Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

28145767-_uy200_Rating: 4.5 stars

Series: Strange the Dreamer #1

Absolutely beautiful! The writing is captivating. The story slowly builds. I admit it took me awhile to get into it, but I was hooked once I got a third of the way in. The world and more specifically the city of Weep is truly unique. It’s a living legend, a place so far off the beaten path that most people no longer believe it was ever real. Lazlo did. He always believed.

I fell in love with the characters! Lazlo and Sarai are the same yet not. They both possess an astonishing level of compassion for others. Neither of them see the world in black and white but in various shades of gray. Lazlo amazed me with his selflessness. He expected nothing from the world. He was happy with what he was given no matter how small. Nonetheless he was a dreamer with high hopes for fantastical things. He didn’t aspire to be great or do things to make a name for himself. Everything was done simply because it was the right thing to do.

Sarai broke my heart. For many reasons, she believed she was a monster, but at the same time, she knew monsters didn’t have to do monstrous things. Sarai knew from experience what it felt like to be an outcast, to be viewed as evil just for existing. Nothing she did mattered because of what she was.

“She saw only what humans would see. Not a girl or a woman or someone in between. They wouldn’t see her loneliness or fear or courage, let alone her humanity. They would see only obscenity. Calamity.”

Her power allowed her to get into the minds of anyone in the city giving her a diverse perspective no one else could possibly have. The more she learned about the people who hated her the more she empathized with them because they suffered just like she did. And that is the core of this story: hatred and how it changes people, even good people.

“Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice.”

The story has many layers but not a lot of action. It’s about the characters and what caused them to be the people they are and how all of them developed their extreme positions. Many of the gods secrets remained hidden at the end, all of which I’m sure will be revealed in the next one. The end was devastating. It ripped out my heart and stomped on it. However it didn’t leave me without hope, but I was not expecting things to do down like that.

The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta

32cc464f6ff9393819fdfb30b0b65b13Rating: 3.5 stars

Most people believed magic was nothing but a fairy tale. Those who used it were killed. Curtis Vance wanted to forget about magic and those who control it. After meeting a sorceress with some special skills, he was forced to face his past. She convinced him to help her find something rare. He didn’t help her out of the goodness of his heart; he was a thief after all.

The world building was great! There was a constant stream of new things to learn about it. I didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to find out more. It was action packed with one crazy thing happening after another. The characters were deceptive, so it hard to gauge who Vance could trust.

The reason I didn’t rate this book higher was because of the characters. Vance and the sorceress were the main ones. I liked Vance. He was intelligent and could manipulate others to save his own ass. It was kinda hard to believe the guy had lived so long because he couldn’t do shit to save himself when physical skills were required. The sorceress was fascinating because I never knew what her ultimate goal was. She did enough good things that I wanted to trust her, but she had too many secrets. My biggest issue with her was her lack of personality.

The plot was entertaining, and I liked the direction the story went in at the end. It’s unfortunate this is a standalone. The plot was wrapped up, but it’s a shame to develop such an interesting world and only get one story about it.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Rating: 4 stars

Series: Caraval #1

I was hesitant to read this because it’s YA and has tons of rave reviews. Usually that’s a recipe for disaster, but this was good, damn good. I read the whole thing in one sitting. The best thing about it is that it’s YA that doesn’t feel like YA. The characters were mature. I easily could have thought they were in their twenties. In fact Scarlett was cautious, almost too cautious for her own good. She was the antithesis of a TSTL heroine.

Caraval was a magical game only held once a year in a different location each time. Scarlett dreamed of going to the mysterious games for her whole life. The opportunity to go finally came, and it didn’t turn out like she expected. The rules of the game were vague. She didn’t know who to trust or what was real. It was far more dangerous than expected.

I loved the characters! Scarlett did what she thought was best even when it wasn’t what she wanted. That’s admirable in its own way. She always analyzed the best way to handle a situation. Doesn’t mean she always made the best decision though. The main side character was Julian. I didn’t know what to make of him until the very end. He went from scoundrel to kinda sweet, but what was real?

The ending was one hell of a surprise. Didn’t see it coming at all. There was a lot more going on than I would have guessed. I can’t wait for the next one because I’m dying to know more. The ending wasn’t really a cliffhanger. The main story was wrapped up, but some things were left open ended.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

24763621Rating: 3 stars

It was really good at first. Then it fizzled out about half way through. In the beginning, there was some goblin lore, and it all seemed like it was building up to something fascinating. About halfway through it became a straight up romance. All of the other storylines were dropped. The goblin lore no longer mattered. Some things seemed completely pointless in hindsight such as Hans being the story at all.

The writing was beautiful, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of other things. There weren’t enough details about the world and the goblins. Some things were alluded to but never followed up on. The pacing was too slow. The book really could have been shorter. So much page time was spent on Liesl’s obsession with music. I did not give a shit. It was boring as hell to read about.

Liesl was admirable in her desire to put others needs before her own. It was cool that she wasn’t a great beauty although several characters mentioned that she was, but the emphasis was on her plainness. Putting herself in great danger wasn’t something she generally did, but she had a habit of not thinking things through, which got on my nerves at times.

The goblin king was the best part of the book, but even he wasn’t too interesting by the end. His misery and history were not explored enough. At first he was mysterious, charming, and manipulative. By the end he was just a sad guy.

The ending was unconventional, but it wasn’t satisfying either. It was one of those weird things where it was sad and happy at the same time. It didn’t feel complete. There were still things I wanted to know. This ending would be okay if it were the first in a series, but I believe this is a standalone. Then again even if this were a series, I didn’t like this enough to want to read the next one.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

25670396Rating: 2 stars

Jacqueline Carey’s books are hit or miss with me, and this one was definitely a miss. In some ways this reminded me of the things I hated about Kushiel’s Dart except this wasn’t as bad. The plots were completely different, but both books had a drab tone and dull, lifeless characters. The pacing was agonizingly slow. It took forever for the story to advance, and the end was anti-climatic. Since I have not read The Tempest, I had no idea how this would end. Knowing this was a retelling of Shakespeare’s work, I had expected the ending to be tragic or slightly more dramatic. The ending wasn’t a happy one, but maybe I wasn’t more affected because I didn’t care enough about the characters to feel their pain.

The book is told in two parts. In the first part Miranda is six and Caliban is several years older. The weird thing about her POV was that her inner thoughts sounded more like a mature adult in her thirties than a young child. It was really hard to believe she was a kid. She and Caliban grew close as children. Flash forward seven or so years to the second part, and their friendship had blossomed into love. The time jump made it feel like I missed out on something essential in the development of their relationship. This was not a romance, but their relationship was central to the plot. It was essential to grasp what they were feeling for the ending to have an impact.

Caliban was my favorite character. He stood up for what he believed in. Miranda was so disgustingly pathetic. Knowing right from wrong rarely caused her to act on it. All her father had to do was chastise her and she quickly cowed. She was practically blind to her father’s cruel and selfish ways, always determined to see the best in him. She seemed quite content to be ignorant. Her father openly admitted to keeping many things from her, and it was rarely questioned. Her father was evil. Absolutely nothing about him was good. The only other character Ariel wasn’t interesting. Knowing something of his background might have helped to make him more appealing.

The world building in regards to the magic needed more attention. Obviously Prospero was capable of magic, but were there limits to his abilities? Where did his power come from? Some stuff didn’t make sense. How come Miranda and Caliban each had a parent capable of powerful magic but neither of them had any? The story made sense, but considering the amount of time spent on a painstakingly slow plot, some of that time could have been invested in character development and further exploration of magic.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320Rating: 1 star

Series: Dark Gifts #1

Started off with a bang: a tragic death of a helpless innocent by a cruel guy with magical powers. A young child was the cause of all this drama. There was a sharp contrast in abilities and personalities of the cruel guy and his two brothers. My hopes of this being good were so high, and then I kept reading.

The POV kept changing with each chapter. They were switched up so much that I didn’t care about any of them. The characters were in drastically different circumstances, social circles, and settings that for the longest time the stories barely seemed interconnected. Literally I was at the 50% mark and was wondering WTF the point of this book was. It was all so damn boring. So many storylines were going on at once, but not much was happening with any of them until the end. By then I would have rather gouged my eyes out than keep reading, so I didn’t care that it finally tied together.

The elites who ruled the world had magical powers although they varied in ability and power from person to person. Since they were superior, regular people had to serve as slaves for 10 years at some time of their choosing throughout their life. Luke and Abi’s family decided they would serve as slaves because they honestly believed they would be able to remain together in slavery. How stupid were they to believe this? It’s not like they never had the chance to speak to people who had been enslaved.

The main characters were all teenagers or in their early twenties. Of course the power to change the world whether good or bad resided in their hands, because that’s so fucking likely. Since Luke and Abi were no longer disillusioned with their situations, they decided to do what every YA does in a dystopian novel which is try to make the world a better place.

There wasn’t much romance although it might have spiced this story up a bit if there had been. Abi and Jenner were the only people who cared about each other romantically, but based on their situations it wasn’t meant to be. Despite Jenner being a nice guy, Abi was his slave. When her thoughts drifted to Jenner, it made their situation seem more appealing than it was.

Silyen was demented and self serving. There was definitely more than meets the eye with him, but he was too heartless for me to care about him. Gavar was an asshole. Just because he loved his daughter it didn’t make him a good guy. Jenner didn’t have the balls to stand up for what was right. Bouda was a power hungry bitch. Daisy was a love sick fool for Gavar. Abi didn’t have the best instincts when it came to people. Luke was nothing but a pawn. Doc Jackson was slick and secretive at first but seemed dumb by the end.

I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.