ARC Review: Malice by Heather Walter

Star rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis: via Goodreads

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

General information: This book is set to come out on April 13, 2021 from Random House Publishing Group.

My thoughts:

I loved this book! The whole concept of an F/F fairytale retelling is amazing to me. I love fairytale retellings in general, and this one did not disappoint. I could barely put it down. I love the worldbuilding of Briar and the Graces specifically. This book had a really original take on Sleeping Beauty. I sped through the last 50 pages trying to find out what would happen and the ending was soul-crushingly good. It was angsty in all the best ways. Many of the characters really stood out in good ways; I even really felt for Rose by the end.
Some more negative thoughts: there was a lot of exposition in the beginning of the book, some of it in chunks delivered to the reader. I understand the necessity of it, but there might be a better way to sprinkle it throughout the book. The appearance of Kal felt kind of random and very convenient. I had some issues with one of the reveals in the end, but I won’t go into spoiler territory on here.

Other than that, this was a great read! I highly recommend it, especially for fans of fairytale retellings. Definitely request a copy from NetGalley or pick one up when it comes out in 2021. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House publishing for my copy!

Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

ARC Review- The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick

Star rating: DNF; no star rating

Synopsis: via Goodreads

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams…

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

General information: This book will be published on January 19th 2021 by Orbit Books.

My thoughts:

I really, really wanted to love this book. It started off strong and I loved the characters, but it just wasn’t for me. There was a lot of exposition in the first 100 pages or so, and it was hard to keep track of all the character names, places, and concepts mentioned. It felt like too much exposition but not enough actual information at the same time.
I really enjoyed the basic concept, that a regular girl is trying to con her way into a noble house, but it got to a point where it felt so bogged down by sideplots about cleaning a river and other intrigues that I was having a hard time keeping track of what was what, and I just couldn’t finish it.
Ultimately, the concept is great and the characterization was amazing! I love the main character and the side characters all really stand out. I wanted to finish this book for the main character’s sake but I was just getting confused and wasn’t excited to read it anymore.
I just don’t think this was the book for me. Someone else may love it, but ultimately I just couldn’t get past the first 200 pages. This was a DNF for me but it may be a 5/5 stars for someone else!

Review- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Star rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis: via Goodreads“The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.”

General information: It was published in 2019 by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House.

Favorite quote: “Words are seeds, Casiopea. With words you embroider narratives, and the narratives breed myths, and there’s power in the myth. Yes, the things you name have power.”

My thoughts:

Wow. Just, wow. I could barely put this book down! It read like a fairy tale in the best possible way.

As far as characters go, Casiopea is amazing. She’s such a strong main character with a very vivid personality. Vucub-Kame is an amazing antagonist. I even felt for Martin, Casiopea’s cruel cousin, by the end. I love how much agency Casiopea has- even though she’s a mortal caught up in a fight between gods, she still finds a way to leave her mark on the story.

The prose was beautiful, I love Moreno-Garcia’s style. I might even have to pick up a copy of Mexican Gothic, her newest book, next time I’m at the bookstore. I loved the inclusion of Mayan myth, something I’m not very familiar with, but it was worked into the story very well.

My only problem was the ending. I wanted more! I said that about The Starless Sea too, but at the end of this book, I felt both a little unsatisfied and emotional at the same time. In the best possible way, of course. Everything was resolved beautifully, though, so overall I can’t complain.

If you haven’t read this book already, please do! It’s well worth the read.

Thanks for reading! Now go pick up a book.

Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted here. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off!

Hey everyone! For this week’s Goodreads Monday, I picked a book that I just got the other day and I’m so excited about- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren! I’m a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope so I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

“Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.”

Expect to see a review of this coming down the pipeline… hopefully sometime this month? Up next is Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Thanks for reading!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Star rating: 4/5 stars

I loved this book!

Okay, okay, I’ll get to the stuff you probably came here to read.

Synopsis: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student studying video games who cheats on his games by reading on the side. He discovers a mysterious book in his campus library and is transported to a place where many stories are true- and others are true enough. He’s been brought to the world of the Starless Sea.

General Information: It was published in 2019 by Anchor Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House.

Favorite quote: “A reading major, that’s what he wants. No response papers, no exams, no analysis, just the reading.” (Relatable, right? I think we’ve all been there. Or I can assume so, considering that you’re reading a book blog in your free time.)

My Thoughts:

Okay, again, I loved this book! First, the things I loved: I love how mysterious everything is until it’s tied up very neatly near the end. There were a couple of moments that made me go “Oh!” in a good way. I love the characters, especially a couple of the side characters (namely, Kat. She really stuck out to me). I love that it’s a meditation on the power of stories- something that will be relatable to most readers.

The prose is beautiful too, Morgenstern’s descriptions are excellent. I could really visualize the scenes. I also love that in the Acknowledgements, she mentions NaNoWriMo and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Can we be best friends already? (Yes, I read the Acknowledgements. Do you not?)

Overall, this book was a huge inspiration for me and was part of the reason I re-discovered writing.

So why did I give it 4 stars instead of 5?

Well, there were a few things that I didn’t love. Remember how I mentioned that it was very mysterious, until near the ending? This book almost lost me exactly because of the mystery. I had originally checked it out from the library before a vacation this summer, let it lapse without finishing it, then decided to buy a copy earlier this month and finally finish it.

So, it lost me for a solid couple of months. I kept thinking about it, which shows how powerful the story is, but there’s a lot of unanswered questions until near the ending, which I realize is a turn-off for a lot of people.

I also didn’t quite connect with the character of Zachary. Sure, he’s a video game nerd which is a huge plus in my book (dare I say it, I love mentions of video games in fiction). The only problem was that he felt very passive- things sort of happened to him, instead of him acting to change his circumstances. This is partly for reasons that are explained at the end, but again, I realize this can be a turn-off for many readers.

I enjoyed the romantic subplot, but it felt a little forced to me. I didn’t quite feel the chemistry between Zachary and (spoiler alert! 1… 2… 3… okay, continuing) Dorian. I appreciate the LGBTQIA+ inclusion in this book but the romance didn’t quite work for me.

My biggest problem with it, and highest compliment, was that I wanted there to be more! I flipped pages after the ending, expecting there to be more left to read. I would have gladly read until Morgenstern ran out of words.

This was such a powerful story! It was a love letter to anyone who enjoys reading. I might have to go read The Night Circus now to get another fix of her writing. This story was a huge inspiration to me and I hope it can serve the same purpose for more people in the future.

Hello world!

Hi everyone! My name is Shelby and welcome to my book blog. I’ll be reviewing mostly fantasy, but also some sci-fi and general fiction. I’ll also review things by request- if you want to request a review of a book, just go to the Contact page and send me a message or find me on social media!

A little about me- I’m a novice writer but an experienced reader and I needed a reason to read more, so here we are.

Welcome to the blog! Hope you stick around.