Books

Bite-Sized Book Reviews #4

It’s fall, which means I’m in the mood for fairy tale and folk lore retellings, along with an entry from my favorite fantasy romance series, and a contemporary urban fantasy for a change.  Let’s get into it!

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

This story instantly grabbed me with its synopses, as it’s a King Midas…I don’t want to say retelling, because it isn’t really.  It’s about the aftermath of King Midas’ tale, and his daughter Kora who has been curse because the King didn’t follow the proper instructions to end the curse fully, so while he no longer has the golden touch, the curse still affects him and his kingdom.  I thought that was a super interesting take inspired by the tale, and decided to give this story a go.  I liked it way more than I figured I would, because along with Kora’s story is an introspective look into our perception of ourselves, finding your own self-worth and identity, and to boot, an awesome pirate adventure that also ties in to those themes, and finding a place to belong.  The romance in this is a slow burn, and while there are some fairy tale retelling tropes in here, they’re used optimally to further the narrative of the story and are really well done.  There’s tons of action, story and character beats, and a satisfying standalone ending for this story that is also open ended for more stories in this world – and there will be, as Curse of Gold is now released.  The world building and magic is great too, just a solid read if you like both fairy tale retelling/reimagining’s, good romance, and solid young adult novels.  I’d highly recommend this one, it’s one of my new favorites in the genre.

The Phoenix Princess by Lichelle Slater

And on the other side of the retelling spectrum, we have The Phoenix Princess.  This is number 4 in the Forgotten Kingdom series, a set of standalone-ish fairy tale retellings that also have a through line story arc with a central character that appears in each of the books.  While this series took a while for me to enjoy, I found this entry to be rather lack luster.  It didn’t tie in well enough to the fairy tale it was based on – Snow White – and the main character and her love interest were just so meh to me.  It’s a shame, because I liked Tavia in the previous entries of the series.  But in this, having her as the first person view just made me really dislike her, and while her being a Phoenix was cool, the entire time I was trying to find any sort of parallel  to Snow White to make this interesting.  But other than randomly mentioning dwarves and having a huntsman stand in, there really was nothing.  It felt like this book was just filler before the final book comes out in December, because there was way more interesting stuff about another character and his backstory then was interesting about Tavia.  It’s fine to read if you’re into the series, but if you picked this up thinking it would be a good standalone it really isn’t.  It wouldn’t make sense just on its own, so if you want to read this series start at The Dragon Princess.  Disappointing  entry in the series and in the fairy tale retelling genre if I’m being honest though, pretty meh.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

My first venture into modern urban fantasy, A Song Below Water is a really great look at the racism  and inequality issues taking place right now, but through the allegory of supernatural creatures.  Tavia is a siren, which instantly got me because I adore mermaids and sirens, but in this world only sirens are black.  So not only does she deal with those duel issues, but she has to navigate going through high school, figuring out who she is, and helping her best friend Effie do the same.  This story is a duel point of view story, as we switch between both Tavia and Effie’s perspectives and I just really enjoyed all of the story beats, and commentary this book made on race issues.  As an African American myself, it really hit a lot of great notes for me and I’m glad I read it.  I will say that it’s rather predictable if you know about mythologies and supernatural creatures, but that didn’t take away from the story for me personally.  I’ve heard some people say it was written a little young for them, but that also didn’t bother me because we’re looking at life through teenage eyes in this book, and the themes and message the book was going for really hit its mark for me.  If you’re into supernatural stuff, or really want an approachable way to see and understand the racial issues going on right now pick up this book.  A fast and enjoyable read, as it’s just below 300 pages. 

Death Wind by Tara Grace

I saved my personal favorite for last.  I love the Elvan Alliance series, and the last book left us on a cliffhanger that this one thankfully concludes.  I really enjoyed this book, as we got to see Farrendal away from Essie, and reading his point of view was such a treat.  Seeing how he’s grown because of her, and his inner workings was fantastic, and we also get to read from his sister Melantha’s perspective which was great as well.  Melantha was a break away character for me in this book, as we got to see her fleshed out in this after seeing her actions in War Bound.  I can’t get enough about this series, and can’t really say any more about this entry without spoilers, but if you like fantasy romance and familial bonds in your stories, read this series.  It also delivers on action when it needs to as well, just a fantastic book series.

And that does it for this entry of Bite-Sized book reviews.  Let me know if you give any of these books a read, I’d love to discuss them in the comments!

Books

Shadow of the Fox Trilogy by Julie Kagawa Review [Spoiler Free]

Fair warning, this is going to be me gushing more than anything else.  Technically I should just throw it into a Bite-Sized Book reviews post, but I loved this series so much I wanted to give it its own post.

If you like anime, you’ll enjoy this book series.  It 100% reminded me of Inuyasha the entire time I was reading it.  The way this series is set up we go in this episodic fashion until the end ramps up to this fantastic, well deserved climax.  All the characters are lovable, but the leads were just so perfect that I was so happy to read from both of their points of view.  The supporting cast was very well fleshed out as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the found family themes that were a part of this series.

Themes of duality, balance, finding yourself and where you belong also are very prevalent in this series and are all well fleshed out.  Every book in the trilogy has a clear plot that is well paced, and none of them feel like filler.  If something in the series isn’t furthering the plot, it furthers the characters, and it’s such a well-balanced read.  Usually, I say things need to focus on plot, or focus on characters because stories can’t do both well.  But the Shadow of the Fox trilogy masterfully balances both in a very well written manner, and it’s one of the rare occurrences  where this story is both plot, and character centric, but both are done superbly.

There are characters doing things in the background unbeknownst to the main characters, and in the end I thought the motivations for them were a bit weak.  I liked seeing the reveal in the end, and it was enjoyable having those characters interwoven into the narrative for all three books, but I just thought that the reveal was a bit generic and wasn’t as big a fan as I would have been if there was something a little more less tropey used for the big reveal.  I think that’s because of how well thought out the character was, their final motivations just felt a little off to me considering what they had done throughout the entire story.  That would be my biggest hrmm about the series, but not worth knocking my enjoyment of the series down a peg because of it.


The romance too, oh the romance!  Tatsumi and Yumeko are both wonderful characters on their own, but together it’s just perfection.  I think their romance was such a great slow burn, and it was super satisfying and sweet when it ended the way it did.  I’ve legit read the last few pages of the epilogue a few times, the resolution of their relationship just makes me so happy and it’s my new favorite YA fantasy couple. 

Like I said really nothing bad to say about this series.  I just wanted to gush about it.  If you like anime and manga, you’d definitely like this series.  If you like well done characters and an epic action adventure, you’ll like this series.  If you like Japanese Folk Lore, you’ll like this series.  And finally, if you just like well done stories, you’ll like this series.  It’s in my top list of favorite YA series now, I just adore it so much!

Have you read the Shadow of the Fox trilogy?  Let me know how you like it in the comments!

Books

Bite-Sized Book Reviews #3

Time for another Bite-sized book reviews!  This one is going to be a little different, since one is for a book series, and one for a book I DNFed.  I chose to not post a review on Good Reads for the DNF, because I think it’s unfair to do so when I haven’t finished the book, but since this is my blog I’d like to post my thoughts on said book and why I didn’t read it all the way through.  With that out of the way, let’s get on to the reviews!

 

Gods of Blood and Powder Series by Brian McClellan

 

This series is in the Powder Mage universe, so if you haven’t read the series, you may be a bit lost.  You wouldn’t be entirely lost, but if you ever plan to read the prior series there are major spoilers in the books, so read at your own risk.  The things it addresses in this series that you need knowledge of the Powder Mage trilogy for it explains though, which is nice.

 

This series takes place ten years after the Powder mage trilogy, and stars Vlora and two other characters not from the original trilogy.  Vlora was an interesting side character for me, so I really liked reading from her point of view…in book 1.  In book 2, she got a little too one note and didn’t develop much, but her plot was interesting and drove the overall plot forward.

 

Michele, the Adamat style character in this series, I loved.  My favorite plots and characters were in his storylines and in every book I super enjoyed getting back to his.  Ben Stike was the typical manly man Tamas character, but I overall liked him better along with his story arcs.

 

This world felt super fleshed out.  Like, the ten year gap truly felt like ten years of time had progressed in real time in their world.  Characters were different, but still the same, the stakes were higher, and a lot of characters got stories for them when they didn’t because of being supporting characters in the previous series.  I will say the 2nd book had middle book syndrome, and didn’t really feel like it added much to the overall trilogy, but there were some good moments in it.  My favorite one was the first book, I thought that one and book three were both really well paced and dynamic.

 

The end of the third book felt a little lack luster with the final conflict, but it also fit the series at the same time.  These books have always been about the characters and action more than anything, so it didn’t bother me too much how it ended.  Overall, a good series with a lot of lovable characters, good plot beats, and good pacing other than in book 2.  Give it a read if you’re into McClellans works.

 

Forest of Firelight by Shari L. Tapscott

 

Aaaand here’s the book I didn’t finish.  Such an awful slog of cliché insta love romance, a bland main character who we’re supposed to like, and a tortured love interest we’re supposed to empathize with.  The premise sounded so interesting too, and I read reviews saying the end was good but like…ugh.  It’s a short book, only 300 pages, but it just dragged on so long and the first 183 pages were nothing but naïve Princess getting into trouble, and brooding love interest saving her, internally saying he hated how stupid she was but at the same time falling for her.  No subversion of tropes what-so-ever, and for me the author didn’t seem like they were planning to do anything more than follow the same generic plot beats in a YA romance, so I just stopped reading it midway.  The world wasn’t interesting enough either, just generic epic fantasy with a somewhat interesting magic system, but not interesting enough to carry the story considering how frustrating the main character was.  If you’ve finished it, let me know if it gets better in the comments, but for me this was just a series I wasn’t willing to continue regardless so stopped in the middle of  book 1.

 

Of Sea and Song by Chanda Hahn

 

Another entry in the Daughters of Eville series, and the book I started reading this series for.  A Little Mermaid retelling that stars an epic sorceress who sings as her magic ability, and uses ocean magic?  Sign me up!  This story started pretty fun and interesting, but midway eventually fell into the trap this series usually does with the main love interest being irritating and them just falling in love with out any relationship growth what-so-ever.  I did like that the secondary love interest subverted the generic “He’s evil” trope in this one, and it was a fun ride regardless of leaning on tropes, so I can’t complain.  What this series thrives on is the familial relationships between the sisters and Lady Eville, and each daughter coming into her own through her story and this totally delivered on that regard, which is why the okish romance didn’t bother me so much.  Mary was my favorite lead so far which was also a bonus.

 

This was a really interesting take on The Little Mermaid that I super enjoyed, and this author gets better with every entry in this series:  this one was the best paced, with the least amount of leaning on fairy tale retelling tropes, and was really dynamic and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

 

Conclusion

 

And that’s the end of my Bite-Sized Book Reviews!  If you want some more in depth reviews for any of these books, head on over to my Good Reads profile.  I hope these reviews help you with finding reads, and happy reading!

Books · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

Kindle unlimited Closing Thoughts After Canceling the Service

So I decided to cancel my Kindle Unlimited subscription this month.  I wanted to cancel it for a few months now, but I kept on forgetting and then it would get renewed, so I figured just keep it for another month.  But there came a point where I just wasn’t using it as much as I initially was, and made the decision to cancel the subscription.  Since I made a post when I first had joined Kindle Unlimited, I figured I’d close out my subscription with a final thoughts article, and how I feel about the overall service as a whole.

 

My biggest thing with cancelling was, the lack of variety in the genres I liked to read.  I read fantasy pretty much exclusively, and while there are some fantastic books you can read on the service, I found myself getting less and less interested in titles I downloaded.  I’d try to start reading something with an interesting synopses, only to find it was boring or cliché within the first few chapters and it went that way for a long time.  I enjoy fairy tale retellings as much as the next fairy tale fan, but the amount of retellings that are not only available on Kindle Unlimited, but that bleed into each other get a little ridiculous.  I mean, how many Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White retellings can you read?  I enjoyed the ones I read, but that’s just an example of the lack of variety in the fantasy genre after a certain amount of avid reading.

 

The last thing I enjoyed reading, I wound up purchasing myself.  The free titles are massive on Kindle Unlimited, but at the end of the day it wasn’t what I wanted to read because I had read things similar in the genre.  Not saying purchased books are innocent of bleeding together with their plots, but I just felt like I’d be better off putting my $9.99 towards a book I actually wanted to read.  Which, there are a few titles I was putting off reading because I had access to  so many freebies, so I wanted to focus on reading those even if the price point on most of them is the price of the full subscription itself.

 

The recommendation system eventually wasn’t super helpful either.  Like, I went through a span of just getting recommended fairy tale retellings because I had read about 3 of them.  I would have liked for Kindle unlimited to be a bit more expansive with their filtering for me – fantasy, romance, adventure, etc etc.  I had a hard time looking for things I’d like to read because I got flooded with recommendations of things I wasn’t in the mood to read, and it got a bit frustrating.

 

At the end of the day, I got major mileage out of Kindle Unlimited.  I’m not saying it’s a bad service by any means:  I found a ton of my new favorite series’ through using the service.  But at the end of the day, looking at the price point of some books in the service made me realize I could just buy those books I want to read, and not pay monthly for the service.

 

I initially got Kindle Unlimited free for 3 months around Black Friday.  There was a sale for half off for the entire year around that time, but I hadn’t tried the service yet so I didn’t give it a go.  After using it for half a year, I’d say if that sale happened again I’d just buy the whole year, because I do like the service for what it is: a place full of reads to varying quality, that is good to hunt for hidden gems.  When I had nothing to read, I’d always go to Kindle unlimited and browse for a good popcorn read and sometimes be surprised with how good something was.  It’s a good service if you like being able to do that and are an avid reader, but as the year went on I just found myself using the service less and less, and wanted to invest my money in reads I knew I’d prefer, with a bit higher quality.

 

All of that being said, my exact closing thoughts on Kindle unlimited?  At the end of the day, I enjoyed the service.  Like I said, if I could get a half off sale on a full year, I’d go ahead and do it.  As far as it at full price, I think it needs to get more desirable reads to be worth the money.  You’d probably be better off with a Scribbed or Audible subscription, and get far more bang for your buck because with those services, it’s quality over quantity.  For Kindle Unlimited, it’s the opposite, and after a while that shows.  I’ve found some books I’ve loved, rolled my eyes at, and done a bit of both with over my subscription period and for that alone I think the price point should just be a teeny bit lower than it is.

 

I hope this helped you if you  were debating trying Kindle unlimited.  It’s honestly all a matter of preference and the genres you read, and how flexible your taste threshold is.  I can be entertained by anything if the premise and characters grip me, so I found more things I liked than disliked on the service.  However if you really are a picky reader, this service wouldn’t be for you.

 

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited?  Weigh in in the comments below!

Books

Night Shift Dragons [DFZ, Book 3] Review

DFZ book 3 released a while ago and I finished the audio book.  I have to say, hands down this was one of my favorite series.  I liked it more than The Heartstrikers books, if I’m being completely honest.  This is going to be one of my shorter reviews, because I really don’t have anything bad to say about it.  Loved it from start to finish.  But as I am prone to do, let’s get into some gushing about the book!

 

Night Shift Dragons takes place 2 months after Part-Time Gods.  Opal and her Father are dealing with a lot of their issues, and Opal is also dealing with being a Priestess to the DFZ.  I thought it was really interesting seeing the DFZ and how her personality has developed over the 25 year span since the Heartstriker series.  It isn’t something you need to have read the first series to get, but if you have it’s just a nice touch seeing her develop  into  who she is in the story.  There were some really entertaining cameos in this book as well, which once again you don’t have to have read the first series to get, but it makes them all the better if you have and if you plan to read the Heartstrikers series, major spoilers from things in that series by these cameos.
But what I love about this series, is how grounded it is.  Sure, we’re dealing with demi-gods and magic, and dragons.  But at its core, it’s the story of Opal and Yong trying to figure out how to have a relationship with one another where they aren’t just shouting at each other all the time, and Opal realizing that her actions have major consequences, and she’s just as much at fault for the bad things going on in her life as dealing with her Dad is.  It was really refreshing seeing Opal own up to her mistakes, while at the same time acknowledging that Yong was also in the wrong.  Yong also has to realize Opal isn’t a kid anymore, and what he’s been trying to do to keep her close has only driven her away was huge character growth for him as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first few chapters, where they just talked things out and figured out how to be a Father and daughter again.  After that, the scenes with them having more tender moments, and their action scenes together, were just so amazing and I loved seeing them lean on each other for strength, and support.  Of course their mannerisms don’t entirely go away, but they’re both working on building this relationship, and it’s beautiful start to finish.

 

I was a bit worried after reading the blurb for the book that Opal and Nick’s relationship would suffer.  Especially after what happened at the end of book 2, I was seriously stressing that there would be an obnoxious will they, won’t they lovers on opposite sides of a battle thing going on.  Lucky for me, that didn’t happen at all.  Once again, Rachel Aaron demonstrates her depth in understanding of how her characters work, and uses a realistic dialogue between the characters to set up plot points for the book.  Never did I feel like either side didn’t trust each other, never did I feel that their relationship wasn’t strong enough to weather any storm.  It was just really well done, seeing the depth of care they had for each other, and super refreshing for a genre plagued with irritating romance tropes.

 

The overarching plot of the story was interesting enough, but honestly it was mainly the backdrop for the characters growth and development.  I pretty easily predicted what was going to happen, though there were certain curveballs In the last few chapters that genuinely had me surprised.  The final battle was epic, and the true culmination of Opal and Yong’s relationship.  And the ending after that was super satisfying, and open-ended enough  to have some novellas featuring Opal and Nick.  Which, I hope is what happens, because if I’m being honest, I like them waaaay more than Marcy and Julius.  There’s just something about Opal that’s so much more engaging, and makes me like her far more as a character.

 

I read this in audio book format, because that’s how I started the book, and I tend to stick with how I started reading a book.  Emily Woo Zeller is fantastic, her voice for Opal especially is super well done.  Opal, Yong, and Nick were very well defined as characters in her narration.  There is a certain point, where the voices don’t get super distinguished, but the characters personalities still shine through so well that it doesn’t bother me so much.  My main gripe is with the characters from Heartstrikers, but that’s mainly because I’m so used to the voices from the Heartstrikers books that the ones in this book throw me off a bit.  I just put those voices in my head and imagine the other narrators deliveries with them, and it doesn’t bother me too much.

 

But yeah, this was a fantastic finale to the series.  Like I said, this story has always been grounded in the simple struggle of a young woman wanting to live her life, but not wanting to strain her familial relationships to do so.  Both sides having to adapt to one another’s wishes, while still loving and respecting each other was perfectly portrayed in this 3rd book. I always thought Yong was a great character, but seeing him fleshed out in this book was great, and his character arc along with Opal’s was fantastic.  Like I said, I really hope to see more of all of these characters, because I prefer them to the cast of the Heartstrikers series.
I recommend this story to anyone who’s an urban fantasy fan that has a strong like of character based stories, and quirky humor.  These books are well rounded with drama, action, character and plot, and I thoroughly enjoyed this being a one on one character story, instead of evolving into the end of the world scenario Heartstrikers did.  Both are great series’ but I prefer this one to that one, no contest.

 

Have you read Night Shift Dragons?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Books

Bite-Sized Book Reviews #2

Time for another round of Bite-Sized book reviews, this time for a few series I’ve read recently.  I have full reviews for the individual books on my Goodreads page, so if you’d like to see more detail for them, head on over there.  This is basically my excuse to gush about these series’, because I really enjoyed all of them and waiting for the installments in them reminds me why I don’t like to read books unless the series is finished, because waiting for all of these is going to drive me nuts!

 

The Forgotten Kingdoms Series by Lichelle Slater

 

This is a fairy tale retelling series that at first, feels rather bland.  I didn’t find The Dragon Princess to be particularly attention grabbing, but I finished it because I’m all about The Little Mermaid (my favorite fairy tale) and The Siren Princess was next in the series.  It was worth getting through book 1, because book 2 was really action packed, the Princess who was the main character was a lot more fun, her romantic interest was waaaay better, and all in all the polish of book 2 and book 3 made me super hyped for books 4 and 5.  There’s a consistent character throughout all of the series that I really enjoy his character arc, and he was the reason why I continued the series in the first place.  I think this series overall does a really good job of keeping the stories self-contained, while still furthering the over-arching plot of the series.  The Beast Princess was amazing start to finish, and hands down my favorite one in the series.  I find narratively, this is one of the better fairy tale retellings, and while it pays homage to the fairy tales they are inspired by, it doesn’t focus solely on fairy tale tropes like other retellings I’ve read.  The cast is well fleshed out, plot and world are great, and overall this series is an enjoyable fantasy romp that I can’t wait to read to its conclusion.

 

Fairy Tale Adventures by A.G. Marshal

 

Do you notice a trend here? I majorly got into reading fairy tale retellings in the early months of the year.  Fairy Tale Adventures however takes a very mature angle with the fairy tale retelling genre, and deals with heavy topics like not feeling like you’re good enough for your family, finding your own self-worth, and overcoming obstacles.  The romances in the series are really well rounded, and none of the couples feel like they are out of place.  I read Princess of Mermaids first in the series, and in this series it actually does affect your knowledge of the rest of the narrative because A.G. Marshal does have plot points from previous books interlink.  It wasn’t a huge hindrance, I just went back and read the first two books in the series, but it did make way more sense after doing so.

 

I think Princess of Shadows is the weakest book in the series.  I liked Leena fine, but her love interest I really didn’t care for and while it said it was a Princess and the Pea retelling, it really wasn’t.  It was an interesting story, don’t get me wrong, but fairy tale retelling as far as I know the story The Princess and the Pea was a stretch.  A better job was done for both Princess of Secrets and Princess of Mermaids, so I feel like Princess of Shadows just was a case of rocky book 1 writing.  But, if you want an awesome series, with powerful Princess that live up to having both feminine and masculine traits well balanced, pick up this book series.

 

The Elvan Alliance Series by Tara Grayce

 

I saved the best for last, as I adore this series!  The premise is a human marries an elf so an alliance between the two peoples is formed, but the books are so much more than that.  Essie and Farrendal’s relationship is just so sweet, and the themes of working towards growing your relationship, choosing your partner, making the best of a situation, and creating a family bigger than yourself out of two is just so wonderful.  I just finished book 2, and the cliffhanger at the end is so ugh!  I can’t wait to read book 3, I really need to revisit this world and see how it ends for the characters!
The world building is really interesting in the series too.  Sort of a steampunky industrial evolution vibe, but also with magic interwoven into the Elvan world masterfully.  I can picture all of the landscapes and structures described in the book, and while romance is definitely the focal point of the series, the politics and court intrigue aren’t just shrugged off for lovey-dovey bits.  There’s tons of lovey-dovey bits, don’t get me wrong, but both politics and romance take center stage when they need to.  It’s just overall a really enjoyable series, I can’t wait until September when the third book comes out!

 

And that does it for Bite-Sized Book reviews #2.  If you decide to read any of these series’, let me know!  I’d love to be able to talk about these with other people!

 

Once again, for more detailed reviews of these books, head on over to my Goodreads Page.  Thanks for reading this post, and happy reading any books you’re reading right now!

Books

The Spoken Mage by Melanie Cellier Full Series Review [Spoiler Free]

Sometimes you just find a book series you really enjoy.  It may be the characters, may be the world building, may be a bit of both.  It isn’t necessarily the best series, but you don’t care:  it just ticks all of your boxes, and you enjoy it for what it is.  I’m not one of those people who thinks everything should be a literary masterpiece, because that would be no fun.  What I like is an engaging story, that has a satisfying ending, and a great ride to get to said ending and for me, The Spoken Mage series is that.  Does it have story telling flaws?  I think so, especially with some of it’s pacing in the 2nd, and 4th books.  Is it a bit cliché?  Yeah, totally.  But do they do a good job building up the overarching plot, romance, and ending the story well?  Absolutely.  So for that, I honestly loved reading this series and recommend it to fantasy romance fans.

 

The premise of the series is what got me to pick this up in the first place.  In this world, the magic system revolves around writing.  Only nobles can  channel magic in a way that won’t kill them, so the common born are banned from reading and writing, so they don’t channel magic poorly and harm others.  Elena is a common born, who finds out she can use magic through speaking, not writing, and she’s sent to a magic school for noble born children to channel her gifts, and learn how to use them.  Crazy adventures, politics, and romance ensue  as the four book series is Elena’s time at the school.  Basic premise, right?  Other than the magic, I wasn’t super keen on a magic school setting.  I don’t dislike it per see, but there are a lot of tropes built into this sort of a setting and I hadn’t read a school setting since Harry Potter.  But, I had nothing to worry about, as there’s so much more to this world then just going to school.  I really enjoyed the themes set forth in this book, that Elena had to navigate the political landscape she was thrust into, and figure out how to fight for common born rights among a world of nobles.  She realizes however, being common born has its own set of issues, as does being mage born.  She and her classmates learn from each other, as they both had stereo types about each class group in their heads and it was nice seeing the characters grow from one another’s experiences.  Elena herself grows a lot throughout and it was just really enjoyable to read.
The romance is great too.  I love Prince Lucas so much, he was hands down my fav character and him and Elena growing and learning from each other was so fun.  I will say there were some parts in the series as far as their romance that were pretty groan worthy, but overall it was fun to read and I hope we get more stories with them in the future.

 

Now, the nitpicks I have mainly pertain to the 2nd and 4th books.  In book 4, everything was tied up a little too neatly, and there was a stretch in the middle of the book that just felt unnecessary, and only seemed to be an engine for the author to make sure all the plot points she wanted to happen for sure happened.  The book was the longest one, so I had hoped we’d get a bit more fleshing out for some characters, and that we’d get an extra chapter or 2 of wrap up.  I liked how it ended, but just an extra chapter or 2 would have pushed it over the top for me.

 

Book 2, I have so many issues with.  Like it was my least favorite in the series, it moved the plot forward the least.  I can’t super remember what happened in it?  I remember important things pertaining to Elena’s powers took place, and her and Lucas’ relationship happened as well, but other than key characters popping up and Elena’s powers developing, book 2 feels like a lot of missed potential.  There were moments like that throughout the entire series I feel, but they got glossed over by how much this series did right so it didn’t bother me too much.

 

The Spoken Mage series is a lot of fun.  Like I said, it ticked a lot of boxes in fantasy I like:  A lot of action, great romance, interesting magic and world, great characters and character development.  If you like a fairy tale style page turner of a series, you can read the entire series in this compellation here

 

I hope I was able to share my love of this series sufficiently!  I really enjoyed reading it, it was so much fun start to finish.  I think it’s important to highlight indi authors, and I plan to do so more later on this blog.  I’ve pretty much been reading self-published stuff exclusively for the past few months, I really enjoy the different things an indi author can do in their books as opposed to guidelines traditionally published authors have to follow.

 

Have you read any good self-published authors you like?  Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Books

Kindle Unlimited Impressions and Thoughts

For the past 3 months, I was able to get a 3 month free trial for Kindle Unlimited (thanks Black Friday!).  I’ve been using it a lot, and this past month I decided to read nothing but Kindle Unlimited books to see if it was worth the money.

For those of you who don’t know, Kindle unlimited is amazon’s book borrowing service.  It costs $9.99 a month, and you can borrow ten books before you have to return 1 to get another.  You can keep the books for as long as you want, and then return them, find other things to read, rinse repeat.  It’s a pretty useful service if you read a lot of books, but is it worth the subscription fee?

I’m going to just write down my thoughts in a numbered list of pros and cons, because I honestly have mixed feelings about it.  The library is extensive, that’s to be sure, but there are definitely cons to what is available in the Kindle Unlimited library, because any book in the program has to be exclusively sold on Amazon.  But I’ll get into that more as we get into the list, which will be right now!

 

  • As I just said, there’s a big library of books to borrow.  But, because of the Kindle Unlimited exclusivity, there’s more self-published books than not.  I’m not saying that self-published is bad, I’ve found a lot of gems in the fantasy section which is what I read.  But not having access to traditionally published stuff is a bit of a con, as if you have Unlimited, you’d have to pay the $9.99 subscription fee, and also buy books you’d want to read that aren’t in the Unlimited program.  Money wise, that would add up pretty quickly if you read a lot, which I do so that’s part of the reason why I’m torn on the service.
  • Because you have access to such a big selection of books, and only have to pay a flat fee, there is more freedom to read more and not worry about spending a ton of money. When I first got back into reading, I spent about 50 dollars on buying a lot of books, and it wasn’t nearly as many as I’ve read on Kindle Unlimited.  Now sometimes the quality of read is shotty, you have about a 50/50 chance of it being amazing, or really bad.  But, you have the same chances with a traditionally published book, because everyone’s reading preferences are different.  I did some approximate math on all the books I’ve read, and I saved a lot more money reading on Kindle Unlimited exclusively for the past few months, and was just as satisfied with my reads.
  • I find myself reading more, because you can check out ten books, and it’s free. Well, not free, but you get my drift: the subscription fee helps you just look at a book, see if you like it, and download it.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to kick yourself over wasting money on a book.  I’ve found myself reading a synopses of a book, downloading, reading a bit and not liking it and just DNFing and returning the book.  Whereas if I had spent money on the book and not liked it, I would have forced myself to finish it so I wouldn’t have wasted my money, and been dissatisfied with the read.  So once again, a pro in the freedom category, because you don’t feel obligated to finish a borrowed book.  If you don’t like it, just return like you would at the library.
  • I’ve gone back and forth about one major question. I’ve been using this 3 month free trial, but if I had to pay for it, would I?  And my answer is…maybe.  I’m going to keep it for an extra month, because I’ve found a lot of authors that I like and are coming out with books in the month of March.  But after that, I think I’m going to try a month without it, and see how I like it.  There are a lot of books I’ve been putting off buying because I’ve had Kindle Unlimited, so this is a bit of a half pro, half con.  Because while I can read a lot of good books on this service, I’ve been putting off books I’ve wanted to read for a while because I have access to the borrowing program.  This is more on me, nothing is stopping me from straight up buying books, but just the fact that I don’t have to buy  if I want to read is a factor in itself for me.  Of course it’s up to everybody, that probably isn’t a factor for someone else, but it does stall me with reads I’ve had on the backburner for months and haven’t purchased yet.  So if you have the same sort of mindset as I do, just something to consider.

 

I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to cover.  I like Kindle Unlimited for what it does, and it’s fun to have access to so many books.  Like I said, I’m a bit torn on whether it’s worth it or not, we’ll see how I feel when I’ve paid for a month of service.

 

Have you tried Kindle Unlimited?  How do you like it.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Books · Editorials/Opinion Pieces

Fairy Tale Retellings Trope Talk

I was planning on writing a few reviews of some fairy tale retellings/reimagining’s that I’ve been getting into recently.  I read a few in the past month, and when I sat down to write the first review for one of the series’ I found myself coming up blank.  Not because I didn’t have a lot to say about the book, but because after reading a few in consecutive order, I realized what I wanted to talk about wasn’t just with that book series, and was more a fault of the fairy tale retelling genre in general.
So, for the first time, I’m going to be talking about tropes that I dislike.  With a lot of the retellings, they had a really good premise, and the synopses made them sound really interesting.  But after reading through them, there were parts of the books that just frustrated me, and permeated throughout the genre.  Out of the six that I read, there were two that I just found beautiful and a really good take on the fairy tales they retold.  They added to the lore of the original story, fleshed out certain aspects of them, and made them a true joy to read and had me thinking about them for a long time.  These retellings however, stuck very true to the originals, and simply expanded upon the source material with character work, magical lore, and world building.

 

The retellings I had more of an issue with, were the ones that were calling themselves retellings, but were really a reimagining.  Think of The Lunar Chronicles:  those books are heavily inspired by the fairy tales within them, but at the same time they stand on their own ground as an interesting series with a lot of fairy tale whimsy in them.

 

The reimagining’s I’ve read recently though, don’t hit a good balance between either of those.  They set themselves in a fantasy world, with its own lore and magic systems, but then they try and throw so much of the original fairy tale in there, while making it modern and cool, that the tropes were just so easy to pick out after a certain point.  I’m not saying tropes are bad, one executed well is always fun to see.  But if I can read a story, see a character pop up, call the trope before any hints are dropped and be right, well…that’s entirely too many tropes used to propel  your story forward, and it got pretty annoying after reading a few of these.

 

I’m not going to list these in any particular order, but I want to point out the ones I’ve noticed the most, and why they bug me so much.

 

  • The Prince is evil trope.  I blame Frozen for this honestly.  I notice it more in stories that were written after 2013.  But the whole a Prince shows up, is too good to be true, then oh snap, without any sort of hints or setup, he’s evil!  Then you find that out 3 or 4 chapters before stories end, and you’re just supposed to be on board with this.  It frustrates me especially because a lot of the time, this trope isn’t set up like in Frozen.  Instead, we see two love interests, one treats the main character like a jerk, the other like a charming, perfect gentlemen.  We see the nice guy court our heroine throughout the entire story, get invested in their romance, then without warning, bam!  He’s evil because…he has to be!  After all of the nice moments we saw throughout the book, seeing them connect and be a super cute couple, the Prince just turns out to be evil and it’s always infuriating.

 

I’ve seen it done well once.  Where the Prince turns out to be distant for a reason, and doesn’t turn out to be evil.  The relationship between him and our main character develops nicely, and while you may not be rooting for them when the story starts, you see their relationship grow into something nice.  The nicer guy turns out to be evil, but there were breadcrumbs left for us throughout the story to see this slowly shifting in the character.  I think it’s important to realize, that in Frozen, because it’s a movie, it’s fine to not see the Prince who turns out to be the bad guy in the movie.  We didn’t know much about him anyway, so him being evil wasn’t a big surprise:  We didn’t spend time with him or the main character, not long enough to be invested in their relationship, so it’s not a shocking blow when he just turns on our main characters.

 

But in a book, you have so much room to set up glimpses of a darker nature.  You can have the Prince and our main heroine connect, and have a relationship blossom, but we can have other scenes with the Princes darker side.  We don’t even need different scenes, we can just have glimpses when he’s with the MC or something.  But just having the rug pulled from under the reader is really irritating to me, and even though this isn’t a numbered list, this has to be the top thing that bothers me the most about fairy tale retellings.

 

  • The strong, independent woman trope.  Now I like strong women in stories, they’re usually my favorite characters.  But in fairy tale retellings, the MC is always the extreme of this trope.  I have a feeling it’s because of the makeup of the original fairy tale, where the women are always docile and more of a set piece  in their stories.  But there can be a nice balance between a strong, independent woman, and the more docile fair.  You can be strong in a non-sword toting, kick butt and take names kind of way and I rarely see this in fairy tale retellings.  The few exceptions I’ve seen are in Kate Stradling’s works, especially in Brine and Bone.  The Lunar Chronicles as well has a good balance of both fierce women, in masculine and feminine ways and I just wish we saw that more than the 1 type of woman.

 

  • The secondary love interest, who is a jerk to our heroine the entire story.  But for some reason, he has this sexy allure and the Prince is evil, so she winds up with him at the end!  Granted, this isn’t just a fairy tale retelling trope, it’s in a lot of books and will never become not frustrating.  But seriously, a guy being a jerk to you for the entirety  of you knowing him, him softening up not because he wants to, but because you call him out on his garbage treatment of you, then falling for him because he’s the supposed better choice?  I can’t stand it.  It’s obnoxious, and like I said earlier, it only happens when the Prince is evil!  I mean, why can’t our MC just end up with no one sometimes?  That’s ok too.  The only time this trope works is in Beauty and the Beast retellings, and for obvious reasons:  Because that’s the entire point of the story.

There are others I could point out, but they honestly aren’t as offensive as these 3.  The main character having a friend they meet that is the only one that likes them, the animal sidekick, the MC being clueless or down on herself, the MC having secret siblings and parentage they don’t know of.  All of these don’t bother me nearly as much as the ones I outlined earlier in the post.  Obviously, if my ranting isn’t an indicator, the evil Prince trope bothers me the most and it just has gotten to the point where it makes the read unenjoyable because that trope is so easy to spot.  Can we please get some more original stuff in these retellings, please?

 

All of that being said, I do thoroughly enjoy fairy tale retellings.  While they may blend together after a certain point, they do have interesting ideas in them, are major page turners, and the romances for the most part are an enjoyable ride.  The action in them is well thought out, and I really respect the author’s ability to craft a fairy tale connected universe, while having each book be a standalone.  The fantasy worlds are well thought out, as are the magic systems, and it’s always fun to spot references to the original story in their midst.

 

But the tropes…ugh, the tropes!

 

I hope you enjoyed this rather different type of post.  I enjoyed ranting about said tropes, at least.  Do you have any tropes in media you watch that you can’t stand, while still enjoying said media?  Let me know in the comments!

Books

Bite Sized book Reviews #1

If you haven’t noticed, this blog has kinda been taken over by a lot of bookish content.  It’s not going to completely convert to being a book blog, but I go through phases where I want to write about one thing, and do one thing more than other things.  Right now, that’s reading, so sorry to anyone who sticks around for the anime and television reviews.  I want to work on doing a bit more opinion pieces and editorials also, just have to get some scheduling and organizing out of the way for that.

 

But I figured I’d like to get some reviews out of the way for some books that I didn’t feel like I wanted to write a full blown review for.  I honestly don’t have enough comments about these books to say more than a paragraph or two’s worth of things about them, so in enters my first edition of Bite Sized Book Reviews!

 

 

Uprooted By Naomi Novik

 

I was so excited about the premise of this book, and when I read the free preview of it on Amazon, it got me hooked enough to buy it and read it the same night.  The beginning of the book I really enjoyed, and the mystery set up about The Wood I found super fascinating and gripping.  However, as the story progressed, we stepped further and further away from this mystery and only returned to resolving it at stories end, and that left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  The main character wasn’t very…intelligent, rather naïve, and her failure to use common sense in a lot of the sections in the middle of the book really started to get on my nerves and detracted  from the story for me.  When we got back to the actual interesting plot about The Wood, the reveals for said plot just felt really out of left field, and wasn’t the payoff I expected overall for the story.  I enjoyed aspects of this book, the beginning and the end I think make up for the slog in the middle.  But at the same time, you can just feel the potential of what the story could have been if we stuck with the story set up in the beginning, which was what is up with this haunted wood?  It didn’t make me dislike the author at all:  her writing style is gripping, and there’s only so much you can expect from a fairy tale retelling.  It just didn’t quite hit the mark I was hoping it would, but overall was enjoyable, and I do plan to check out the author’s other books because of the really captivating writing style.

 

The Tahaerin Chronicles Series By J. Ellen Ross

 

 

This is for a trilogy of books:  An Oathbreaker’s Vow, The Heretic’s War, and Fear and Bitter Thorns.  I’m not gonna lie, while I don’t classify things as “guilty pleasure reads” this would totally go into that sort of a category for me.  It’s fantasy romance at its finest, full of drama, fluffy lovey-dovey romance, straight up good vs evil conflicts, and interesting enough plots to keep you reading.  There’s a certain charm to this series that while I was rolling my eyes at how tropey and predictable it was, at the same time it was an easy to read page turner where I wanted to continue reading.  Each book is episodic in nature, and while you’ll get something more out of reading them in order, you also don’t have to to get what goes on in each story. It’s more of a trilogy because all 3 books are set in the same universe with the same characters, not because it’s a story arc carried over 3 books.

 

The characters are engaging enough, the relationships both romantic and platonic are really well done, and you root for every one of the good guys to wind up with their happy endings.  Just don’t expect this series to subvert any tropes or be some super enriching experience, because it’s nothing more than light hearted fantasy fun.  If you can predict it, it’ll happen, and the good guys always win the day no matter how tough the situations may become:  But I super enjoy reads like that, and used these books to lighten the mood after a more somber read I had previously.  As much as I shook my head at how all 3 of these panned out, I still was rooting for the characters, and was happy when things turned out right for them.  But these I feel are a highly acquired taste, so I’d suggest only reading if romance novels and soap opera style stories are your thing – which, I’m totally into so enjoyed these immensely.

 

The Queens of Innis Lear By Tessa Gratton

 

And this is the read that I love to pieces to the point where it can do no wrong and I would throw it at people to read.  A fantasy retelling of King Lear, it crafts this beautiful world, engaging characters, and the writing is just so lyrical and beautiful and heart-wrenching, that I couldn’t tell if dialogue was lifted from Shakespeare or not half the time.  It’s a beautiful tale of 3 sisters and their Father, and not letting “destiny” rule you.  Not letting peoples expectations for you define who you are, making sure your self and identity are sound enough in your mind so you can live a life satisfactory to how you want to live it.  It’s just so perfect, I felt for every character in this book and honestly, I want this to be the new cannon version of King Lear.  A great standalone fantasy I’d highly recommend reading for one of those life altering sort of experiences, just can’t sing the praises about this book enough.

 

And that’s my first round of bite sized reviews!  If you have read any of these books, or decide to, let me know how you feel about them in the comments!