Beast by A. Zavarelli

33787861Rating: 4.5 stars

Series: Twisted Ever After #1

***FYI: Over at my other blog, my friend did a Q&A with A. Zavarelli. Check it out.***
Darkest Beauty and the Beast retelling ever!

This book is not for everyone. It is very dark and incredibly fucked up.

Tortured as a child, Javi grew into a deranged adult. Hatred blossomed deep in his heart for the man that made him the way he was, and that man happened to be Bella’s father. Javi decided that the best way to exact revenge on him was through his daughter. Bella knew her father’s line of work was dangerous, but she had no idea what kind of man he really was. One thing is for certain about this book: it is no fairy tale.

Bella was sweet, innocent, and sensitive. Javi turned her world upside down. The things he did were cruel and demented. He used her in every way possible, using every trick in the book to play mind games with her. There was one scene in particular where she gave up hope. It was gut wrenching. I’m not sure if the outcome made it better or worse because of the cruelty of it, making her feel fear and desperation on a level she never had before.

It was impossible to hate Javi. His erratic behavior made him hard to read and predict. There were moments where the untainted side of him showed through. Unlike other beasts it was much harder to find his good side, to see the man beneath the scars.

I almost cried two times near the end of the book. Those two events were devastating. It was one of those things where I was reading and wanted to change the words on the page because I did not want to face the reality of what was happening. It was like being on a roller coaster ride of emotions, but it was worth it in the end.

I received this arc from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Black Lily by Juliette Cross

32172479Rating: 3 stars

Series: Tales of the Black Lily #1

Clearly I must have read this wrong. Sure it was good, but I didn’t love it like everyone else. It was a creative retelling of Cinderella. Arabelle wasn’t some pathetic, lost soul who needed saving. She was intent on doing the saving herself. Prince Marius was just about perfect: intelligent, strong, charming, and willing to do what is right. Obviously being a Cinderella story instalove was going to be part of it, so I was okay with that. In the beginning Arabelle treated Marius like shit. It was hard for me to believe that she was so beautiful and brave that he was willing to overlook her major faults.

Arabelle was a hard character to like. I admit I have been obsessed with politics lately. I think that may be part of the reason why I didn’t like Arabelle. Her attitude at least for the first half of the book or so was reminiscent of the things I hate about politics which are strongly prevalent in the world today. Helping her people who had been oppressed was an admirable goal. There is a right and a wrong way to go about it. IMO she chose the wrong way. She was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Being motivated by hatred is never a good thing. Hatred has a way of making people blind to the truth and reason.

Arabelle was obsessed with taking down the vampires. They needed to be killed because they were killing humans. Nothing is ever so simple. In any given group of people, the bad actions of a few does not mean the entire group is bad, but in Arabelle’s hatred she had convinced herself that all vampires were bad. The actions she wanted to take to right the wrongs of the vampires made the humans no better. Her willful ignorance of the situation as a whole consumed my thoughts while reading this. Since she was the leader of the rebellion her stupid beliefs and actions were hard to ignore. The one good thing I will say in her defense is that she did grow as a character and change her views when presented with facts, which is why I liked the book more towards the end.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review!

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.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

28862387Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s hard for me to rate this book. On one hand I really liked it and didn’t want to put it down once I got past the 25% mark. OTOH it’s one of those books where something is always happening yet nothing is. It had to be taken as it was without looking deeper or cracks began to emerge. There weren’t gaping plot holes or anything like that. Many things were alluded to but were never explained in any depth.

The writing was beautiful. It was captivating and made the book worth reading. Many people will love this book, but I wanted more. I didn’t even realize how much more I wanted there to be until the end which is odd considering how much I liked the ending.

There wasn’t much of a plot. One event stumbled into the next without much direction. It fascinating enough that I wanted to know what would happen next. Vasya was unique. She could speak to the gods of old but did not fear them. Many had moved onto Christianity, and unknownst to them was causing chaos in the world. Vasya tried to right things, but there was little she could do alone.

The characters aside from Vasya had no depth. Determining who was good and bad was easy. Several characters were included just to move the plot forward. In hindsight some had no purpose at all. Vasya wasn’t close to anyone which is part of the reason why none of the characters were fleshed out. I felt like I knew the characters but only a certain side of them.

What bothered me more than anything was the lack of answers. Obviously Vasya was special, but what was she capable of? It was insinuated by many that she had powers, but other than speaking to animals and old gods, I’m not sure what they were. The purpose of the necklace was vague. The mythology was explained on a need to know basis, which surprisingly little was imperative to know for the story to unfold.

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

Red Queen by Christina Henry

Rating: 3 stars

Series: The Chronicles of Alice #2

I loved Alice! It was one of the very few books I’ve rated 5 stars all year, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. Red Queen is nothing like Alice. They’re both dark with a grim outlook on life but the similarities end there. The gore and horror aspect was gone. Alice and Hatcher made their way out of the city, so the setting was drastically different. Life outside the city lacked the intensity and danger. There were threats where they were but they felt less imminent than those in the city.

Alice was separated from Hatcher for most of the book. Without him around it was boring. I really missed their dismally enlightening conversations. There were other people Alice encountered, but they weren’t interesting. I had no emotional investment in them at all. Everything was aimless and meandering. Alice was searching for Hatcher. There weren’t solid clues for her to go on; she just wandered. For a while I forgot that the ultimate goal was for them to find Jenny. Besides I figured out where Jenny was long before the end of the book.

Being alone gave Alice the chance to be independent for the first time in her life. I don’t think this was necessary. In the last book Hatcher did save Alice, but she saved him too. They leaned on each other because they cared not because they were dependent on each other. Apparently Alice needed to learn that for herself.

These books weren’t romances. Alice and Hatcher did love each other. I wasn’t expecting nor did I want sappy declarations of love. They’re too deranged to be affectionate anyway. In a way the beauty of their relationship was stripped away. The lack of stability at the end was disappointing. They did have a HEA, but as to whether or not they’d ever regain what they once had was unknown.

Alice by Christina Henry

51r8cqtafyl-_sx330_bo1204203200_Rating: 5 stars

Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1

I never read Alice in Wonderland. I never particularly liked any of the movies either. For some reason I really wanted to read this, and I’m so glad I did. It was dark, disturbing, and gory. I loved it!

In this story, there is no Wonderland. Alice grew up in the New City where she was safe and protected. One day she went to the Old City where danger lurked around every corner. It was a hellish place particularly for women. The people who ran it were evil. Women were used in the most horrible ways. Things did not work out well for Alice in the Old City.

“Two weeks later came Alice, covered in blood, babbling about tea and a rabbit, wearing a dress that wasn’t hers. Red running down the insides of her legs and blue marks on her thighs where fingers had been.”

Memory loss and emotional trauma landed Alice in a mental institution. A relationship was developed with Hatcher, the guy in the room next to hers. A small hole in the wall made it possible for them to speak to each other. Hatcher had plenty of his own issues. He loved bloodshed and was far more insane than Alice. Despite everything Alice trusted him.

One day the opportunity arose for them to escape. They weren’t free or safe on the outside. There was no one to trust but each other. They were thrust into a world of magic where powerful people did whatever they wanted. Surviving meant being brutal.

I loved Hatcher although I’m not quite sure why. He was disturbed and unstable. Killing made him happy, and he had no qualms about doing it. Normally I wouldn’t ship a sociopath, but his love for Alice was endearing although completely unconventional.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Alice. I will kill you before I let the Walrus or anyone else take you away from me.”

Sounds weird but that was a touching scene. The place they were in was so screwed up you wouldn’t want to live if you couldn’t be protected. Death was a far better fate than being at the mercy of those in charge.

Alice and Hatcher were different yet similar. They both had the will to live and were brutal when necessary, but Alice was able to empathize with other people in a way Hunter couldn’t. They were a good balance for each other. She grew emotionally and strengthened her abilities greatly by the end of the book.

The amount of bloodshed was astonishing. So much blood and gore. They were covered in blood for half of the book. I don’t remember the last time I read a book where so many people were killed. What was worse than the murders was the torture and rape many women were subjected to. None of it was described in extensive detail, but enough was known to be deeply disturbed by what was happening.

I loved the writing. The descriptions created interesting, creepy visuals in my head. Not everything was wrapped up in this book. Their journey isn’t over yet. I think there will be more in store for emotional and relationship growth with Alice and Hatcher. I can’t wait to read the next one!