“A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas: A Book of Love Triangles and Character Assassinations [Book Review]

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a retrospective book review, and since my next non-retrospective book review isn’t quite ready yet, I thought it was high time I posted another.

Retrospective book reviews are basically book reviews, but they’re on books that I read before I started this blog. So, in order for them to get their day in the sun, I go back through them and see if my opinion when I originally read them holds up. So yeah, that’s basically it.

This time I’m gonna go over another book in a very popular series that I’ve already gone over before. That’s right, I’m going over A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, the sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses.

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

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

THEN: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5

NOW: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5

“Tell me what you see.”
“A world divided in two.”

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 torn apart.

My review for A Court of Thorns and Roses

I have a complicated relationship with the books (that I’ve read) in this series. With ACOTAR, it was that the book started off pretty slow and ended up being just a generic YA fantasy novel. With A Court of Mist and Fury my feelings are a bit more complex than that.

A Court of Mist and Fury is an NA (formerly YA) high fantasy romance novel written by Sarah J. Maas. It is the sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses and is therefore the second book in the eponymous series. ACOMAF was also originally published on May 3, 2016 by Bloomsbury.

Stuff I Liked

The Court of Dreams.

The people who knew that there was a price, and one worth paying, for that dream. The bastard- born warriors, the Illyrian half breed, the monster trapped in a beautiful body, the dreamer born into a court of nightmares

…And the huntress with an artist’s soul.

Though this book had a similar problem to its predecessor – that being, it started off slow – it didn’t feel nearly as bad to me; likely because it wasn’t slow for as long. And once ACOMAF got going, it got going.

Also, even though Maas doesn’t focus as much on her world building as I’d like (she chooses instead to focus on… other things), I did like the bits of world building that she did decide to show. I also enjoyed some of the strange creatures and monsters she added and opted to give page time to.

I also quite liked many of the characters introduced in this book. Mor was a great friend for Feyre, and I liked Cassian and Azriel. I really liked seeing Feyre’s sisters – Nesta and Elain – again, as I didn’t expect it at all. (Cassian and Nesta’s sexual tension was also amazing.) Amren was the MVP character-wise though. She was so cool.

The new places that the characters travelled too were also really cool. I loved seeing more of the Faerie Courts of Prythian, and I can’t wait to see more.

There you are. I’ve been looking for you.

His first words to me— not a lie at all, not a threat to keep those faeries away.

Thank you for finding her for me.

I’m more on the fence now on the romance than I was when I first read ACOMAF, soon after it was originally released in 2016. I’ve decided to put it in the Stuff I Liked section, however, because when I first read it I absolutely adored it. Rhysand and Feyre had so much more chemistry together than Tamlin and Feyre ever did, and I really liked Rhys and Feyre as a couple at the time.

The climax and the ending were also heart pounding. When I finished this book, I was immediately chomping at the bit for the next book. It was sooo good, and I needed to know what happened next!

But that’s pretty much all that I liked about it, even if this stuff made me rate the book very highly when I first read it (and why I can’t bring myself to rate it that much lower now).

Stuff I Didn’t Like

When you spend so long trapped in darkness, you find that the darkness begins to stare back.

I absolutely despised what Maas did to Tamlin’s character. Now don’t get me wrong – I didn’t particularly like Tamlin in ACOTAR. But I didn’t hate him either, and after his cardboard cutout personality in the first book, I was looking forward to seeing his personality develop in book two, as well as his and Feyre’s relationship.

But that never happened. Because Maas decided to assassinate Tamlin’s character.

Now this is something that I’ve always hated. Even way back when, when A Court of Wings and Ruin hadn’t even come out yet, and everyone was praising A Court of Mist and Fury for being a perfect book and how perfect Rhys and Feyre were for each other and just fück Tamlin. I hated this even then. Because I absolutely hate things like character assassinations – as it indicates bad writing. And I still stand by that.

I also didn’t really, really didn’t like the smut. But I just hate smut in general, so that’s probably just a me thing.

Final Thoughts

Truth is deadly. Truth is freedom. Truth can break and mend and bind.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas was a fantastic read when it first came out, but its near perfection has definitely weathered some over the years.

I still like it to some degree, and recommend it to fans of fantasy-romance, but I don’t like it nearly as much as I did when I first read it. It’s not a bad book (though if you’re looking for it, you can see the cracks starting to show in the narrative in ACOMAF).

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar


LINKS: Goodreads | Instagram

“The Savior’s Champion” by Jenna Moreci: Book Review

It’s been over a week since my last retrospective book review, so I deemed it time for another one. Today, I’m rereviewing The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci.

(If you’re new, or you haven’t read any of my retrospective book reviews before, allow me a very quick explanation before moving into the actual review. You can probably surmise what it is on your own, but I’ll just say that I skim over a book I’ve read in the last few years prior to having a blog, and re-judge it to see if it was as great as I remember.)


The Savior's Champion by Jenna Moreci

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

Series: The Savior’s Series (Book #1)

Length: 671 pages

Genres: Dark Fantasy, Romance, Fiction

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Book Description:

Tobias Kaya doesn’t care about The Savior. He doesn’t care that She’s the Ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn’t care that She’s of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.

Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting—and killing—for the chance to rule at The Savior’s side. Instantly his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.

Trigger warning: this novel contains graphic violence, adult language, and sexual situations.


My Review

Then: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Now: ★★✯☆☆ • 2.5 / 5 stars

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that there’s something a little different with this book review.

If you haven’t, it’s totally the lack of quotes from the novel. I’m telling you now, that there aren’t gonna be any quotes here, if you were looking for them. This is for a very simple reason: I didn’t find anything of this book to be particularly memorable. Like, line wise anyway – I remembered scenes from The Savior’s Champion well enough.

You might also be wondering: why, upon my reflection, there was a drop in stars. That is also something that I will answer here. But not quite yet. First, let’s go over the usual.

(Before doing so, I will acknowledge that my reading tastes may not be in this specific subgenre, so even though I found a lot I didn’t like about for me personally, someone else might really love it. I don’t know who to recommend it to, though.)

The Plot and Its Pacing

Let’s start with the storyline itself. The plot was pretty generic: protag has to save his family in some way, enters deadly tournament in order to get paid, falls in love with a girl. You know, the usual.

There’s nothing inherently wrong right that. Actually, the base plot is actually okay. The problem is, this book is far too long for what its pages contain, and thus is very slow-paced. Almost excruciatingly at times, even. It’s also super overwritten to fluff up the page count – it did not need to be over 600 pages long. (I think it would have been fine being around 400, but nevermind my opinion.)

But yeah, the plot itself is… fine. Most of the problems associated with it have to do with TSC’s pacing, and… other stuff.

The Characters (aka: The “Other Stuff”)

I’m going to be frank here: most of the characters in this novel kind of sucked. Like, they weren’t written very well. Many of them were under-characterized and has little to know motivation, and others didn’t have much of a personality and had motivations that shifted and didn’t make sense.

The main character, Tobias, is very dull. Nothing about him is interesting. Not to mention, he completely transforms into a complete different character around like halfway/two-thirds of the way through the novel. Like, wth?

And his family were complete non-characters. They merely existed as a motivation for Tobias for the first three chapters, and then ceased to exist in his mind for pretty much the rear of the book. And even when they do appear, as brief as it is, they are always “Number Two” in our protagonist’s mind, which they should not be, if he loves them as much as he claims.

“Number One” in Tobias’ mind – after he first encounters her at least – is Leila. Leila is our dueteragonist in this novel, and she’s just about as bland as our hero. She also has a “secret,” but it is something so completely and utterly obvious to the reader that I hesitate to name it as such. (And even then Tobias doesn’t figure it out until the very end of the book and he still has to be told it.)

All of the other characters – much like Tobias’ family – did not matter. Not really, at least. And there were far too many of them and they didn’t feel very distinct from one another. And the villain was just… so evil that it was nearly ridiculous.

The Prose

The prose wasn’t super good. There was either too much or too little description, and the dialogue never felt very natural. And the text is oversaturated with one word (cock), to the point that I actually wanted to fling the book across the room both times that I went through it!

Also, the chemistry between all of the different characters just really wasn’t there. And the romance between Tobias and Leila could have – and should have – been much stronger. I dunno, this book might have needed another edit or something – I’m no expert.

Why My Rating Changed So Drastically

Sooo… I discovered this book through the author’s YouTube channel. That’s right, Jenna Moreci is an authortuber, and she makes videos with writing advice. At the time I first read this book, its sequel The Savior’s Sister was releasing.

And, I’m just gonna be real. I liked Jenna and her videos, so I wanted to check out her books. And even though The Savior’s Champion was difficult for me to get through – it took me almost a month to finish it, which is extremely unusual for me – I was really self-conscious about my review. So I didn’t think too much about the book itself when I finished it, and just gave it 4 stars.

But looking back on it after attempting to read the sequel, as well as having since pretty much discontinued with watching Jenna’s videos, I can no longer ignore how I truly felt. So, I went through the book again (skimming at high speed) just to make sure my feelings were true, and then have it my true rating, without any of my bias blocking my vision.

So yeah, that’s why it went down to 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t really care for The Savior’s Champion too much, but someone else might like it, so as always, I encourage anyone still interested to give it a shot. Everyone has different taste buds when it comes to books, so everyone prefers something different on their pages.

Thank you to those of you who read this rant review, and have a great day/night!

See ya ~Mar


LINKS: Goodreads | Instagram

“Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer: Book Review

Good [insert your time of day here]! It’s been a few days since the last one, and because of time constraints due to some medical stuff on the horizon, I haven’t had time to finish my current -current read, so I’ve decided to do another retrospective book review. This one’s gonna be on Scarlet (you’ll never guess what I’m gearing up for…).

As I’ve mentioned before, a retrospective book review is when I review a past read of mine, after skimming through it again. Today, I’m gonna talk about Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. (I recently did a review on Cinder, which you can check out here.)

She did not know that the wolf was a wicked sort of animal, and she was not afraid of him.


scarlet - marissa meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles (Book #2)

Length: 454 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA, Fiction

Release Date: February 5, 2013

Book Description:

The #1 New York Times Bestselling Series

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.


My Review

Then: ★★★★✯ • 4.5 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

“I lied to you about a lot of things….but I meant every apology.”

Out of all I’ve read in The Lunar Chronicles so far, Scarlet has to be my absolute favorite in the series. To me, it was like Cinder but better, which is a bit of a feat in itself, cuz I loved Cinder.

But yeah, there’s so much that I adore about this book. And because of that – and to save my sanity – I’m gonna divide up this review with some lovely headings.

The Characters

A relieved grin filled up Thorne’s face. “We’re having another moment, aren’t we?”

“If by a moment, you mean me not wanting to strangle you for the first time since we met, then I guess we are.”

The characters are definitely my favorite thing about this book. Scarlet is, at least to me personally, a much better protagonist (or co-protagonist) than Cinder is. She’s a couple years older than Cinder and she’s also got a little more life experience, and you can tell.

Carswell Thorne is also a very entertaining member of the supporting cast. He was introduced near the end of the first book, but you really get a feel for him and his personality in this novel. He’s the kind of character that I like to call a “stupid genius” – a character that appears stupid most of the time and frequently acts like an idiot, but also has some smarts hidden inside. (This character type is also sometimes naturally talented at a certain skill, as is the case here.)

Wolf is one of my favorite new characters introduced in Scarlet. He’s very mysterious initially (though I think most readers will get what’s up – Scarlet certainly did), but he opens up as the story progresses. His and Scarlet’s relationship is one of the defining pillars of the novel, and it’s also one of my favorite things about it.

The Story

This is another thing about Scarlet that I preferred over its predecessor. But it’s not that the plot of this book is better than Cinder’s.

Nope. I just like Little Red Riding Hood more than Cinderella is all.

But yeah, the futuristic, science-fantasy, retelling is an amazing spin on a classic fairytale.

The Setting

I’m going to sound like a broken record soon, but this is yet another thing I preferred over the first book. Because of Cinder’s state as a fugitive (spoiler), the book has finally moved out of future sci-fi China and expanded the setting.

Also, Scarlet lives in France, and spends a lot of time in a more rural area compared to the city slicking Cinder of the first novel. And I really liked that. It made the world feel both large and lived in, and it also further accentuated the differences between Scarlet and Cinder.

The Romance

“We met less than a week ago and in that time I’ve done nothing but lie and cheat and betray you. I know. But if you give me a chance…all I want is to protect you. To be near you. For as long as I’m able.”

Now, if you’ve read some of my other posts, you’d know that I’m pretty anti-insta-love. And that’s because most insta-love stories are written like shit.

But this one isn’t. This is (a very rare case of) insta-love being done properly.

Wolf and Scarlet have an awesome dynamic. Despite Wolf being both physically bigger and stronger than her, their relationship never feels unbalanced in any way. And despite how he initially appears, Wolf really isn’t a bad boy. He’s kind and protective, and he just wants to love and support his girl.

And Scarlet cares for him in a very similar way. They just work together so well: they’re kind of a perfect team.

(The Very Few) Things That I Didn’t Like

There’s really only like one or two things that I didn’t care for, honestly. First: the POVs are numerous. Not as many as I’ve seen in other books (looking at you ASOIAF), but still climbing. And yeah, I get that it’s necessary for the story progression, but I would’ve liked more focus on Scarlet. The book really makes it feel like she’s less of a protagonist, and more of a girl who’s just gonna join and support Cinder eventually.

The other thing I didn’t care for: the insta-love. I know, I know, I just said that I actually enjoyed it for once here and just sang Wolf and Scarlet’s relationship praises. But, I dunno… I guess I just have a natural aversion to the trope, even if it’s done fantastically. I just prefer a good slow-burn is all.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, I really don’t have much more to say except go read this book/series right now! It’s truly an amazing set of books (so far), and I’ve pretty much only heard good things about the ones I haven’t read yet, too.

Also, Scarlet’s tenth anniversary is coming up later next week, so if you’ve already read it, why not reread it to celebrate? And if you haven’t, well I say that a tenth anniversary is as good a reason as any to read it!

As always, thank you for reading, and have an excellent day/night! Join me next time for more bookish things!

~ Mar ~

Cinderella, But She’s a Cyborg | “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer [Retrospective Book Review]

Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.


Title & Author: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles (Book #1)

Length: 448 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA, Fiction

Release Date: January 3, 2012

Description:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl….

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


My Review

Then: ★★★★✯ • 4.5 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

She was a cyborg, and she would never go to a ball.

I love this book so much. I first read it like… around five-ish years ago, I guess? Cinder was originally a 4.5 star rating, but then I read its sequel, Scarlet, which I liked even more, so I bumped it down half a star after I read that one. But it was 4.5 / 5 for a time.

(Glancing over it again, I still think it’s a 4 star book today, by the way. But it did change at one point, so that’s why the star ratings are different.)

Anyway, the book’s main character is Linh Cinder, a futuristic version of Cinderella, but with an actual personality and also happens to be a cyborg. I liked how smart and good with mechanical stuff, which was nice to see in a female character, and I really like how it tied her being a cyborg.

Prince Kai is TLC’s version of Prince Charming (he doesn’t have a name in the original version, to my knowledge). And he also has a personality. This is also a much less insta-lovey version of the original fairytale, which was also nice. I really liked how active he was in the plot, and how he had his own POV chapters.

It’s not just a sci-fi retelling of the classic story though. There’s definitely been a few other kinds of alterations here. Like Cinder’s stepsisters Pearl and Peony. Pearl is a pretty standard interpretation – she’s kind of a bitch. But Peony isn’t, and she and Cinder are actually quite close. I adored how sweet their relationship was. Cinder’s stepmother, Adri, is also closer to her original character, but she also has her reasons, even though she’s still a bitch.

My favorite alternation – and character, incidentally – was Iko, Cinder’s android BFF. She’s the definition of “being extra” before being extra was a thing. She’s sassy and funny. And let’s not forget horny. Very horny.

Cinder twisted up her lips. “Do you think it could have a virus?”

“Maybe her programming was overwhelmed by Prince Kai’s uncanny hotness.”

This quote here encapsulates the humor vibe for this book pretty well. (And this series, now that I’m thinking about it.) But there are series parts to the plot as well.

Dr. Erland is another character that I rather like. I liked his dynamic with Cinder, and how she kept sassing him. Erland is also a gray character, at least for most of the book, and you didn’t really know whose side he was on until the very end.

My favorite part of Cinder, though, definitely had to be all of the little bits of foreshadowing littered throughout the book for its sequels. An important character from later in the series has a cameo here, and another character here was introduced, whose name is a clue to their future role. And all kinds of other stuff.

Before I move on to my criticisms, I also wanna mention how good the writing is. Not only is the dialogue absolutely fantastic, but the prose and descriptions are also really great. I love the way that Marissa Meyer writes.

Vanity is a factor, but it is more a question of control. It is easier to trick others into perceiving you as beautiful if you can convince yourself you are beautiful. But mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth.

I didn’t really have any gripes with this novel, except for a thing or two. The first is that I wasn’t super into Cinder (the character). I didn’t hate her or anything – not even close! – she just seemed kind of like a generic sort of protagonist. I preferred Scarlet (the character), introduced in book two, as a protagonist.

The other thing is a bit spoilery, so if you don’t want to be spoiled skip this paragraph. *SPOILERS* I didn’t like how Peony was fridged. Though it wasn’t as soon as some fridgings I’ve read, I wish she had more time on the pages. *SPOILERS END*

So yeah, I definitely recommend Cinder to anyone and everyone, especially those who love the original fairytale. I love how the whole series flows together, and how it appears like the entire thing was mostly plotted out before all of the books were out. But yeah, read this book.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day/night!

Reading Retrospective: Red Winter

Let’s see… It’s been, I don’t know, about exactly a month right down to the day since I last did one of these. So I’d say that it’s been more than overdue for me to post another one.

Since it’s been such a looonng time since the last one – or if you’re new – Reading Retrospectives are posts where I go over a book I read in the past, of which there are many (ei: before I started posting stuff on this blog), and determine whether it still deserves the star rating that I originally gave it. So I basically just give it a proper review.

This time, I’m reinspecting a book I read around three years ago. It’s Red Winter by Annette Marie.

Red Winter by Annette Marie

Series: Red Winter Trilogy (Book #1)

Length: 348 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA, Fiction

Release Date: October 21, 2016

Book Description

Emi has spent her entire life hiding from the creatures that hunt her. The savage earth spirits are determined to kill her before she can become the living host of a goddess, so she stays hidden–until the day she saves the life of one of her hunters.

Shiro isn’t the harmless fox spirit she thought he was. He’s mysterious, cunning, unpredictable … and now hers to command. He’s sworn to pay his debt to her, but he doesn’t know who she is. If he finds out, he’ll kill her.

But she can’t send him away–not yet. Her future isn’t what she thought. The lies surrounding her fate have begun to unravel, and she needs answers before time runs out–answers that lie in the spirit realm. Shiro can take her there… if she dares to trust him.

And only then will she find out how deep the gods’ treachery runs.

My Review

Then: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.

So, like… This book still holds up for me. I still really like it. I’ve seen it compared to shoujo manga and anime, and, speaking as someone who has watched some of the latter, I absolutely agree. So I’m just gonna say straight up, that if you enjoy shoujo, you’ll like this book.

My favorite part about the book is how much the author cared about her book. It’s very clear just by reading this, that Marie put in a considerable amount of research and effort into making this as authentic, and true to the cultural source, as possible. And it really shows. It really does feel like I’m watching a shoujo anime (anime geared towards teenage girls), only no I’m not, I’m just reading a really well written novel. With a few really pretty illustrations.

But yeah, the setting is solid. It really feels like I’m reading a book set in Japan. I also adore the Japanese folklore here. I feel like I really don’t see enough books about it, outside of anime and such.

Not that that was the only thing that I really liked about Red Winter. The characters were pretty alright too.

“Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.”

I really liked Emi. She’s “not like other girls” in the best way – by which I mean she doesn’t have the stereotypical, overly sassy, good at most everything characterization problem that most YA female protagonists do. And I loved that about her. Emi has a traumatic backstory, like many leading characters, and most of her development over this novel is her learning to deal with, and begin to move past, said trauma. And she doesn’t put up a badass, sassy front to hide this part of herself from the world. She’s timid and vulnerable, and because of this, you can really start to see her evolve and shine that much more brightly. She’s definitely one of my more liked female protagonists in recent years.

Shiro was also decently interesting, despite being the more stereotypical of the two. Marie might have given Emi a variation on the “chosen one” cliche, but Shiro was the one to really inherit a lot of the more common tropes. Not that that’s a bad thing – I really like Shiro! I just wanted to acknowledge that he’s tied to a few literary (and anime) stereotypes. But yeah, Shiro is a kitsune (a Japanese fox spirit), so it’s really no surprise how likeable he is. Most people just love foxes.

She stopped, a half-dozen paces still separating them. The frantic thudding of her heart filled her ears as she met his vacant crimson stare. “Don’t forget me, Shiro,” she said hoarsely. “You’re not allowed to forget me.”

He blinked slowly and something shifted in his gaze. His lips curved in his familiar crooked smile. “You’ll forget me someday, little miko.” His voice was even hoarser than hers, rough and coated in a hint of an animal growl.

“I’ll never forget you,” she told him. “I’ll remember you to my last day.”

“Do you promise?”

Her heart gave an odd little flutter. “Yes, I promise.

The romance is also done just right between the two of them. It’s slow-burn, the (for the most part) best way to write a romance, which is your biggest giveaway that it’s well-written. (Hey, when the other option is insta-love, I will always choose a slow-burn any day!)

And, to top it off, Red Winter isn’t just a standalone novel. It’s the first part of a trilogy! So there’s even more to enjoy if you just couldn’t get enough of this one. (And yeah, haven’t read the rest of it yet, on account of life happening. In a good way, but it still happened.)

So yes, in short, I really like this book. The only downside is that, due to some pretty extensive world building at the start, it takes a bit for the plot to get going. Despite that, I still highly recommend it. If you like any of the novel’s genres, or folklore, or Japanese shoujo media, definitely give this book a shot!

Retrospective Review: Among the Beasts and Briars

Briars, brambles, bones, and blossom, I smell a girl who can’t be forgotten.

It’s been weeks since I last ruminated on a book from my past. So, I thought that it was beyond high time for me to another reading retrospective. This time, I’m retroactively reviewing Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

Length: 352 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale, Romance

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Book Description

Cerys is safe in the Kingdom of Aloriya. Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden.

Cerys knows this all too well: When she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions a small and irritating fox from the royal garden and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home.

But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

My Review

Then: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★★ • 5 / 5 stars

I always thought that gardeners’ daughters couldn’t thrive where our roots didn’t grow. But maybe we were like dandelion tuffs.

I love, love, loved this book when I first read it twice years ago, and I still love, love, love it now. It was a wonderful fall fairytale, and I regret completely that I never made a fall vibes book recommendation list like I did for Halloween and winter, so that I could recommend it. (Maybe something for next year? Hmm…)

The vibes and prose in this book are – as I said before – absolutely perfect for autumn. Personally, I recommend the days leading up to Thanksgiving, if you have the time. It just feels the most like fall during that time to me, and since this book embodies the season so well… you get it.

Anyway, like I said, the prose and writing in this book was fantastic. I love the way that Poston describes things. It presents such a wonderful visual.

The leaves on the trees we approached were a molten gold, like an artist had taken a sunset and poured it over the forest, and the crisp smell of the coming winter floated on the autumn breeze. It was early afternoon, and the birds sang bright and loud in the treetops.

See? An absolutely beautiful description. And just one of many, I might add.

The story and characters were also great. I loved Cerys. I loved how she wasn’t a so-called “strong female protagonist” and that, even though she had a strange power via a curse, she never felt “special.” She just felt like a nice girl trying her best to fulfill her mission. Fox was a fantastic personality for Cerys to interact with, and I loved his POV sections just as much as Cerys’, if not more. He just had the right amount of sass to be both hilarious and compelling.

The plot was also fantastic. It wasn’t super complex, but I loved the fairytale inspired aspect of it, as well as how it never slowed down or dragged at any point. I also loved how the forest was essentially a character in its own right – the lush descriptions really made it feel like one too.

She said that the people who die never really leave. That we carry them with every breath we take, until the wind itself is gone.

Anyway, yeah, this book was still just as good as the first time, and I completely recommend it. Definitely check it out if you haven’t read it – it’s a wonderful fairytale-like story. Pair it with some fall scents, a warm blanket, and some hot chocolate, and everything will be more than perfect when you read it. Thanks, as always, for reading, and join me next time for more bookish things.

Reading Retrospective: “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

So, it’s been what, like eleven days or something, since I last reflected on a book from my past? That’s far too long. Let’s change that, shall we? It’s time for some retrospecting. (Yes, I know that’s not a real word.) (No, I don’t care.)

Reading Retrospectives are when I go back and reflect on books that I’ve read. Books that I have strong opinions on, but never reviewed because I read them before I even had a Goodreads (let alone a blog), and books from my childhood to my college days. Everything is fair game, honestly. If you’ve read the title, you know what this post’s gonna be about. If you haven’t, I’m reflecting on A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Here we go!

About ACOTAR

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses [Book #1]

Length: 432 pages

Genre: High Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Book Description

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a terrifying creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not truly a beast, but one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled her world.

At least, he’s not a beast all the time.

As she adapts to her new home, her feelings for the faerie, Tamlin, transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But something is not right in the faerie lands. An ancient, wicked shadow is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it, or doom Tamlin-and his world-forever.

My Retrospective Review

When I Originally Read This: November 2015

Then: ★★★★✯ • 4.5 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

“Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”

ACOTAR. Oh, ACOTAR. The history that you and I have.

Gonna be perfectly honest here, before I caved in and started reading this, I had very strong aspirations to never do so. Like, I saw in my local Barnes & Noble in May or June of 2015, instantly could tell what type of “YA” book (the quotes are there, cuz hindsight) this was gonna be, and just… stayed away. Or attempted to, anyway.

In November of 2015, my strength failed me, and I caved into buying this book. And it was exactly like I knew it would be. YA with a “strong, female protagonist” who falls in a “passionate, fiery” love with some supernatural supermodel.

And I loved it.

Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely irritated me that I even started reading this in the first place. But, at the time, my soul wanted a guilty-pleasure-romance, so a guilty-pleasure-romance was what I read. And I liked it mostly in a guilty-pleasure sort of way. Not because I thought it was amazing literature or anything. Because, trust me, I didn’t.

“I came to claim the one I love.”

The characters were not very likeable, for one thing. Feyre was an annoying protagonist, who continually made stupid decisions; some of which, were extremely contrived. She was also quite bland, like a blank canvas, if I may incorporate one of Feyre’s “hobbies” into a simile.

And if Feyre was a blank canvas, then the love interest, Tamlin, was the material that a blank canvas is made out of. This man – sorry, “male” – was less than a block of wood, or even a sheet of paper. He honestly barely qualifies as a character, as he was mostly just a plot device to push Feyre to do something. Because, despite this book being over 400 pages, it becomes clear after a while, that at least 150 of them could have been cut. (Maas likes to overwrite and over-describe.)

“Do you ever stop being so serious and dull?”

“Do you ever stop being such a prick?” I snapped back.

Dead—really, truly, I should have been dead for that.

But Lucien grinned at me. “Much better.”

I’d get into more of the characters, but there really weren’t any. That really qualify as characters, at least. Lucien was probably the best of the almost characters. Actually, scratch that, he was the best. Even better than Feyre honestly. Throughout the novel, he and Feyre had way more chemistry than her and Tamlin, so I was kinda rooting for them as a couple for awhile. But we can’t have nice things, so I quickly gave up.

Feyre’s family were pretty much nonentities here (except for one tiny part later in the novel), they just existed as a motivation for her. Also, they sucked. Like, they were completely horrible to her. And, let’s not get into the “most handsome man [Feyre] had ever seen.” No, that’s going in the retrospective on ACOMAF, thank you very much. I’ll get to him though, I promise.

I’d mention the villain of the story, but the book isn’t really about that, so… yeah, just gonna leave this already long rant about the characters in this book here.

This book wasn’t all bad with the characters (barring Lucien), however. There were a few good lines and character moments nestled within some of the pages, that I wish we’d seen more of. Like this:

I found him carefully studying me, his lips in a thin line. “Has anyone ever taken care of you?” he asked quietly.

“No.” I’d long since stopped feeling sorry for myself about it.

and this

“Because I wouldn’t want to die alone,” I said, and my voice wobbled as I looked at Tamlin again, forcing myself to meet his stare. “Because I’d want someone to hold my hand until the end, and awhile after that. That’s something everyone deserves, human or faerie.”

I actually really like the setting and the world building (that we get) a lot. I found it to be very interesting, even though it’s more than obvious that Maas just traced over a map of the U.K. and renamed it Prythian (and Hybern). The division of the “courts” was intriguing to me, and I wish that the series expanded on the way their hierarchies worked in a way that made sense more than it actually ended up being. (We’ll get to that, don’t worry. Just not in this review.) I also adored the magical atmosphere of the book, as well.

Despite… everything about ACOTAR, I will admit that I really enjoyed it. It was stupid fun – guilty-pleasure-romance, just as I said near the beginning. So I’ll take one thing that this book said, to heart:

“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.”

Because if we don’t read what we enjoy, then what the hell are we doing with our limited free time on this planet? We should do things that bring us joy (within reason. I’m looking at you… people who do bad things.) and if they include reading not-that-great, but also, weirdly-addicting, fantasy romances, then we should just do that!

Have you read A Court of Thorns and Roses, or any of Sarah J Maas’ other novels? What did you think of them? What are your guilty-pleasure books? (I know you have at least one…) Thanks for reading, and see you again soon for more bookish things.

Books I’m Thankful For: Magic Treehouse

It’s a day late, technically, (unless you’re one of those individuals that does Thanksgiving on Black Friday) but I wanted to start a series where, every year on, or very close to, Thanksgiving, I do a post thanking a book from my past.

So today, I’m gonna talk about the one that started it all: the book that got me into reading. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, it’s actually a series. Anyway, I’m gonna sing the praises of the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne.

The first four books in the Magic Treehouse series, in chronological order from left to right.

About the Magic Treehouse

First Book’s Title: Dinosaurs Before Dark

First Book’s Publication Date: July 28, 1992

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Myth, Children’s Fiction

Length of First Book: 80 pages

Book Description for Dinosaurs Before Dark

Read the #1 bestselling chapter book that started it all! Magic. Mystery. Time-travel. Get whisked back in time in the magic tree house with Jack and Annie!

Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark…or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?

The Magic Tree House series has been a beloved favorite for over 25 years and is sure to inspire a love of reading—and adventure—in every child who joins Jack and Annie!

Why I’m So Thankful for This Book (Series)

These books are very, very special to me. I hold them extremely close to my heart, despite the fact that I haven’t even spared any of them a passing glance in years. But I’ve never forgotten what this series has done for me as a writer, and most especially, as a reader.

The Magic Treehouse series not only ignited my passion for reading at a young age, but it also defined my favorite genre to read. Fantasy. I’m pretty sure these novels are considered “gateway” novels, as in, they are stories that get people into reading, and I completely agree.

I’m gonna tell you a little secret. Before I read Magic Treehouse, I actually hated reading. In like first grade, when my teacher made us do those reading exercises during free time after a test or something, or if we just had time allotted to it during that particular day, I would cheat. I would pretend to read the little booklets and then pretend to answer the questions that came with it (they were never collected or graded by the teacher). I would also frequently avoid reading most books if I could help it. They just weren’t engaging to me for some reason.

But then, everything changed when one day, on a whim, I picked up the first installment of the Magic Treehouse books, Dinosaurs Before Dark. And I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this book, and beyond it, this entire series, changed my life entirely. Mary Pope Osborne’s (very child friendly) prose enraptured my mind completely.

I was stunned. Before this, I had thought reading to be a chore; I didn’t find it fun in any sense of the word. But Magic Treehouse taught me that reading could be fun. It gave me hope that perhaps other books could invoke the same excitement and interest as this one. Books were no longer boring to me. Now, they were my favorite activity. I was soon reading every chance I had. And eventually, inspired by my newfound, lifelong love for books, I acquired the strong desire to craft things with my own words. And I owe all of this to this series.

So thank you, Mary Pope Osborne, for creating such fantastic stories. For encouraging me, and thousands of other young readers, to give reading a shot. For showing us how absolutely wonderful reading could be. Thank you, so very much. I would not be the person that I am today without your stories. And I hope they remain as accessible as they were for me, for a very long time. So that new generations of young children, who are uninterested in reading, to pick up a book and dive into an adventure.

Reading Retrospective: Serpent & Dove • Shelby Mahurin

It’s been a bit, but it’s time for a Reading Retrospective.

Reading Retrospectives are when I go back and reflect on books that I’ve read. Books that I gave strong opinions on, but never reviewed because I read them before I even had a Goodreads (let alone a blog). And books from my childhood to my college days. Everything is fair game, honestly.

Today I’m discussing Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

About Serpent & Dove

Series: Serpent & Dove [Book #1]

Length: 528 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Book Description

Bound as one, to love, honor, or burn. Book one of a stunning fantasy trilogy, this tale of witchcraft and forbidden love is perfect for fans of Kendare Blake and Sara Holland.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

As a huntsman of the Church, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. But when Lou pulls a wicked stunt, the two are forced into an impossible situation—marriage.

Lou, unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, must make a choice. And love makes fools of us all.

My Retrospective Review

When I Originally Read This: November 2020

Then: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

Now: ★★★✯☆ • 3.5 / 5 stars

When I first read this back in 2020, I gotta be honest, I enjoyed this. Quite a bit. It wasn’t a five star book by any means, but I thought it was still pretty good. In a guilty pleasure sort of way, at least.

But after going for a second round with Serpent & Dove more recently, it was honestly kind of hard to get through on a reread. I actually had a strong urge to drop it, which I felt kinda bad about, because I hate DNF-ing stuff.

What I Still Like About It

The characters. Well… some of the characters, at least. The leads, Lou and Reid, left something to be desired, as I didn’t find either of them to be very likeable (though I enjoyed Reid’s POVs more than Lou’s).

The characters I’m talking about were the supporting cast. Coco was a blast to follow when she was actually hanging around the protagonists, and thus actually in the plot. I also thought that her sacrificial blood magic was more interesting than Lou’s “pattern based” magic. Ansel was also a delight – he was an absolute cinnamon roll and deserves to be protected at all cost. Madame Labelle also seemed interesting, initially, however, she grew far less so the farther I got in the novel.

I did like the interactions and the banter between the characters, even the two protagonists, despite how subpar I thought they were as main characters. Lou and Reid had some good interactions, I’ll admit it. I liked how they challenged each other – they were much better together than they were alone.

I also really liked the setting; I’m good with most historical fantasies or historical fantasy based settings. Even though I couldn’t tell whether or not it was a fantasy world or magic historical France; it was a little unclear, although I’m pretty sure that it was a fantasy world.

I also loved that it was around not-Christmas. I love Christmastime, and I never see it in a book that’s not a holiday romance or Harry Potter, so that was kinda nice.

Though the dialogue and prose weren’t my favorite, there were a few lines that I kinda liked. (That, and I’m gonna quite some lines that I thought were stupid in the “Stuff I Hated” section, so I decided to be nice.)

Un malheur ne vient jamais seul. Misfortune never arrived alone. {French proverb}

I really liked this one, though the author didn’t come up with it herself, so…? 🤷‍♂️

I also liked this one.

Lou glared at him. “I like you, Ansel, but this had better be something good. Emilie and Alexandre just had a moment.”

and

“Why the feck is everyone in this kingdom trying to murder my wife?”

What I Don’t Like About It

Well, first off, as I mentioned above, I don’t much care for Lou and Reid. Lou was far too sassy and erratic, and she made a lot of dumb decisions. And I just found her generally annoying. Reid was less insufferable, but he too, made stupid decisions. And he was almost comically naive at times. For instance, he’s a witch hunter, but he pretty much believes everything Lou says. Nearly unquestioningly. It’s actually that ridiculous.

Another thing that I really hated was the McGuffin: The One Ring. *cough* Sorry, “Angelica’s Ring.” Whatever. It pretty much functions the same way, minus having a consciousness. (They both can turn people invisible.)

The inciting incident that forced Lou and Reid into marriage felt excruciatingly convoluted, and filled me with hatred. Like, there really weren’t any other options? Seriously?!? It just felt so contrived when I read it, that it made me want to bang my head against the wall.

I also hate a lot of decisions that happen during the climax. I’m not gonna spoil anything, but they just didn’t make sense to me at all. Just saying.

And, before we go, it’s time for the lines that I hated. Just like I promised.

Coco and I shared a black look. If Babette wasn’t careful, she’d soon learn just how wretched and violent we could be.

Just. Ugh. They’re so annoying.

And such a tight little ass.

I really like this line, actually. It’s so direct. Just not in this book. It feels too out of place.

“Do not urge me to leave you and turn back from you.” He trailed his fingers down my arm in slow, torturous strikes.

Ew. Waaayy too sappy.

Final Thoughts

As much as I I’ve ragged on Serpent & Dove in some parts of this review, it’s really not bad at all. That’s its sequel, Blood & Honey. (I’m not joking – that one’s terrible. There’ll be a roast on that one coming up, you can be sure of that.) S & D just feels like guilty pleasure fantasy-romance. A little like the ACOTAR series, but somehow, not as good. (I know, I didn’t think it was possible either.)

This really has ACOTAR vibes though, so if you’re really into that series, this is probably for you. Not sure about B & H, though. (I’m honestly not sure who that one’s for, actually.) (Fine, I’ll stop.)

Anyway, have you read Serpent & Dove? Or the rest of the series? What did you think of it? Thanks for reading – as always!

Reading Retrospective: The Thief

So… I’ve decided to start a little series here where I highlight books that I’ve read in the past, before starting The Blog That Nobody Knows.

Books that I’ve read and loved and hated, but have never reviewed at all. Books from my college days and childhood days alike. Books that I want to acknowledge and remember.

I present to everyone, the first Reading Retrospective.

This time, I’m going to be talking about The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.

About This Book

Title & Author: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Series: The Queen’s Thief

Length: 320 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Publication: Greenwillow Books; Reprint Edition [February 28, 2017]

When I Originally Read It: October 2018

Book Description

New York Times-bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner’s entrancing and award-winning Queen’s Thief novels bring to life the world of the epics. This first book in series introduces one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. The Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin.

Eugenides, the queen’s thief, can steal anything—or so he says. When his boasting lands him in prison and the king’s magus invites him on a quest to steal a legendary object, he’s in no position to refuse. The magus thinks he has the right tool for the job, but Gen has plans of his own. The Queen’s Thief novels have been praised by writers, critics, reviewers, and fans, and have been honored with glowing reviews, “best of” citations, and numerous awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Newbery Honor, the Andre Norton Award shortlist, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

Retrospective Review

★★★✩✩ • 3 / 5 stars

I am a master of foolhardy plans, I thought. I have so much practice I consider them professional risks.

So, listen, I know that this book is well-loved and nostalgic for quite a few people, but the highest rating that I could give this was “okay.” It was just a bit too slow-paced for my liking. And I’m not super big on political stuff in books, especially when it’s as prominent as it is in this one. I’m here for the adventure, not all that other stuff.

I will say that Eugenides was the absolute best part of the book, and the reason that I continued to power through it. I loved his sassy personality and how he constantly pissed everyone off around him. It’s a bit reminiscent of Murderbot/SecUnit from The Murderbot Diaries looking back on it.

I identified them as Useless the Older and Useless the Younger for the time being.

See, isn’t that such a Murderbot thing to say? Anyway, I never really connected with any of the other characters, and that also put a damper on my reading experience. And I found all the political and war stuff boring, so that also really affected what I thought of the book. Honestly, if this book wasn’t as short as it was, I probably would have ended up DNF-ing it.

But yeah, Gen (I don’t care how much he hates that name, I am not typing out the other thing again) was an absolute delight, and totally carried the book for me.

I should also probably mention that I don’t like it when info dumps happen; whether their plot or character-related, is irrelevant. And this book had a huge one near the end and it completely changes the way that you see the entire novel. And yeah, I sometimes think stuff like that is cool. But not when it involves an exposition dump to explain everything to the reader in great detail. (If you were curious, this one was actually both. So it was doubly annoying, in my opinion.)


I, unfortunately, don’t have a lot to say about this book. (I’ve found that this happens sometimes with “okay” books.) Anyway, if the synopsis intrigues you, then definitely check this one out. Like I said above, this one is kind of beloved, and probably for a good reason, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? Have you read the rest of the series? Thanks, as always, for tuning in and have a fantastic day/night!