Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Image result for mortal engines bookIn the aftermath of a great war, cities have become roving machines whose goal is to eat smaller cities and towns in order to gain much-needed supplies.  London has been skulking in the hills to avoid bigger cities but that is about to change as a man sets into motion a new danger. 

Thaddeus Valentine, London’s Head Historian and adored famous archaeologist, and his lovely daughter, Katherine, are down in The Gut when the young assassin with the black scarf strikes toward his heart, saved by the quick intervention of Tom, a lowly third-class apprentice.  In chasing the assassin Tom tumbles down a waste chute ending up in the Out-Country.  It is the Earth scored with dozens of tracks made by the steaming cities.

He sets out on a wild journey with the scarred assassin coming to realize the dangerous truth of people, cities, and the lengths everyone is willing to go to achieve their ends.  The only question is whether he will survive long enough to stop the destruction that is about to be unleashed upon his world. 

Mortal Engines is a book within a genre I don’t normally read.  However, my cousin encouraged me to read it. Let’s just say I am so glad I did.  This book was a stunningly heart-rending tale that has left me craving for the second book.  The characters were excellently rendered but what was even better was the unique world-building.

The author created a world of rolling cities in the aftermath of a war that destroyed the world as we knew it.  The cities must survive by eating and taking from other cities and towns in order to gain the resources they need to maintain the wheels and engines that run the town.  It was an interesting look at a futuristic society where every town must look out for themselves.  There are no countries just cities rolling over the Earth with inhabitants making a living in a world of metal.  I loved this unique take even if it was hard to figure out what was going on in the first few chapters.

The individuality of this tale was carried through by the characters.  A scarred girl, an orphan whose only life has been as an apprentice, the daughter of a famous historian/scavenger, and a variety of other characters added life and color to the story.  The author showed the good and the bad sides of each character.  They weren’t perfect and one even loved the villains.  They built upon one another to create a vivid cast bringing to life this futuristic world.

Related imageSoon, after reading this book I decided to watch the movie and I cannot say that I enjoyed the movie as much as the book.  The book is almost always better than the movie and this is the case for Mortal Engines.  The movie strayed from the book on major plot points and took away from the characters the things we loved most.  Minor details and plot points were not adhered to and Valentine became the main villain when in the book he was the morally gray character who is eventually reformed.  In this movie, the ending was not phenomenal while in the book we were left in a state of shock.  I would definitely say read the book and forgo the movie.

In the end, this book was stunning and I would definitely recommend it.  It will wrap up readers in a vivid futuristic world and drag them along until the final epic chapter.  One’s heart will be broken and remade a dozen times over and one will not emerge from this tale without the memorable scars made by a wonderfully written tale.

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Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

Image result for tiger queen annie sullivanIn the Kingdom of Achra, a princess has to fight for the right to rule and Princess Kateri has more riding on the line than just the throne.  She must fulfill a promise to protect her people from the drought and windstorms that ravage them.  The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raid the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

When Kateri’s final opponent is announced she knows she is doomed and in desperation she seeks out the one person she never thought to side with.  What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  Tiger Queen is set to release on September 10, 2019.

I don’t know what to say after reading this story besides wow.  This tale was based upon the short story of A Lady, or the Tiger and I feel that Annie Sullivan has done the story justice by creating a world in which a princess learns that life is meant to be filled with family, love, and the strength that comes from the spirit as well as the body.

First, I have to exclaim about how stunning the world building was.  Sullivan brought to life a kingdom in the desert barely surviving a drought.  She builds upon the strength of nature and emphasizes the fact that humans cannot bend the forces of nature to their will.  The creatures and twisting sand dunes seemed to howl and spin before my eyes and the writing created vivid imagery that pulled me into the story.

And if I thought the creation of the world was phenomenal the characters were even more so.  Princess Kateri is a girl who is focused upon making her father proud and becoming the queen he wants her to be.  But when she is forced to seek the help of her enemy she comes to realize that her world is not what she thought it was.  Kateri grows into someone who realizes the power of family and who recognizes her people and sees them as more than mere pawns.  Through mental and physical challenges she grows and prevails beginning as an arrogant royal who knows little of the sufferings of the daily people into someone who fights for her people and understands their daily struggles.  As a reader, it was wonderful to watch the main character become better and wiser.

Image result for great support gifThe side characters added to the tale especially Cion who assisted in the growth of Kateri.  He made her see the shades of gray in between the black and white way she viewed the world.   He challenged and supported her but was a strong character without Kateri.  The other side characters added dimensions to the tale creating strong villains and heroes alike.  As the story continued Sullivan expanded the growth of the supporting characters for in the beginning it was minimal and I was slightly upset by the lack of growth.  However, it was made up for later in the tale when the author truly began expanding her characters.  In the end, I loved all the wonderful people that inhabited the world created in Tiger Queen.

This tale is phenomenal and I would definitely recommend it.  The author lives up to her first book by continuing the creation of wonderful stories based upon previous works.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Image result for house of salt and sorrowsAnnaleigh lives in a manor by the sea with her father, stepmother, and eleven sisters.  They were once twelve and are now eight as four of the girl’s lives were cut short in tragic ways.  Whispers that they are cursed circle but as ghostly visions appear before Annaleigh she begins to suspect foul play.

Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a stranger intensifies it becomes a race to stop the darkness that hangs over her family before it claims her as well.  I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  This book will be published on August 6th, 2019.

I am still reeling minutes after finishing this book. But the one clear thought that pervades the mess of emotion was that this book was phenomenal! It took me on a journey that has left me hopeful yet sad and putting how wonderful this book was into words will be hard but I will attempt it.

First, wow, the characters were stunning. Annaleigh, the main character pulled my heartstrings for her deep emotion and constant devotion and love for her sisters drew me in. She was personable and still tried to find happiness despite the pain of losing multiple loved ones. Her bravery in facing the nightmares that haunted her was admirable and yet when she was broken she picked herself up again and continued. She continued living and trying to save her sisters despite the horrors that taunted her. Strength of character comes from within and Annaleigh was an example of someone who found that strength and demonstrated it throughout the pages of the tale. I could not have asked for a better character to head this gothic story filled with horror, pain, and the strength of humanity that is displayed even in the facets of our own lives.

Image result for i loved them all gifThe supporting characters only added to the tale. Anneleigh’s sisters were excellently written as they too suffered through the pain of losing those closest to them. Their undying support of one another and the fights among siblings grounded me in the reality of the tale outside of the confusing horror of murder. The two love interests, Cassius and Fisher added dimensions of a love triangle to the story but it never fully formed. However, these two characters created hope despite my distrust of Cassius. Beyond that, there was the stepmother.  I never really trusted her. She seemed too power hungry and it is a rule that you usually shouldn’t trust stepmothers for they almost always seem to turn out evil. Spoiler alert: It does turn out that you shouldn’t ever trust stepmothers in books.

The world building and setting were just as wonderful as the characters. The author created a fascinating world with various deities that were never fully explained. Many things about the setting weren’t explained in detail but it flowed so well that I hardly noticed. Beyond that though, the mood of gothic horror was excellently written. I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what new nightmare would spring onto the pages and I was never disappointed. I can’t express how much I loved the horror mixed with fantasy that was brought to life in this tale. It is a must read.

I was left with a few questions at the end of this book mostly regarding deaths but nothing vital to the story. And despite the slightly unexplained ending I adored this book and would definitely recommend it.

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Image result for princess of thornsPrincess Aurora’s mother, Sleeping Beauty, died young and since that time Aurora has been blessed with fairy gifts.  In the ten years since that time, she has learned that magic comes with a price and for her, it is the inability to ever know romantic love.  When her brother is captured Aurora dresses as a boy and sets off to find an army and free the only person she is free to love.

Prince Nikalaas is living on borrowed time.  He has mere weeks to convince a princess to marry him before his eighteenth birthday when he will turn into a swan.  He is determined to find the only princess willing to marry him, Aurora but when he meets her brother – or so he believes- he is blackmailed into helping raise an army.

As an ancient prophecy’s final conclusion comes ever closer, Aurora and Nikalaas learn that there are worse things than the end of mankind.  There is an impossible love and a forbidden hope…

This book was phenomenal! I was held within its thrall of stunning world building and fierce characters whose stubbornness made for an amazing amount of banter.  The two main characters made the tale despite the somewhat predictable plot line.  Princess Aurora and Prince Niklaas spent the entire book engaged in a fierce dialogue filled with hilarity and denial about their growing attraction.

The two main characters filled this story and I simply loved them.  Aurora is stubborn and wild, always throwing herself into danger without thinking.  She has fairy gifts which she uses to outsmart all of the forces allayed against her.  We as a reader connect to her because of all the mistakes she makes and the realization that they are in the past and all you can do is attempt to be better and fix the mistakes.

Niklaas is like Aurora and perfectly challenges her and argues for what he believes is right.  He wants to escape his father and find a loving wife and family.  He is extremely protective of Aurora even as he fights her on every matter.  His wordplay with the princess was amazing and it made up the substance of the book.  Without it, the book would have been boring and hard to get through.

Beyond the characters, the world building was quite interesting.  It combined fairy’s, ogres, sleeping beauty, and magic for a weird and dark world.  I liked it for it was a different take on the timeless tale of sleeping beauty where the prince isn’t perfect instead he is a cheating, lying, greedy man.

Image result for predictable gifHowever, the plot twists were slightly predictable.  As an avid reader I can usually figure out some plot turns before they occur but this book only surprised me a couple of times.  It was good for a sweet, slightly dramatic, book but I felt that the author could have done more to make the actual plot line interesting.  But as I have said before it was made up for by the phenomenal characters.

In the end, I would recommend this book.  It was intriguing but at times it was overly dramatic.  Princess of Thorns was a new take on an old tale and it was pulled off quite well leaving me with the view that one should read it but take into account that it is slightly predictable.

 

Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields

Image result for poison's kiss bookMarinda can kill with a single kiss and she has done so to dozens of boys all in the service of the raja.  Every boy she has kissed has been an enemy to kingdom until she is ordered to kiss the man she is in love with.  With this command questions rise to the surface as to the true nature of the boys killed and the threat they actually posed. Marinda begins to query as to who her real employers are and once the thread begins to unravel there is no going back and absolutely no guarantee of survival. 

Poison’s Kiss was a completely stunning book that I could not put down.  The world building and characters were raw and phenomenal.  I wanted to know everything about everything and I simply can’t wait to start the second book after I write this review.  

The world building was so unique.  I adored the snakes, the lies, and the truth of a girl struggling to find a place in a world that hides everything from her.  The book seems to be built around Indian culture and mythology and I simply loved the idea of the visha kanya or “poison maiden”.  The world was enthralling and I want to find out more about it in the second book.

Image result for strength and courage gifWhat truly inspired me was the characters, though.  The main character, Marinda was a girl brought up to believe that killing people through her poisonous kisses was a service needed by the raja.  She hates it though and it was painful to see her struggling to find peace against the tide of men she killed.  She took care of her brother and it was horrifying to see how the people she worked for used his sickness to manipulate her.  As a reader I felt sympathy for her as she found the courage to keep going despite the sins in her name.

The side characters added additional support and emotion to the book.  They were not as fully developed as Marinda but it was still stunning to witness their struggles and hopes in the cruel world they lived in.  However, I feel like the love story was just thrown in and underdeveloped.  I mean Marinda and Devin barely knew each other and yet suddenly they’re in love.  

Besides this I loved the book and would definitely recommend it to all.  It is a must read for the author brings to life the intriguing tale of a maiden whose kiss is deadlier than any sword. 

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

Image result for a touch of goldKing Midas was able to turn items into gold but he relinquished the power when he almost lost his daughter to this supposed gift.  Ten years later Princess Kora still bears the consequences with skin that shines golden and gifts that continually grow harder to hide.  

Kora remains hidden in the castle attempting to ignore the swirling gossip of the courtiers but when a duke arrives he seems to be able to see beneath the golden skin.  Their courtship is interrupted when a thief steals the golden pieces needed to keep the King alive.  With the unique ability to sense gold Kora sets out on a journey to recover the missing gold learning that everything is not as it seems.  And that gold and the power it holds is more dangerous than she ever imagined. 

This story based on the tale of King Midas and his golden touch was a phenomenal adventure that dragged me through the mind of a girl turned to gold by her father and his curse.  The characters pranced through my mind and the world building painted a vivid story that left me wondering what happens next.

The main character, Kora struggles to find her place in a world that is disgusted by her mere presence due to the golden hue of her skin.  In this story we see her go beyond the girl who is afraid and resigned to the hatred that surrounds her to one finding her acceptance and way in the world.  She begins to realize that her curse does not shape her and that she can be free and in control.  It was phenomenal as a reader to watch Kora’s growth and I loved her character even if I was at times annoyed by the fear that seemed to consume her.

Image result for predictable gifThe other side characters added a vivid array of emotions and flaws that made a complete cast.  I will state now that I knew immediately who the love interest would be and that the Duke (slight spoiler here) was not all that he appeared to be.  In the romance aspect, the tale was predictable but besides that, I loved pirates and their effect on the tale.

Besides the characters, the world building was gorgeous.  We see pirates, a lawless island, and sea creatures which all added to this stunning book.  Not to mention, the evil pirate of this tale who’s obsession with skulls was fascinating.  I will say that this book did not do a good job of sticking to Greek culture or history but if one simply takes the tale out of Greek context and sees it as a separate world it is perfect.

So, in the end, despite its flaws, I loved the tale of King Midas’ touch and the resulting consequences of the golden touch.  A sequel for this book called A Curse of Gold has been announced but will not be coming out for some time.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Image result for beauty by robin mckinleyBeauty is a nickname for a girl who is as awkward as her sisters are gorgeous.  But her courage may make up for that as she goes forth to keep a terrible promise.  A promise made by her father to a horrifying beast.  But as she fulfills her promise she finds that maybe a beast can be tamed.

Beauty is yet another retelling of the infamous tale of Beauty and the Beast.  This was another interesting take on the story.  It was not horrible but I have read better versions of the story.  One of the main reasons I picked it up was because of its cover and the length of the book which was short.  However, the promise of greatness was not completely fulfilled.  The background and world building were gorgeous and the characters were great but there were a few instances where I hated the book.

The world-building was vibrant, to say the least.  The new take on the castle, the woods, and Beauty’s background was phenomenal.  I adored how the sisters were not mean and the ingenuity of the magic of the castle where every nuance of the castle is run by magic.  The invisible servants added extra luster to the tale and I quite enjoyed the background of the story.

The characters were also stunning.   The main character was not a beauty, she adored books and horses and was easy to connect to.  Even in his own way the Beast won me over as a reader through his sweet nature.  Furthermore, I loved Beauty’s family who supported her and she them through thick and thin.

Image result for im sorry I just cant gifHowever, these could only make up so much for the details I hated.  First of all, the ending.  It was short and rushed. One moment Beauty admits she loves the Beast and then everything just explodes.  Her family is suddenly there and her father’s in love along with her sister and all these people just appear.  Another thing was how old the Beast was.  He admitted that he aged one year for every ten meaning that he had aged twenty years so if he was twenty when he was cursed he is like forty and Beauty is like maybe twenty.  That is a huge age gap which I’m not totally against but I kind of am.  Not to mention the romance wasn’t developed very well and in comparison to other retellings, it was weak.

Due to all of this, I can’t say I loved the book but I am still glad I read it.  I’m just not sure how many more retellings of this timeless tale I am going to read for it is honestly getting kind of old.