Book Review: Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas

Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas was totally a cover buy for me – isn’t the artwork on the cover gorgeous? Another reason that I picked up the novel is that I had heard that Maas is an excellent storyteller.

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Blurb:

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

My thoughts:

After reading this book, I am now a fan of Maas. Her story-building is extremely skillful as she creates characters that you grow to love. As Crescent City is an adult fantasy, there is a gritty edge to the characters as well as the author’s representation of them (be warned that there is swearing involved). Maas’ honest representation of her characters, however, make the story more believable and realistic despite it being set in a setting created in the author’s mind.

The first 200 pages of the novel is slow-going as the reader is introduced to the intricate world of this new series. However, soon the pages of this 803 page tome are quickly turned and enjoyed. Once I became invested in the story, I could not put it down. Luckily I read the major part of this novel over the weekend so I could spend hours curled up on the sofa with the images of the novel.

What I loved about this story is that it wasn’t predictable – there were times when the storyline surprised me. By the end of the novel, I was fond of many of the characters and I look forward to seeing more of them in the next book in the saga. If you enjoy fantasy, Crescent City is a must-read. I enjoyed this novel so much that I know I will reread the book.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 46th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Re-Reading with Audiobooks

In June, Laurie Forest’s next book in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Shadow Wand, will be released. I look forward to its release and, in the meantime, decided to re-read the stories. Looking through my local library’s audiobook section, I noticed that the novels were available in mp3 format. I decided to give the performances a listen.

Listening to The Black Witch in audio format has increased the level of my appreciation for these novels. The book is expertly read and allows me to enjoy the story while working on creative projects, or while I am out walking.

I have listened to the first novel in the series as well as the two prequel novellas. The performances of all of these were excellent and I could not stop listening – the stories are just as good when reading them!

Now I am waiting for the next audiobook in the series – my hold will take a few months to get to me. The wait is tempting me to join Audible!

I give these audiobooks ⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 44th and 46th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Currently Reading: Crescent City

I have read a lot of good things about Fantasy author Sarah J. Maas – all of them good. Recently she has released the first novel in an Adult Fantasy series she has written and when I saw the stunning cover, I knew I had to purchase it and immerse myself in the story.

I am 200 pages into this 800 page novel – and it is starting to get interesting. I suspect I will soon be unable to put this one down.

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Currently Listening: Wand Fasted

Currently I am listening to a novel I have previously enjoyed: Wand Fasted by Laurie Forest. My intention is to listen to all of the audiobooks of the series before the next book is available in June.

I am enjoying this revisit of a story and characters that I have previously enjoyed.

What are you currently listening to?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier on in the year, I picked up Thorn by Intisar Khanani out of curiosity. I am always interested in reading fantasy novels and this one contained a retelling of a little known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings

Blurb:

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

My thoughts:

I loved this novel and am not surprised that this Indie author’s work was picked up by a large publishing house. Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl, a fairy tale that had been written by the Brothers Grimm. Khanani does an excellent job at recreating the story and putting her own twist on it.

Thorn is a commentary on the social structures that exist in our society; and the divide that exists between the rich and the poor. in addition, references are made to the abuse and treatment of women – and how often abuse is ignored. Through the depiction of women abuse, Khanani asks what is Law, and who is meant to benefit from it. This story is more than just about a girl and her experience in a foreign city.

Alyrra is a character who is well-developed and experiences growth i the story. Not only does she realise things about herself, but she also becomes more aware of her surroundings and of the way in which the society she lives in operates. She comes to realise, as well, that she has a responsibility to uphold the rights of its citizens; and that she can do her duty to society with the strength of others. I enjoyed reading of Alyrra’s growth and the path she takes to find her inner strength.

Thorn is an excellent example of the Fantasy genre and I would recommend reading it with no reservation.

PS: There is a short story at the end of the novel which shows how so much can be said in a few pages!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 40th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Beckonng Shadow by Katharyn Blair

For my third audiobook since the stay-at-home mandate, I chose to listen to The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair. I chose the novel for a number of reasons: it is a fantasy, the cover is striking, and it was immediately available from the library.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Format: Audiobook

Blurb:

The Magicians meets Fight Club in this heart-stopping contemporary fantasy stand-alone about a teen girl with special powers who seeks redemption through a dangerous tournament that guarantees the winner a chance to undo the past. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and The Young Elites, and written by debut author Katharyn Blair.

Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality-but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addictive and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.

But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers-powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.

My thoughts:

I am slowly being converted to the enjoyment of audiobooks as I can enjoy the stories that have been written by authors while being creative myself (I listened to this one while working on my bullet journal). This audiobook, however, introduced me to the fact that the narrator’s voice does have an impact on my appreciation of the story.

The voice of the narrator for this audiobook I found to be too forceful. Her tone often felt aggressive and I felt myself wondering whether I would have received the impression of aggression if I had read the text of the novel instead of listening to it. There were times, too, when I felt the narrator did not pause at the correct moments in her reading of the text.

While listening to the story, I felt the main character came off as whiny – and the storytelling to be a bit repetitive. Again I wonder if I would have felt this way if I had read the novel myself. I felt I could not connect with the main character as, on some level, I had the sense that she was immature and did not grow at all during the story.

The Beckoning Shadow was an ordinary story for me and did not capture my imagination. It is not a story I will listen to again and am not that interested in reading/listening to the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 38th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

At the OLA Super Conference, I was drawn to the cover of The Copycat by Wendy McLeod MacKnight. After reading the blurb at the back of the lilac-tinged novel, I placed it in my cart thinking it would be a great read for a pre-teen.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Blurb:

A funny, unpredictable, and heartfelt new novel from Wendy McLeod MacKnight, the author of The Frame-Up. Ali has always acted like a copycat to make friends, but when she unexpectedly inherits the ability to change her appearance at will, fitting in seems impossible! Luckily, with the help of her family, new friends, and a touch of magic, Ali might just survive middle school after all. A great pick for fans of Dan Gemeinhart, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Diana Wynne Jones.

Ali and her parents have moved at least once a year for as long as Ali can remember. She’s attended six different schools, lived in dozens of apartments, and never really felt at home anywhere. But Ali’s parents say living in Saint John, New Brunswick, will be different. They’ve moved in with Ali’s great-grandmother—a spunky 99-year-old with a quirky old house that has room for all of them. Ali wants to believe this will be their last move, but everything seems too perfect to be true.

To Ali’s surprise, things are different this time, but not in the way she hoped. She’s finally inherited the Sloane family powers—the ability to change her appearance into any living thing. Ali is a Copycat. Literally. And being the new kid at school is hard enough without worrying about losing control of your powers and turning into your teacher. Luckily, Ali’s new friends are eager to help her use her newfound power. But as Ali soon learns, being a Copycat is no substitute for being yourself.

My thoughts:

The Copycat is a well-written story about a young girl who tries to fit in by behaving the way she thinks others expect her to. It is a story about friendship, family, and self-confidence. It is a story that will resonate with pre-teens as they can relate to the difficulties experienced by Ali, the main character, when she tries to fit into her new school.

Ali learns that in order to make true friends, she needs to be herself. This is a lesson that she learns through trial and error – and by making mistakes that many of the readers may have experienced themselves. She learns that in order to form an authentic bond with others, she needs to trust those that she wants to make friends with. She also learns the importance of forgiveness – whether it is forgiveness of family members or of children her age.

The author has written a story that will resonate with her audience in an accessible way. The pace will keep the reader interested, and the characters will be enjoyed by the pre-teen who opens this book.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 36th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Unblemished by Sara Ella

I was browsing the discounted stacks at my local bookstore when I came upon Unblemished by Sara Ella. I read the blurb with interest when I saw that it was a fantasy fiction read. The story piqued my interest so I decided to take it home with me.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself? 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed Ella’s story in another Reflection of our world – especially her description of the environment (for which some original vocabulary is used). Her description of what she calls a “trome” reminds me a little of a book by Enid Blyton that I reread many times as a young child – The Folk of the Faraway Tree. As expected, the connection resonated with me and I wished to read even more of them.

The romance in the story is set within the format of a love triangle. Eliyana has come to love Joshua and, in the beginning of the story, I was hoping that the two of them would get together. However once Ky comes into the story, I realise that another type of person may be better for her. He seems to bring out the inner strength in her. Does she come to that realisation herself? You would have to read the story to find out! 😀

Unblemished is a romance story; but it is also an adventure story. Eliyana is forced to move out of her comfort zone and, once she does, she learns more about her past as well as about herself. Throughout the novel, our heroine slowly finds an inner confidence that she never thought she possessed. With her confidence, she becomes braver and more willing to stand up for what she believes is right. The gradual unfurling of her confidence is perfectly paced.

The pace of the story kept me interested throughout – though it was not so intense that I was too eager to turn the pages. Unblemished is a fantasy read that incorporates romance and adventure as well as the magical qualities of this genre. I enjoyed this novel and have ordered the rest of the series to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 108th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

When I first heard of Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin at a Frenzy Presents event, I knew that I would have to read it. A group of bookstagrammers planned on reading it during November so I thought it would be a good opportunity to read the novel with others who enjoy Young Adult Fantasy fiction.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this novel! From the beginning, I could see the subtle undertones of Mahurin’s critique on marriage as well as the Church’s historical view of women. I always enjoy a story that is more than just a story and I enjoy novels that encourage my mind to think of my own experiences as well as what I have read in other books. This novel resonates with the patriarchal view of women – a view which the women (portrayed as witches) fight against. It subtly critiques the expected role of women in a marriage. And it encourages the reader to think of the Church’s role in the subjugation of women in a relationship.

Not only did I enjoy the critique on marriage and the Church, I also enjoyed the characters in the story. I love the sassy Lou who ran away from home and who has survived on the streets. And I just can’t help but enjoy Reid’s character – a man who has been brought up within the strict confines of Church doctrines. His world is turned upside down with the advent of Lou becoming a part of his life. The slow-burn romance between the two is fun to read – and caused a smile or two during my enjoyment of the novel. I also enjoyed reading the antics of Coco (Lou’s friend) and of Ansel, a chasseur-in-training who unexpectedly shows compassion for Lou.

Shelby Mahurin’s novel has all that I love in the Fantasy genre: magic, complicated relationships, a subtle critique of social issues, and interesting characters. Serpent and Dove was a perfect read for me and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 107th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

When I was notified by the team at Harper Collins Canada that I had been chosen to receive an ARC of Adam Silvera’s first Fantasy novel, Infinity One, I was so excited I danced a little jig while smiling widely. Fantasy is my favourite genre and I had been looking forward to reading this one.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publication date: January 14, 2020

Blurb:

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

My thoughts:

This story is epic and I loved it! This is Silvera’s calling – to write Fantasy novels. I have enjoyed his contemporary novels but not as much as Infinity Son. The story has everything in it that I would want: magic, diversity, complicated characters, action, humanity. I savoured the words as I read them and did not want the story to end.

Infinity Son encourages us to think about sibling relationships – the dynamic of it as well as the support that is given and received. Brighton and Emil are as close as brothers can be and, even though there are moments when they want alone time, they are there for one another in a crisis. Not only does Silvera highlight the closeness of these two family members, he also notes the importance of family as a whole.

What I loved in the novel is the representation of all types of people – not matter what their sexuality or race – and that many of the characters represent people who are comfortable in their own skin. It is definitely only in an ideal that all people are accepted and raised to be accepting of who they are. We do not live in an ideal world – and neither do the characters in Infinity Son as is seen as the story progresses.

Prejudice and lack of acceptance is definitely a theme that runs through the story. The war described in Silvera’s novel mirrors the ones that humanity has experienced throughout history. Prejudice against one group of people is the root cause – a causes that is flamed by a leader who gets the masses to believe what he says as the truth.

At no time when reading this novel did I experience boredom. Infinity Son is perfectly paced and certainly believable (even though it is set in an imagined New York featuring magic). In fact as I turned the last page, I wanted more! A follow-up to Infinity Son is in the making and I am going to wait impatiently for it to be published.

The first novel in Adam Silvera’s Fantasy series is a must-read if you are a fan of the genre. And as it is Young Adult, it is perfect for the young people in your life who enjoy reading books about magic. The bonus? The story is a diverse one that seamlessly includes all types of people. This novel is definitely one to pre-order.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 101st in my book pledge for 2019)