Author: Cassie (Page 1 of 11)

BOOK REVIEW: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede (The Last Finestra #1)

BOOK REVIEW: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede (The Last Finestra #1)This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra #1)
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Synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede's exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  1. Choose a Fonte.
  2. Do not kill them.
  3. Aplify their magic to save everyone and everything on Saverio—or become the first to die.

Forgive me if this review is a wonky, as I’m trying to shake off the rust. It’s been a minute since I wrote a review (family life and work really suck up all of my time and energy), but as soon as I finished this book I knew it was time to get back at it.

This Vicious Grace was the first book finished book of the year for me and what I imagine will be one of my favorites. It was a breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy realm, where I feel I’ve gotten much more picky and have a hard time being impressed. The fact that was by a debut author makes it even more surprising (and better)!

From the very first lines, I knew there was something about this book. The Finestra, Alessa, was mourning her third Fonte, who she had accidentally killed with her powers. As a chosen Finestra, her calling is to amplify a Fonte’s (partner) powers, in so to ward off a deadly attack on their country. Alessa’s touch is deadly to almost everyone else, and because of this, she is incredibly lonely. She is essentially royalty, but she is not respected or loved, and with a third Fonte’s death, support is waning for her.

She’d give anything for a hand to hold. Or a hug. She would kill for a hug. Literally.

After an attempt is made on her life and her guards help her attacker escape, Alessa decides to make some changes. It is during a trip out of to the seedier parts of her city that she meets Dante. Dante, with his tough exterior and slightly less tough interior, eventually agrees to be Alessa’s bodyguard until it’s time for her to take her next Fonte and face the evils headed to test them.

And for the first time in an incredibly long time, Alessa is no longer lonely. She is making connections and remembering how to feel again. Slowly, her personality comes out and she grows into her role as Finestra. Alessa’s growth as a character was really lovely to read. Her struggles, her vulnerabilities further solidified just how strong and caring she is. This really shines as we meet a host of side characters and I couldn’t believe how much I came to enjoy them as I got to know them.

“I can’t blame anyone for keeping their distance.”

He gave her a level stare. “Then let them walk around you.”

There’s some twists and turns as the final battle nears and I found myself desperate to get to the end. I needed to know who was going to be OK and who wouldn’t be so lucky. It honestly reminded me a lot of Mockingjay – a battle leaves a lot of scars (physically and emotionally) and sacrifices can have a lot of unintended consequences. I think the author really scraped the surface of the fallout from the main battle and set up the next book quite well.

“You’re the hero. I’m just asking a girl to hold my hand.”

Sorry I’m getting vague here, but I don’t want to spoil anything. But if you’re looking for a unique world, a slow-ish burn romance, a soft yet fierce MC, a snarky and tortured main boy, lovable side characters and a found family trope, then you’re in the right place. I’m super excited to see what happens next. I truly hope this isn’t another series where I loved the first book and am totally disappointed by the sequel. I know only time will tell. But overall I was a huge fan of Alessa, Dante, all their friends and of this book as a whole. I know I’m writing this book review in January and it doesn’t even come out until June, but don’t sleep on this book.

BOOK REVIEW: Unchosen by Katharyn Blair

BOOK REVIEW: Unchosen by Katharyn BlairUnchosen Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.

The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.

The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.

Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.

When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.

The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.

But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.

Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.

Thank you Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

We lived in a world that predicted our doom at least twice a week. We had shows about it; people stood on street corners, screeching about the end. We were so ready for the fall of mankind. But, when it actually came—we didn’t see it coming.

Unchosen, by Katharyn Blair, was a super pleasant surprise, and I mean that in the best way possible. While the synopsis had made it sound like it was everything I wanted in a book, I was scared the execution wouldn’t live up. But I am so happy to write that it absolutely did for me.

Unchosen is a standalone novel, focusing on Charlotte Holloway. Charlotte is the middle child, with her older sister Harlow being a badass leader of a group of survivors. Vanessa, the youngest child, is a talented gymnast and is also the Chosen One, who supposedly, according to legend, can end the curse that has spread through humanity.

I’m not usually the biggest zombie book fan, though I certainly don’t shy away from them if it sounds interesting enough. I liked how different this book is. The zombies aren’t totally mindless, and the way it’s spread—through eye contact—was totally unique. So while it is a dystopian book in some senses, it’s also partially a pirate book, as after being taken as prisoner, Charlotte begins an adventure on the open seas trying to keep her secret while figuring out how to save those she loves.

“And you can stop calling me princess, you know.”

“You would prefer ‘Chosen One’?” he asks. His eyes are sunset-tinted in the glow of the fire, and they bore into me. It’s a joke, but it’s also not.

There’s a lot of wonderful characters in this book, but I definitely attached to those who Charlotte teams up with once she is captured and is trying to find her way back to her family. But I especially loved Seth, the defacto leader of this group of pirates. I loved how serious he was, but then a light or caring side would show up and sweep me off my feet.

“So, I’ll just ask, then,” he murmurs. I’ve never heard his voice this soft before. It’s like fingertips threading through my hair. It’s the heat of a fire on freezing skin. He leans in, and I shut my eyes as his breath slips over the dip in my shoulder.

“Please, Charlotte.” His beg is no more than a whisper. “Never…never do that again.”

This book was so many things: scary, funny, emotional and thrilling. It had so many wonderful characters, was well-paced and totally intriguing. I had a hard time putting it down and loved how everything came together at the end.

You will not choose my end, for this heart is mine.

TW: Death, Gore, death of a child (off page but mentioned), language

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Guests by Emma RousThe Perfect Guests by Emma Rous
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she's truly part of the family...until they ask her to help them with a harmless game--and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It's strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she'll be staying at, she figures she's got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she'd imagined--even with damage from a fire decades before--but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there's something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone...including her.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

No one had explained what was expected of me here; I didn’t even know how long the arrangement might be for. All Caroline had said was “You can be a companion for their daughter for a while, until I’m ready for you to move in with me.”

The Perfect Guests is the sophomore effort of Emma Rous. I really enjoyed her first novel, The Au Pair, and was excited to see she had a new book coming out. The synopsis got me right away, as I love nothing more than a secluded manor.

The book follows two perspectives: Beth Soames, a 14-year-old girl in 1988, who after the death of her parents is placed with the Averell family, who live in Raven Manor. The Averells have a daughter, Nina, who could use a sister-like figure and the girls develop an interesting bond.

“You are cordially invited to play a game at Raven Hall…”

The second perspective is Sadie Langston, a struggling actress who is invited to Raven Hall in present day to participate in a murder-mystery dinner over the course of a weekend. Of course, nothing is what it seems and strange things quickly start occurring.

I wasn’t really part of their family; I’d only ever been a guest.

I know it happens a lot in thrillers these days, but I thought the jumping between timelines really benefited this story. Because when everything comes totally together at the end, it just all makes sense. I really enjoyed reading things from both Beth and Sadie’s perspectives, as it felt like two totally different thrillers that then came together.

What if I wasn’t picked for this job at random? What if someone invited me here because of the connection between this house and my mother?

Emma Rous has cemented herself as an author I will certainly continue to read with excitement in the future. Her books are quickly paced but keep me on the edge of the page, needing to know what’s going to happen next. Overall, I was super happy with this book and felt everything came together as it needed to. 4/5 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: The Mall by Megan McCafferty

BOOK REVIEW: The Mall by Megan McCaffertyThe Mall by Megan McCafferty
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.

Reading The Mall, by Megan McCafferty, was absolute joy. It felt like slipping on a worn-in sweatshirt and catching up with old friends, even though all of the characters and situations were new. The way McCafferty writes just invokes a lot positive feelings out of me and I always feel so deeply connected to her characters. If you can’t tell already, I loved the Sloppy Firsts series. I read them over and over again in high school. They held up when I reread them in grad school. They are warm and familiar.

The Mall continues in this way, even as it brings new characters and is set in an earlier time period (the 90s). There are a few easter eggs to characters from the Sloppy Firsts, which made me smile. But this story is unique and of its own and a great standalone novel that will appeal to current teens, as well as those of us who are bit beyond our teen years.

Troy had always loved that our names were heavily featured in Greek myths. Troy was the city fought over in the Trojan War. Cassandra was the princess of Troy, who saw visions of the future.

Clearly, I had not seen this coming.

The Mall is centered around Cassie Worthy, who is in between graduating from high school and going away to college. Her plan is to work at the mall with her boyfriend for six weeks before heading off on their next big adventure. But that plan is scrapped when her boyfriend breaks up with her and she’s left to figure out what she’s going to do next.

This bizarre and unwanted interaction was my first hint that 900,000 square feet was not nearly big enough to avoid all the people I never wanted to see again.

Cassie sets out to find a new job and eventually lands in a higher-end women’s fashion store with her former best friend. They slowly come around to each other (for the most part) but especially bond over a treasure hunt involving Cabbage Patch Dolls, basements, storerooms and maps. It’s a bit crazy and over the top, but also a lot of fun.

This made him smile, which made me smile. My parents would’ve recommended refitting a new retainer, but I liked his mouth just the way it was when it wasn’t smirking.

There’s a lot of fun and nostalgia to be had. For those of us who grew up with malls as the main source of entertainment and shopping, (Amazon did not exist my middle school days. I was also still listening to CD’s, since the iPod was still a year or two away) it was nice to go back to a different time when everything seemed shinier and simpler. My closest mall was a 45 minute drive, so it was always a day-long affair and a big deal.

I thought I’d avoided the vicious cycle of romantic mistakes, but I was no better off now than I was as the start of the summer: rejected and dejected. How could such a smart girl be so dumb?

I really loved watching Cassie grow, even if sometimes it was slower than I would have liked. But I realize she’s a teenager going through a lot of changes and expecting her to be perfect is unrealistic. I loved the summertime fling aspects and the friendships shown in the book as well. There’s a few cringe moments here and there, but I can overlook them.

If you’re looking for a fun, nostalgia-filled, trip back to the 90’s with a book that features a lot pop culture references, funny moments and a side of romance, then be sure to tie your hair back in a scrunchie and dive in.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Wife by Karen HamiltonThe Last Wife by Karen Hamilton
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

I promised Nina I’d look out for her family. No matter what, I’m here to stay. I’m becoming more convinced that it’s what Nina would’ve wanted, even if some people won’t see it that way.

This was my second Karen Hamilton book and while I didn’t love it as much as her first one, I still enjoyed it. I’d call it more of a mystery/family drama than a thriller, which seems to be a trend right now, for better or for worse.

Being here no longer feels solely about survival and loyalty; it’s about entitlement.

The story is told from the perspective of Marie, who is a very interesting character. We learn a lot about her childhood and the struggles she has gone through over the years. Some of it was out of her control and other parts are of her own doing. She has attachment issues, especially around her best friend Nina.

As with most mysteries/thrillers these days, we jump around a timeline. There’s essentially the present (which is post-Nina, as she has passed away from cancer at a young age) and the past (mostly around a certain accident and the years that followed). We learn that Marie’s ex-boyfriend died in a tragic accident and that Nina and Camilla may know more than they ever let on. We also learn that even though Nina and Marie drifted apart as Nina began to have children and Marie struggled with her own infertility, Nina asked Marie to watch out for her family after she was gone. And how Marie took that literally.

“This is going to come back and haunt you, Marie. Everyone know what happens when you play with fire.”

I struggled with if I should call Marie an unlikable narrator. She is manipulative, selfish and has boundary issues. But I also feel for her at times, even when she makes the wrong decision. It does seem like her heart is in the right place sometimes, but she doesn’t know how to act like a “normal” person would.

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of family drama and a little mystery regarding the big accident from Marie’s past. It was a fairly quick-paced story and it kept my attention, but I could see how others could be turned off by the lack of intrigue and mystery. The ending does land a bit of a punch, but it takes a while to get there.

I’m entitled to something of my own. This is my story now.

About the author:

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. She is also the author of the international bestseller The Perfect Girlfriend.

Keep up with Karen:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

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