Untitled (Sweetest Dark #03) by Shana Abe

I am huge fan of the Sweetest Dark Series and have been waiting for the third book with as much patience as I can muster but it is getting increasingly difficult. Especially since there is absolutely NO news about Book 3. It does not have a cover or a blurb or even a tentative release date. All its goodreads page says is, “Published 2014.” Whatever that means. This level of inactivity is troubling because it makes me wonder if the author lost interest in the series midway. I really hope that’s not the case.

The interval between the release of the first and second book was a year and four months, so there is still some hope that we might get some news soon. And if i was going to guess release date of Book 3, judging by the interval between book 1 and 2, I’d say we are looking at a December release date. Perhaps I am reading too much into it but I can’t help it. I love the characters, especially Lora and can’t wait to find out how her adventure ends. I want her to get her happily ever after with Armand (even though there is a really high possibility that she will die and possibly end up with Jesse in the sky) but still. And she is yet to teach her schoolmates a lesson. So, please Shana Abe, if you’re reading this, could you please give us a hint. It would be very deeply appreciated…

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Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #03) by Laini Taylor Review

Dreams of Gods and MonstersSo, it finally comes to an end. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (DoGaM) is a long book and it is also a long (and slow) read. I still think the first book was the best of the series but DoGaM was a satisfying end.

When I started reading DoGaM, there was a sense of disconnect from the characters and this was primarily because of the long break between the release of book 2 and release of book 3. I found that I wasn’t as invested in the characters as I was when I finished the second book. And that is a problem I’ve encountered even with other series where there are long breaks between releases. There is a loss in emotional investment in the characters as well as general interest (case in point Seraphina by Rachel Hartman) I realise that authors need time to write the best book they can and it is a process that can’t be hurried. This is only to explain why there was some disinterest when I started reading DoGaM. End of whine.

In DoGaM, the Misbegotten and the Chimera came together to counter the threat that Jael posed to both camps when he crossed over to the human realm. The beginning of that peace was taut with fear and hatred that had years and generations to fester and grow. That peace was tenuous and held together by the thinnest of threads. The smallest hint of aggression from either side, could push everyone over the edge. But, somehow, peace held, it was not easy and had its fair share of false beginnings but it held. As Karou and Akiva with certain others tried to decide on a course of action on how to best deal with Jael, danger loomed dark and deadly from the Far Isles. A queen was hunting Akiva and it was obvious that she did not intend to invite him for lunch. Most of the characters from the previous books were present in this book as well (with the exception of Thiago), there were some additions, most notably, Eliza; a seemingly human scientist.

Like the previous books in the series, this one too, is long winded. Taylor likes to take her own sweet time, building the story and characters. The pace is slow and relaxed. If you’re expecting a fast-paced action packed adventure, you may be in for some disappointment. There are plenty of descriptions as well as elaboration of what the characters are thinking. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because it makes the narrative more layered and gives the characters more depth. They are more relatable and their problems more dire when the characters are life-like instead of 2 dimensional paper cut-outs. Bad because, there were parts that were driving me crazy with impatience. When I just wanted to know what happened next and there were entire paragraphs that were about a certain character’s inner struggle or something else. My hair was in danger of being pulled out from the roots because of sheer frustration. Of course, that same technique built the tension beautifully. For instance, you knew that something was going to go horribly wrong, you just didn’t know what that something was. This book was also told from multiple points of view and as always, I have mixed feeling about that. Another reason it took me time to get back inside this world, was because the opening chapter was told from a new character’s POV. It might’ve better to let an established character open the book.

Having said all that, I like Taylor’s writing. It was almost as if I was reading an elaborate fairy tale. I know I was cribbing about how DoGaM was long winded, but I also like that kind of writing. There are so many characters here: Karou, Akiva, Liraz, Ziri, Issa, Zuzana, Mik, Eliza and more and somehow Taylor manages to give all of them enough space that they are all identifiable as independent individuals, They have unique personalities and distinguishable. More often that not, secondary characters make a story richer and DoGaM is a perfect example of such a story. While Karou and Akiva remain the primary protagonists, in DoGaM they are joined by a number of other characters who get just as much spotlight as the two of them.

Karou was a whole lot better this time. She had given up her quest for revenge and started thinking smart. Thanks to Ziri, she finally got rid of Thiago and even managed to get the Seraph and Chimera to work together. She was still lovesick but it was more bearable this time because she finally allowed herself to hope that maybe she and Akiva could have their happy ending. It was nice to see her be productive beyond resurrecting fallen Chimera.

Akiva was marginally better though he too spent a good deal of this book pining after Karou and feeling guilty (in this regard Karou was better) He was instrumental in the alliance between the Seraph and the Chimera but neither he nor Karou made much of an impression. Both of them seemed overpowered by some of the secondary characters.

I admit, the love sick part could get more than a little irritating for some readers, but I actually kind of liked it. The way Taylor built a scene with these two at the centre, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. The hunger that Karou and Akiva felt for the barest touch, just being in the same room, being able to simply look at each other without being judged and condemned. There was such longing between these two. There are times when I prefer Madrigal to Karou and part of what made the first book so memorable was the tragedy of what happened to her and Akiva, the star-crossed lovers. And it was tragic. Their love was hopeless and yet, against all odds, you wanted them to get their happily ever after. Alas, that didn’t happen, and what happened to Madrigal made Karou and Akiva’s situation even more miserable.

Zuzana and Mik were around as well and they were a pretty big part of the book. Zuzana’s exuberance was a welcome change to all the gloom and doom of the Chimera-Seraph tension. It was also nice that this time they served a wider purpose than just the comic relief. Zuzana and Mik turned out to be pretty instrumental in the final outcome. Zuzana was, as always, full of wild energy and Mik was the perfect counterfoil. Mik has a soothing and calming influence, which blunts the impact of Zuzana’s explosive personality. It was commendable that despite all the horrors they had seen and not to mention the impending war with Jael, they still stayed with Karou and helped her in whatever way they could. Plus, they were so sweet together without any needless drama.

I loved Ziri. He was an absolute sweetheart and I was afraid that he would die or worse, there would be a stupid love-triangle between Karou, Akiva and him and there very nearly was one. It was clear that what Ziri felt for Karou went above and beyond kinship. But it was public knowledge that Kaoru only had eyes for Akiva and while she did love Ziri, it would never be the same kind of love that she felt for Akiva. So it was nice to see that Ziri did not pine for something that he could never have and move on. Plus, considering that he was impersonating Thiago, he did have a lot on his plate. But he remained kind and compassionate and utterly lovable even when he was acting like Thiago.

Liraz was another character that I really liked. I loved her no-nonsense and matter-of-fact style and that she did not take shit from anyone and she continuously reminded Akiva to pull his head out of the clouds. And yet when it came right down to it, she was not afraid to make sacrifices to give Akiva another chance at happiness. She was loyal and steadfast and blood thirsty and did not waste time lamenting about how she was good at killing. Yes, she was ashamed of the lives she had taken but she did not let that debilitate her. And I loved her interactions with Ziri. They were adorable together, adorably awkward.

Then there was Eliza, the newest addition. I did not immediately care for her but considering just how much screen time she got, it was kind of hard to disregard her. And I liked her character arc. Someone who was running from her roots, managed to build a life of her own and then lost it and thanks to help from some people, managed to find herself and her purpose.

Jael was not a particularly impressive villain considering that how easily Razgut manipulated him. He was so arrogant that he couldn’t see that he was being taken for a ride. He was more annoying than anything. I was never worried that he would outsmart Akiva and Karou. Other notable characters who I absolutely despised are Esther (Karou’s fake grandmother, who was despicable and got her just desserts courtesy Mik), Morgan Toth, the definition of a toad, a cockroach that deserves to be stomped on repeatedly.

I liked Dreams of Gods and Monsters and while it was slow, it was engaging enough that I did not feel like skipping paragraphs. DoGaM requires patience and the multi- character POV could have easily become irritating, but the book’s saving grace was its characters. Taylor makes you care about them enough that you want to know what happens to them. DoGaM is not the best of the best book of the trilogy, but it is still a good and gripping read. Taylor gives a satisfying end to Karou and Akiva’s story. It was not the happily-ever-after that I was expecting but this conclusion was more fitting given the novel’s overall tone.

P.S. – The cover is also beautiful, better than the first two and I love the names that Taylor came up with for her books.

Wayfarer (Tales of Beauty & Madness #2) by Lili St. Crow Review

Wayfarer US CoverWayfarer is the second book in this series of fairy tale adaptations and while I did not like it quite as much as the first one, it was still entertaining and an interesting take on a fairy tale we are so familiar with.

Wayfarer is about Ellen Sinder. The first book gave very obvious hints about Ellen’s strepmother (Laurisse) and the way she was treating Ellen at home. Laurisse was the quintessential evil stepmother, she did everything from beating Ellen for things that were by no means her fault, to making her do house-work. Initially, Ellen had moments of respite when her father was around but after his death, the evil stepmother had free reign to do as she pleased. She makes Ellen charm shoes and overworks her to the point of exhaustion. There is also an addition to this family of two, Rita, a relative of Laurisse who suddenly comes to live with them. At first Ellen thinks that she and the new girl might be allies but that doesn’t quite work out. Another new character is Avery Fletcher and he seems very interested in Ellen. Meanwhile, she is falling apart from the pressure to survive at home and also protect her friends from the evil strepmother.

Like the first book, this one too is very heavy where descriptions are concerned. This time we also learn more about charming which was nice. Wayfarer is a long book and it is also slow. It takes its own sweet time to get moving, but it keeps a consistent pace. This could get frustrating at times and the long descriptions got annoying. If you’re looking for a quick fix, this is not for you. It took serious patience and perseverance for me finish it and I bothered only because I had enjoyed the first one quite a bit. And all said and done, the end was satisfying. Also St. Crow has some interesting takes on both the fairy tale and some of its characters. For instance, the fairy Godmother of the original is replaced by Auntie and I liked what she had done with the character. It fit the overall atmosphere of the book. A traditional fairy Godmother would have been woefully out-of-place.

As far as characters go, I was way more fond of Cami than I was of Ellen. Not that there’s anything wrong with her, Cami was just more firm and stronger. It was commendable that despite everything Ellen was going through at home, she still managed to do well at school and kept up appearances that everything was fine, even if was plain to see that they most certainly weren’t. I just did not get why she didn’t just talk to Cami and Ruby (or even Avery). I get that she thought she was protecting them but in the process only ended up hurting them and isolating herself even more. She doubted herself so much, it was a wonder she was even functioning. There were also times when Ellen’s intuition was screaming at her, telling her something was wrong and she chose to ignore that which often landed her in deeper trouble. It was a little odd that despite the fact that Ellen was almost always covered in bruises and scabs, the adults just did not see the signs (or chose not to) Keeping that in mind, it does make sense why Ellen would want to keep it bottled up. Not daring to tell anyone in the off chance that they don’t believe her and she’s sent back to live with the strep, which would have been much much worse.

As far as despicable evil stepmothers go, Laurisse is close to the top. She was really horrible and downright revolting. In the end, I am not really surprised with what happened to her and serves her right for what she did. It makes me wonder how Ellen’s father could have married her? Did he not see that there was something seriously wrong with her?

I was glad to see Cami and Ruby again. Cami’s quiet, calming presence mixed with Ruby’s vibrant energy and wildness. They were good friends to Ellen, they stuck by her even when she lashed out at them.

Avery was probable one of the sweetest guys I’ve read in YA. He was sweet and seemed to genuinely like Ellen. He was so nice it made me suspicious. I thought maybe he has an agenda as well. But no, he was just a really nice guy. Ellen wasn’t very nice to him and he still stuck by her and offered to help her out. Honestly, if he were any nicer, he’d be walking around with a permanent halo around his head.

Wayfarer was a somewhat trying and taxing read but one that I did ultimately enjoy. It was long winded and long in general but if you’re willing to give it time, you will not be disappointed. For now, I want to know when we’re going to get Ruby’s book. She is my favourite character so far and while it is obvious that she is Red Riding Hood, I am curious to see how St. Crow plays with that story. I just hope that Ruby’s character doesn’t change, I love her devil-may-care attitude and the fact that she remains unfazed by pretty much everything.