Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads Rating4.11 stars
Source: Library
Buy the BookAmazon
Summary"After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family... 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages."

ReviewGaiman is so innovative and interesting. There's something refined about his writing that turns his (admittedly bizarre) ideas into something elegant and memorable. I love how he combines the macabre with just the right amount of humor and heart. I thought this particular story was a little slow between the 25%-50% range, but I could not put it down for the entire last half.  A little dark, but not too scary.  Fantastic mystery, lots of endearing characters, and a wonderfully imaginative world. I doubt I'll forget this one.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: Probably my favorite of Gaiman's work.  It's an elegantly written book about a really bizarre story that is touching without trying to be.  Recommended!
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.06 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "'I made the wrong choice.'

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more."

Review: Well wasn't that a lovely potato chip of a book.

More than anything, this book made me HUNGRY. GIVE ME ALL THE PIZZA.

Anyway. A really delightful Italian setting takes this story from fun to enchanting. It wasn't especially deep, though it did try to appropriately deal with Lina's grief.  The characters are fun to read about, and I was adequately happy with the story.  It didn't change my life, but it made me smile and made me hungry.  This would be a good vacation read.
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Bottom Line: A cute story that will make you want to eat alllllllllllll the food.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Fate of the Tearling (Tearling #3) by Erika Johansen
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.82 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close."

ReviewI seriously loved the first 90% of this book. This book had a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of characters fates to wrap up, but Johansen did it spectacularly. The pacing was spot on. There was tension, action, suspense, horror, triumph, loss, and victory, and every scene was masterful. 

Kelsea was such a powerful heroine, and she really came into her own here. I also loved Ewen, Father Tyler, Aisa, and the Mace. I loved where the author went with Kelsea and the Red Queen's relationship. There were a few major surprises too that I didn't see coming.

I also really loved the discussion around history, religion, corruption, power, sacrifice, and greed.

Until the end. I think a bittersweet ending is fitting for this story, so I wasn't expecting a cherry-on-top happy ending for everyone. But I left the final page feeling disgruntled. I wanted more satisfaction than I got. This isn't just personal preference either- there were some plot holes and unanswered questions that bothered me. There was plenty of foreshadowing for this kind of ending, so it didn't completely come out of left field. But the way it was written was so... sorrowful. And that sense of sorrow stayed with me more than anything else.

I really wish this book had an epilogue with a little more closure. Or a different final chapter. It's a small change that would make all the difference.
  As it stands, that final bitter taste left me feeling really conflicted about this series.  I'm glad I read it, and I appreciate its originality, but I wish it hadn't ended quite so bitterly.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: A great read to a great series... until the end.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
Rating: 2.75 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.72 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that.  An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name.  And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

In this tautly plotted novel, Stephenie Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors."

Review: Yes, this is that Stephenie Meyer, and this is the first non-Twilight book that she's published since The Host (published in 2008) so I was a little surprised that there wasn't more hype around it.  I realize that Twilight went through a pretty serious hate-wave, but I think we're all mostly past that and, whether you like that story or not, you can recognize how strongly Meyer has influenced pop culture in the last decade.  Right?  Do you disagree?

The point being, I was really surprised how quietly this book slipped into the world.  Something about the nonchalance of it all made me approach this book with something of a side-eye.  Maybe, I thought, it was really, really bad, and that's why there wasn't a huge marketing scheme around its release.  

Now that I've read it, I'm even more confused with the quietness of it all.  It wasn't terrible.  It wasn't spectacular.  But I'm pretty sure most Twi-hards would like it, would buy it, and would tell their friends about it.  AKA, every publisher's dream was pretty much guaranteed.  So why the distance from Twilight?  (If you'll notice the cover, it specifically excludes Twilight from the marketing, saying that this book was written by the bestselling author of The Host.  Riiiiiiiiiiiight, because Meyer is most known for The Host.  #sarcasm)

My most recent thought is that maybe Meyer just liked this story enough to publish it, but doesn't like being famous.  So, since she almost certainly doesn't need the money, she instructed her marketers to chill out and let things be.  It's not like her success depends on this book selling well.  

Who knows?  Maybe there's more Twi-hate in the world than I estimate, and they're right to distance this book from that series.  Or maybe Meyer just wants to break out of the vampire-author image.  Or maybe she just likes publishing books as quietly as possible.  Whatever the reasoning, the low marketing ploy appears to be working: The Chemist isn't on Amazon's top 100 books sales rank.  In fact, at #989 it barely cracks the top 1,000.  Goodreads stats for Twilight show over 3.7 million ratings, for The Host show 759,498 ratings, and for The Chemist show a measly 14,676 ratings.

I'm pretty sure there are more than 15,000 people who like Twilight, so I'm left to conclude that many of her fans don't know about this book.  Read it or don't read it, but now at least you know: Stephenie Meyer wrote a new book.  It's called The Chemist, it's a spy thriller/romance and there aren't any vampires and it's available right now.  Cheers.

Alright, now that I got that off my chest, let's talk about The Chemist.

This story is part romance, part spy thriller, and part coming of age story.

The romance gets 1 star. Instalove is very much Meyer's schtick, so we all know that's what we're getting into. But even with that expectation it was bad. There was no tension, and no credibility to their romance. For a large part of the novel I actually thought Daniel was an undercover double agent working for the cartel or Pence (I mean Pace...) and was trying to seduce Alex (in an over-the-top, eyebrow-raising way) in an attempt to distract her. Either that, or he really was an idiot with a martyr complex. I was disheartened with the outcome, both of his character and their relationship.

That being said, the spy thriller part of this novel gets 4 stars. Meyer's novels tend to be romances with an undercurrent of danger. While I did not enjoy the romance element of this story, I did very much like the danger element. Alex was smart, quick, careful, and deliberate. She understood how high the stakes were, knew when to be deadly and when to be lenient, and yet kept hold of her moral compass. She was ruthless and terrifying at times, but only when necessary. I liked her spirit, and how she never gave up, no matter how dire the circumstances. She was a great match to go against the evil machine. And what an evil machine! I liked how shady the bad guys were, and how much work it took to figure out what they were even up against. I honestly didn't know how they were going to take them down and all survive, and I loved reading the last hundred pages of suspense, intrigue, and action. It doesn't get five stars because the beginning was horribly boring, but she got there eventually.

The coming of age part of the story is much smaller, but it's pretty evident that Alex has some personal and social insecurities that she struggles with, and apparently overcomes by the end of the story. I liked that she wasn't 100% confident, even though she was super hard core and brilliant. But I wasn't sold on her becoming more confident and feeling more secure because of Daniel. I think it can happen that people cause other people to feel more grounded. I just don't believe that it happened in this case. That may have more to do with my issues with Daniel though.

(Another issue with Daniel: what was the deal with his relationship with the third major character? It was super weird and I couldn't figure out his animosity towards him.)

So average it all out, and it gets between two and three stars. I bumped it up because I really enjoyed the action scenes, and I liked Val, Einstein, and the third main character as side characters, and liked how Meyer brought them to life through dialogue. I always appreciate it when authors give distinct voices to their characters.

In conclusion, it was really boring in the beginning, but picked up quite a bit by the end.  The romance was crap, but the action was adequately suspenseful and exciting.

I probably won't read it again, but it was enjoyable enough.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom LineIf you're a Meyer fan, you'll probably enjoy this well enough, if you can get past the wordy first hundred pages. The science, survival, and espionage were fun, though the romance fell flat.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mini-reviews: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas; This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.74 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two."

ReviewThis one is hard to review without revealing spoilers. Suffice it to say, I was not expecting this story.  I'm surprised, and really, really happy. Way to take the unexpected route, Ms Maas, and way to rock it. The beginning of the book is a little slow, and the story arc doesn't conclude quite as strongly as the first book and that lack of resolution has me itching for the next one. But I really enjoyed the character development, the continued world building, and Fayre in particular. Well done, Maas, now GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE.

*Note: I've seen this series described as YA, but I strongly, strongly disagree. This is definitely an adult story.

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Bottom Line: A passionate, intricate, and dazzling sequel to an intense series.  This is definitely a more HBO type series, however, so proceed with caution.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Rating: 2.75 stars
Goodreads Rating4.15 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives."

Review: This book got a lot of buzz when it first came out, largely due to its original premise and, supposedly, a really compelling plot.  To me, however, this book did not live up to the hype.  I don't want to give it a horrible review, though, because I recognize its originality and want to celebrate that.  It's unlike anything I've ever read before... And yet the story as a whole was so bland.  Generic.  It failed to get any sort of reaction out of me, either positive or negative.  I've seen Kate and August's characters in a million other books before, and therefore didn't really care about them the whole way through.  It's unfortunate, as there was a lot to get excited about at this book's onset.  Alas, it was not very compelling after all.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: Despite its originality, this book did not sell me.  I'd skip it if I were you.

Unquiet Land (Elemental Blessings #4) by Sharon Shinn
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating4.07 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Leah Frothen has returned home. But she can scarcely catch her breath before she is summoned by regent Darien Serlast, the man who made her a spy. Leah is reluctant to take on a new assignment, but Darien has dangled the perfect lure to draw her in…

Leah finds she enjoys the challenges of opening a shop catering to foreign visitors, especially since it affords her the opportunity to get to know Mally, the child she abandoned five years ago.

But when the regent asks her to spy on ambassadors from a visiting nation, Leah soon learns that everyone—her regent, her lover, and even her daughter—have secrets that could save the nation, but might very well break her heart."

Review: I really love this series, but this wasn't my favorite of them.  That being said, it was still a delight to read, and I compulsively absorbed every word.  It's a combination of a lot of things - a little mystery, a little romance, a little drama, and a little danger - but every element was handled well.  This story gets its rating partly because it fulfills my wishes.  The premise gives the story an undercut of menace, but on the whole it's comforting, warm, and fulfilling. I'm always happy when I finish a Shinn book.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: Sharon Shinn proves once again that she is a total goddess.  This series is recommended to anyone who likes character driven YA fantasy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mini-reviews: Pottermore Presents #1, #2, and #3

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore #1) by J.K. Rowling
Rating: 4.75 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.21 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "‘Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.’ – J.K. Rowling

Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing from the Pottermore archives: short reads originally featured on with some exclusive new additions. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K. Rowling also gives us a peek behind the closed curtains of Sybill Trelawney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way."

Review: The Potterverse is vast and rich, but only seldom are the moments when whole essays of knowledge come from The Queen herself.  I loved reading about the backstories of these beloved characters, each of whom contribute greatly to the series, but about whom we know very little outside how they impact Harry himself.  I was charmed.  It was so wonderful to get so much from Rowling, and it was a great way to get back into the wizarding world before seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Great, magical fun!

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Bottom Line: If you are a fan of the series, this will be a warm, enchanting walk through Potter nostalgia.  

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore #2) by J.K. Rowling
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.2 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "No Muggle Prime Minister has ever set foot in the Ministry of Magic, for reasons most succinctly summed up by ex-Minister Dugald McPhail (term of office 1858-1865): “their puir wee braines couldnae cope wi’ it.”’ – J.K. Rowling
Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing: short reads originally featured on with some exclusive new additions. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

These stories of power, politics and pesky poltergeists give you a glimpse into the darker side of the wizarding world, revealing the ruthless roots of Professor Umbridge, the lowdown on the Ministers for Magic and the history of the wizarding prison Azkaban. You will also delve deeper into Horace Slughorn’s early years as Potions master at Hogwarts - and his acquaintance with one Tom Marvolo Riddle."

Review: I loved every word.  These essays are a joy.  I knocked off half a star because I still have so many questions about Peeves that his chapter didn't answer, which was frustrating.  Nevertheless, I had such fun reading these.  If you're a fan, READ THEM.  It will delight you.

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Bottom Line: What more can I say?  This was such a delight to read.  If you're a big Potter fan, this will almost certainly make you fall in love with the Potterverse all over again.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore #3) by J.K. Rowling
Rating: 4.75 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.21 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "‘The Ministry of Magic felt strongly, however, that to construct an additional wizarding station in the middle of London would stretch even the Muggles’ notorious determination not to notice magic when it was exploding in front of their faces.’ – J.K. Rowling
Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing: short reads originally featured on These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

Hogwarts An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide takes you on a journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll venture into the Hogwarts grounds, become better acquainted with its more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle . . . all at the turn of a page."

Review: What can I say that I haven't already said... These booklets were just delightful.  They were enchanting and fun and magical and full of Jo's signature humor and insight.  I had such fun with these.  I feel a reread coming on!

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Bottom Line: In case you weren't aware from everything written above, I really loved these essays.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mini-Reviews: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson; The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson; The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos."

"Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'"

Jenny's first book, LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it's about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn't need a bit more of that?"

ReviewRaw, honest, brave, and so, so freaking funny. I love her dedication to live happily, smack in the face of her demons that are working so hard to crush her. Recommended* to anyone with a mental illness, and to anyone who knows someone with a mental illness. You will recognize so much of yourself/your loved ones in these pages. These stories will inspire you to live fearlessly, weirdly, and furiously, but most importantly, to just live.

(*Unless you are sensitive to language, in which case I'd definitely skip this one. I also give caution to those who, like me, have a bizarrely strong dislike for taxidermy. I liked it anyway, but all the dead animals made me majorly cringe.)

Review in a GIF

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Bottom Line: I was so inspired by her commitment to be happy in spite of her mental illness (and maybe to spite her mental illness).  This book made me laugh and want to live more fully today.  To hell with mental illness.  That being said, I could have done without the taxidermy because gross.  And the level of crass was a bit much for my preference.

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3 of 3) by Mary E. Pearson
Rating: 4.25 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.

With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.

In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance."

ReviewI was happy with the way this series ended, but thought this book alone could have used a bit more of an individual arc. That being said, I was impressed with Lia's fortitude and resilience, and really came to like some of the minor characters too. The Komizar is really a fantastic villain, though this book in the series focuses more on some of the other minor villains.  The use of stories and traditions are really well done here.  And I loved the role of the "gift" in the story. I kind of wished I had read these books back to back because they build heavily on each other and don't you leave with with much breathing space. So the fact that I had forgotten a few things since I read the last book (a year ago) was problematic. But once I regained my footing I had a great time with this novel. It was a compelling story with a heroine you can really root for.

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Bottom Line: A really solid series with intriguing characters and a unique world.  I'm jealous of all of you who can now read the whole series back to back without waiting. Recommended!

The Rose & The Dagger (The Wrath & The Dawn #2 of 2) by Renee Ahdieh
Rating: 2.75 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.22 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again."

Review: Can I just take a moment to say how much I dislike the duology trend?  Seriously, book world, duologies are not a thing.  It's either a stand-alone, or a series.  And two books does not a series make.  It's one story, ripped in half, and sold in two parts in order to make more money.  It's irritating and unnecessary and stop please.

ANYWAY.  This book wasn't actually its own book, with a hook, rising action, climax, and denoument.  It was a continuation of its predecessor.  It failed to shine as much as the first in every way.  But it still managed to sparkle a bit in places.  It didn't get to be compulsively readable until the last 20%, which I enjoyed immensely, but the first 80% was a struggle.  An unnecessary struggle, since I would have enjoyed it much more had I just come off reading The Wrath & The Dawn, instead of waiting a year to get to the second half.  This could have been so much better if it were condensed and sold together with the first half as one book.  Its predecessor was so promising.  Sigh.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: A disappointing conclusion, mostly because this story was obviously (poorly) cut in half in order to make money.  Also because the first one was so good.  This one was okay, but okay doesn't cut it with this series.