Review: Hall of Smoke

Title: Hall of Smoke
Author: H.M. Long
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour. 

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.

Review:

Hessa is an Eangi, a warrior princess of Eang the Goddess of War. Hessa was instructed by Eang to kill a traveller to her town. When he arrives and Hessa doesn’t kill him, she is banished from the town. But while she’s gone, her home is invaded and her family and friends are killed. Hessa must try to regain her goddess’s trust while also avenging her people.

This was an incredibly detailed fantasy world. I was drawn into the world right away, and I was rooting for Hessa. The story started out with just a couple of characters being introduced in the story so that the reader can get comfortable in this story.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of by the end of the story, and their names were similar so I found it confusing. There were multiple layers of gods as well as the characters in their world. Hessa went through many different groups on her journey, so she met recurring characters along the way. If these characters had names that weren’t so similar, it would have been easier to keep them straight.

This was a great fantasy debut.

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

Have you read Hall of Smoke? What did you think of it?

Top 5 Saturday – Snow on the Cover

This is a weekly meme hosted Devouring Books. This week’s prompt is Snow on the Cover. Here’s my list:

1. A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

2. New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews

3. All I want for Christmas by Wendy Loggia

4. Enjoy the View by Sarah Morgenthaler

5. Cold as Ice by Sarah Mlynowski

(All book covers from Goodreads)

If you’d like to do this list too, consider yourself tagged!

Did you make a Top 5 Saturday list?

Review: The Lives of Saints [audiobook]

Title: The Lives of Saints
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Stories, Audiobook
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Audiobook
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Enter the world of the Grishaverse and Shadow and Bone, soon to be a Netflix original series!

Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.

These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.

This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story.

Review:

The Lives of Saints is a collection of short stories from the Grishaverse. Each story tells the origin story of a saint in that series. This book was actually mentioned in the Grishaverse books, so it was like reading a book that the characters have read too.

This audiobook was short at just over two hours long. The narrators were great. There were two narrators that alternated between chapters. The male narrator was Ben Barnes, who is one of the stars of the upcoming Shadow and Bone show. This is a great way to connect this new book to the upcoming show.

I’d love to see a physical copy of this book one day because it is supposed to have beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend this audiobook!

Thank you Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Other books in the series:

Have you read The Lives of Saints? What did you think of it?

First Lines Friday – February 26

This is a weekly meme hosted by Wandering Words, where you give the first few lines of a book to hook your readers before introducing the book.

Here are my first lines:

“The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.”

Do you recognize these first lines?

And the book is… Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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Goodreads synopsis:

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.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

Check out my review of Shadow and Bone here.

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think of it?

Review: Amelia Unabridged

Title: Amelia Unabridged
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sparks fly between two teens as they grapple with grief, love, and the future.

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

Review:

Amelia met her best friend Jenna and discovered the Orman Chronicles books at the same time. They both love the series, and go to meet the author N.E. Endsley at a book festival after they graduate high school. Amelia is devastated when the author has to cancel his appearance, after Jenna has secretly talked him through a panic attack. They return home and Jenna goes on a trip with her family, but she’s killed in a car accident. Amelia can’t deal with the grief, and spends time with Jenna’s parents who treat her like their own child. Then, Amelia receives a special edition of N.E. Endsley’s book in the mail, and she’s sure that Jenna somehow sent it to her. Amelia goes to the bookstore listed on the return address to find some closure after Jenna’s death, but instead she finds N.E. Endsley himself.

This story explores different stages of grief. Amelia has lost her family, since her father left when she was a teen and her mom checked out of their lives. She found Jenna and was included in her family, but then Jenna died suddenly. Amelia felt like she had to fill the gap left from Jenna’s life for Jenna’s parents. Nolan, the author, also experienced devastating losses, which fueled his writing. Art became an outlet for Jenna and Nolan to express their grief and find closure.

There were some upsetting things that happened in the first couple of chapters. I even contemplated putting the book down because I thought this was going to be a tear jerker. However, I became very invested in finding out why Amelia received that book so I couldn’t put it down. The tone of the story lifted after the first few chapters and made this an easy read.

I could relate to both Amelia and Nolan. I have felt strong connections to my favourite authors, like Amelia felt when she read Nolan’s stories. I am also a fiction writer, so I could relate to Nolan. There’s a special connection between an author and a reader, which was an important part of this story.

I loved the ending of this story so I’m very glad that I read it. This is a beautiful story.

Thank you Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Have you read Amelia Unabridged? What did you think of it?

TBR Thursday – February 25

TBR Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, where you post a title from your shelf or e-reader and find out what others think about it.

My pick this week is Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Scandal, secrets, and heartbreak abound in this juicy, modern girl-meets-prince story—perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith. “Maybe sisters aren’t supposed to fall for the same guy, but who can mess with chemistry? A divine romantic comedy” (Brightly.com).

For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party.

It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne.

If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne…and more than one path to happily ever after. 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1)

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. 

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Review:

Feyre, Rhys, and their friends are rebuilding the Night Court. They’re excited for the upcoming Winter Solstice, which will be the first one in the Night Court for Feyre and her sisters. They each have to buy gifts to prepare for the celebration, while Feyre also tries to find her place in the Night Court.

This novella is set after A Court of Wings and Ruin. Since it comes between that book and the next one that was just published (A Court of Silver Flames), there wasn’t much that happened in this story. It couldn’t continue the action of the previous book or begin the action of the next one. It gave a nice view everyday life in the Night Court, but there wasn’t any real plot.

Each chapter alternated perspectives. Only Feyre’s and Rhys’s chapters were told from their first person points of view. The other chapters that were focused on other characters were told by a third person narrator. These two different narration styles were jarring to read and slowed the rhythm of the story. The next book is written in third person, which is probably why this one was a mix of third person and first person perspectives, but I would have preferred it to be consistent in this story.

This novella was a little disappointing because it didn’t have a real plot or give new information, but it was nice to return to the world of this series.

What to read next:

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Other books in the series:

Have you read A Court of Frost and Starlight? What did you think of it?

‘Waiting on’ Wednesday – February 24

This is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. In this post we highlight a book that’s highly anticipated.

The book that I’m waiting on this Wednesday is Infinity Reaper (Infinity Cycle #2) by Adam Silvera. The expected publication date is March 2, 2021.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Emil and Brighton Rey defied the odds. They beat the Blood Casters and escaped with their lives–or so they thought. When Brighton drank the Reaper’s Blood, he believed it would make him invincible, but instead the potion is killing him.

In Emil’s race to find an antidote that will not only save his brother but also rid him of his own unwanted phoenix powers, he will have to dig deep into the very past lives he’s trying to outrun. Though he needs the help of the Spell Walkers now more than ever, their ranks are fracturing, with Maribelle’s thirst for revenge sending her down a dangerous path.

Meanwhile, Ness is being abused by Senator Iron for political gain, his rare shifting ability making him a dangerous weapon. As much as Ness longs to send Emil a signal, he knows the best way to keep Emil safe from his corrupt father is to keep him at a distance.

The battle for peace is playing out like an intricate game of chess, and as the pieces on the board move into place, Emil starts to realize that he may have been competing against the wrong enemy all along.

What books are you waiting on this week?

Review: Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2)

Title: Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Review:

The Shadowhunters of London still are not safe as the Clave wants to remove Charlotte as the head of the London Institute. To save her position, they must hunt down the Magister. Will, Jem, and Tessa have to visit the homes of other Shadowhunters to find the secrets to bring down the Magister. Tessa now knows she can’t trust her brother, but she may not be able to trust some of the other Shadowhunters either.

This series has quickly become one of my favourites. The characters are well developed and have many layers. I like that there are hints of a plot line given early, which ends up developing into an important part later in the book or the series.

There were some shocking twists, but I didn’t find the ending to be as much of a cliffhanger as the first one. There were some secrets that began in the first book and were unraveled in this one. Even though some parts of the story were solved by the end, there are plenty of questions I need answered in another book.

I also love the Victorian literature included in the book. Each chapter opens with a short passage of poetry. Tessa and Will communicate through sharing books. Books are an important part of my life, so I can relate to a character who loves books.

This is such a great series!

What to read next:

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Other books in the series:

Have you read Clockwork Prince? What did you think of it?

Top Ten Tuesday – Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and it is now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Books That Made Me Laugh Out loud. Here’s my list:

1. Kens by Raziel Reid

2. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

3. A Midsummer Night #nofilter by William Shakespeare and Brett Wright

4. Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

5. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

6. Elvis Puffs Out by Georgia Dunn

7. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

8. Candy Hearts by Tommy Siegel

9. Fangs by Sarah Andersen

10. Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

(All book covers from Goodreads)

What’s your list of books on your Top Ten Tuesday?