Secrets of Skin and Stone by Wendy Laine

cover114035-mediumRating: 2.5 stars

This had too strong of a YA vibe to really enjoy it. The focus of it was more on the romance than the paranormal plot. The first time Piper and Gris kissed it specifically mentioned they did not use tongues. They were 17 and 18. Most teens that age would do far more than an innocent kiss like that. The romance wasn’t exciting when the best thing I could hope was for them to hold hands or maybe a french kiss. From the start it was mentioned that Gris would not be staying in town, so there wasn’t much hope for an epic HEA.

The world building was simplistic. The gist of it was revealed early on, and there wasn’t anything exciting to learn after that. There was a mystery to it. Gris was trying to figure out why so many fiends were gathering in the town. It was too boring, and the most obvious solution was the answer. Piper was dealing with some mental issues. Gris was dealing with issues but his were completely different. Their issues made each of them outcasts. More depth to the characters would have been better considering what they were dealing with. I’m sure plenty of people will like this. It just wasn’t for me.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.