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Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly
Published October 2nd 2012 by Tor Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio…and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

I’ve never read Jane Eyre, but fey and steampunk were my first YA book loves, and so it was pretty hard to resist Ironskin (and, that description of Rochart’s studio in the synopsis! woow). Ultimately, though, I‌ ended up waffling between stars because none of them felt quiiiite right.

I loved the moody, gloomy, whispery, dark atmosphere of the story! The writing was so wonderfully atmospheric and just clicked into place alongside the fey, steampunk, fantastical, and historical elements. And, at some places, Ironskin really delivered:‌ the idea behind the fey-cursed war victims and the iron masks to limit the curses (such as curses of rage!) were fresh and fascinating.

I‌t was hard to keep up with the author’s intentions, however, and in every sense. Though the parts of the world-building that I‌ did grasp were interesting, there were a lot of parts of the world-building and background set-up that simply fell through the cracks; rather than on solid foundations, the story felt settled on tenuous ground. There were a lot of things about the fey, a lot of secondary characters, and even some actions made by the main characters that were confusing, out of place, or otherwise awkward and seemingly ill-fitted to the plot, even though the result was that things lined up the way they had to for the next stage in the story’s development.

And, the characters?‌ The characters! Jane was sweet and put-together, but lacked the presence of a main character – she felt pretty thin, if that makes sense. Rochart’s character is dark and brooding, but falls leagues short of the “mysterious and alluring” category, and plunges headfirst into “moody and creepy.” His character is confusing, his characterization weak, and his romance? with Jane made me really confused – they barely know each other!! They said like two things to each other outside of his daughter, and he was a major moody creep for all of it!!! Dorie had the potential to be an interesting character, but her plot thread was start-stop jerky, uneven, and confusing, as if most of it was just a build-up to Rochart’s own “reveal,” but everything was foreshadowed and emphasized so heavily that the cat was basically out of the bag before it really even got into it. On a whole, though, I‌ don’t have too much to say about the characters, primarily because they didn’t seem to carry any depth at all. It was hard to care – in either which way – for them, Jane and Rochart included, when they didn’t feel like much of anything.

And, to wrap things up, the ending too was hard to follow: a lukewarm flavor like the rest of the story, with considerable helpings of confusion.

Ironskin was wonderfully atmospheric and littered with fascinating elements, but ultimately bogged down by confusing plot choices and one-dimensional characters.

全息網遊,這個女主屌炸天 by 云早
Published 2017
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

創建人物時被係統隨機到一個奇葩名字之後,為了避免被現實裏的小夥伴們認出來,沈靜玢破罐子破摔把自己的外貌下調到最低,成為遊戲最醜。誰知道,這年頭連遊戲NPC也看臉怎麽破!不過還好幸運值夠高,隱藏任務,神級寵物,極品裝備排著隊的送上門。就連男神也是自己送上門!

I picked this one up out of curiosity. A lot of people recommended it as having similar elements to other novels I really enjoyed, so I decided to give it a go, but found that those elements didn’t quite work this time around.

The gameplay had the potential to be interesting, but it was full of holes (if that kind of game operated IRL, they would’ve been flamed off the internet). I thought the idea of disgruntled workers operating some of the special NPCs was pretty funny, but, overall, everything was kicked aside, propped up in the background as a pretty scenery for petty love squabbles and assertions of SJB and ZCN’s greatness and superiority, which wasn’t. Wasn’t great.

SJB? She’s super bland for the lack of a better word. She’s got the potential to be cool, or relatable, but she doesn’t end up swinging in any which way mainly because of how she’s written, as a picture-perfect perfection, high up in a place no mortals can touch. I really enjoyed her interactions with her brother, because they were the only snapshots of personality we were able to glean from her, the author otherwise keeping her tightly locked up in a box that blared “THIS MC IS BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT AND CAN DO EVERYTHING” every other page.

ZCN is a Male Love Interest, as well as the Only One Suitable for SJB, and the author will do their best to remind you of that at every possible turn, and then some. He isn’t the worst, but he isn’t the best. He’s very… standard – he’s got all the elements typical of a love interest, but the way he’s portrayed, like with SJB, sucks any potential personality out of him.

Their relationship makes a lot of sense logically, and, emotionally? HA. Trick question – there is no emotion.

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Published December 9th 2014 by Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

(Gonna get this off my chest real quick: it’s on the first page or so, but Sleeping Beauty’s prince was already married?‌ UGH.)

The first third of Princess of Thorns was pretty solid. The character’s were fun, it wasn’t… quite like the synopsis – more like a high fantasy that had borrowed names from famous fairytales – but a good read just the same. The latter section, though, is where the cracks start to show, and everything starts to unravel.

Niklaas was kind of. Eh? Upon first their first meeting, but it was nice to see his character change. Actually, both he and Aurora are pretty bratty and lofty and cocky at times, but I‌ liked their easy exchanges, so it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

Rather, the world-building – or rather the lack of world–building bothered me the most. So there are. An enchanted circle of briars?‌ And fairies. And ogres. And another world? And something about magic-born children and briar-born children and portals to other worlds with ogre mothers in them, but it’s never quite explained, only glossed over in a very you’ll-understand-eventually sort of way that I‌ never quite understood. Ditto for Niklaas and Aurora’s curses. And their families. (Also, on the subject of things I don’t understand, Aurora doesn’t quite so much “dress up” as a guy upon first meeting Niklaas as she does “get mistaken for” a guy and I‌ still really don’t understand how that can happen when we see him emoting over her beautiful face and curves and whatnot later on?)

And, while we’re talking about Aurora and Niklaas, Aurora-and-Niklaas: the romance was kind of strange? They had really easy-going friendship vibes going on, and then Niklaas found out Aurora was a girl, and then suddenly Aurora was wondering if she had ~feelings~ for Niklaas. I’d understand the way he treated her changed after the realization – and was actually pretty surprised and found it a little strange that it hadn’t changed that much – but this slam-dunk into romance read awkwardly. The last part of the book literally books it (ha!) from best-bros to full-blown-romance with no development or progression in between.

Speaking of things that don’t exist – the stakes. It was fun to follow Aurora and Niklaas’s trip in the first half or so of the book. But her brother’s in prison, and we’re told that there are Big Bad Ogre Plans that’ll end the world. So, the stakes should be pretty high, and there should be a lot of tension and urgency, but the execution’s pretty easy-going? A lot of things just fall into place. Crimsin, the girl at the inn, for one, virtually just shows up and glosses them over a tight spot. Even the ending doesn’t seem that climactic because of the ~exciting twist~ and even Aurora at the end wasn’t really sure what happened but just ran with it.

(And, the highlight: Princess of Thorns is the oNLY‌ stand-alone fantasy on my bookshelf – can we please spare a moment to thank Princess of Thorns from relieving me from fantasy cliffhanger hell: THANK‌‌ YOU)

别那么骄傲 by 随侯珠
Published September 2015 by 花山文艺出版社
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Chatting in the dormitory at night, roommates wonder how much pain Aunt Flow brings. Mr. Perfect He Zhi Zhou has never bothered joining in on these petty talks for amusement. That is, until he became a woman and laid in bed with a white-cast complexion……

Chatting in the female dormitory at night, roommates sighed over the current pairings in the school of engineering, Shen Xi was a little curious that the problem with these topics is that there was no way to test them. Until she became an engineering male and a bar of soap dropped in front of her……

Introduction in one sentence: About how a top-scoring perfect male with no desire in the opposite gender and an amusing female lead were set up like lightning setting the ground on fire spreading out of control—leading to a sweet and rippling life……

Life is so long, don’t be so arrogant. Some things are bound to deviate.

The first half was fluffy and silly and fun. HZZ really did end up drawing the short end of the stick in all this chaos, both his and SY’s reactions to everything were hilarious, and the way the author just… shamelessly and boldly charged headfirst into everything that differed between the male and female experience… I’m screaming. I did feel a lot of sympathy for LYT, but, maybe in part because we’re seeing this through SY’s eyes, I do feel like he had it coming, and that SY deserved a lot better than him. It did really feel like he only started trying to put in the effort once HZZ came into the picture, and once he realized that SY had other options, ones arguably better than him – only when he felt threatened. And while the latter half of the book took on a slightly repetitive pattern, and with a few questionable elements, it made for a nice, lighthearted read, and I really appreciated how steadfast the main couple was, even through their small squabbles and silliness. TL;DR I’m weak for fluffy, happy, silly stories and 别那么骄傲 was just that.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

I liked some of the poems, others felt rather incomplete – it was a pretty underwhelming read, despite the emotion and conviction behind every single word being pretty darn powerful. I don’t know how to feeeeeel.

Spider’s Revenge
(Elemental Assassin #5) by Jennifer Estep
Published September 27th 2011 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Old habits die hard. And I plan on mur­der­ing some­one before the night is through.

Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s com­ing with me…no mat­ter what I have to do to make that happen.

There’s a plot there, somewhere, under all that repetition. In hindsight, the “army of lethal bounty hunters” feels way over-exaggerated, as does Gin’s skills – she keeps messing up perfectly good shots! I know she beats herself up for it and knew she screwed up, but it ends up feeling like cheap twists to stretch this one hit into a full-length book, and it doesn’t quite work for me. The fight sequences are still cool, though, and the last quarter or so of the book really picked up the slack.

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
Published November 26th 2013 by Harlequin Teen
Source: received from publisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

YOU CAN BE A VII IF YOU GIVE EVERYTHING.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked – surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed, and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

Pawn had me going “????????” from the opening pages.

So Kitty fails an aptitude test right before the book starts, and ends up with a III tattooed on the back of her neck. Her boyfriend Benjy tells her he doesn’t care and that he’s willing to run away with her! But somehow she’s convinced that it’ll ruin his test results and she’s not willing to be his downfall which. If it’s an aptitude test I’m struggling to see exactly how her score and her marrying him will affect his personal aptitude? And halfway through, we were kiiind of floated this idea that maybe the aptitude test isn’t all it seems and that it doesn’t really test your aptitude, which 1) has the potential to be a really good critique of the current standardize testing system (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc etc etc) in the US and 2) can start to potentially make an argument for why certain choices, like marrying a III, might ruin your chances of becoming a VI. BUT then immediately after we’re treated with a slew of tidbits here and there about how bright and wonderful and talented and smart Kitty is, and how there’s proof in how she managed to pull a III on the test although she had to leave a huge chunk of it blank, and then it all swirled away.

Benjy? I liked his steadfast resolution to stand beside Kitty. I wasn’t really sure about much else, though. Pawn was really good at putting everything into really neat little boxes, and Benjy? He sat in a nice little cardboard box labeled “KITTY’S MOTIVATION” and set a toe past those boundaries.

So Kitty goes to a club instead of becoming a sewage worker, and from there everything really starts to unravel, because instead of actually selling her virginity to the highest bidder, the highest bidder actually just wants Kitty for her. blue. eyes. And for that reason alone, he’s set to make her into a VII and his niece’s doppelganger? They can lengthen legs in this futuristic world. They can change entire body shapes and sIZES in this world. But they can’t change someone’s eye color to blue? ??? ????? There are processes now, in 2019, that can do that for a person. Hell, there are less-invasive colored contacts that can give you any eye color you want. But this is their one hang-up in this dystopian world?

But, okay. Kitty becomes Lila, agrees without thinking there might be some sort of catch, or maybe fifty (who will track you down, shoot down club members and intimidate your family members to get to you, only to hand you a golden ticket with no strings??).

And from there? I’m. Not quite sure? I read Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test and Goddess Interrupted when they came out, and honestly, Pawn kind of gives off the same vibes I remember (albeit from. seven years. ago). It floats here and there, dabbles in a lot of things that could be potentially interesting, but never delves into them, and then sprinkles that atop some romance and calls it a day. There’s something about a rebellion, though we don’t actually ever get to see it. There’s set up for political intrigue, but, as Kitty – and every other character she interacts with – hammers home for us every other page or so, Kitty’s motivation is BENJY, so we’re treated to a lot of fretting and worrying and doing-things-at-other-people-s-command-so-benjy-will-live-to-see-another-day but no actual self autonomy, and so much of the intrigue-discovering happens once Kitty’s become a victim, or an unhappy bystander caught in the crossfire. There’s romance, but Benjy’s never really treated to any character development, and feels like nothing more than the possibly proverbial carrot to Kitty’s every move, so the romance comes off as dry and maybe even posturing instead.

Aside from all this, the world building is also confusing, not to mention pretty unbelievable – unrest settled by the reorganization of all the resources to the elite few? It’s simplistic and glossed-over, fluffed up with a few comments here and there about how unjust the system is. And the characters? They have just enough presence to fulfill their roles in the story, but are hardly memorable, and after a while, start blending together.

Pawn wasn’t an awful read, but it was shaky and lackluster. You might be able to chalk up chalk up some of it to Pawn being the first in a trilogy, but even then, I don’t feel any motivation to continue.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep
Published August 27th 2013 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out…

I’m pretty sure you could read any book in the series at random and still know everything that came before courtesy of all the recaps. They’re not bad reads! But Estep has a formula, and she follows it to a T every single time; the same quips, the same story structure, even the same recaps. And especially after nine books, it gets old. Also, idc what he attempts to pull now – Owen’s never going to be able to bounce back from the mess he made for himself. It’s nice to get some closure on what’s been haunting Sophia and Jo-Jo for decades, and with that, I think this is as good a place as any in the series to stop.

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen
Published September 6th 2016 by Berkley
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold…

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast….

The romance was gumdrop-sweet and fluffy, and I loved the assembly of supporting characters. But I really wasn’t on board with the way the rape element was handled. Also, oof, the treatment of Leo’s exes was just. not. not great.

Lord of the Abyss (Royal House of Shadows #4) by Nalini Singh
Published November 22nd 2011 by Harlequin
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

It’s a bit of a departure from the Nalini Singh books I’m used to, the pacing was uneven in places, and I wasn’t super on board with some parts of the ending, but the characters were varying and interesting and I liked the directness of their relationships – it felt refreshing, in a sense.

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill
Published February 4th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Since Merit was turned into a vampire, and the protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House, it’s been a wild ride. She and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan have helped make Cadogan’s vampires the strongest in North America, and forged ties with paranormal folk of all breeds and creeds, living or dead…or both.

But now those alliances are about to be tested. A strange and twisted magic has ripped through the North American Central Pack, and Merit’s closest friends are caught in the crosshairs. Gabriel Keene, the Pack Apex, looks to Merit and Ethan for help. But who—or what—could possibly be powerful enough to out-magic a shifter?

Merit is about to go toe to toe, and cold steel to cold heart, to find out.

In hindsight, the series took a bit of a nosedive after around book four, but somehow I’ve already wandered this far in, so I’m going to see it to the end, dammit. I love all the secondary characters (the shifters! Malik! Jonah! her grandfather’s crew! Luc! Lindsey!) and some of the Merit/Ethan scenes are so soft and precious! but mostly not. On the whole, Ethan has the characterization of a cardboard standee – it’s been nine going on ten books now, and I’m still trying to figure out what his charm points are? The striking/glowing/blazing/insert-choice-adjective-here green eyes Neil keeps reminding us about? And Merit’s been demoted to a hand-wringing bystander who watches the house and waits dutifully for her boyfriend to come home/save the day. :/

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) by Chloe Neill
Published August 5th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet…

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?

(shout out to my part-time job for letting me sit in a room full of books and letting me read said books during hours, supporting my much-belated UF romance kick)
Blood Games was a pretty solid 1.5 stars. I’m going to preface this and be honest and admit that my enthusiasm for the series has long since died, but I’ve gotten this far already, and I’m nothing if not stubborn.
– I really like the Scooby Doo, episodic mysteries. It’s nice to have some overarching plot tying all the novels in the series together, but it’s also really nice to be able to get some sort of solid closure at the end of every novel. It didn’t really work out with Blood Games, though – it’s just gotten to the point where there’s so much? The serial killing, Ethan’s plotline, the RG, Darius… and Blood Games keeps sliding in favor of Ethan, making everything else feel like tiny, poorly done afterthoughts.
– It feels like Neill’s trying to keep all the elements, the jokes, the plot threads, etc from all the previous books, and then add an extra heaping onto that, but there’s too much that’s been recycled too many times, and it’s really not working anymore.
– Ethan is a self-centered egomaniac. He’s always been a self-centered egomaniac, but all his me!me!me! speeches and petty theatrics here just made him even more so one.
– Merit needs to draw her line in the sand and she’s going to have to do it soon because it’s been ten books and Ethan STILL keeps pulling the same old shit. IMHO he should’ve stayed gone, and we could’ve gotten, say, a Merit/Jonah pairing instead. Or, honestly, a Merit/anyone-who-isn’t-Ethan pairing. Or just Merit, friends, and chaotic Chicago. That’s more than enough material for a series.
– oh, and fuck the fake proposals. fuuuuuuck them.

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs
Published March 11th 2014 by Ace
Source: Library
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from a stalker. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right.

Soon her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the furthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s stalker is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

Oh man, Adam’s likeability score plummeted ass-first into the ground and then kept falling. Who shares ~tender looks~ with his ex-wife in front of the current wife he proclaims to be very much in love with? Who stands by while his ex-wife lobs attack after attack at and attempts to turn the pack against his current wife, and then is just like, yeah, that happened? Who does that? And then instead of apologizing and maybe groveling a little as he should, he does the whole ~condescending but I’m pROUD OF YOUR LEVEL-HEADED ACTIONS YOUNG LADY~ thing. Haaard pass, thanks. And Mercy just? Doesn’t stand up for herself? All but martyrs herself in her head? (the blue hair dye thing doesn’t count she literally nearly dIED for Adam’s speshul snowflake ex-wife and after putting them all through the blender and withholding crucial information and after Mercy ended up in the goddamn hospital fixing problems she still has the gall to threaten her? On her hospital bed? And yeah Christy might have blue hair, but everyone hates Mercy. So. Who’s the real winner.) And then there was the rest of the pack, and, yeesh. This was just one large internalized misogyny party, with a generous helping of victim blaming.

And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I saw this at the library and picked it up on a whim – I remember seeing this everywhere at one point and was a little curious. It didn’t occur to me until later that this Kiersten White was also the Kiersten White who wrote Paranormalcy and Mind Games, and. Wooooah. Her writing’s gotten so, so much better. The beginning was intense and atmospheric and engaging! The middle, though, felt like wading through molasses. The plot putters along under the weight of all these extra tidbits and tangents that I know contribute to future plot points and characters, but! But! The book is at a fairly hefty ~500 pages, with little more than some nicely arranged words to show for a good 300 pages at least, and without an interesting enough plot to motivate. And the decisions on the portrayal of history? I’m hardly an expert, and many have explained the missteps better than I ever could. I’ll just. Yikes.

Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh
Published September 8th 2011 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

I wasn’t a huge fan at the beginning, but it did pick up a lot once the book went on… only to spiral into NOPENOPENOPE at the end because fuck that bullshit plot point. Dimitri and Honor deserve better.

Archangel’s Storm (Guild Hunter #5) by Nalini Singh
Published September 13th 2012 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

I was super curious about Jason so this turned out to be a little disappointing. He and Mahiya had so much potential! The book was on this upward curve and it was gETTING BETTER but then the ending was so terribly bland and I was terribly disappointed. (Also we could’ve done without all the Dimitri/Honor snippets and still been happy, thank you very much – it’s the whole Jason/Mahiya ending part we’re missing. Where did that ending putter off to? Where??)

Antigoddess (Goddess War #1) by Kendare Blake
Published September 10th 2013 by Tor Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

I stick pretty closely to Goodreads’s rating system: 1 star is “did not like it,” 2 stars means “it was ok,” 3 stars for a “liked it” read, and so on. And, Antigoddess? It was okay.

I’m fascinated by mythology. Was obsessed with it at one point, actually. Long before I fell into YA, I pretty much exclusively read mythology books – Greek, Roman, Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian, Babylonian, you name it. I think I might’ve checked out every book on myths in my school library twice, and while I’m no longer anywhere as obsessed with mythology as I had been in the past, I always get excited to see them in YA. And, so, Antigoddess.

The premise was super interesting: a war between dying gods. And the beginning of the book? I was really drawn in by how it opened, chapter zero, with Athena choking on feathers and Hermes slowly wasting away to a haunting, tragic end, more of a whisper than a bang, an end nowhere near benefitting of a god or goddess. It’s really tragically beautiful, in a way.

And then… things took a turn and went… somewhere. It wasn’t terrible – nothing in Antigoddess read as terrible. The whole thing was just very okay. Very bland. The book started out tragically beautiful and haunting, then nosedived into “meh” territory and was never able to crawl its way back out.

The story alternates between Cassandra and her boyfriend Aiden, and Athena and Hermes; the story alternates between two teenagers scamming high school freshman in cafeterias and attending parties, and two dying gods stumbling across the country, bickering and scowling amongst themselves to find Cassandra and Aiden. It sounds more interesting than it really is, and the synopsis sounds much more action-filled than the entire book delivered. Most of it was the parties and the running and scowling. A lot of what I thought would be more crucial points – how the gods and goddesses got to where they were now, what happened to, y’know, everyone else, how the whole “waking up with your past memories” thing actually works, as well as the “swapping out your old body with a new” that was only briefly mentioned in passing with Odysseus – were very vague, details passed over in favor of drawing out… something. Something? The characters’ shuffling and waffling and grumbling?

The pacing was slow, the climax almost unpleasantly jarring and anti-climactic, and the entire book almost reads as the preface to something bigger and bolder. The thing is, though, with the way Antigoddess ends, it could pass as a stand-alone. And with the way it read, I’m happy to take it as such.

King’s Cage (Red Queen, #3) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 7th 2017 by HarperTeen
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Wheeere oh where has the plot gone? I’m pretty sure you could’ve rolled Glass Sword and King’s Cage into one book and wrapped up the series as a trilogy.

So here’s the thing: I can see why everyone likes this series so much. It’s formulaic and there’s not one part of the series that hasn’t been done before, but all parts of the series have been done before and worked, and now we have the Red Queen series. And it’s clearly working for a lot of people. It worked for me in the beginning, too – I really liked Red Queen. But then the series started to miss the mark.

King’s Cage is one giant filler scene; the writing’s trying too hard to load itself up with quotable one-liners and snarky exchanges; all the secondary characters are flat, dull, and forgettable; 500 pages isn’t quite enough to contain the annoyance that is Mare’s inflated ego.

The upside? While reading Glass Sword, I thought that this series would turn into a Nightshade kind of situation for me, when the only character I liked ended up dead at the end of the series (THE VERY END OF THE SERIES) but hey, King’s Cage got me starting to like another character, so the odds are looking a little better? Marginally? So half a star for that shaky assurance, one star for the scene where Cal and The Scarlett Guard rescued Mare (YEEEEEEEESSS), and another half star because fuck it, I’m still holding out for a Maven comeback, or for Cal to regain all that character I liked about him that he lost.