hiding. Ty a shadowhunter with autism. Shadowhunters have long shunned mundane medicine, so Autism isn’t something that they know or understand. Of course that can be said for us Mundanes as well. To Shadowhunters he seems strange and slow but he is actually quite brilliant. Change is not something that deals with easily so when his twin dies at the end of the last book and how he deals with it is so heartbreaking. And then there is Christina, Mark and Kieran. A Shadowhunter, a shadowhunter half fairy and a full fairy prince in a full blown three-mance. (is that a word? Well it is now because I not sure how to explain their relationship) Of course there is Magnus, the high Warlock of all our hearts still about. Helen and Aline a married shadowhunter couple coming back from exile and so many more. I know that Clare has been planning these books out years ago so she knew where the story was going to back in 2012 when she first introduced the Blackthorns. She couldn’t have known that her story of Shadowhunters using fear and bigotry to lead them towards fascism and tyranny would be so timely. Sadly. It only makes the wide variety of characters from different backgrounds, cultures, races, beliefs and lifestyles that more vibrant. The story would not have worked or would have not been as enjoyable without such a diverse and inclusive cast, just as our world is far better off with wide array of voices and viewpoints. No matter what people tell you. So while, I do agree that some of her characters stories have passed and it’s time to move on, I’m glad that she has continued the story to include so many more voices because it has definitely kept me interested.

Quick Review: Arch-Enemies by Marissa Meyer

What is the definition of a villain?  The Renegades and the Anarchists would say the other is a villain.  The Anarchists wanted to fight for prodigies rights.  They were no longer willing to live in fear and hiding but there methods of violence did sit well with others.  The Renegades used their powers to defeat them and now run Gatlon City.  Both the Renegades and the Anarchists wanted to change the world but had different ideas on how to do it.  Does that make either one of them villains?  This is really the question in the center of the series.  Nova was raised to hate the Renegades.  She sees them as dangerous and not what they appear to be.  She blames them for the death of her family and for the destruction of her uncle.  Meanwhile Adrian was raised by the Renegades and sees what they do as trying to make the world the better place but sometimes frustrated with all the rules.  Things get even more confused when the Renegades reveal their new weapon against Prodigies who break the rules.  Agent N, that take away their powers.  Soon all patrols are being trained on how to use it basically making Renegades judge, jury and executioner.  This is troubling to both Nova and Adrian but for different reasons.  Nova believes this a gross misuse of power and to easy for it to be abuse.  Who is to stop a rogue Renegade from using Agent N on someone they don’t like?  But Nova also starts to see that not all Renegades are bad people and truly believe what they are doing is for the good.  Which makes her question everything that she was taught.  She keeps having to remind herself that she is an Anarchist and that she has a mission to save her Uncle Ace Anarchy.  To complicate things even more to complete her task she must get closer to Adrian, who she may or may not have feelings for.  You know it wouldn’t be a YA novel without some kind of complicated romance.  It’s a fun series as the characters are enjoyable to read and constantly questioning your own loyalties.  Are you with the Renegades or the Anarchists?

Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Sarah J Maas

What a way to end a series.  It was seven books in the making and finally know how it all came together.  Aelin and her friends have been on a quite a journey.  From the beginning when Aelin was just an assassin and Dorian was a spoiled Prince.  It was expanded so far beyond that now. To other continents and other worlds.  What I liked about this was that every character had a role to play in the ending and that is quite a feat as there are a lot of characters.  I mean we are talking about Game of Thrones level of characters.  They are all flawed people but have one goal to defeat Erawan and Maeve and create a better world.  It wasn’t easy and there were many twists and turns along the way.  It started off slow as the characters were spread far and wide.  It also took me awhile to reacquaint myself with some of the characters as for most of them it’s been two years since the last time we have seen them but once they started to come together that it really started to pick up and get going.  So many story arcs to wrap up and most of them were.  I think a few left open a bit that we could go back and revisit Erilea.  Let’s get back to Aelin as she is really the heroine here.  Of all the characters she has been through the most.  She started out as a assassin and ended up a Queen.  She has endured enough trauma for several lifetimes and would have been forgiven if she gave up and she had plenty of chances to do just that but she doesn’t.  She gave everything she had for her country and her friends.  She used her intelligence and skills to outwit and defeat her enemies as much as she used her power.  I’ll miss reading about her because she was fun, smart and spunky. If you haven’t read this series you should and lucky you, you can now read it in it’s entirety without wearing years between books. 

Review: Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

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Here is the description from amazon:

Ashley Davison, a graduate student in California, desperately wants to spend the holidays with her family in Seattle. Dashiell Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle and must arrive by December 23. Though frantic to book a last-minute flight out of San Francisco, both are out of luck: Every flight is full, and there’s only one rental car available. Ashley and Dash reluctantly decide to share the car, but neither anticipates the wild ride ahead.

At first they drive in silence, but forced into close quarters Ashley and Dash can’t help but open up. Not only do they find they have a lot in common, but there’s even a spark of romance in the air. Their feelings catch them off guard—never before has either been so excited about a first meeting. But the two are in for more twists and turns along the way as they rescue a lost puppy, run into petty thieves, and even get caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Though Ashley and Dash may never reach Seattle in time for Christmas, the season is still full of surprises—and their greatest wishes may yet come true.

 

This book was terrible. So terrible I almost didn’t review it. The whole premise of the plot is that Ashley Davison has the same name as someone on the FBI’s most wanted list and the no-fly list and that’s a huge roadblock to her getting home for Christmas.  This premise seems in poor taste, at the very least, because it does happen and hurts people, most often people who are racial and/or religious minorities in this country. I decided, for the sake of a quick Christmas read that I’d read it anyway.

I should have gone with my first instincts.

Ashley and Dash have sparks? I guess? But, It seems more like he’s the grown up looking after a well-meaning and slightly-irresponsible younger person. (And, for possibly obvious reasons, I really resent any characterization of a graduate student that way.) The FBI agents who follow them are ham-fisted and stubborn-to-a-fault. It is not a very flattering caricature. They also don’t seem good at their jobs? I feel like there were other clues that could have gotten them to Dash and Ashley faster, and while this would have made for a less exciting novel it also would have made for a shorter one and I would have been cool with that?

Oh, and they adopt a puppy at some point on their rental car road trip. This seems slightly irresponsible but big-hearted. Guess who’s idea it is.

The puppy is great. Not great enough that you should read it for the dog, though.

Ugh. this book. It was just terrible. I was hoping for something light and fun with a cute happily ever after and that’s not what this was. The nicest things I can say about this are that there was a dog and that it was a quick read.

 

Quick Review: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

muse of nightmares I really don’t know the best way to describe this book or this series as it’s so lush and unique.  It’s also kind of a hard read because pretty much every character is a victim of terrible abuse and trauma and the events of the book are the direct result of all the trauma.  The people of Weep spent years under the threat of kidnapping and rape and even 15 years after they killed the “Gods” responsible the citadel where it all took place still stood as a reminder of what they endured.  The Godspawn lived in fear of being discovered for fear of what happened to their fellow children would happen to them.  This all came to a crashing half when our hero Lazlo discovered who he really was and brought them together.  Even the villains of this piece were acting on their own traumas.  You knew what they were doing was wrong at times you couldn’t really blame them either. In the end it was an act of compassion that saved them all.  Sarai used her power to listen and understand what was the issue and finally talk them down.  I highly recommend that everyone read Strange the Dreamer and the Muse of Nightmares because they are so lush in descriptions of Weep and the other strange lands.  It’s truly beautiful story that is also timely to today’s me too movement.

Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

sunshine The first time I read Sunshine was 10 years ago right after the release of Breaking Dawn. Let’s just say that Breaking Dawn left a lot to be desired.  I can’t remember if it was Kate who suggested Sunshine or if it was our friend Elizabeth but it was one of those “read this if you want to read a good vampire novel after a really bad one”.  I did and it is.  I loved it as much now as I did back then.  It was just as suspenseful, mysterious, funny and kind of sexy even if there isn’t much of a romance going on.  Rae “Sunshine” Seddon is as normal as one can be living in New Arcadia after the Voodoo Wars.  She makes the best cinnamon rolls at Charlie’s Coffeeshop.  Her whole life revolves around the coffeeshop.  Things change when she decides to take a drive out to the lake and is kidnapped by Vampires and is sucked into an old school feud between two very old and very different vampires.  She also discovers that she isn’t so normal after all.  She happens to be the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and has powers of her own.  When she saves herself and Constantine with her sunshine power her life is turned upside down.  She deals with it pretty well with a lot of dark humor and a great supporting cast.  Constantine is everything that Edward is not.  He doesn’t try to pretend he’s anything that he isn’t.  He’s considerate and thoughtful.  Many times he could have taken advantage of Sunshine but doesn’t.  In the end he realizes that he needs her as much as she needs him.  As for their relationship status, who knows.  There is definitely a connection between them.  It’s more than just the bond from healing each other but also surviving multiple traumatic events.  They are definitely two friends who have a deep respect for each other and continue to challenge each other.  Let’s go back to Sunshine.  In someways it’s unfair to compare her to Bella because Sunshine is an adult and Bella is not.  Sunshine has more life experience that when she makes decisions she knows how much is going to effect her and the people she cares about.  She also sees that she is an impossible situation that doesn’t give her any good choices to choose from.  She is self aware to know herself but also what is going on around her.  While Constantine does take up a lot of time and thinking he doesn’t become the center of her life.  She keeps her family and friends close and many of them actually help her to understand what is going on and give her the tools to defeat the evil vampire.  Her support system is truly key. Not just to help her through killing vampires but also help her heal from her traumatic experience too.  I think that’s important part of the story.  Constantine is a powerful vampire but he couldn’t take on The Evil Vampire on his own.  He needed Sunshine.  Sunshine would not been able to deal with what happened to her without the support of her stepfather, Charlie, her boyfriend Mel, Her Mom, Her landlady, Yolande, her friend Aimil, her other friends and SOF agents, Pat, Jesse and Theo.  Whether or not they knew it, they all played a roll in defeating The Evil Vampire and keeping Constantine and Sunshine alive.  It was a group effort but also a reminder that no matter what is going on in your life.  You are never truly alone.  So yes, Sunshine is a great vampire novel and deserves more props.

Quick Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

shadow of the fox I was first introduced to Kitsunes thanks to the TV show Teen Wolf (I miss that show) A japanese story of someone who can turn into a fox.  Yumeko is only half-kitsune and has been raised by monks in a temple.  Like foxes, she’s mischievious and curious.  She plays tricks on the monks to some of their chagrins but the Monks also teach her how to control her kitsune powers, which will come in handy when it is revealed that the temple guards a piece of the dragon scroll. The dragon scroll when put together raises a dragon every 1000 years.  The person with the scroll is granted one wish and depending on who making the wish it can be good or bad.  It’s almost time to summon the dragon and many people are after the scroll.  One of them is the master to the Demonslayer, Tatsumi from the Shadow Clan. Tatsumi has a very powerful sword that contains a dangerous demon.  He has to control his emotions or the demon in his sword will take over him.  Tatsumi and Yumeko team up to find the missing scroll.  Well, Yumeko has one piece but needs Tatsumi to help her get it to another temple and keep it safe.  Through their journey they meet other people along the way, including the delightful ronin, Okame and noble Daisuke.  They are challenged by spirits and other supernatural beings who try to get the scroll away from them but they grow a bond that is unmistakable.  For all the fear of the some of the monks that Yumeko’s fox side will take over her humanity, they shouldn’t have worried because it’s her compassion and quick thinking that often saves them.  Her first time outside of the temple, she is often filled with wonder of her surroundings.  Some of the most amusing bits is when Okame introduces her sarcasm for the first time.  At first she is confused by it but soon begins to understand it.  It’s wonderful.  I really liked this book and can’t wait for the sequel.  It’s full of lush descriptions of samarai’s and court life and nature that you can’t be helped to be sucked in.  I highly recommend it.

Quick Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

court of frost and starlight In retrospect, reading a book that deals with abuse and the affects it has on it’s victims, may not have been the best thing to read right now.  Between the news and this, it was a lot.  However, at least here, we see people believing and supporting each other as they deal with their own individual traumas.  This is a supplement story to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.  Pretty much every character has endured one form of abuse or another and their recovery is very much a big part of the story as the looming conflict about to come.  The Night Court is still recovering from the battle with Hybern that lead to many deaths and the fall of the wall between the Fey and human lands.  The Solstice is coming up and Rhys, Feyre, Mor, Amren Cassian, Az, and Elain are looking forward to taking time away from their responsibilities to celebrate.  The one not dealing with the events of the last book is Nesta, who has withdrawn from the group.  Only time will tell what will happen with her.  This book didn’t do much to advance the story too much but allow for some light moments that we won’t get to see in the following books as this is really the calm before the storm.  The end alludes to the dangers that are about to come. So let’s just all take a moment and enjoy this little holiday and take a moment to heal.  I think we all need that right now.

Review: Tiger’s Dream by Colleen Houck

tiger's dream I was excited to read this book as the last book in the series Tiger’s Destiny came out 6 years ago.  The Tiger’s Saga was about two Indian Princes and brothers who were cursed to live as tiger’s until one of the Princes meant a young girl from Oregon. Over the next four books Kelsey, Ren and Kishan go through many trials and tribulations to undue the curse and defeat the evil Lokesh with the help of Goddess Durga.  From the beginning author Colleen Houck said there would be five books in the series so it was surprising that the end of Tiger’s Destiny seemed to have wrapped up the story.  What did Tiger’s Dream have to offer? To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.  This is what we all waited for?  There were several times that I thought about stopping reading because I got so frustrated.  I found some of it to be very problematic and uncompelling.  The rest of the review is going to be under the cut as it’s full of spoilers.
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Quick Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

two dark reigns This series was originally planned to be only a duology.  I’m glad that Kendare Blake decided to extended it two more books because it’s truly delightful.  Two Dark Reigns begins a few weeks after the end of of One Dark Crown.  Katherine is crown Queen of Fennbirn.  Mirabella and Arisone escaped the island and trying to fit in on the Mainland. Jules is reeling from the death Joseph and is back and Fennbirn.  The island is shielded by the Mist but the Mist is acting up and turning on the island.  Probably because Katherine became Queen without actually killing her sisters and still possessed by the dead queens of the past.  Her sisters escaped the Island and Jules is being propped up as the symbol of a new revolution.  I still like the original Queens Katherine, Mirabella and Arisnoe and Jules is growing me but she’s still not favorite.  Jules is legion cursed.  Meaning she has two gifts that will make her crazy because her powers are so strong.  This is partly why people think she is also a queen and that the Goddess of the Island is trying to change the bloodline of the Queens and change the course of the island.  Of course the Island has another idea.  Mirabella and Arsione may have escaped the island but the island isn’t finished with them yet.  Arisone is being sent visions about the Blue Queen who created the Mist.  She is haunted by her that forces them back.  Jules and her new warrior friends are in direct conflict with each other.  We still Queens against Queens but the battle lines are drawn and the fate of the island is at stake.  Let’s just say, the last book is going to be a doozy.