Tag Archives: magic

Book Review: The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Penguin
Published July 9th, 2020
288 Pages

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.- Goodreads

What a wildly creative book.  I love the fact that this book isn’t about a girl wanting to leave her currently life or being forced to leave her current life due to trauma. She wants adventure and unexpectedly gets a ticket to be part of an adventure.

The first half of the book not a whole lot happens. The author takes the time to build up the characters, the allure of the ship and legend that Aleja was reading right before she unknowingly embarked on the journey.  This slow build up is worth it because once things get going you sucked back into the world.

However, there were things that I was logging for within this novel. This is about a band of pirates. Although they considered themselves a bit of Robin Hood, there wasn’t a lot of pirate stuff going on. They were a crew looking for something that was rightfully the Captains’. When I say that I wanted more pirate stuff, I don’t mean a bunch of backstabbing. What I mean is more looting and fighting.

Also I would have loved more details on the the legend. The author does a good job adding information to fuel the legend but not enough about it. It was a little vague and brushed over. I would also like to point out there is a Mummy reference and at that point I knew what I would rate this book.

Overall, I really liked this book and looking forward to the next one.

4 Pickles

Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Wednesday Books
TBP July 14th 2020
304 Pages

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self.

There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.- Goodreads

TW | Suicide, Rape, Domestic violence, Drugs, Murder, Abuse

Before I begin my review, I would like to note that the author addresses the difficult topics within this book in a letter to the reader. When I began reading this book, I wasn’t expecting the topics, I listed, to be so prominent in this book. I honestly didn’t know there would be these many trigger warnings.  I hope that if you do decide to read this book, understand that the magic within this book does not cover, hide or brush aside these traumas. 

Now my review. This book was drawn out to oblivion. I struggled with connecting with Mayhem because although she is in a time of her life where everything changes, she doesn’t exactly practice what she preaches. What I mean by that is she wanted family. So being back at the family home was the opportunity to do so but she didn’t dig deep into the family history, ask the right questions or even push for the information she needed to know. Yes, she did find out what she needed but to know but that was it. Even at the end of the book there was still so many things that could have been said about her family history. There was so many things that Mayhem could have known but she was solely focused on what was in her face.  I mean she is from a list of women who can use magic to save the day. There was so much to learn.

However, I loved how flawlessly the author was able to blend the magical aspects of this book with everyday life.  It was written extremely well and she made it made sense. But when I talk about the magic, I have to also talk about how there was not enough detail. Yes, you know how the family came to retrieve that magic, you know what it does to you but it is mentioned in the book that Mayhem’s aunt did a lot of research and looked up as much information as she could to collect for the next generation. This was not focused enough in the novel. This should have peaked Mayhem’s interest but it didn’t.

But overall, the book was slow and drawn out. There wasn’t enough care for details, creativity in creating this magic world or depth within the surrounding characters. Also the romantic interest had no chemistry. It just happened.

I would read this author again because I love to growth.

2 Pickles

Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published April 7th, 2020
432 Pages

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. – Goodreads

Sigh.  There is a spoiler ahead by the way.

This book had me in a fit of rage and it was all because of Sloane.

She is a selfish, self-centered, rude, ungrateful, entitled, does not acknowledge anyone’s pain but her own, does not care about the lives she ruins or the consequences, AND is in a “relationship” with a Black male that she does not care to understand OR even empathize with.

Sloane is the definition of a Becky and she made me literally upset. But I am not done yet. Going to her “relationship” with her Black boyfriend, Matt. She acknowledges that he, even after defeating the Dark One with her, experiences racism. She acknowledges the fact that he uses positivity and kindness to deal with the racism. However! She can’t stand him for it. She gets upset when he goes talks to teenage Black girls at an event. She starts a fight and uses the racism towards him (that came after HE came to stop her) as a reason why she reacts the way she does sometimes.

AND she isn’t even in love him. They are together 10 years. She is in love with another member of the group (like just call it what it is) but he does not have any sexual advances towards her.  Matt has both but she uses Matt for sex even while she talks about how he doesn’t really know her or understand her like the other dude does.

Sloane is trash. It is rare for me to hate a character but I hate her.

I understand PTSD. I understand not wanting to fight again. I understand trying to carve a piece of privacy when you are known for something you don’t actually want to remember. BUT NONE OF THIS IS GROUNDS FOR YOU TO BE A SHITTY PERSON.  She isn’t even a good friend. She resents her “friends” for not sitting in a dark hole with her and trying to move on with their lives the best way they can.

There is no getting past her. There is no “yeah the main character is horrible but the world building yadda yadda yadda.” There is none of that.  What makes this book “different” is the fact that it tells a story of what if the chosen ones had to do it all over again. But if you really think about it is not much different then reading a book two to a series that has another battle to go through. Because that is what this book feels like is a book two in which the main character turned out to be evil.

Overall, I tired to finish this book but when I put it down and picked it back up, I would get upset. It is a interesting read and I completely get that characters take a life of their own but Sloane made me uncomfortable and it made me think how much of this character is like the author or someone she knows.

For the sake of Goodreads, I have this listed as a 1. But for the sake of my site, this book gets no rating.

Book Review: Given by Nandi Taylor

Wattpad Books
Published Jan 21st, 2020
449 Pages

Yenni has never been this far from home. With only her wits, her strength and her sacred runelore, the fierce Yirba warrior princess is alone in the Empire of Cresh. It’s a land filled with strange magics and even stranger people—many of whom mistrust anyone who’s different. But Yenni will prove herself, and find a cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.

No one warned her about the dragons. Especially not about him.

Yes, there is something powerful and compelling about the violet-black dragon known as Weysh. In human form he’s muscular, beautiful—and completely infuriating. What kind of arrogant creature claims a stranger as his Given; as his destined mate? Yenni is no man’s—or dragon’s—plaything. But other magics must be at work here, because Weysh might just be her best hope at finding the answers she seeks.

Only now Yenni can’t tell if she’s fighting her attraction to a dragon…or fighting fate itself. – Goodreads

The cover. We cannot have a conversation about this novel without discussing how amazing the cover is. Not only does it completely grab your attention but seeing a dark skin woman in the front looking not only fierce but feminine does wonders to me.

But as we all know you cannot judge a book by its cover and the book was okay. It didn’t do anything for me by any means but there were things that I love.

I loved the focus on Yenni, her home and her traditions. I liked the fact that she did not change herself, physically or mentally, to fit in with her new environment. She stayed true to herself while also allowing herself to learn.

I loved the imagery within this novel. Everything was clear and it felt as if it was living and breathing because of this it was why I finished the book.

Here is what I didn’t like. The romance was forced and there was no spark or even connection there. Weysh was such a good character but not for Yenni. There was just nothing there and when they did come together there was still nothing there. I didn’t feel real not the whole dragon and human in a magical world real but the love, the attraction, the chemistry was not there.

The book is focused a lot on that romance, but it is also focused on Yenni trying to find out the source and the cure for a sickness in her village. I wish there was more deep dive on the second part. Its not like Yenni was love struck or anything, it was just a case of a romance that actually didn’t need to happen.

But the other issue I had with this book was how slow it was. As much as I loved Yenni and the imagery, the book overall was not really engaging, and it was easy to put it down.

Overall, it was okay. I was expecting more from this book and it wasn’t SOLEY because of the cover. The summary promises a lot but more importantly a steamy chemistry that you can’t help but love.

This doesn’t appear to be a series, but I would actually love another book within this world.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Crown Books for Young Readers
TBP Jan. 20th 2020
352 Pages

Everyone expected the king’s daughter would inherit the throne. No one expected me.

It shouldn’t even be possible. I’m Nameless, a class of citizens so disrespected, we don’t even get names. Heck, dozens of us have been going missing for months and no one seems to care.

But there’s no denying the tattoo emblazoned on my arm. I am queen. In a palace where the corridors are more dangerous the streets, though, how could I possibly rule? And what will become of the Nameless if I don’t?- Goodreads

I liked this book. It was a good read. It kept me invested from beginning to end.

I loved the world building of the novel. But I wanted more of that world. It was very the rich is getting richer and abusing the poor while the poor is getting poorer and abusing each other. The divide was very clear, the picture of peasants and grayness was very visible and greatly appreciated that.

What caused me to give this book 3 Pickles (spoiler I know), was the Nameless that became Queen. She was good at being Nameless but when her title changed she didn’t know how to the play the game. This frustrated me because at several points she realizes that being royal is a game that needs to be played and instead of self-improving and getting hip to the game, she just didn’t and did more complaining as if she didn’t have the power to change things. It was a frustrating circle to read because she saw it and acknowledged it and then did nothing.

There was some character development but not enough for me to bump up my rating.

I wish the author added more about the magic, the history of the city and more history about the Nameless Queen. We find out information but it didn’t completely satisfying. Yes, there will always be questions especially if a book is a series. However, it would have been great to have more development on the world.

Overall, I would recommend this book. I am pretty it is a series, which the way it ended it made sense. But it didn’t need to be a series As previously mentioned,

3 Pickles 

Graphic Novel Review: Grimoire Noir by Vera Greentea

First Second
Published July 23rd 2019
290 Pages

Bucky Orson is a bit gloomy, but who isn’t at fifteen?

His best friend left him to hang out with way cooler friends, his dad is the town sheriff, and wait for it―he lives in Blackwell, a town where all the girls are witches. But when his little sister is kidnapped because of her extraordinary power, Bucky has to get out of his own head and go on a strange journey to investigate the small town that gives him so much grief. ]

And in the process he uncovers the town’s painful history and a conspiracy that will change it forever.- Goodreads

This book is a problematic fave but it is really hard for me to actually say that because there was an extreme party foul within this book that left a bad taste in my mouth and even thinking about it, I am feeling some type of way. But let me start with what was my fave part of this book.

The story was really good. I loved the fact that it does the trope where there was a problem in the past and the solution has now become a problem in the current time. I loved the artwork. The artwork was extremely detailed, moving and the colors were perfect in every scene. It set an amazing mood that sucked you into the novel.

But there were issues. Firstly, there was a lot thrown into this novel and it could have been spaced our better or there could have been better fillers. The author touches upon a lot of characters and history but doesn’t explore them and leaves more questions then answers by time you get to the end of the book. This book could really use another deep dive by the editor to add more content and space to make it a second book.

Bucky was a horrible person. He wasn’t smart enough at all to figure things out and it was handed to him. He didn’t listen to people and he was jealous of the fact that he did not have magical powers. With all of that he had the freaking nerve to accuse people of things and barge into their homes as if he owned the place. The fact that he felt so entitled bugged me out.

Now here is the thing that left a bad taste in my mouth. There were two Black characters (technically 4, 2 were side characters) and both of them were considered evil. No issue with Black characters being villains but if they are the only two Black characters in your book that is a problem. The side characters I had mentioned . . . one was a picture of a Black witch to show that there were Black witches in the past. I 100% believe this was done to show lineage. The other Black character was there to show how evil the main villain was.

The other issue with this is one of the Black characters had to prove she wasn’t evil unless she helped Bucky. And that was bull.

If you are going to be “diverse” then do it well. If there is literally only one Black family in your town, then you need to dip into their history and their story line. You can’t just assume that the reader is not going to notice that you make mention of other Black people but don’t show them. Its disrespectful.

And it was disappointing to read something with a strong story with huge potential but dropped the ball on its characters and its development. Its been a very long time since I have been upset after finishing a book.

Overall,

2.5 Pickles

Book Tour: The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Algonquin Young Readers
Published Oct. 1, 2019
336 Pages

Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.

Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all? – Goodreads

This book cleared up my reader’s block in the most adorable coming of age way possible.

I love it when books focus on children wanting to go their own paths and/or seeing that there is a different path to take. The literal wonder in their eyes, speech and movements just builds an excitement like no other.

When you first begin the book, you know that Clementine wants something more. Shoot, I was genuinely surprised that by chapter three, there wasn’t a mention of a mother. The book is literally dripping in Clementine wanting more than the life she already has and that kept me interested throughout the entire read.

Clementine herself is an interesting character to read because she is trying so hard to follow what is “right” in her world but at the same time she is constantly conflicted if she is strong enough to do what is “right”. I loved her drive and her curiosity to explore and at the end of the day the love she has for her father.

The pace of the novel was a bit slow but I am okay with that because it is a lot of build up. The author gets you emotionally invested. Also this book is told in different point of views. Transitions are not in the middle of the page like other novels and it fits. Having the different points of views really works in this novel.

Overall, I was not expecting the emotional aspect to this fantasy read and if you are not paying attention you might miss it.

4 Pickles 

Book Review: Marrow Charm by Kristin Jacques

The Parliament House
TBP Oct. 1, 2019

Azure ‘Azzy’ Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic, where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above.

Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities, a sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful. It is an existence of fear and constant dread. When Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes.

The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe. Armin is captured and bound for the Auction block of Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. To reach him, Azzy must brave the perils of the Above and the chaotic life forms created by the Gate. To reach him, she must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world.

And Azzy must reach him, before Armin’s new power is used to open the Gate once more. -Goodreads

This is going to be a short review because I actually didn’t care for Azzy or Armin. More Azzy than anything. She did a lot of whining and a lot back and forth and did things without much thoughts.

For life underground, she really didn’t try to know more or achieve more. She just went though the motions until her life was disturbed and then there was a problem. Normally, I wouldn’t exactly have an issue with this but I do because she worked under a apothecary but didn’t really have the motivation or drive to learn things on her own. It was a bit disappointing to read.

However, there was something that I liked about this book and that was the magic and the setting. The author has skill in sucking you into the world and keeping you there. Not to say I would live in that world because its messed up but one of the aspects I like was a side character Azzy meets. But Azzy shows a lack of understanding, care and investment because this character could have done wonders for Azzy like real wonders but Azzy doesn’t think that far ahead.

I digress on this short review. I can see why people love it so much but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with it and I was bored.

Overall,

2 Pickles 

Book Review: A Jewel Bright Sea (Mage and Empire #1) by Claire O’Dell

Rebel Base Books
TBP: Sept 3rd, 2019

It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.
 
Within days her cover as an indolent noblewoman is in question, and it’s clear there’s more to Anna’s task than she knows. Soon she’s the captive of the unpredictable pirate captain Andreas Koszenmarc, hunted by the Emperor’s guard, besieged by a brigand queen, and at odds with her only friend. She must trust someone if she is to survive. But when all that’s certain is that everyone is hiding something, it’s no simple thing to choose …- Goodreads

This is one of those reads that I reluctantly enjoyed. Nothing really happens until you are about 70% into the book which is a lot of time. Why I pulled through for so long? Because I knew it was coming. The author gives you a (very) slow build not in regards to the romance of the novel but the whole pirate adventure theme. I actually really enjoyed it and wished the author added much more of that excitement and magic way more in the beginning of the book.

In regards to the romance, it was unexpected because nothing gives way for anything to happen. It made sense but it was forced. There wasn’t any form of lust or want from Andreas or Anna at any point before the big explosion happened. I understand that maybe the author was putting a lot on them as characters so when they had downtime they could see each other but that method didn’t really do anything for me.

However, I did like their romance once it started and I did like the book right after it hit the 70%.

Overall, its one of those books that isn’t exactly good but you get drawn into it and start feeling yourself enjoying it. There is a book two and I hope that the author chooses other characters to focus on that are part of Andreas and Anna’s story as opposed to talking about them. I plan on reading book two.

3 Pickles

Fall Cover Love

If you are a new follower, I do a cover love post throughout the year. Here I display different books that will be released between 1-3 months. You can check out January here and June here.

Which are your favorites? And what books coming out this year that I should be looking for?