Lunar Rainbows Reviews

Micheline is a lifelong book junkie who loves writing almost as much as she loves reading. She's a self-professed geek who LOVES to gush and fangirl about books, tv shows, movies and fandoms in general. She's been a book reviewer for over 5 years now, sharing her love of books with the world. In 2012, she launched Lunar Rainbows Reviews and she couldn't imagine her life without it. When she's not reading or blogging, Micheline is likely rewatching her favorite tv shows with her boyfriend, snuggled up with a cat or two, or wasting time on Pinterest.

The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune - Rick Riordan Review to come!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling, John Kerr Tiffany, Jack Thorne The cover isn't even official and I've already pre-ordered it. I mean, it comes out ON HARRY & JKR's BIRTHDAY. How perfect is that?! Obviously, this is an auto-buy ♥ I can't wait!

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The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races is one of Maggie Stiefvater's better received books - which is saying something when you're a fan of everything the author puts out. This was the last of her books that I needed to read and since I had so much success with her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, it seemed like the perfect time to experience The Scorpio Races for myself - and get my Stiefvater fix until The Raven King releases!

I've read complaints from other readers that there wasn't enough going on in The Scorpio Races, that the plot was slow...etc. I think it helps going into one of Stiefvater's books, to be aware that this is largely her style. The plot always takes a backseat to character development, world-building, and setting the tone - which Stiefvater does beautifully here, as I've come to expect. Here, the reader is invited to fall in love with Thisby, a fictional island which seems to transcend any time period or location. Thisby houses a small community of island folk...as well as a population of killer water-horses. Every Fall, these horses or Capaill Uisce emerge from the ocean, while residents of Thisby attempt to catch one, in the hopes of surviving long enough to race and win The Scorpio Races.

As an avid animal lover, even though I've never actually ridden a horse, I was completely taken by the horses here, both of the regular or deadly variety. It was so clear that the two main characters Sean and Kate - or Puck, as she prefers to be called - adored their respectives mounts, it warmed my heart to no end. Of course, the descriptions of horses were vivid, stunning and often chilling, especially when dealing with the deadly capaill uisce. The fact that these mystical creatures came to life so seamlessly, in an otherwise ordinary setting was astonishing. I swear I could easily believe that Thisby is a real place and that these water-horses actually exist! Naturally, the parts which involved horses, magical or otherwise were my favorite ♥

Back to our two main characters^^ I took to both of them instantly, and as both their stories progressed, my affection for them grew. They're both so different from one another, but at the same time, even before they actually meet, it's clear that the complement each other. When they finally do meet, all I wanted was for them to just be.together. Even if they weren't speaking, there was a kinship there that went deep and rang true. The romance that gradually peaks through is of the deliciously slow-burn variety...which made it achingly beautiful and so real it seemed to leap off the pages.

The ATMOSPHERE though. That's where it's at in The Scorpio Races, and I think the same holds true for any Stiefvater book. It's not just a story, it's like you've travelled to Thisby and watching everything unfold firsthand. You feel the rain on your face, you smell the sea, you hear the horses, you see the farms, the people...everything. I might not know where Thisby is, but I've been there, it's as simple as that.

So yes, while the plot of The Scorpio Races is quiet, creeping and even slow at times, the setting, the characters and their world more than make up for it. Exceptionally atmospheric, The Scorpio Races delivers like only Maggie Stiefvater can. This woman can do no wrong. If you need lots of action, this is probably not the book for you, but if you're an animal lover that gets high on gorgeous writing, memorable characters, realistic, slow-burn romances and creepy/captivating mythical creatures, well then you should absolutely give this one a try!

Illuminae

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman Actual rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Illuminae is a book that everyone and their mother has heard about by now right? I mean, even if you're living under a rock, the buzz for this one has most certainly made it's way to your rock. I still remember hitting up BEA15 last year and this bad boy was EVERYWHERE. It had posters, tables filled with copies...even the freaking staircase was done up Illuminae-style.

Upon getting my hands on the gorgeous hardback ARCs they were handing out, I remember thinking: there is NO WAY that this book could possibly live up to the mad hype. So I tucked it away for the moment and set my expectations as low as possible. That is...until the reviews started rolling in. Naturally, the ridiculous praise it was garnering made me weary, but I also knew that, yeah, I was going to have to read this one as soon as possible.

And so here we are - I've finally joined the hordes and read Illuminae. As thick as it is, I read it in three sittings and in less than a week's time. Granted, due to it's unique format, many of the pages have very little in the way of text, but the rate I read it should speak to one important aspect of this book: it is ridiculously addictive and compulsively readable. While it's true that the found-footage-style of this book won't be for everyone - personally, I was slightly confused by it all at first...there were so many ship names + crew names + nicknames + computer names to remember at first - but I just went with it and eventually it all sort of fell into place...only to be blown apart, by one twist after another. Reading this book, my eyes were constantly bulging out of my head. I yelled HOLY SHIT and WHAT THE FUCK out loud to myself on multiple occasions. Whenever I was forced to stop reading for things like sleep, food or to spend time with the boyfriend, my mind kept consistently going over what I just read - or wondering what the hell would happen next. This book is a mind-fuck, pure and simple and a brilliantly executed one at that!

I won't go into any of the finer plot details, because Illuminae is a book best left a mystery until you're ready to read it for yourself. I didn't even read the blurb until after I finished the book, but if you're curious, I recommend reading the blurb, as it reveals nothing but the bare minimum of what to expect. The plot itself wasn't terribly confusing, you just need to allow yourself some time to get your bearings and to acclimatise yourself to the format at hand. Taken separately, certain aspects of the story were familiar - the AI specifically was reminiscent of the one in I, Robot, some of its dialogue had shades of the movie Gladiator (''Am I Not Merciful?'')...similarly, the romance took a while to grow and develop, but the way every aspect comes together is what makes this book so explosive!

Illuminae features more twists that I can even count. When the first big one rolled around, I was completely floored. And then the hits just keep coming. The AI, the Virus, the countdowns to explosions, meltdown, destruction, death ..., ...GAH! This is a book that should be read for the experience alone: it is unlike any other book out there. It will consume you, destroy you, scare the crap out of you, break you, and leave you begging for more! Fans of sci-fi and wholly-original stories should absolutely check this one out. Just be ready to have your entire life ruined in the process.

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

Winter

Winter - Marissa Meyer Actual rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Winter is the official conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles Series, though thankfully we still have Stars Above to look forward to. As a big fan of sci-fi as well as an admirer of Marissa Meyer's ability to weave futuristic dystopian themes and classic fairytales, I had this book pre-ordered as soon as it had a cover. Despite that, it took me almost two months to actually pick up this beast and plunge into its depths. The reason being? I simply wasn't ready to say goodbye to this cast of phenomenal characters. Even though I knew that they would likely all get their happily ever after, I didn't want their adventures to end - I didn't want to say goodbye. Eventually though, I couldn't hold out any longer: I needed to know how the story would end for everyone and to be honest, I lived in fear of being spoiled... so it felt right to make this book my first read of 2016.

While the beginning of the book was a bit slower than I was expecting, I knew that given the number of pages - and the fact that I was nursing a double book hangover - I just needed to be patient and things would pick up. And boy was I right! When things do start moving here, it is NON-STOP intensity and at over 800-pages, I was worried I wouldn't survive my nerves, the setbacks, the emotions, the serious violence and the SUSPENSE. Oh stars the suspense was masterful and nearly incapacitating! See, Winter takes place almost exclusively on Luna, which could only mean one thing: one hell of a ride. It was pretty brilliant that the last book in a series had a new world to explore and fresh world-building. Luna is majestic, opulent and alarming. More than once I was struck by how Luna was like shades of The Capitol in The Hunger Games whenever Meyers described the oppression, the surveillance, the tyranny and how the sectors lived in poverty and fear while Queen Levana and her court basked in privilege. As our heroes plotted their revolution, we'd get glimpses of how utterly complex their plan needed to be to succeed, given how elaborate and complete, Queen Levana's control over Luna truly is.

Where Meyers really shines is in her ability to keep adding new and compelling characters into the folds and getting them to team up and interact with the rest of the crew. Winter is no exception, introducing us to Princess Winter as well as really allowing the reader time to better know Jacin, which we'd previously met in Cress. Beyond those two (mostly) new characters, which I grew to love, we were treated to chapters from all our returning favorites: Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Iko, Cress and Thorne. I was amazed at how every character was given room to develop, though not as much as they might have done with a solo-offering. Nonetheless, each and every one of our beloved characters is given his/her turn to shine...and to pull at our heartstrings. I have to say that although I love each and every one of these characters, Cinder and Kai have always been standouts for me, with new favorites Cress and THORNE(!!!) rounding things out. Honestly though? I loved every.single.character. more than ever before and I grew to love Winter and Jacin as well and all of them became one pretty spectacular family. Seriously. So.Much.Love. ♥

Sometimes when all the action wraps up at the end of a beloved series, it seems like the words 'The End' show up too soon, without leaving us readers enough time to see how the characters remaining settle into the aftermath of their battle. I'm happy to say that there were enough pages left over to make sure every character got their proper send off, every ship given it's time to sail. Truly, Winter was an impressive, emotional and fitting ending to The Lunar Chronicles.

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

Lioness Rampant

Lioness Rampant - Tamora Pierce Lioness Rampant is the fourth book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet and the conclusion to Alanna's story. According to Goodreads, it's the best rated out of the four books so going in, I was hopeful. I really liked Alanna: The First Adventure, but I felt like the subsequent books, In the Hand of the Goddess and The Woman Who Rides Like a Man never fully lived up to the magic of the first book. Nonetheless this is one of those classic fantasy series that I knew I needed to have under my belt, both for of it's feminist penchant and also because it clearly paved to way for a lot of modern fantasy stories we've all read and loved - especially the ones featuring a girl-posing-as-a-boy. I'm happy to have seen the series to it's conclusion, but I did have some issues here...which we'll get to in a moment.

Lioness Rampant once again finds our grown-up heroine-turned-knight out searching for adventure and being her usual heroic self. This time, there's a quest for a long lost, powerful magical artifact - which naturally means some powerful, other-worldly opponent to face. There's also new characters thrown into the mix, another a potential new romance to ship (or not) and finally, Alanna begins to make the journey home, after years of exploring, because all is not well in Tortall. Old threats have come to the forefront again, bringing the series full circle from where it started. As much as I understood Alanna's need for adventure, and as a reader it's always exciting to explore new magical realms, I was eager for her to go back home, given the hints at the end of the previous book that something dangerously wrong in Tortall.

The final chapter of Alanna's adventure as a knight was the longest of the four books, and either because of that, or despite that, the pacing seemed off in quite a few places. Some parts were unnecessarily long, like the focus on the new romance for example, but when we hit the climax, it seemed underdeveloped and rushed. In general the story just didn't flow as smoothly as it should have. The longer parts wouldn't have bothered me if the ending would have been given the same attention but it just came across as too sudden for my liking. The tension between Alanna and the main baddie, had a much weaker impact than it should have, and their final confrontation was over almost before it began. It definitely fell flat compared to what we've been shown that Alanna is capable of. Despite that though, there were some wonderful sword-fights and battle scenes, which were as thrilling as they've always been - those are certainly a selling point of the series.

As far is the romance goes, well I mentioned another ship added to the mix. I'm all for how the book is progressive with regards to women, and their romances obviously, but this new romance was all over the place. It seemed unnecessary, to me at least and the outcome seemed obvious so I'm not sure what the point was. In the end, things ended up going the way I'd hoped for everyone so I can't complain too much, but I'm still not sure what the the purpose was. Despite the hit-and-miss romances, Alanna is most certainly a feminist icon. She does what she wants, pure and simple. Her role as a pioneer is made clear in Lioness Rampant: she truly changes her world for the better by being an example to women all across the lands. Her impact is made more clear here in the conclusion, but it's not just the women that benefit from Alanna's example - the men are changed as well, as they learn to see women as not only capable warriors in their own right, but as equals. That to me is the most important aspect of this series, and what makes these books so important. Once again I find myself wishing that I'd read these as a young girl, when they were coming out because I know their impact on a teenaged me would have been all the more pronounced.

Before I wrap things up though, I have to mention: FAITHFUL!! I won't say more here but to those who've read this: CAN WE TALK ABOUT FAITHFUL PLEASE?

Lioness Rampant is a satisfying end to Alanna's adventure, despite some minor issues. I listened to the entire series on audio and they made for a quick and engaging story. I'll most certainly be going on with the rest of the stories set in the Tortall Universe. Classic fantasy readers looking for shorter stories filled with knights, magic and feminist themes should absolutely give this series a chance!

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

The Throne of Glass Coloring Book

The Throne of Glass Coloring Book - Sarah J. Maas Featuring original Throne of Glass artwork?! Celaena being a badass? Chaol? Manon flying Abraxos?! Oh this must be mine! Clearly...

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Ready Player One

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline Ready Player One might have only been published in 2011 but it's already considered a classic. As such, it might shock some of you to learn that I only found out about this book a few years ago. Once it was put on my radar though, I knew I needed to read it. After getting into audiobooks this past year, I heard that this book was narrated by none other than <>Wil Wheaton, and given the genre, it sounded like the perfect combination. And so I settled in to find out what all the fuss was about...and I was completely blown away in the process!

I feel like most of the reviews I've read for Ready Player One focus on the virtual reality and gaming aspect, which I think do the book a huge disservice. Yes, the book does focus on virtual reality and gaming...but you don't have to be a hardcore gamer to get into it. Not by a long shot. Ready Player One is above all else a straight up Dystopian novel, with one of the most harrowing and realistic dystopian worlds I've come across in a long time. Basically, in 2044 the planet's resources have burned out. which is completely plausible and makes the whole thing that much more engrossing. The economy and our societal structure is crumbling: the vast majority of people are living beyond what we consider poverty (like, housing a group of 20 in a tiny trailer stacked on top of countless other trailers in a ginormous trailer park). Food supplies are scarce so most people have learned to survive with whatever they can get their hands on. As a result of all this, most of the population have escaped into the virtual reality world of The Oasis.

The Oasis, an all-inclusive virtual world where you can go to school, work, socialize and pretty much do anything else online. It's the perfect escape/distractions from the bleak reality here and it makes a lot of sense, especially considering how quickly our world has already changed with the introduction of the Internet and technology in general. The Oasis was invented by some brilliant, geeky, mad scientist-type called James Halliday and while you can do real-world stuff in The Oasis, it also doubles as a worldwide, massively popular multiplayer game. Being the benevolent/evil-genius that he is, Halliday set up an 'Easter-Egg Hunt' within The Oasis upon his death. There are keys hidden within the game that unlock secret gates. The first person to find all of the keys and unlock the gates will inherit Halliday's vast fortune and empire. Which brings us to our main character: Wade Watts.

Wade Watts is a geek. No. Scratch that. He's like, THE KING of geeks. Naturally, he spends all of his free time logged into The Oasis. He's become obsessed with finding Halliday's Easter Egg and has spent the better part of his life learning everything he could about Halliday and everything that Halliday himself was obsessed with: gaming, movies, television shows, music and 80's culture in general. As a child of the 80's and a fellow introverted geek, it was easy for me to like and relate to Wade but I was chilled by the state of his life all the same. Wade has no social life. He goes to school through The Oasis since attending school in real life has become too dangerous. Since his mother died and he never knew his father, he lives with his shitty aunt and her family, packed into a tiny trailer, so obviously his home life is of no relief. Within The Oasis though, Wade has friends and a social life. The juxtaposition between Wade's real life and his Oasis-life is beautifully done. I have to give props to Ernest Cline for the chilling social commentary and equally chilling vision of the future.

A clear highlight of this book for me was the smorgasbord of geek culture. Ready Player One is deliciously geeky - and it's filled with amazing 80's nostalgia! Being born right in 1980, I missed out on a lot of things that 80's teenagers would have been into, but it didn't stop me enjoying this one bit. I was tripping over all of the geeky references to old video games, television shows, movies and books. Even if you're not familiar with the 80's, there are so many nerdy references to enjoy: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek...etc. Needless to say, I was in heaven. Even when the author referenced stuff I wasn't familiar with, he explained them out well enough to get by and nothing, I mean nothing ever took me out of the narrative. This book is incredibly immersive and pretty much made of awesome.

On a final note: Wil Wheaton is an AMAZING audiobook narrator. I mean sure, he was perfectly suited for this particular book but his voice acting was consistently on point. He always accurately portrayed the tone of the narrative, the situation and the feelings that any of the characters were going through at any given moment. He was a delicious mix of intense, snarky, suspenseful and emotional.

Ready Player One is an amazingly imaginative mix of bleak dystopia and thrilling sci-fi. I was riveted from start to finish and I already want to listen to the entire thing all over again! You don't need to be a gamer or an 80's geek to enjoy this one, though being a geek in general would help. Dystopian and Sci-Fi fans should absolutely check this one out. I couldn't have picked a better read to finish off 2015!

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

Abhorsen

Abhorsen  - Garth Nix Abhorsen used to be the final book in the trilogy of the same name, but Garth Nix has since written a prequel novel and a follow up novella, with a fifth book currently in the works (eeep!!) Abhorsen is nonetheless a conclusion of sorts, wrapping up the harrowing adventure that started in Lirael and offering up some closure for other plot points introduced in Sabriel. Because it's the final book in the trilogy proper and I want to avoid spoilers, I've decided to change the format of my review here, so I can properly gush over the series as a whole, while highlighting the broader points of what went down in the finale. So, brace yourselves, we're going on a feels trip:

*Abhorsen was an incredibly intense conclusion to the original trilogy. At less than 20% in, I could already feel the pressure building, my feelings were steadily gaining momentum and honestly, I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the remaining 80%.

*I know I've gushed about Garth Nix's world-building in my review for Sabriel - and Lirael but it bears repeating one last time: I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THIS WORLD GUYS. It's filled to the brim with incredible magic, both light and dark. The Charter Magic is fascinating and pure... the Free Magic is terrifying and corrosive. I.can.NOT.get.enough of it all!

*We're dealing with Necromancy in this series and it's done in a wickedly unique, creative and chilling fashion. The Abhorsen is a good Necromancer, whose magical bells wield power over The Dead and grant her the ability to send them back into Death...whenever some evil Necromancer decides to raise an army of the Dead. Or worse...

*Speaking of Death...there's sort of another world within The Old Kingdom, where The Abhorsen and Necromancers can walk in Death. That world is spell-binding, eerie, hauntingly beautiful and not to mention clearly scary as balls! I'm happy to say that we get to explore Death once more in Abhorsen and it's just as chilling and oddly-alluring as it was before.

*The characters are truly amazing! Whether they were the main characters or secondary ones, they made an impression. The main characters have easily become life-time favorites of mine and I know I'll return to them again and again. They do quite a bit of growing up in Abhorsen: Lirael is transformed into a legendary heroine worthy of her title. Sameth fully comes into his own and well, I'd follow him into battle any day. And then there's poor Nicholas. Well I can't reveal anything about him without crossing over into spoilers but WOW. Not to be outdone,the secondary characters shine as well! Some might not seem important at first, but before you know it, they've made you care for them...which made the many deaths all the more poignant.

*Despite the fact that the main character switches in the second book from Sabriel to Lirael, and remains so for the conclusion, Sabriel still has a strong presence in the sequels, as does Touchstone. I adored the little mentions of events directly related to Sabriel and her adventures, as well as her appearances throughout. I came to adore Lirael but Sabriel will always hold a special place in my heart.

*Abhorsen offered up some fascinating background information on the origin of The Old Kingdom, the source of it's magic, as well as some history on Mogget the magical cat (that isn't really a cat), The Disreputable Dog and The Abhorsen's Magical Bells, used to weave magic and control The Dead...

*Speaking of Cats and Dogs^^ - THERE IS A MAGICAL CAT (which again, isn't really a cat) AND DOG!! They travel alongside the heroes and OMG I LOVE THEM. As companions they are awesome enough on their own but Nix truly turns them into supporting characters all their own. I adore books with magical/talking animals and Mogget and Dog certainly don't disappoint.

*This series is a new all-time favorite of mine, one that I know I will be rereading multiple times in the future. The feelings I went through while reading this were reminiscent of what I felt reading my absolute favorite book series and that is NOT something I'm saying lightly. To be clear though, I'm not comparing the two series in ANY WAY. Both are wholly unique and stand on their own. I'm just saying that both of these gave me similar FEELINGS. I was completely taken in by the world, the characters, the magic and even though it was dark and scary, I want to live there! I want to know these characters personally! I want to use this magic (Charter Magic only though!)

*I listened to this series on audiobook and all were narrated by the incomparable Tim Curry. His narration was an experience all on it's own and it worked perfectly with the story here. Audiobook fans: you NEED to listen to this series, even if you've already read the books! There is not enough praise in the world to properly convey how amazing the narration is.

Bottom line? 2015 was definitely the year of The Abhorsen for me. Garth Nix has created a masterpiece here and one that I will not soon forget. I can't believe it took me so long to read this series, but at the same time, this was the perfect time for me to discover it. Part of me is glad that I met Nix before I read his series here, otherwise I would've been a fangirling mess.

''Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?'' #CHILLS

Fantasy readers: The Abhorsen Trilogy is a MUST-READ! There's no other way to say it - and I've run out of adjectives to describe it. This series grabbed me from the first pages of Sabriel and did not let go until the last words of Abhorsen. My heart will forever belong to these books, to the characters, and to this world. I laughed, I cried, I was scared out of my mind and my heart was filled to the brim with love and FEELINGS. It sounds dramatic, but I will never be the same again.

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

Garth Nix 3 Books Collection Set (Sabriel Trilogy Bundle) (Garth Nix Collection)

Garth Nix 3 Books Collection Set (Sabriel Trilogy Bundle) (Garth Nix Collection) - Garth Nix Series review to come! Instant all-time favorite and new obsession ♥

Truthwitch

Truthwitch - Susan Dennard *An ARC was provided by Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review.*

It's impossible not to be aware of the buzz for Truthwitch at this point, right? I mean, this book exploded onto the scene way as early as this past Spring and it has since been met with an incredible amount of praise, and a mountain of hype the size of Everest. All of that should have made me weary I suppose, but I dove into this without a second though, completely ready for it to blow me away. I guess right now you're wondering if it delivered. Well in this case, that's a loaded question. I'd have to say that it did...and it didn't. I'll explain:

Starting Truthwitch, I found myself quickly immersed in this promising new world - and also somewhat confused. We're thrown into this world straight away without preamble which was quite overwhelming. New terminology, magical-lingo and characters were being introduced without any backstory on any of it, so while I wanted to focus on the exciting action and main characters, I found that I couldn't quite get my bearings. I didn't worry too much though because sometimes authors throw us right into the fire, and then a little further on, they start explaining the who, how, when, what and where, which is fine by me. The problem is that those explanations and back story never really came, especially when it came to the world-building. And see, the thing about me, is that in fantasy books, I get high off of world-building. I gobble it up like air. I know that that's not the case for a lot of readers, but when you develop a taste for high-fantasy, it's hard to go back from that. And so I kept waiting for Susan Dennard to stop the plot and really dish out the mechanics of this world, of the different elemental powers...but she never did. Sure after the first hundred pages, I'd gotten comfortable with the majority of it, but I still have a lot of mechanical questions that haven't been answered.

If you're able to move past the lack of world-building here, or if you're not as obsessed with it as I am, then I'd say you're in for a treat with Truthwitch. The characters, especially the four main ones were engaging right from the start and it was a real treat to get to know them all. Safi and Iseult are the two primary main characters, if that makes sense? Both are witches, but their magic works in very different ways, which is another aspect I NEED to know more about! The focus on their strong friendship is one that I could praise for days though. Kudos to Dennard for really putting their bond in the spotlight here and for making us believe that these two girls would go to the ends of the world for each other! While they felt somewhat interchangeable at first, they quickly developed into their own solid and unique personalities and getting to know each of their unique backgrounds and struggles really enrichened this story. The other two main characters, Merik and Aeduan have a little less page time, but their chapters were some of my favorites in the book. Merik has a notorious temper, which he makes up for by being quite swoon-worthy. And well I won't say anything about Aeduan because his story-arc is best left to be discovered...

The pacing in Truthwitch is steady and does.not.let.go. There's always something going on here, daring escape plots, thrilling schemes, battles on land and sea, magical discoveries, monsters attacks, injuries and even death! There's never a dull moment here. Throw in some strong friendship bonds and a light and delicious romance and the package is complete. With everything that it has going for it, I hate to even criticize but I can't help but wish that the magical system and the world-building had been up to par with the rest of it. If the first hundred pages had been as solid as the rest of the book, this could easily have been a 5-star read for me, but the start was a little too rough around the edges for me. I just wanted some more world-building and explanations for this new and innovative magical system! As it stands, the first hundred pages really stopped me from falling for this one completely.

Despite it's rough start, Truthwitch is a new fantasy not to be missed. If you're not a world-building addict like me, you shouldn't have any issues falling madly in love with the characters, the action, the romance and the MAGIC. I'll definitely be continuing the series and if all goes well, the sequels will offer up explanations to sate my curiosity! I'd recommend this one for fans of YA-fantasy looking for an action packed, magical adventure with a strong focus on friendship.

This review was previously featured on my blog: Photobucket

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man - Tamora Pierce Actual rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third book in the Song of the Lioness quartet and finds our heroine Alanna as a young woman, newly knighted and finally off on her own adventures. As it often is with heroes - and knights - it isn't long before Alanna stumbles into trouble while crossing the desert with her loyal guardian Coram and her magical cat, aptly named Faithful. As the first female knight, when Alanna is captured by the very traditional members of the Bazhir tribe, she's forced to defend her right to be called...The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. If pressed, I'd have to say that this installment was a solid addition to the series, though it never reaches the strength that the first novel put forth.

As a knight, it's impossible not to be proud of how far Alanna has come. Against all odds, she's now the very first female to be knighted. She has earned the respect of her King, taken down formidable foes and now that everyone knows she's a woman, she can finally be true to herself. Alanna is brave, level headed, independent and also incredibly stubborn. For real. Readers who felt like Harry Potter was too stubborn have clearly never read The Song of the Lioness Series! Alanna could out-stubborn Harry any day. To go along with that fact, her reluctance to use her natural gift of magic remains, and at this point in the series, it started to baffle me to be honest. I'd give anything to have magic, so it's hard for me to relate with someone so incredible gifted, but too single-minded to use her abilities. The way Alanna sees it, magic can be used too easily for evil purposes...which it's true, but I wanted to shout at her that the same could be said for ANY kind of power! A Knight could go bad, so could a King, or a Politician. Alanna on the other hand is good, so clearly she'd use her magic to that effect. Needless to say I was delighted when she was finally put in a position where she had to learn to work with her power.

The Bazhir tribe that too Alanna on were intriguing and well portrayed. Their customs, as well as their magic were quite different of what Alanna was used to but it soon became clear that she was doing a good job of fitting in amongst them. Naturally, there were a host of new characters to get to know, chief favorites included: Halef Seif, the leader of the Bloody Hawk Tribe, Ali Mukhtab, the 'Voice of the Tribes', gifted with 'The Sight' and Kara and Kourrem, two young girls of the Tribe, both of whom Alanna takes under her wing. Akhnan ibn Nazzir, the Shaman of the Tribe was definitely not a favorite though. He was more of a major pain in the ass. Straight up. There are those characters that you love to hate, and then there are those who you just wish would die straight away. Akhnan ibn Nazzir is the latter. Ugh. Moving on: returning characters included Prince Jonathan, The King of Thieves George Cooper and Sir Miles, Alanna's mentor, all who appear approximately halfway through the story.

So far, I don't think I'd talked much about the ships in this series, but that's going to change: Since the very start, Alanna has had two men vying for her attention, but it's never formed a love-triangle because it was always clear who Alanna prefered. I didn't ship this pairing but her mind seemed pretty made up so there really wasn't any point of me fussing over any of it. In this book though, Alanna's prefered choice started to grate on my nerves. I'd liked him well enough before - just not enough to sail a ship - but in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, he'd morphed into an arrogant, spoiled brat. It was a relief when something finally went down to clear things up - here's hoping it stays this way!

I found that the plot here was a bit thin compared to the previous installments. Some of the events seemed random, and though their full meaning is revealed at the end, it wasn't enough to fully win me over. The action scenes were always short lived, and Alanna spent a lot of time doing 'normal' things, for someone who is constantly complaining about her need for adventure. Despite some annoyances with a few characters and plot points, the story had no problem holding my interest. It's hard not to be taken by a story that is so amazingly feminist, especially considering the time when it was published. Alanna earns the respect that any male knight would get, even though it's hard earned more often that not. She's also in no rush to get married, or have kids, and she even has sexual relationships. Le gasp! I once again found myself wishing I'd read these in high school - I probably would have been taken with the series even more back then. I'd definitely recommend it for fans of short classic fantasy stories, with a feminist twist!

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Sinner

Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater My Rating: 3.75 out of 5

*Buddy read with Lee @ Rally the Readers*

Sinner is the final installment in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, which was released 3 years after the original trilogy concluded. It centers on secondary characters Cole and Isabel exclusively, and is the first book in the series to be set outside of Mercy Falls Minnesota - specifically: California. Isabel moved to California after the events of Forever and here we find that Cole eventually follows suit. To find Isabel. To find a new life.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in to Sinner. I mean, I already knew that I'd taken to Isabel as soon as she was introduced in Shiver. I also know that since Cole hit the scene in Linger, I was just as fascinated with him as he obviously is with himself. I was looking forward to their characters taking the front seat here, instead of playing second fiddle to the obvious stars of the series before now: my beloved Sam and Grace. But as much as I was looking forward to a story focussing on Isabel and Cole, it also worried my. I was concerned that Sam and Grace absence would be too much . I was also wondering about how the series and storyline would work outside of Mercy Falls - without the wolf pack. The atmosphere and setting of this series are basically character all their own and I knew I'd feel their absence. But...I also know that Maggie Stiefvater's delicious writing style would likely swoop in and save the day like it always does.

And truth be told, I did miss Mercy Falls and the old gang quite a bit, but it was a new kind of fun to explore California through Cole and Isabel's eyes. Predictably, the setting is immaculately portrayed, just as Mercy Falls was. I could feel the oppressive heat, see the palm trees and hear the crowds. It was fun to witness Isabel being so utterly in her element, I relished in her bitchiness and sarcasm to no end. Every.detail of her new reality as imagined by Stiefvater perfectly fit the bill of how I imagined Isabel's life being - it was uncanny. As for Cole, well he's the real star of this offering and he certainly steals the show. Sure he'd gotten himself pretty much 'together' in Mercy Falls, but back in the big city, it isn't long until he's forced to face his demons...and the guy has a hell of a lot of demons.

Combined, Isabel and Cole make a volatile yet incredibly compelling couple. They're a recipe for disaster and a lot of the suspense came from wondering which one of them would implode, or explode, or if their combined issues would combust in an unholy fire that would lay waste to California. Since they'd never really made any concrete progress as an actual couple in the first three books, it was a fresh start for them in some respects - but with a lot of history in between them, the tension was high from the first pages. This made for a compulsively readable offering: I read it in 2 sittings, which surprised me since it was quite a bit thicker than the previous installments had been.

I can't say much more here without walking into spoiler territory but Sinner is a fitting companion novel to the original trilogy. I know it's meant as a sequel but I feel like Forever wrapped things up wonderfully on it's own. Sinner is a nice addition to the series, but whether you need to read it or not depends on how much love you have for these characters. I had a lot of fun with this one, and even though it didn't quite evoke the same emotions as Shiver, Linger and Forever did, I definitely recommend it for fans of the series - especially those fans who wanted MORE Isabel and Cole. Didn't we all?!

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Lirael

Lirael  - Garth Nix Lirael is the sequel to Sabriel, which I read for the very first time this year and it instantly became one of my all-time favorite books. I was a bit hesitant to start with Lirael though, after I found out that there would be a different main character. I adore Sabriel fiercely, so I wanted to spend more time with her on new adventures. I was worried that Lirael couldn't possibly live up to Sabriel as well; I'm always weary when a series switches up the protagonist this way. It turns out though that I needn't have worried at all. As with Sabriel, Garth Nix weaves an impressive high fantasy adventure that is richly atmospheric, overflowing with darkness, intensity and fantastic new characters to boot!

Lirael starts off by introducing us to our titular character, aged 14 residing with The Clayr, a collection of people from one of the five magical bloodlines, who possess The Sight. Lirael grew up with The Clayr, but she never really fit in. Where the Daughters of the Clayr are blond, tan and possess the gift of foresight, Lirael is pale with black hair and Sightless. The mystery of why The Sight alludes her takes up the better part of the book, but fans of Sabriel should see some subtle hints early on as to her true calling. To distract her from obsessing about her lack of apparent magical abilities, the head of The Clayr suggest she take up a job. Lirael suggests working in The Great Library, largely because of the privacy it offers - as a loner and an outsider, she feels at home amongst the impressive collection of books. I like this girl already! The Great Library doesn't simply house books though: there are forbidden magical objects, dangerous artifacts, enchanted weapons...and a fair share of terrible free-magic creatures to be found. It's basically equal parts library and adventure. I loved every second that Lirael spent there and, as you can imagine, it isn't long until our girl gets into all sorts of trouble ;)

Lirael is divided up into three parts, and the second part flashes forward about four years and reintroduces us to Lirael, now 18 and, still Sightless. It isn't long though until she finds a secret passageway, seemingly meant just for her. Once she follows the path, her true calling becomes a bit clearer. Soon after, she gets sent on a special quest. Eeep! Part two is also where we meet our other protagonist, Sameth, who happens to have some rather famous parents, which ties him into the previous book nicely. Finally, part three largely consists of our two protagonists finally meeting and joining forces.

Character-wise, Lirael has a lot going for it. It's a relatively small cast, but they all shine in their own way. Lirael was quite different from Sabriel, but she struck me as having certain compatible traits with my favorite heroine. I quickly grew to love Lirael almost as much as I did Sabriel. Lirael for her part, is the definition of an introvert. She prefers to be by herself, even though she's terribly lonely at times but she soon makes a friend for herself in the form of a magical, talking dog, appropriately named: The Disreputable Dog. I adored their back and forth and how loyal and helpful that the dog was for Lirael. Considering that my beloved Mogget is largely absent for the better half of the book, the Dog filled the void nicely because she's just as mysterious and powerful as Mogget. Of course, I was thrilled when Mogget finally showed up, meeting with Sameth almost as soon as the boy sets off. Speaking of Sam, for his part, he caught my interest straight away. When we meet him, he displays impressive heroics, that end up costing him dearly throughout the rest of the book. I felt for him. He was quite compelling in his own right, but I admit that I still preferred Lirael's chapters to his...possibly because her character felt more relatable to me.

Where Garth Nix's writing especially shines though, is in his world-building and his skill at setting a dark and delicious tone. As with Sabriel, we're dealing with Necromancy as well as Magic, both Charter Magic and Free Magic. There are magical items, and the magic itself can be conjured by sound (like bells, pipes or whistling) and by marks, called Charter-marks. The Abhorsen is charged with sending the dead back into Death, but there are evil Necromancers, hell-bent on bring back the dead and forcing them to serve, to hunt, to spy and to kill for their cause. The usage of Necromancy and 'living-dead' is already eerie enough, but Nix's way with words makes you feel like the danger is ever present, constantly lurking around every corner. Once again, I was blown away by how the story is so completely immersive, I felt totally submerged in this world, no matter what else might have been on my mind when I started reading. I have nothing but praise for this series!

On a final note, I listened to Lirael on audio and just like Sabriel it was narrated by the incomparable Tim Curry. I don't know if it's because he's an actor but his narration is a performance through and through and it works incredibly well with the material at hand. Audiobook and fantasy fans should listen to this series based on his performance alone! Honestly, I feel like there is not enough words in the world to express the love I have for this series. Highly recommended for fans of dark and detailed high-fantasy!

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Forever

Forever - Maggie Stiefvater Forever is the conclusion of The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and OMG I don't want it to be over! Despite my hesitancy to get into another YA Paranormal Romance series, these books have managed to completely win me over and surpass any expectations I might have had. Leave it to the brilliant goddess that is Miss Maggie Stiefvater to completely turn the genre around for me. I laughed. I cried. I feared. I drowned in feels.

So Forever picks up right after the events of Linger and I was glad for it. I knew that this was the last book of the trilogy proper and definitely the last one set within Mercy Falls, so I didn't want to miss a single moment going in. The tables have completely turned for our star couple Sam and Grace, but they still managed to adapt, to grow, and to make me swoon in the process. There were a few moments between them that literally made me ache, they were so beautiful. The romance is a testament to what YA romances can be, and what they should all strive to be. These two are officially one of my all-time favorite literary couples...and Sam for his part, is now one of my top book boyfriends ever. Yup, this is serious stuff my friends.

As individuals, both Sam and Grace have come an incredibly long way from when we first met them in Shiver. Sam finally seems to have laid at least some of his past traumas to rest, and seeing him make efforts to face his demons made me want to hug him through the pages and never.ever.let.go. Grace for her part, still has issues with her parental units, but she's become a young adult now and despite how she feels about them, she refuses to back down and her maturity in dealing with them made me proud. Her parents will never win ''Parents of the Year'' but it's clear that they love their daughter and it was refreshing to see their relationship evolve, especially since YA parents are so often absent, for whatever reason.

Our other two protagonist, Isabel and Cole did a lot of growing up here too. I feel like Isabel was put on the backburner a bit this time around, so it's a good thing that we have Sinner to fall back on now because I need to know more! Cole, on the other hand, turned into the star he always could have been. His progress from when we meet him in Linger is astonishing and hell, just thinking about his heroics in Forever make me want to stand up and applaud the handsome devil. I remember wishing right from the start that he and Sam would end up with an epic bromance so needless to say, their solidified friendship here made my heart smile ♥ I should also mention the Wolf Pack, which still and always will hold a special place in my soul. I absolutely revelled in reading the Wolf bits their scenes made me feel as though I was one of the pack myself!

Now we all know that a Stiefvater book is a solidly character-driven affair, but the plot is worth mentioning too. I won't go into specifics to avoid spoilers, but needless to say that the stakes are much higher than they've ever been in Forever. The threat is ever present and it looms all around Mercy Falls, waiting to strike. Despite that fact, Stiefvater manages to infuse the final installment with sweeter, lighter moments that linger on long after they've passed by. The climax is a harrowing affair, that seemed like it was over a bit too quickly for my liking, but that's probably largely due to my NOT WANTING THE STORY TO END. The ending itself is quite open ended, and even though I don't always get along with their kind, I found that it worked here. All things considered, I am so happy to have finally given this series a chance! My heart is bruised but when it heals, I'll be heading straight for Sinner. Fans of YA paranormal romances and Maggie Stiefvater: you should seriously check out this series - if you haven't done so already!

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Linger

Linger - Maggie Stiefvater Actual Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Linger is the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy and considering how impressed I was with the first book, I was dying to continue with the series! So I bet you're wondering if the sequel fell victim to the dreaded 'second-book syndrome' or if the goddess that is Maggie Stiefvater managed to avoid that altogether and impress me even more. Well, let's have a look shall we?

I have to apologize in advance here because this next paragraph will be on the vague-side but I want to avoid any major spoilers for the series. Ok. So Linger opens up with Grace and Sam, coming to terms with the big changes that went down for Sam at the end of Shiver. Beyond that though, there are some not-so-subtle hints that there's something going on with Grace as well. I remember reading reviews where people complained that Grace's problem was too obvious but here's my take on it: I think it was supposed to be obvious. We were meant to guess what was up with Grace's predicament before she did. It seems clear to me that Stiefvater wrote it that way. The true mystery here is the 'when?' and the 'HOW?!'. To me, that was just as engaging as anything because it opens up a whole other issue with the Wolves - not to mention the clear heartbreak that will no doubt ensue...when things finally hit the fan ...

After reading the synopsis for Linger, I was worried that a love triangle might have been looming here but Stiefvater deftly avoided that predictable outcome. Instead, she introduces two more POVs, one for Isabel, a character we met and that I grew to LOVE in Shiver. Win. Her friendship with Grace was unexpected but it's also like the best thing ever. We also get introduced to a new character: Cole. Cole isn't what you'd expect going in and as the story progresses, he managed to keep surprising me. Needless to say, I adored the new POVs - I felt as though they very much added to the story and to the whole family within The Pack. The four of them all have page time with one another and seeing how they interacted with each other, for better or for worse was seriously enjoyable.

Beyond that though, each character has their own rich background, issues and heartache to deal with, which only added depth to an already richly layered story, with it's inherent sadness and atmospheric setting. Sam as always, has the soul of a poet and he made me swoon with the random song lyrics that run wild in his mind and pop up at random intervals. We got to see a more rebellious side to Grace, which could have come off as petulant but instead, I felt that she was warranted in her behavior. Together, Sam and Grace are the best. The way that they know each other so intimately is beyond romantic. ♥

Moving on to Miss Maggie Stiefvater's glorious writing style. Well, in Linger she literally showed that she can make breading chicken strips sound like a work of art. I kid you not. Her prose reads like air: effortlessly. The pages seem to turn of their own accord. There's a sort of wild, primal tone to this series and with Stiefvater, not only can you see the things she describes with crystal clear precision, you can also feel them, smell them...hear them as if you were right.there. Sigh.

Needless to say that by the time that the ending rolled around, I was pretty much covered in FEELINGS, which made those last pages all the more poignant. Knowing how Linger was going to end didn't reduce its emotional impact - not by a long shot. I was left broken, but cautiously optimistic. I'm crossing my fingers that Forever will offer up a happy ending for all of my beloved characters. It seems unlikely, but I don't think that my heart will survive if I don't convince myself that a happy ending is possible.

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Currently reading

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn) by Brandon Sanderson