The Grisha Trilogy

As I am WOEFULLY behind on this blog, I’m going to be doing some creative and some not-so-creative grouped reviews to try and catch-up with my backlog. Since this is a trilogy, it seemed natural to review it as a whole. I shall endeavor to avoid spoilers! It’s also been a month since I read these and my Goodreads reviews are more about rating my book boyfriends than any sort of serious critique of the story. For that, I apologize.

Why I picked it: Spend any time on bookstagram and you’re going to see/hear readers talking about the Darkling and how he makes them FEEL ALL THE FEELS. Intrigued, I ordered the first book off Audible and a new obsession was born. For real, this is the series that got me over my ACOMAF hangover like nothing else did. Also, Lauren Fortgang’s narration is MAGIC.

Book 1: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 

Blurb in brief: “Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.”

What I thought: At it’s most basic level, this follows your average YA fantasy/dystopyish plot line: first person narrative, female protagonist who thinks she’s the definition of average, hot childhood friend, female protagonist discovers she’s actually FAR from average, a training montage commences, the battle begins, and chaos ensues.

However, this story had a villain who is as complex as he is magnetic. And there are overt (and, based on some other reviews I’ve read, not super culturally accurate) Russian overtones. Call me a philistine, but I didn’t mind it so much—I actually quite liked the Ruski flavor.

But the Darkling. Oooooh, the Darkling. I have a weird soft spot in my heart for characters who are kind of evil, but also mysterious and tortured and unhealthily obsessed with the heroine.

See: the Phantom, Littlefinger, Loki, Hannibal (from the TV show, in which he’s obsessed with our hero. Murder husbands forever!)

Yes, they are rather murdery. Yes, basically everything they do is manipulative. Yes, I understand that that the enduring fondness I feel for them despite all that probably does not speak well of me.

“Fine…Make me your villain.”

I can’t help it. The Darkling is INTERESTING. What’s his whole backstory? What event or series of events turned him into the tyrant he is today? How much was he faking it with Alina? Could Alina just drop Mal and become Dark!Alina and rule together with the Darkling for all eternity? I’m sure there’s fanfiction about this that I will probably read later and love.

Update: There is and I did.

After this first installment, I was really excited to see where Bardugo took the story and what she would reveal about her Dark Prince and his backstory.

My ratings: 5/5; Goodreads ratings: 4.07/5 

Book 2: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Blurb in brief: “Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.”

What I thought: SaS suffered a bit from middle-child syndrome for me. There was some good action at the start, but then things kind of slowed down a bit.

For some reason, this was the book during which my mind started making dubious connections to the Gilmore Guys (Rory’s love interests, not the podcast). I liked Mal well enough in the first book, but he began to veer into dangerous Season 2 Dean territory for me in SaS. Sturmhond was bae and his delicious chemistry and witty banter with Alina was giving me hella Logan vibes. He was definitely a delight for all the senses after Mal started being such a snit.

This will probably be the most worthless of this trilogy of reviews.

My ratings: 4/5; Goodreads ratings: 4.11/5 

Book 3: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 

Blurb in brief: “Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.”

What I thought: So Siege and Storm was a little slow at times, and this book did have some places where the plot meandered a bit (it felt a little LotR/Hobbit-esque in that sense with all the questing and the planning and the side jaunts that invariably result from the questing).

Bardugo did some really great things with character development. At the end of SaS, I was definitely not Mal’s biggest fan. However, I felt that he grew up a lot in this book and I was able to appreciate him much more. Sturmhond is still bae, and the Darkling has my heart forever.

I found this last installment to be a very satisfying ending to an excellent series!

My ratings: 5/5; Goodreads ratings: 4.19/5 

 

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A Court of Mist and Fury

A book that’s more than 600 pages: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Why I picked it: Because I am slightly obsessed with SJM and this was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2016, the other being the fifth book in her other series which comes out in less than 70 days because yes, I am totally counting.

Blurb in brief: “Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court.

As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.”

What I thought: Oh. Em. Gee. It has been a very long time since a book has given me a book hangover like ACOMAF did. I devoured it in two nights and then was ruined for all other stories for a solid two weeks. All I could do was go back and dazedly reread SJM’s other books and curl up in the fetal position because this book made me feel ALL THE FEELS.

Backstory! I read A Court of Thorns and Roses not too long after it was released last year. I had never heard of Sarah J. Maas before (apparently I was living under a rock), but I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, so when it popped up on Audible, I downloaded it. Alas, I didn’t write an actual Goodreads review upon completing it so I don’t have a record of my thoughts at the time, but I did rate it 5*, mostly because of the second half of the book. I found the events of Under the Mountain much more interesting than the events in the Spring Court.

Full disclosure: I never loved Tamlin, who was a bit too blandly alpha male for my taste. You know who did set my heart a fluttering? Rhysand. Sexy, silver-tongued, cheeky Rhysand who stole my heart the second he appeared.

Long story short—I loved ACOMAF SO HARD it hurts. Feyre, whom I liked well enough in ACOTAR, turned into a character who rivals Celaena from Maas’ Throne of Glass series in my heart. And Rhysand! Sexy, silver-tonged, cheeky Rhysand gets all of the depth I missed with Tamlin. And bonus! We get the characters of Rhys’s badass inner circle and all of the accompanying  banter and camaraderie. Plus, THE NIGHT COURT. Starfall? Are you kidding me? Sarah, I want to live in your head for awhile.

“To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.”

My rating: 5/5 ; Goodreads rating: 4.77/5

May Litcube Review

I’ve been really enjoying seeing all of these awesome nerdy book subscription boxes crop up over the last year or so. As much as I’d love to, I can’t afford to subscribe to ALL of them, so I’ve been dabbling. LitCube first came to my attention due to a stream of very excited Instagram posts about their one-time Gilmore Girls box (which has since been spun-off into a monthly Stars Hollow box!).

LitCube “strive[s] to pair hand-picked books with high quality literary themed products to bring you a magical reading experience each and every month.” Each themed box contains something readable, wearable, and snackable, plus a few additional goodies, and runs $34.95 a month with free shipping in the US. Unlike a lot of other book subscription boxes, LitCube does not feature exclusively YA titles, sending books from a wide variety of genres.

The box itself is super bright, which definitely set it apart from other boxes I’ve seen.

 

Once again, I proved that I cannot be trusted not to ruin a surprise and checked the #litcube tag to sneak a look at what was in the box.

Sidebar: Yes, I was the kid who peeled back the edges of the wrapping paper on gifts to try to see what was under the paper.

And now…here’s what was inside the May Alice in Wonderland LitCube!

What was inside:

    • A LitCube limited edition paperback copy of Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons—retail $19
    • An exclusive Wonderland-themed tee that says “You’re entirely bonkers, but I’ll tell you a secret: the best people are”—retail $20
    • A darling “Eat Me” cookie, baked with love by Sweets By Steph!—retail $3
    • A custom Alice in Wonderland makeup bag—retail $13
    • Through the Looking Glass compact mirror—retail $9 
    • Mad Hatter and Alice art prints and bookmark (not pictured) by Star in my Pocket—retail $13 and $3

Total value of items in box: $80

Final thoughts: I didn’t love it.To be honest, the items included in this box just aren’t my taste. Plus, I’m not a huge Alice in Wonderland fan (though I do love the Cheshire Cat), so this box was fighting an uphill battle with me.

The pros: It’s clear that this box, just like every other box I’ve tried, is lovingly put together by someone/people (I don’t actually know who’s behind LitCube) who love(s) books and reading and fandoms.

The cons: This is the most expensive box I’ve ordered, though as it does include shipping for me, the price pretty much evens out. That being said, I wouldn’t pay the listed price for any of the items in the box, so to me, it wasn’t that great of a deal.

My favorite item in the box for sure was the cookie; naturally, I ate it immediately after shooting these pictures. The book isn’t something I would have normally picked up, which is usually the case with these boxes—the ladies behind the boxes know how to push me out of my reading comfort zone!

I’m signed up for one more month, and so I’m hoping I’ll like the June “Roaring 20s Mystery” theme better. Order here now!

A Feast for Crows

A book and its prequel (Part 1): A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

Why I picked it: After a misstart in 2012, I began slogging through Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series last spring at the same time I binged all four available seasons of Game of Thrones.

Sidebar: Yes, I was very late to the party on both counts.

I wrapped up the third book, A Storm of Swords, right around Christmas last year, and decided to embark on book four almost immediately afterwards instead of giving myself of break (SoS was THAT good).

Blurb in brief: “After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it’s not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.”

What I thought: This book took me three months to get through. THREE MONTHS. I am a fast reader. Despite Storm of Sword‘s length, I managed to finish it in two and a half weeks; I could hardly put it down.I had heard from many Feast for Crows was the least enjoyable book of the series, so perhaps my struggle to plow through TEN chapters of Book!Cersei’s poorly-thought out plotting.

Sidebar: All credit to Lena Hedley for her nuanced portrayal of Cersei on the show. She may still be a bitch, but she’s a bitch with whom I can sympathize at least.

I’ve read that GRRM intended to include a time jump between the action in ASoS and when AFfC was due to pickup, but realized that while that gap would work well for characters like Ayra and Bran, it would be less useful for other important characters like Jon Snow and those in King’s Landing because the readers couldn’t be expected to believe that nothing happened in that interim (and writing that many flashbacks was unproductive).

Then of course, he decided to break up his monster manuscript geographically instead of chronologically, which is an interesting choice, but resulted in my being separated from most of my favorite characters who found themselves outside of Westeros proper at the end of book three.

Sidebar: Tyrion! Oh, how I missed Tyrion.

So what we got was filler. A LOT of filler. Most of which I couldn’t be bothered to care much about. The Greyjoy succession plot? Meh. Pretty much everything that happens in Dorne? Bleh. I think part of the problem is that none of the POV characters in this book is particularly witty. A Song of Ice and Fire is a dense story, with a lot of violence and gore, which is why I think characters like Tyrion, Bronn, and the Queen of Thorns are fan favorites (anyone else adore Lady Olenna? She’s basically a hybrid of Lady Violet from Downton Abbey and nearly every character Judi Dench has played, which is to say: perfection)—you need a bit of sass (sometimes a LOT of sass) to balance out all of the depressing deaths and humorless characters.

GRRM’s world building does continue to be incredible. To not only create a whole mythology/history but also keep it straight in your heard when writing thousands upon thousands of pages—it boggles my mind.

So long story short: if you’re making your way through the whole of A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ve got to read this book. Perhaps you’ll find it less of a chore than I did (though if you get really annoyed you can try this reviewer’s method for cutting out the boring bits).

My ratings: 3/5; Goodreads ratings: 4.07/5 

May Bookish Box Review

 

 

I’ve been eyeing Appraising Page’s Book(ish) Box for awhile. However, when I saw their May theme was Harry Potter, I was desperate to get on the list. Some lucky timing and too much time spent on Instagram allowed me to snag one of Justine’s extra subscriptions—and I’m so glad I did!

The Book(ish) Box brands itself as a “monthly subscription box for stylish bookworms.” Each themed box contains a t-shirt from Appraising Pages and 4-5 additional literary-inspired items and runs $29.99 a month, plus shipping. This subscription box does not include a book.

I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, and the Book(ish) Box does not disappoint. Even the box itself is gorgeous.

Sidebar: I’m sad I didn’t get a shot of the sides of the box, which have the theme and a really pretty watercolor of the Deathly Hallows symbol printed on them. It’s dark now, but I’ll try and get some shots of it to add here later.

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Getting closer to the magical goodies within…

 

I was bad and checked the #bookishbox tag on Instagram to get a peek at this month’s box early (I’m also the person who looks up the menu online so I can pick out what I want to eat before I even get to the restaurant); I was drooling over the Hogwarts Coffee tumbler and consequently was checking the tracking info every few hours so I’d know exactly when my box arrived!

Now without further ado…the contents of the May Harry Potter-themed Bookish Box!

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I had to stand on a step stool to fit all the awesome in one frame.

What was inside:

  • A watercolor “Expecto Patronum” print from Lexy Olivia—retail $12
  • A bubble pendant necklace from Rich Love Shoppe that says “The stories we love best live in us forever”—retail $17
  • The aforementioned, much anticipated Hogwarts Coffee tumbler from Knot Knirvana—retail $15
  • A sample package of Butterbeer-scented bath salts from Cherry Pit Crafts that made the entire box smell like creamy, butterscotch goodness—retail approximately $2
  • An Appraising Pages t-shirt with one of my favorite Dumbledore quotes: “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic”—retail $15

Note: You have the option to upgrade your shirt to a different style. I chose the regular women’s fit option, though I did size up and get an XL since I had a feeling the fabric would shrink a bit, and I prefer to wear my shirts on the looser side.

Total value of items in box: $61

Final thoughts: A+, 5 stars, 10/10 would recommend. When you add everything up, it’s plain to see this box is a great value. I was a little disappointed that my tumbler had some scratches on it, but other than that, all items arrived in mint condition.

You can tell Justine puts a lot of thought and care into choosing each item, and everything was wrapped and boxed beautifully. The fabric of the District Made brand shirt is SUPER soft and the screen-printed (not vinyl!) graphic is darling and should wash and wear well. Other than the tumbler, most of the items in the box things I would probably would not have bought on their own but are definitely things I will use and enjoy!

Sidebar: If I’m being honest, and I think I should be, I’ve already used all the bath salts. My skin smells delicious, and I anticipate visions of pumpkin pasties dancing in my head tonight!

Next month’s theme is Classic Reads, so I’m crossing my fingers for some Pride and Prejudice-inspired items. Order here now!

At the Water’s Edge

The first book you see in a bookstore: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Why I picked it: I kept seeing this on my Audible feed over the past few months, so I decided it was time to finally download it after I finished binge-listening to the entire Winner’s trilogy. This audiobook is also narrated by Justine Eyre, who continues to amaze me with her ability to do accents. I LOVED Water for Elephants but hadn’t read any of Gruen’s other books, so all in all, this seemed like a good pick.

Blurb in brief: “After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.

To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war.

Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.”

What I thought: Ultimately, this book was somewhat of a disappointment. The basic plot is very similar to a less tightly-plotted, gender-flipped Water for Elephants, with Maddie subbing in for Jacob’s fish-out-of-water character who runs away to the Scottish highlands rather than to the circus. Maddie’s agency is somewhat diminished as she is dragged across the Atlantic on the whims of her husband, Ellis, and their friend, Hank, rather than choosing to strike out of her own accord.

Sidebar: Ellis is absolutely the worst. THE WORST.

The alleged reason for their trip is to find the Loch Ness Monster, an endeavor in which Ellis’ estranged father failed. I was never clear on if he was hoping to win his father’s favor back by vindicating his claims or if the caper was meant as a kind of eff-you to his dad. Ellis and Hank’s motives (and relationship) remain a bit murky throughout the book.

Despite the fact that Maddie is an adult, this really is a kind of coming of age story as she grapples with the truths about her place in her family, her marriage, and society.

“It was full of luxurious trappings and shiny baubles, and that had blinded me to the fact that nothing about it was real.”

Gruen writes beautifully, and her writing in this book doesn’t disappoint; there are some truly lovely descriptions sprinkled throughout.

I initially thought I’d give this book 4 stars after I finished reading it; however, the more I thought about it, the more some of the plot holes bothered me. Perhaps Water for Elephants had these same issues and my memories of Jacob and Rosie are just colored rosy (pun intended), but ultimately, I think that is the better story of the two.

My rating: 3/5; Goodreads rating: 3.64/5

The Rose and the Dagger

A(nother) book based on a fairy tale: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Why I picked it: This book has been on my TBR pretty much since last spring when I finished The Wrath and the Dawn. I’m a huge fan of retellings (in case you haven’t already figured that out yet), and Ahdieh’s reimagining of Scheherazade and her king was beautifully written and fun to read. This was an automatic Amazon pre-order.

Blurb in brief: “In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.”

What I thought: This started slow for me. I reread The Wrath and the Dawn last month in preparation for the release (ah, the days when I remembered everything I read with stunning clarity), but even with the first half of Shazi and Kahlid’s story fresh on my mind, it took me about 150 pages to get my bearings. Ahdieh introduces some new characters whom I loved—her little sister, Irsa and the magical, maybe genie, Artan (seriously, did he come from a family of genies? That was never really clear to me). The relationships that developed between Irsa and Rahim and Irsa and Khalid were very sweet to read. Artan was a saucy delight; my heart has a soft spot for prickly-but-charming, irreverent male characters (see: Roshar, The Winner’s Trilogy; Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire). I could have done without the lingering love triangle with Tariq, who definitely needs to read the classic scroll, The Calipha is Just Not That Into You.

The story wrapped up quickly—I was thumbing through pages towards the end, concerned as to how Ahdieh was going to finish in time, and for a fleeting, horrifying moment, thought maybe this was going to be a trilogy after all.

But it wasn’t! Ahdieh manages to get all her loose ends tied up before she ran out of pages in a way that was very satisfying. If you’re looking for a love story with a sense of history and a dash of magic and mystery, this series is a great read!

My rating 4/5; Goodreads rating 4.45/5

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

A satirical book: Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

Why I picked it: So I had originally planned to read C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters for this category; however, I don’t actually know where my copy walked off to and my general attitude towards these challenges is to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law (this is not the first time I’ve been generous in matching a book with one of the challenge categories). As I said before, Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorites. I’m far from an Austen purist, and I love reading/watching others’ interpretations of Darcy and Elizabeth’s story (from Pemberley Digital’s The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), so adding this to my TBR (and squeezing it in as a satire) was a no-brainer.

Blurb in brief: “A bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century. This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.”

What I thought: Sittenfeld did a fantastic job of modernizing aspects of Pride and Prejudice in a way that felt true to the social satire of Austen’s original work—making Kitty and Lydia into CrossFit junkies and Bingley into a former Bachelor (and the one most remembered for sobbing during the finale of his Eligible season) was brilliant. In fact, I found the modernization of most of the characters to be creatively spot-on. Liz as a magazine writer and Darcy as a monied neurosurgeon were probably the most uninspired translations in that they seemed like the obvious choices.

Parts of the narrative felt clunky, as though Sittenfeld was trying too hard to stick with Austen’s original dialogue; the first Darcy proposal scene felt a little forced, as did the Collins proposal/proposition scene, though part of the awkwardness could definitely be attributed to the social awkwardness of both characters.

I guess it’s a hallmark of a Sittenfeld book (for me, at least), that even though I quite like the story and the writing is good, I always feel a little icky reading her work. She has an off-putting knack for writing heroines who are flawed and sometimes not even likable—a kind of anti-Mary Sue. Sittenfeld’s Liz lacks the charm and warmth of Austen’s Lizzy, which I missed. Liz feels a lot more realistic in today’s world though, as much as it may make me uncomfortable to admit it.

My rating: 4/5; Goodreads rating: 3.80/5

The Star-Touched Queen

A book recommended by someone you just met: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Why I picked it: I mean, have you seen the cover? *drools* I first heard about this book on Instagram from Lisa Parkin, creator of Uppercase Box a couple of months ago (I’ll admit, I’m stretching to fit this in this particular Popsugar Challenge category). The stupidly pretty cover led me to look it up on Goodreads, where the description—Magic! Marriage! India!—cemented a place for it on my TBR. I really wanted to get my hands on it early, but my first couple of attempts at snagging an ARC were unsuccessful. Enter Goodreads Giveaway, which along with the publisher, St. Martin Griffin, hooked me up with a copy a couple weeks prior to publication! #Bookmail is the best mail.

Blurb in brief: “Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen? Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…”

What I thought: Chokshi’s writing is a decadent smorgasbord of vivid and lush description. From the very first words, I wanted to crawl between the pages and live in Maya’s world for awhile:

“Staring at the sky in Bharata was like exchanging a secret. It felt private, like I had peered through the veil of a hundred worlds…I could see where the winds yawned with silver lips and curled themselves to sleep. I could glimpse the moon folding herself into crescents and half-smiles. When I looked up, I could imagine and existence as vast as the sky. Just as infinite. Just as unknown.”

The whole mood of this story reminded me immediately of The Night Circus, which is a very good thing: dense, poetic prose is my jam, and I found this story a pleasure to read. If I had to find fault with the novel, I’d confess that sometimes Chokshi’s gorgeous word painting overpowers her pacing. The plot doesn’t unfold steadily, with some points spun out slowly for the reader to savor and digest, while others are summarily dispensed with. However, as this is really more folktale or fairy tale than literary fiction, I wasn’t bothered by it overly much—villains and princes and gods in this genre rarely have complex motivations to explore. Be prepared to read this one late into the night and to fall asleep afterwards with visions of jeweled gardens and white horses and magic mirrors dancing in your head.

My rating: 4/5; Goodreads rating: 4.18/5

ARC Wishes & Bookish Box Dreams

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Is this how the bookstagrammers do it?

This week didn’t get off to the best start—fifteen inches of rain and soggy car floorboards tend to put a damper on things—but today was made of awesome.

First, I managed to snag a subscription for May’s Bookish Box after a few spots opened up at the last minute. Bookish Box is a new(ish) literary-inspired subscription box which pairs limited edition Appraising Pages tees with 3-4 other bookish home, beauty, or fashion items. I’ve been lusting after Justine’s past few boxes (including her gorgeous Outlander box), and when I saw next month’s theme was Harry Potter, I was so disappointed that she was sold out and beyond thrilled when I picked one up! I’m sure I’ll be gleefully reviewing this box once I get it next month.

Next, the copy of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible I pre-ordered from Amazon finally arrived! I was supposed to get it yesterday, but I think the flooding in Houston wreaked havoc on the mail delivery schedule…I’ll give them a pass. Eligible is based on Pride and Prejudice and is the fourth book in the Austen Project series in which best-selling authors rewrite and reimagine one of Austen’s six novels. The third installment, Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma, is still on my TBR after I saw some less-than-favorable reviews; however, based on Sittenfeld’s past novels, I’m really excited for this book! I will consume literally any P&P retelling you put in front of me, bad or good, and I think Sittenfeld has the perfect style and voice for a modern Austenian comedy of manners.

Finally, the best kind of surprise bookmail! St. Martin’s Griffin sent me an advanced reader copy of The Star-Touched Queen after I entered (and apparently won) a Goodreads giveaway on a whim a couple weeks ago. I’ve been hearing SO MANY GOOD THINGS about this book. Here’s the blurb:

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.”

Secrets, romance, the promise of strong female characters, a hint of magic realism, and India? I’m salivating.