The Way of Kings | Book Review

Title: The Way of Kings
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: August 31, 2010
Genre: Epic, High Fantasy
Pages: 1007
Format: Audiobook (45 hours 37 minutes long)

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the 10 consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where 10 armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

Where do I even begin with this epic high fantasy? Well, I guess I start off by saying that I absolutely loved it, and that it’s now one of my favorites of all time.

This book was rich in setting. The world that Sanderson wrote was complex, immersive, and dimensional. The descriptions often transported me to the locations described as though I were watching a movie in my head. From the high storms to the chulls to the arrows, stormlight, and more, I felt that this world was highly immersive and well thought out.

As for the characters, there were so many to follow, but each had their own thread to add to this overarching story. From a soldier turned slave, a young woman who steals from a princess to help her family, to a war general with many mysteries in his past, as well as his present, to many more, these characters felt alive and human. The farther the story went on, the more I wanted to know about them.

I hope to see a lot more character growth in all of the characters because this world and the story surrounding them is so vast that it’s hard to imagine what they might end up going through at some point. There’s still so many questions to have answered, and I’m sure even more questions will come as the series continues on.

One thing I definitely loved was how Sanderson had many mini-arcs that each character was placed in, then a grander arc that they were all in, and then an even bigger arc that encompassed everything they were all going through, how the events that were taking place would affect them and the world, and how the possibly to stop it might come into play. It was so complex, but I found myself loving the threads to follow to see where they would lead.

As far as the audiobook itself goes, the narrators – Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – did an amazing job giving emotion to these characters and world, including doing different voices for each of the characters. The quality was really good, and I’m glad to see they’re continuing to be the narrators for the series.

As an epic high fantasy, I definitely recommend this book. It was long, yes, but there was just so much depth and many times where I laughed, cheered, yelled, gasped, and more that I would do it again to see if there was anything I might have missed. If you’re looking to get into a large fantasy series, this might be the one for you.

★★★★★

An Enchantment of Ravens | Book Review

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Kindle eBook

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This standalone fantasy novel was one that instantly took me into its pages, with its faerie premise, forbidden romance, and dangers in unexpected places, this book was a fast, fun read.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this because I actually didn’t know what it was about. I had read the synopsis a long time ago and had forgotten it, and so going into it completely blind was a fun experience for me. I found that the faerie aspect – the fair folk aspect – was done very well in the sense that Rogerson really captured the essence of the fae and their ethereal beauty and lack of human emotion or compassion, while also showing that each had a flaw somewhere in their glamour. It really tied in with what I hope for in faerie stories: showcasing the fae in such a way that they are “other” or “apart” from humans. It felt believable and real for the world it was written for.

The romance was a “slow burn” in the sense that the time that elapsed in the story was over months of time. Though the plot and story of the book itself was fast, the romance didn’t feel rushed or didn’t feel like it was instant. There was mutual attraction from the beginning, or something of the like, and it felt organic in the way that it grew.

I felt as though the plot was very centered around the romance, but it was also centered around the ego and how passion can turn something beautiful and dangerous. I did, however, find myself slightly upset when the plot didn’t go the way I was hoping – which isn’t a bad thing! I had hoped to see one part of the world it was set it, but we got a different part of the world, which was interesting to see how some of the fair folk lived and acted. But I also felt that some threads of the plot were off or thrown by the change and didn’t necessarily make sense or were very convenient. But again, there’s nothing wrong with this because it worked for the story.

I found myself enjoying Isobel’s character, while also finding her a bit too… mature for her age? I’m not sure if that’s the right word I’m looking for, but I was kind of hoping she would be in her twenties and be a prodigy painter and falling in love, but reading about a seventeen year old prodigy falling in love was still sweet. I’ve seen some amazing works teens can produce, so it’s not out of the realm of reality by any means. She was smart, careful, caring, and felt real.

Rook, as well, felt real and I enjoyed seeing how Rogerson portrayed him as having some sort of human emotion in him locked away. He was definitely powerful as a fae prince, and I really liked the aspect of how faerie magic could work in this world by using blood, and how the amount could affect how strong the effect was. He was a kind of stoic and broody character at times, but there were moments of tenderness, ferocity, and bravery that were great to see.

There were other characters along with the main two that really captured what deals with faeries could be like, and how just being around them could make a person more cautious. Gadfly, a patron of Isobel’s who has strong magic and a desire for art; March and May, Isobel’s sisters who were actually goats before being turned into humans; Lark, an excitable young fair folk who had never met a human before, and others who brought the story more depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! There were a few things that I found myself questioning, but I also found myself just enjoying the story for what it was, the rich world that was created, the monsters, the fae, the characters. It was an overall fun read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a standalone fantasy romance.

★★★★☆

The Risk | Book Review

Title: The Risk
Series: Briar U #2
Authors: Elle Kennedy
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.
Publish Date: February 18, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Fiction – Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Kindle eBook

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes… 

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take. 

I’ve gotta say, I definitely enjoyed this book much more than the first stand-alone in the Briar U arc. It was funny, heartfelt, steamy (as always), but also showed more sides to people than just those in the universities, and I think that really played a big role in my overall enjoyment of this book.

Brenna is, probably, my favorite person. She’s tough as nails, she wears red lipstick as her armor, she doesn’t give two shits if someone doesn’t like her, she’s sassy, intelligent. She’s a woman after my own heart. I also very much admire her self-control of her temper in certain parts of the book, because I don’t think I’d be a big enough person to be able to hold my tongue to the kinds of comments she received numerous times from some of the men in the novel.

Jake is… well, he’s a steamy man, I’ll give him that, and he’s alpha, which, if you don’t know what that means, it means he’s the kind of person who’s in charge, who takes the lead, doesn’t take “no” for an answer, is very loyal to his team. Well, Jake will take “no” for an answer, so he’s not the kind of stereotypical jerk alpha that I’ve read in stories before. But he definitely exudes a presence in the book. People just notice him, and not just because he’s handsome as heck.

We also got to see smatterings of Summer from the first book, The Chase, as well as Fitz, Hunter, Mike Hollis, and one new character whom I LOVE and am soooo glad she’s getting her own book: Rupi. I fell in love with her almost instantly. She’s very quirky and determined and very much won’t take “no” for an answer.

The plot centered a lot around the hockey tournaments that Jake’s team, Harvard, and Brenna’s dad’s team, Briar, are preparing for and to face each other to go onto nationals, but it also centers a lot around Brenna striving to get her dream internship. I appreciated seeing that side of the field and how, yes, even today there’s a lot of misogyny in the sports broadcasting field. It was believable the way some of the men talked about women, and like I said earlier: I applaud Brenna for holding her tongue, because I really don’t think I would have been able to.

There was also a smaller second element to the plot that played into it about Brenna’s past, and let me tell you: the story behind her past was a shock that I did not see coming and I literally did a double take reading it. Definitely a good plot twist.

The dynamic between Brenna and her father is also one I understand, even if my own dad isn’t quite like hers. I understand how hard it is to want to be close, but not understanding how to get close, or when that closeness faded away. And the ugly shame that comes with feeling you’re a huge disappointment to your parent. It was very much a real moment, and I almost cried as a result of it.

The sex scenes were quite steamy, as expected of these Briar University books, which I’m not complaining about. The scenarios were different almost each time, the romance aspect felt a little rushed, but also the chemistry between the two had already been established, so it was an overall great element to the story.

I only wish there had been a different ending. Not that the ending was bad, I was just hoping we would have seen slightly farther into the future, or that there had been just one more chapter.

But I definitely recommend the book if you’re reading the Briar U arc, and even if you’re not and want a steamy romance, then definitely pick this one up!

★★★★½☆

Red, White, & Royal Blue | Book Review

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: New Adult – Romance, Fiction
Pages: 425
Format: Kindle Books

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

I’m going to say it: if you haven’t heard about this book by now, have you been living under a rock? Even if you have no interest in reading it, I feel like the name has at least made its rounds through the book community and as such, many people have read this book and highly enjoyed it.

I am also one of those people. Also, this is a long review, my apologies.

Going into it, I didn’t realize that this was, in fact, a new adult LGBT+ romance novel. I knew there was a boys’ love theme, of course, but I didn’t realize just how steamy it was going to be (which I’m fine with steamy). I expected this to be a more YA book, but nope! And I’m actually quite happy with this surprise because I feel like it made it that much more entertaining and relatable to myself as a person in their late twenties.

Alex and his older sister, June, whom he affectionately calls Bug, like a junebug, and I think that’s the sweetest thing ever, are the First Siblings of the United States, and their personalities are so different, but also very similar. They both have party sides, they both are trying to protect their family no matter what, but where Alex is much more high risk and willing to take big chances (a big theme throughout the book), June is much more reserved, but still willing to take chances and prove that she’s enough on her own to do what her heart is set out to do.

I personally enjoyed seeing the sibling dynamic in the book because I don’t often see siblings interacting with each other in books, and this relationship felt organic. They fought sometimes, they got along great, they’d call each other names, they’d do anything for their family, etc. Even though this wasn’t the main plot of the book, I was still very glad to see such a presence of it.

As for Henry, I think I related to him the most. He’d been through a traumatic time with his own family, and part of him had been almost hollowed out because of the experience. His family dynamic, though very different from Alex’s, was also fairly organic, with a distant sibling, one who believes in legacy and doing what needs to be done for the crown; and then another sibling who goes off the rails, but is always there for her family when she’s needed. Henry, himself, is very reserved. Reflecting on it, he’s kind of the opposite of Alex in many ways, which is probably why they work together so much.

Henry cares for his family deeply, cares for many people deeply, but he also knows that he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders, a duty to the crown that can seem overbearing much of the time, and that can wither him and bring him down a lot. He has dark shadows of his past, an absentee mother (even if she’s physically there, she’s not there mentally or emotionally), and he seems to try to deal with a lot on his own. He has a lot of walls that need to be broken down, and I enjoyed seeing those walls slowly come down throughout the novel.

Now, let’s talk about their relationship because, excuse me but it was the cutest thing I’ve read in a while and I needed more, thanks.

I’m also glad this wasn’t a case of insta-love, but rather a build up of feelings over years of time – at least on one of their parts. Even though Alex hates Henry because he doesn’t really know him in the beginning, when he does get to know him, he learns so much about him and begins to realize many things about himself and his past. He’s in denial for a lot of it, which is also reasonable and believable, and I was glad to see that.

As someone in the LGBT+ spectrum, seeing that internal struggle was good because I could relate to it a lot.

I did, however, feel like him coming to terms with it was kind of abrupt? I don’t know, maybe there was a timeline happening that I didn’t pick up on, but I thought he figured himself out kind of quickly and didn’t struggle as much as I was expecting. Is that weird to say?

Anyway, once their relationship got started, it was full of those hot, passionate, romantic sparks that fly when many people enter a new relationship, especially one that’s been building for a long, long time like theirs was. Can you say “sexual tension?” Because goddamn, there was a lot.

It was hot and steamy, and the way their relationship blossomed and grew felt as organic as it could get, given that they’re two very wealthy boys in very high positions and could more or less easily reach one another at the drop of a dime across the world. There was a lot of emotions and feelings and buildup throughout the whole book that I could feel growing to a climax (ha), and when the thing happened that I kind of saw coming once it was getting closer to it, I was like, “You’ll be fine, go chase after him!”

And Alex did. He didn’t give up, and the two of them are stubborn enough to chase after each other even though they’re afraid. I thought it was very poetic and romantic, and my hopeless romantic heart was bleeding happiness.

Also, there were A LOT of great quotes in this book, and though I didn’t highlight all of them, I wanted to share three of my favorites from some of the emails they shared with each other:

page 245
page 300
page 321

So, all in all in the relationship aspect, I highly enjoyed it. They kept it a secret as long as they could, and honestly, I was waiting for everything to go to shit at some point, and it did. But again: names in high places. I AM, however, glad to see a lot of rallying support in their ever growing and ever accepting world, even a fictional parallel universe version of ours.

Let’s briefly talk about the politics aspect, because this is where the half mark comes in my rating.

I… zoned out through a lot of the politics stuff, especially early on in the book. Like… I have no clue what the hell I read regarding the politics, kind of zoning out. It’s just not my thing. I’m not interested in them in real life, so reading about them in a book just wasn’t that exciting to me. Some bits were interesting, but a lot of it was just something I could easily zone out and skip over and come back to things I found more interesting for myself.

I did, however, cheer and smile at the end. If you’ve read it, you know why.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. It was sweet, romantic, funny, organic, raw, political, and wholly a good book. I highly recommend it.

★★★★½☆

The Sea of Monsters | Book Review

Title: The Sea of Monsters
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publish Date: April 1, 2006
Genre: Young Reader – Fantasy/Adventure, Mythology
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle Books

After a year spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson–a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends.

But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: The magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters–the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millenia–only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends–Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson–must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family–one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

This book picks up a full school year after the first. In fact, it’s Percy’s last day at his new school when everything kind of goes to crap and hits the fan and he, you know, almost dies. It’s fine. And he and another kid at the school – a homeless boy named Tyson who the school took on as a community service project, of sorts – are whisked away and helped by Annabeth to go back to Camp Half-Blood.

But, of course, there’s something wrong at Camp Half-Blood. The tree that protects the camp is dying, and they don’t know who could have poisoned the tree, but Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson set off to save the tree and the camp. And Grover. Because Grover is currently being held by a cyclops to become his bride and… yeah, he’s a mess.

I thought this second installment was just as fun as the last, and we’re learning a lot more about Percy and the gods around him, as well as who is for him and against him. I love seeing how mythology comes into play in these novels and how the world just continues to expand. It plays on a lot of legends and myths that don’t just center around the Greek gods (such as the Bermuda Triangle), and I think that it ties in well with what’s happening to Percy and his friends.

I also found it interesting when the reveal of his family happened to also learn more about Poseidon and to see how Percy reacts and grows from it. He learns a lot in this adventure about family and how you can’t necessarily choose who is your family – at least not by blood, anyway. And I think that that lesson is a great one for a young teenage boy to learn.

The action and adventure that he and his friends take is a long one, and it was nice to see him working alongside someone who he (still) doesn’t get along with to get through some trials that he and the others might not have been able to win on their own. I liked seeing how different monsters came into play, how different islands in the Bermuda Triangle attacked or affected them, and how they were able to overcome those trials.

I thought that Percy and Annabeth did really well planning together on how to take down the cyclops – at least temporarily – so that they could escape. And there were several moments where I was cheering because of events that happened on the island with the cyclops. Like I was literally sitting there and going, “YAY!” Probably clapping my hands, too. It’s fine.

Overall, this next installment was a fun one, and I can definitely see some growth in Percy and Annabeth as they’re slowly getting older. The lessons that they’re learning are also expanding, too.

I’m definitely interested to see how Luke’s role plays out in this and how the possibility of releasing Kronos might happen. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to continue and see what happens next at Camp Half-Blood!

★★★★☆