The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Image result for red labyrinthThe labyrinth was built to protect but living in its shadow Zadie Kalver feels anything but safe. The maze is enchanted and filled with deathtraps, illusions, and magic. A killer called Dex stalks its corridors and Zadie stays far from it.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. She brides Dex, to guide her through the maze on a terrifying journey that will change everything she thought she knew about her world.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first.  I recieved this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  This book was published June 4, 2019. 

Image result for i loved the idea gifAs soon as I read the synopsis for The Red labyrinth I knew I had to read it and this book went well above and beyond my expectations. I was intrigued by the short overview of the book and it sounded similar to the Maze Runner series so I decided to read it. And it was worth staying up late up for even if I had to force my eyes to stay open. The idea behind the tale was fascinating and the characters were gritty and real, while the author stunned me with her ability to grow her characters in such a heartfelt way.

The world-building was so unique. I loved the idea of a slightly advanced civilization with people whose skills ranged into the abnormal. Add to that a deadly maze with a killer loose in it and you have a stunning tale on your hands. I particularly adored the maze and the challenges the author placed within that maze. Some of them were heart-wrenching and most of the obstacles sounded like horrible ways to die. Not to mention they were individually unique and I have rarely read trials similar to the ones placed in this book. It added a remarkable background for the masterpiece of characters.

Image result for marvelous gifThe characters were marvelous. At first, I honestly hated the main character, Zadie who was constantly complaining about being normal. She drove me up the wall with her inability to rescue or defend herself. However, as the book went on I fell for her character. She began to see that to be brave or strong she need only rely on herself. That she can conquer the past to find a future and that she doesn’t need special abilities for she is already special individually.

It was a stunning masterpiece of young adult literature and I would recommend it to all lovers of action-packed and unique stories.

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Image result for phoenix unboundEvery year each town and village are required to send a girl to the Empire’s capital to be burned alive.  One small village has sent the same girl for five years.  Gilene protects all the village girls with only the magic she possesses.  But the costs to her may be less than worth it?

However, it all changes this year, the year, that Azarion, a gladiator sets out to blackmail the woman who keeps returning each year to burn.  He is set on escaping from slavery and unknown to Gilene returning to his clan in order to reclaim his birthright. 

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Pheonix Unbound was published September 25, 2018. 

Phoenix Unbound was an intriguingly dark tale.  Its characters were filled with feeling, fervency, and bravery while the unique and tyrannical world they lived in attempted to force them into submission.  I adored this book due to the intricate characters, and the world the author created despite the dark subject matter discussed.

The characters created this tale with their unwillingness to bend to the evil that subjugates them and the bravery they demonstrate to move beyond their past into a better future.  Gilene is a fire witch willing to sacrifice herself for her village over and over again.  Her sense of duty constantly warred with the need to be something more than just a sacrifice, a girl forever scarred and used until she dies young.  The things she went through for her village were horrific but her spirit never died.  She bravely fought to build a better world for others and herself.  One could not help but love her character simply due to the very human emotions and struggles that she faced and conquered.

Image result for phenomenal gifAnd her counterpart in Phoenix Unbound was just as stunning.  Azarion, a gladiator is intent upon regaining his place and his home after ten long years of killing and abuse suffered from the Empress.  At first he was a gruff and unbending character but as the story went on we began to see his true self as a caring and steadfast individual.  I loved his character for he perfectly offset Gilene and he continued living and fighting even during the most painful moments of his life.  In the end I adored all of the characters especially the main two.

However, these characters would not be complete without the world building which shaped them.  The world they lived in was cruel and brutal.  Under the thumb of two cruel and insatiable rulers everyone suffers and Gilene and Azarion suffered more than most.  I adored the idea of fire magic which was explored in this book along with spooks and haunts.  It was unique and definitely worth the read.

I would recommend reading it for the world building was absolutely fascinating and the characters were well written.  I cannot wait to read Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven which comes out in June of 2020 and is the second book in this series.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Image result for Spin the DawnMaia dreams of more than just becoming a wife and mother. She wishes to become a tailor but as a girl that is impossible. However, her chance comes when her ill father is summoned to court and she takes his place dressed as a boy.  However, she must vie with twelve other tailors for a job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And the final challenge is beyond imagining. She must sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  Spin the Dawn was published on July 9, 2019.

I cannot fully express how stunning this book was. It took me on a unique and wild adventure that left my heart in shreds and a desperate longing for the next book in the series. The world-building and especially the characters wrapped around one another to create a tale that one cannot soon forget.

The world-building was a stunning creation based on Chinese culture and the Silk road. However, the magical path that the author took created more than just a country unique in its culture. She created a world overflowing with magic, demons, and legends. I have heard of tales of the essence of the sun, moon, and stars being woven into dresses and the author’s take on this was phenomenal.

Image result for loved it gifAnd yes the world-building was gorgeous but the characters were even better. The main character, Maia was a riot of emotions that were easy to connect to and I was immediately engaged. She wanted so much in a world that offered her so little and in the journey this book shows her exploration of her desires and needs. She finds that she can be so much more. And that ending… I loved it. It was poignant. Sad yet hopeful. Promising the beginning instead of the ending. She was willing to sacrifice so much for the happiness of the people she loves and as a reader, we know that this is only the beginning of her tale.

The other side characters were phenomenal and perfectly complemented Maia.  Edan the love interest was an intriguing man who was unwilling to let go of his secrets but would do anything for her. And the other minor side characters added their little personalities to the story assisting in creating this wonderful tale.

Spin the Dawn is a must-read with its gorgeous writing and cover. However, we must wait until 2020 before this story continues in the sequel. Read the book. You won’t regret it.

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.

Book Review: Siren’s Lure by Frost Kay

Book Review: Siren’s Lure by Frost Kay

Image result for Siren's Lure: An Aermian Feuds Novel

Hayjen never believed in legends, myths, or rumors.  That was until he was captured and enslaved by a race that was thought to be safely ensconced from the rest of the world.  As danger stalks ever closer, Hayjen is tossed into the watery depths of the sea where he begins to question everything he has ever believed.

Lilja is intent upon vengeance.   Scythia will fall and she will bring it about for what they took from her can never be replaced. But an accident occurs and despite the laws, she rescues a dying man at the cost of exposing a secret she has kept for years.  A secret that could destroy an entire race.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.  This book was published March 27th, 2018.

Siren’s Lure was an intriguing short novella that is part if The Aermian Feuds series.  I have not read any of the books that make up the series besides this prequel but I was immediately drawn into the tale from the first sentence.  The world was filled with siren-like creatures, pirates, slave traders, and kingdoms on the brink of war.  Add to that stunning characters with unique abilities and charming personalities hiding pain and secrets and I could not put the book down.

The characters were what first drew me into this tale.  Hayjen and Lilja are the two main characters.  The book’s chapters alternate between their two perspectives.  They were both unique and charismatic in their own ways.  Hayjen is a man captured and enslaved.  His goal is to protect all the women on the ship and when they are rescued by pirates he keeps a sharp lookout for deceit.  He is pained at having left his sister and all he wants to do is protect Mer and return to the sister he left to fend for herself.  His serious and protective ways endeared him to the reader.

The other contributor to this tale, Lilja is a hunted creature whose very kind is supposed to be extinct.  She was banished from her family and she now rescues those enslaved so that they do not face the same fate she did.  As a younger woman, she was enslaved and she suffered mightily at the hands of her captors.  But she looks beyond her past to the future and her optimistic ways and love of books endeared her to me.

Image result for i want more gifThe characters were not the only thing that enthralled me.  The world building was unique but since the tale was so short I only managed a glimpse into the complicated world built by the author.  There were so many unique aspects that made up the universe that the small look into it was not enough.  I am determined to read the rest of the series for this single short novella has captured my imagination and dug its claws in.

In the end, I would definitely recommend this novella.  I believe it can be read separately from the rest of the series but I will find that out soon enough when I read the other books.  Read it for it is worth being in its thrall for a short hour.

Book Review: Mistress Spy by Pamela Mingle

Book Review: Mistress Spy by Pamela Mingle

Madeline just wants to avenge her brother but when she’s captured she is offered two choices: become a spy for the queen or hang.  Maddy chooses to spy ending up in a maid’s position at the home of suspected traitors.

Nicholas is ready to go his own way after years of service to Queen Elizabeth but his plan changes with the arrival of a feisty beauty who betrayed her country but has a chance at redemption.

As tensions rise and a plot unfolds the two must find a way to put aside their differences and embrace the danger that fraught their world.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  This book’s publishing date is August 27th.

I cannot, in all honesty, say this book was fantastic.  It was mediocre and at best somewhat interesting.  Overall I found the book to be a boring and tedious affair.  I simply could not get into the tale and the only reason I finished the book was to find out the full plot put into place against the crown and whether Maddy and Nicholas managed to stop it.  The setting was somewhat intriguing but the characters were just blah.

Image result for boring gifThe main characters, Maddy and Nicholas were boring to read about.  I never could feel the emotion that they carried and their interactions were so… I don’t know how to explain but they felt fake.  I don’t have anything against the characters but I just couldn’t see into their minds like I can in other books.  I hated reading about their characters and I wanted to put the book down so many times but I felt the need to finish what I started and I wanted to find out more about the plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots.

The background and setting was the only intriguing part of this book.  There was a plot in place to rescue Mary Queen of Scots and I kept reading to find out whether the plan would come to fruition or not.  It was stopped and the book ended on a happy note.  However, I felt that the book was not completely historically accurate in the characters interactions and the phrases and words used throughout the book were too modern.  The idea for the setting was interesting but it could have been carried out better.

Related imageIn the end, I could not stand the book and would give it a low rating.  I don’t think it’s worth the time it takes to read it and even if you do read it you will find yourself falling asleep.  Mistress Spy was boring, inaccurate, and hard to get through and I would recommend not reading this book.