Mini Review: “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir

30809786Rating:
3.5 stars

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

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Reaper

**Note: A Reaper at the Gates is the third book in the Ember in the Ashes quartet and the following review will contain spoilers for the first two books. 

A Reaper at the Gates is the long awaited sequel in the Ember quartet. I liked this book but I have to say, I am a bit disappointed. A Reaper at the Gates didn’t captivate me as much as the first two books did. It was one of those books that I liked well enough but did not feel compelled to pick back up once I put it down.

Helene is definitely the shining light for me in this book. Her chapters kept me engaged while Laia’s and Elias’ did not. And we also get to learn more of the backstory for Harper and he has started to become one of my favorite characters.

There are a few things this book does really well:

  • We get a better glimpse of the world the books are set in, how vast it is, the different types of people. We get to go beyond the Empire to Marinn and see what the other nation is like
  • All three main characters go through a lot of character development in this book. Most of the book has the three MC’s separated so they all have their individual story lines so they each shine through in their own ways
  • We learn more about some side characters I’ve been wanting to get to know better
  • The villains. Sabaa is really good at creating multi-dimensional villains who aren’t evil just to be evil, they all have their reasons behind doing what they do. We learn more about the Keris’ and the Nightbringer’s backstories and because of that, I can never completely hate either of them

Things that could’ve been better: 

  • Some new magical elements were introduced (like a warlock leading a navy against the Empire) and the characters, who were so distraught by the presence of anything supernatural in the first book, didn’t seem to bat an eyelash. And yes, maybe they have just gotten used to their world being weird and unnatural by now but I wasn’t buying it. It seemed like Tahir started adding magical elements for the convenience of it to further the plot without giving a good enough explanation
  • This one is more of a personal preference: I was hoping the main characters would have more interactions in the book but it was mostly just the three of them going through their individual story arcs. This gave them opportunity to grow as individuals but the chapters just started to drag on towards the middle

Have you guys read the book? What did you think?

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Updates on Reading and Blogging

Updates

So yes, my updates have been very infrequent lately. I’ve published I think 3 posts in the past four months. It’s not entirely because I’ve been busy – I haven’t been so busy that I haven’t had any time to blog. I did have time but I didn’t feel like posting anything. I’ve also been in a semi-reading slump so that probably had to do with a lot of it.

I thought about quitting my blog a few times this summer, mostly because I had time but wasn’t posting. I would start a post, stare at the screen and then close it because I just didn’t feel like writing. But every time I finish a book, I want to come on here and write a review because this has been my life for the past five years and I don’t want to stop.

I’m a mood reader and a mood blogger. So I guess my blog will continue to be infrequently updated. I spent too much time and effort on my blog to completely abandon it.

I just wanted to post something so an update in my reading life.

I also have not been blog hopping much so please comment a link to your favorite post you’ve written recently and I will go check it out! Or leave a link to your blog in general and I’d love to go visit.

Recently Read

Currently Reading

Reading Next

What have you guys been reading? What are you planning on reading next? What’s your favorite blog post you’ve written recently?

Mini Review: “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli

31180248Rating:
4 stars

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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Leah

** NOTE that since this is the sequel to Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, it will contain some spoilers from the first book

Leah Burke – she’s spunky, confident, and unrelenting. I loved Leah in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and she did not disappoint in her own book. That said, Leah is not perfect. She’s highly opinionated and at times that can come off as rude and obnoxious. But she also usually calls herself out for her behavior or her friends do.

In Leah on the Offbeat, Leah is trying to figure out her feelings for Abby Suo.  She’s also trying to figure out when and how to tell her friends she’s bisexual – she knows they will be supportive but it’s also a huge step for her and she doesn’t know if she’s ready to take it just yet.

The romance in the book is pretty cute – especially when we know how Leah feels about Abby sooner than she herself does. I think a dual perspective would’ve been better for the book just so we could get a glimpse of what Abby was thinking during some of their  scenes together.

The highlight of the book for me was definitely Simon and Bram. THEY ARE THE ABSOLUTE CUTEST TOGETHER and my heart melted every time those two were together in the book. It was so nice to revisit these two after the first book!

Have you read this book? Are you planning to?

Diverse Characters Monday #5 – Laia of Serra

Diverse Characters Mondays tpbg

Diverse Characters Mondays is my self hosted weekly meme/feature celebrating my favorite diverse characters. Or at least it was supposed to be a weekly feature except I only post them once in a blue moon nowadays.

If you’re not familiar with “diverse” characters (which I’m sure most of you are), they are a character who is not a white allocishet able person (note that this is in no way a definite definition of a diverse character and feel free to comment or email me if you think I need to add/change anything). 

If anyone wants to participate, please do! If you do decide to do this, leave the link to your post down below and I’d love to check it out! Your post can be as long or as short as you like.

I just reread An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night in preparation of the third book coming out later in June. Because I’ve already written book reviews for both books, I thought I should dedicate a post to the wonderful Laia of Serra. If you haven’t read this series yet, please go do yourself the favor.


Laia of Serra

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Found on Pinterest but I could not find the source

There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose.

Laia is a Scholar, a group of people who have been conquered by the Martials. Her life is turned upside down when during a Martial raid, her brother is captured by the soldiers and her grandparents are killed. To get her brother out of jail, Laia makes a deal with Scholar rebels to spy on the Commandant, the head of the best Martial training school and the most dangerous woman in the Empire. Laia is to be sent as her slave and gather whatever information she can about the Commandant and her school, Blackcliff Academy.

Laia goes through incredible development in An Ember in the Ashes. She starts off being frightened and feeling helpless in a dire situation. She doesn’t think she is smart or capable enough to do what she sets out to do. We see her gradually get bolder and more confident.

As long as there is life, there is hope.

There is an emphasis in YA that a “strong” female protagonist has to be a good fighter or have a super-power that makes them more powerful than everyone else. And while I love my fighter girls (Helene and Inej and Nina and Lada among others), Laia is a nice change from that idea. Laia is a strong female character because of her resilience and determination, because of her ability to survive horrors and come out of them stronger than before.

Laia remains hopeful and optimistic. She learns to believe in herself and those around her. Her emotional strength is what keeps her going when the world is against her. She learns from her mistakes and lets those mistakes be a reminder for the next time she faces a similar situation.

I’m SO EXCITED for the next book! I need to find out what’s next in store for Laia and the gang.

Have you read the Ember books? Who is your favorite character?

Review: “The School For Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani

16248113Rating:
4 stars

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

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In the world of The School for Good and Evil, two kids – one Good and one Evil – are kidnapped every year from a village to go study in the School for Good and the School for Evil respectively. The brightest students who graduate from the School for Good go on to become the princes and princesses of fairy tales. The brightest from the School for Evil go on to become the villains, the nemesis of said princes and princesses.

Sophie, tired of her mundane life, tries to be Good so she can be kidnapped and live out the rest of her life in a fairy tale. She does charity work, feeds the poor, gives advice, tries to always look like a beautiful princess. She even made friends with the village outcast Agatha, a Gothic, grumpy girl who lives in a graveyard and doesn’t like talking to other people. Sophie is sure that this year, it would be her and Agatha who would be kidnapped. Sophie for the Good school and Agatha for the Evil one.

When Sophie is dropped into the School for Evil and Agatha in the School for Good, she is sure it’s a mistake and spends the next few months trying to correct the mistake so they can attend their respective schools. Meanwhile, Agatha hates the School for Evil and her ultimate goal is to go back home with her best friend, Sophie.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Both Sophie and Agatha go through two incredible journeys of self discovery. They both find out more about themselves than they knew before – and not all of what they learned were things they liked.

This book tells a compelling tale of good vs. evil and what makes someone truly good. Is it their actions or their intention behind that action? Sophie, who is always trying actively do good, doesn’t understand that the intention behind an action counts just as much as the action itself. I did’t like Sophie but that was the point of her character. She is selfish, vain and manipulative and wants her happy ending without caring for others. Agatha on the other hand only cares about her and Sophie’s safety, she just wants to go back home with her best friend.

The dynamic between the two girls was also very well done, they both have different priorities so they hold on to their relationship in different ways. For Agatha, Sophie and safety are the priorities. To Sophie, a happy ending is her priority. And because of their individual concerns, they both have different things they want to get out of their friendship, love and companionship vs loyalty and support.

The School for Good and Evil was a solid introduction to the series. I’m excited to see what’s next in store for Sophie and Agatha.

Have you read this one? Is it on your TBR list?

Books My Soul Needs

Soul Needs

So my life right now is basically me waiting endlessly for sequels to come out. WHY DO THEY TAKE SOOO LONG (Rational part of my brain: because books have to be drafted, edited, revised, edited, revised and edited again and revised again). YEAH BUT WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LOOOONG

My friend over at Empire of Starlight did a “Books My Soul Needs” post which inspired me to do my own. So here is a list of my most anticipating books that will come out later this year.

Darkest Legacy

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Release Date: July 31st, 2018

I am SO SO EXCITED for another book in The Darkest Minds world. TDM is one of my absolute favorite trilogies so when I heard Bracken was publishing a stand alone in Zu’s POV, I was overjoyed. I’ve been wanting her to revisit this world for so long and it’s finally coming true! And I’m sure we’ll get to see Ruby and the rest of the gang show up and it’ll be nice to see how they’re doing five years after In the Afterlight.

(Also, the TDM movie is releasing later this year and I haven’t been this excited for a book to movie adaptation since Harry Potter. If this movie isn’t good, I’m going to cry for days in despair).

QoAaD

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Release Date: December 4th, 2018

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT UNTIL FREAKING DECEMBER!! HOOOOOWWWW!! This series is killing me! It’s so good! Cassandra Clare outdid herself with the The Dark Artifices, it’s definitely her best series to date. The characters are amazing, the plot gets better and better, and she keeps developing the Shadowhunter world in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

 

Bright We Burn (1)

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Release Date: July 10, 2018

The third book to the Conqueror’s Saga trilogy. And I Darken is my favorite YA historical fiction: these books are adventurous, action packed and full of complicated characters. And after the ending of Now I Rise, the stakes are higher than ever and I NEED to know what will happen.

Reaper

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Release Date: June 12, 2018

The third book to the Ember in the Ashes quartet. I’m so excited for this book! I love the Ember world and there is still so much left to explore. The characters are all complex and well developed, there are some surprising plot twists, and the action scenes are awesome.

Honorary Mentions

Do you guys agree with any of mine? What are some books you’ve been dying to read?

Mini reviews: “This Savage Song” and “Our Dark Duet” by Victoria Schwab

Is it too late to change my 2018 goals to one post a month because it seems like that’s the direction I’m heading in now. Anyway, on to the rant, I mean *ahem* review.

Victoria freaking Schwab destroyed me AGAIN. I am never trusting this woman again. Never! NEVER AGAIN!

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*deep breath* You know I really need to take up a safer hobby, a less mentally exhausting one. BECAUSE THIS SERIES YOU GUYS OH MY GOSH

Okay, okay, deep breaths again. Whew.

All right, so I am reviewing both books in the Monsters of Verity duology at once because I read them together. Our Dark Duet review is going to have spoilers from This Savage Song so don’t read that one if you haven’t read the first one.

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23299512Rating:
5 stars

“You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”

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.

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Victoria Schwab creates a world where every sin (murder) committed creates a monster. The more tragic the deaths, the more powerful the monsters. August is one of those said monsters, one of the most powerful ones, but all he wants is to be human. Kate’s dad is a ruthless businessman who keeps people safe by making deals with monsters. Kate wants to be just like her father, she wants to be feared and respected, (but she’s actually kind of a cinnamon bun?).

I LOVED this book, much more than I thought I would. This was a gripping and terrifying world. The imagery, the world development, the details were all spot on. Yes it’s a book about monsters but it’s believable.

I love how Kate’s and August’s relationship developed. Keep in mind, this is not a romance, but rather a deep friendship. Unusual circumstances bring August and Kate together and they realize there is more to the other side than they thought. They’re reluctant partners in a quest to save their world but become so much for each other.

The book, like most of Schwab’s, question humanity and what it means to be human. What it means to be a good human. And whether or not some sins are more forgivable than others.

two lines

32075662Rating:
5 stars

“I know it hurts,” she said. “So make it worth the pain.”

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

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And there goes Victoria Schwab stealing my heart and soul once again. WHYYYY do I open myself up to such pain. Our Dark Duet was an epic conclusion to the duology, it was everything I expected and more.

The first third of the book, we see August and Kate going upon their lives. August has accepted his fate as the Sunai leader and captain of Henry’s FTF force. Kate has become a bad-ass monster hunter in another province but must return to Verity when her new target goes for her old hometown. The two MC’s have started to fulfill different roles and they’ve come a really long way since the beginning of the first book.

August no longer wants to be human. It seems like he was becoming his biggest fear. Kate was starting to figure out her niche in life, carving her own path instead of aspiring to be her father’s daughter.

The villains were all  wonderful, some of them complex and some just monstrous because it’s what they are. Sloan just wants to rule all of Verity and want to defeat Henry at all costs. Alice wants to kill August and Kate for revenge. And the newest monster who both sides fear just feeds off of chaos and conflict.

The book is dark and compelling and keeps you at the edge of your seat at all times. Also deeply emotional and moving because you’re rooting for these characters from the beginning to the end.

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Spoiler Alert! DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BOTH BOOKS

OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING! I wasn’t expecting it and it shook me up so hard I’m still thinking about it after a month. I was expecting Kate to be injured but live because I needed her and August to be together forever 😥 .

But the ending was poetic. Kate dies by killing the monstrous version of her, overcoming her inner conflict against herself. And August reaps her soul so she could always be a part of him, alive or not. Reading that scene broke my heart but it was also realistic in that situation. There was very little chance both main characters would’ve gotten out of there alive and though most YA MC’s always beat the odds, it’s refreshing to read another take. (Am I only saying this to reassure myself so I wouldn’t burst out crying? Who knows?).

And Ilsa’s death scene also killed me. I loved her! But I was expecting that so it didn’t take me by surprise.

All the side characters, new and old, were great. I loved August’s team because it was so clear they cared a lot about him. And Soro was a great addition to the family, I didn’t know how I felt about them until the end scene. But I can see that Soro is now trying to  understand that sometimes people do desperate things for a good cause and that not all “sinners” need to die.

One thing I wanted more of is August’s scenes with his adoptive mother because they don’t interact much in the two books.

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Have you read this duology? If not, GET TO IT