Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #1
Goodreads: King of Scars
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war–and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried–and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Review: So I finally sat down and read the Nikolai duology all in one go. I’d been saving it because I know Leigh is partial to a cliff-hanger and I wanted to avoid that whole experience, so I waited patiently for Rule of Wolves and now I’m going to release the reviews back to back too! There’ll be a few spoilers for other novels in the Grisha series below.

Right, first things first, this book was a surprisingly mediocre experience for me, just so we’re both on the same page before we get into things. King of Scars and I just did not click. I’d been really looking forward to a narrative based around Nikolai but I think he ended up getting the least amount of character development, and that’s not to say I didn’t love the addition of Zoya and Nina’s perspectives, it was just unexpected. In fact, Zoya completely steals the show from Nikolai and her story-line and characterization just feels better than his, to the point where I kind of wish this book was completely Zoya focused. Zoya is powerful, talented, and her snark with Nikolai was right up my street. I really feel like Bardugo excels when it comes to dialogue and relationships between characters, and it’s always a joy to read the characters interacting with each other.

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Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Series: Kingdom of Souls #2
Goodreads: Reaper of Souls
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: After so many years yearning for the gift of magic, Arrah has the one thing she’s always wanted—at a terrible price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom in shambles, and long-buried secrets about who she is.

Desperate not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Arrah must return to the tribal lands to search for help from the remnants of her parents’ people. But the Demon King’s shadow looms closer than she thinks. And as Arrah struggles to unravel her connection to him, defeating him begins to seem more and more impossible—if it’s something she can bring herself to do at all.

Review:  I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks HarperVoyager.

So, when I got an email from HarperVoyager offering me an eARC of Reaper of Souls I swiftly broke my Netgalley ban so I could read it. I managed to win a physical ARC of Kingdom of Souls back in 2019 (you can read my review here), and it was a series that I definitely wanted to continue reading.

Reaper of Souls picks up pretty much where Kingdom of Souls left off, so just in case you hadn’t realised there’ll be spoilers for the first book ahead! Arrah is dealing with the fall-out after her families betrayal and attempt to free the Demon King, and with her role as the last remaining witchdoctor. In this book we also get a few other perspectives in the form of her love interest Rudjek and the Orisha Dimma’s memories, their perspectives are a great and necessary addition as Arrah and Rudjek split from each other and go on their own journeys.

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #1
Goodreads: These Violent Delights
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Hodder & Stoughton.

I’ve been struggling with this review in the same way I struggled to finish this book. I think it may be a case of covid brain and an ill-timed Hades play-through that meant I read this in bits and couldn’t settle into it, but I’m going to try my best to explain why I didn’t click with this book.

The Shanghai that Chloe Gong developed was so intricate and interesting, and I really felt as though I was walking the city streets alongside Juliette and Roma. It’s vivid, and the clashes between the different cultures alongside the colonisation of Shanghai, and Juliette’s discomfort with the westernisation of her home is palpable. Juliette was certainly my favourite part of the These Violent Delights. She’s tough, whip smart, plus I loved the fact she was torn between her loyalty to the gang and working with Roma to save Shanghai. Juliette returns to the city from America with something to prove and a lot to lose, and you can really feel how on edge she feels walking round an often unfamiliar Shanghai. She’s wonderfully well developed, and I was always disappointed when we moved away from her perspective!

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Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Goodreads: Cinderella Is Dead
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.

Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball . are forfeit.

But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.

Review: This book was so unexpected. I’d managed to completely dodge spoilers, and was honestly expecting something along the lines of The Selection but this book is not that.

I think everyone and their mother has reviewed this diverse retelling of Cinderella, and I’m definitely going to do the same. This book was a surprise to me and I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to enjoy it, but Bayron really managed to make me do a full uno reverse and love this.

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Review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Series: Twilight #5
Goodreads: Midnight Sun
Publisher: Atom
Book Depository: If you buy a copy of Midnight Sun please consider donating to the La Push Quileute tribe here
Synopsis: When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Review: A hardcore case of FOMO is what made me buy Midnight Sun, and so I ended up reading 662 pages of a story I loved as a teen written from a different perspective. The spine of my copy of Twilight is broken from my unending re-reads, and the memory of that love is probably what made me want to buy this book despite its £20 price tag.

This, unfortunately, didn’t end up being what I wanted it to be, and the book was lucky that I already loved the story. I wanted more of the Cullens and more new scenes, but this ended up being an extended foray into Edwards man-pain which…uh…wasn’t exactly what I wanted. So first off let’s start with what I enjoyed about this different perspective on a book that I’ve read more times than I want to admit.

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Review: The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

Series: The Beautiful #2
Goodreads: The Damned
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Book Depository
Synopsis: Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

Review:  I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

So at the end of my review of The Beautiful I said that I felt the series had a lot of potential, and despite not being wild about the book I was rather excited for the sequel. I figured The Damned would put Celine at the centre of a Vampire vs Werewolf conflict, and in some ways I was right, but at the same time so, so, wrong.

I asked for more vampires and The Damned definitely delivered. The lack of vampire action was one of my biggest issues with The Beautiful, but this book has supernatural creatures in spades. There’s a whole lot of world development in this one, some of which should have been mentioned in the first novel, but this book really revealed New Orleans’ supernatural underbelly and I loved it.

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Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Goodreads: Descendant of the Crane
Publisher: Titan Books
Book Depository
Synopsis: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Hello I have just now discovered that this is a stand-alone title, and I’m opening this review with a uh what the heck!! That ending, no sequel, what the heck am I going to do?? This blog is mostly spoiler free so no details, but ho boy am I disappointed there won’t be another book coming my way!

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Review: I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Goodreads: I Was Born for This
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Book Depository
Synopsis: For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Review: So before we start lets lay out a few trigger warnings there’s alcohol abuse, panic attacks, and discussion of depression and suicide; mental illness is a key feature of the book.

It’s be a long while since I’ve come away so intensely invested in a contemporary young adult novel, and this one hit me hard. Crying in my bed at one in the morning hard. It reminded me so much of teenage fandom, even in the way it was written, and draws attention to the implications for both sides. The dual perspectives really pushed the book forward and the insight into how both parties were feeling was definitely needed!

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Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

Series: The Beautiful #1
Goodreads: The Beautiful
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Book Depository
Synopsis: In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Review: Cleaning up my book backlog from a rather bad reading slump means that this technically an e-arc, so thank you Hodder & Stoughton for giving me the ebook version!

I love vampires, stupid twilight dragged me in, and now I’ll consume most media where these monsters feature. Admittedly, now, I prefer my vampires darker rather than sparkly vegetarians, but I was really excited to pick up The Beautiful. This is also my first Renée Ahdieh book, although Flame in the Mist had been on my tbr for a while, and I’d heard so many good things about her writing that I was really excited to pick it up.

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Review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Series: Check, Please! web comic
Goodreads: Vol. 1 | Vol. 2
Publisher: First Second Books
Book Depository

Synopsis:

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Review: Did I read this whole web comic in two days? Yes. Do I have any regrets? Absolutely not.
I stumbled across this wonderful little comic on amazon and ended up slipping onto the buy now button, so now I have volume one of this Ice Hockey romance on my kindle. Then I discovered that the whole thing is online and immediately devoured the rest, and so I’m going to try my best to review both volumes in one!

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