Author: Brittney (page 2 of 2)

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

BOOK REVIEW: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh(Flame in the Mist, #1)
by Renee Ahdieh
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

“The only power any man has over you is the power you give him.” 

Holy guacamole. This was wonderful.

HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME THIS IS A SERIES AHHHHHH. I WAS NOT PREPARED….

Alright. I wasn’t that into the first 30-40%. It wasn’t bad at all, but I just wasn’t really connecting. Mariko is on the way to her betrothed (the prince) when she gets attacked by who she believes is the Black Clan. She manages to escape (as told by the synopsis), but she refuses to return home and tell of her survival until she can figure out who paid the Black Clan to kill her. So, she infiltrates their camp and attempts to gain their trust. 

Mariko has quite the aversion to men, being that men predominately rule in their society and women are left to please men. I totally get that, and Mariko was justified in feeling that way, but she does bring it up quite a lot. Almost too much, but whatever.

Anyway, about half way through, once we’re into the Black Clan hideout, things start to get interesting. And they just keep getting better and better. I literally could not put it down past the 70% mark. Like holy wowza… SO GOOD. It was non stop, action packed, with so many fun turns. AND THE END AHHHHH WHAT DO I DO NOW?!?!

I TOTALLY GUESSED THE TWIST TOO. And I don’t even care that I guessed it because it was so great. I was actually hoping I was right because just.. yes. So good. 

Some of the highlights for me were:

1. Japanese inspired culture. Lush and gorgeous.
2. Okami. And he the fact that he has long hair.
3. Topknots.
4. The scene where Mariko falls from the… cliff thing.
5. Gorgeous quotes, like the following…

“A blossom can split through a rock, given enough time.”

I did have a few small complaints – one being the magic system. It was really confusing and not really explained at all – no rules were mentioned and it seemed very random. I’m assuming this will be explained much more in the next book, but it was odd to me that it was so sporadic. 

The only other thing was the writing- not that it was bad. It just felt a bit dry and hard to follow at times. I felt the same way about Ahdieh’s other series too – ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’. Whatever, the story here is amazing.

All in all, I totally recommend this. I’d read it again in a heartbeat.

BOOK REVIEW: Duels and Deception

BOOK REVIEW: Duels and DeceptionDuels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

This book was totally cute. I’m realizing more and more how much I’m missing out on by not incorporating more regency romance into my diet. 

I think what I loved most were the array of personalities and the humor, though I’m a huge sucker for this time period. I always crack up on how scandalous things like “escorting a lady” or “showing a bit of ankle” were back then. 

The first half of the story was really fun. Lydia meets Robert in the first few pages – Lydia being a wealthy land owner and Robert being a lawyer on his way to her place to talk about the estate. Lydia is headstrong and intelligent, and the others that were set to help her manage her estate push back at her constantly. Hence, Robert comes in to take a look at what is really going on and to address any legal matters. Robert immediately finds himself in awe over Lydia and the two have instant chemistry in my opinion. He constantly is trying to make excuses to be around her. 

Anyway, not long after they meet, Lydia gets kidnapped along with Robert. That was probably my favorite bit – especially the way it was told.. I was laughing so much. Blah blah blah happens (I don’t want to spoil) and then they escape. The description of the book makes it sound like the whole kidnapping ordeal is most of the book, but be warned, that isn’t the case. That bit is over really quickly. 

My biggest complaint is that the story moved a bit slow in the middle and up until the end. It wasn’t exactly dull, I think I just was expecting a bit more action (hence the title). But things did finally pick back up and I loooved the ending! (Even though I guessed who was guilty right off the bat.) 

The best part was getting to read from both Lydia and Robert’s POVS. I loved being in Robert’s head.. he was so sweet and funny and just adored Lydia to pieces. He kept scolding himself for how much he kept thinking about her and my heart just swooned. 

 
Anyway, this gets a thumbs up for me! 

BOOK REVIEW: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

BOOK REVIEW: Hunted by Meagan SpoonerHunted by Meagan Spooner
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Guys I’m so sad. I didn’t love it. Don’t get me wrong, I totally see why others did, and I’m in the minority for this one.

I’m not going to type a summary on this one because well, it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Some parts were close to the original, and other parts deviated quite a bit. In my opinion, it was the wrong parts. Here’s the thing… I’m super biased. I grew up with Beauty and the Beast and I just hold it in such a high regard so it’s hard for me to love retellings unless they are as emotionally connected as the first.

The story starts off SOOOO slow. It’s literally everyone doing normal actions for a good chunk of it. One thing I did love right off the bat was Beauty’s connection to her family. She adores her father and sisters and there is such mutual love and acceptance. 

However, very little happens as the story progresses. If I’m remembering correctly, the B&tB storyline doesn’t even start until like 30-35%? But okay, I’m fine with slower start if they are imperative for character development, but eek it was boring.

Anyway, once the main storyline did start, I just… didn’t feel it. I felt like there was no chemistry between Beauty and the Beast. It supposedly took place over months and there was hardly any conversations or interaction between them. I guess I just wanted more? However, I DID love the scene where she sneaks into his room to try and kill him. So there’s that. It did finally make me feel something for the beast. But really… that was it. 

Whatever, I could have held out and still been quite happy with the book just based on the pretty writing and the folklore aspects if the end had followed through. But whaaat? What even happened? Okay so Beauty went back to her family and literally stayed there for months while she knew she needed to save the beast. But she’s all like “Oh hey I’ll leave tomorrow it’s fine.” That literally happened about 10 times and next thing you know, it’s months later. Please. Are you serious right now. And then the actual end where she goes to find the Beast… what even happened? I don’t even know. BUT the one thing I did love was how the story with her sisters wrapped up. So there’s that.

Soooo all in all I was pretty disappointed, but there were some good points that I kinda brushed over. Like I said, the writing was lovely, the forest description was really cool, and the folklore aspect was what had me in such high hopes for the ending. Also, the whole captor vs captive thing can be so tricky to navigate but the author handled it really well – I saw no sketchy issues there.

Anyway, all in all, it wasn’t really for me, but don’t let this deter you. Try it out for yourself! 

BOOK REVIEW: Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShane

BOOK REVIEW: Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShaneServant of the Crown (The Crown of Tremontane #1)
by Melissa McShane
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.

When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.

Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?

Oh my gosh this was lovely and I had so many feels. I loved it so much more than I expected to- and it was nothing like I thought it would be. 

But a few words of precaution- this is a historical fiction / romance and there’s really no plot outside of the romance until the second half. The pacing is fairly slow (which I didn’t mind – it totally worked for the story…) but if you’re looking for something fast and magical, this book is not for you. It kind reminded me of Pride & Prejudice and some of the other historical romances though of course it is set in a fantasy world (without magic.) 

Basically Allison is summoned away to the palace to be a ‘lady in waiting’ for the queen’s mother. At the first ball, she meets Prince Antony (the queen’s brother and the dowager’s son – aka playboy and embarrassment to the crown). Once introduced, the dowager insists he dance with Allison, not realizing her son is terribly drunk. Allison was raised to be very ‘proper’ and practical and though she admits he’s quite handsome, she wants nothing to do with him. Regardless, they share a dance, in which the prince says something hilariously appalling to Allison – and Allison’s reaction is priceless (I don’t want to spoil.) 

Anyway, in order to save face, Queen Zara forces Allison and Antony to spend time in the public together. Neither are happy about the agreement, and its a slow burn that works SO well. Allison starts to see the man beneath the mask. Oh my gosh… when things finally take off with them, I had so many feels. I can’t even. Also, just a warning, things get a *little* steamy which I didn’t expect… but everything was tastefully done. 

Allison is such a frustrating MC which is my biggest complaint. She’s so stubborn and pretty much has it out against all men – convinced that they only want her for sex. If one so much as looks at her the wrong way, she gets upset. She DOES start to come around though when she realizes Antony isn’t really the nasty man he seems, until something awful happens (between them) and she flees the palace – swearing off men altogether. (I wanted to smack her.) 

After a few months, the Queen summons her again and offers her a proposition to stay and work in the library (promising she doesn’t have to even see Antony after what happened between them.) UGHH this is where I got so frustrated. Antony changed entirely and was so noble it literally hurt my heart and Ally kept brushing him off. Lord this woman… I wanted to scream at her to open her eyes. Yeesh woman, I get that you were really hurt in the past but COME ON. 

Anyway, a bunch of crap starts to happen and they are forced to work together and I won’t say much more than that, but the ending was just wonderful and so emotional. Also I need to brag on Queen Zara who is literally a badass. I hear there’s a novella about her and I’m all over that. 

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I really loved this. Part of it was obviously the emotional aspect, but I also really loved the environment. Pretty much the entire book is in a gorgeous palace with little trips outside to theaters/etc. There’s plenty of balls, dancing, glittering dresses… you get the picture. 

I also wanted to note that I listened to the audio- so I’m not sure how that affected my view of the writing itself because the narrator was lovely. She was British and did the voices well. Definitely enhanced my experience. (BTW this is on sale on audible for only a few bucks!) 

I feel like this was Jane Austen meets Marie Rutkoski. I honestly can’t wait to read more by this author.

BOOK REVIEW: Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

BOOK REVIEW: Garden of Thorns by Amber MitchellGarden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll take to her grave if she must.

Let me start of by saying that overall this book was a ton of fun. The beginning (the first 30%) was SO GOOD. Seriously, I had no doubt I was going to rate this 5 stars. It was immediately gripping – I felt for the heroine so much and my heart just ached for her. Unfortunately it lost a bit of momentum for me – mostly because the heroine did WAY too much thinking about the love interest was amidst all the more important things going on. Regardless, the plot was really fun and I still recommend the book! 

Basically Rose is the ‘star performer’ of the Garden – a traveling burlesque full of girls who’ve been kidnapped/captured and forced into the rouse. It’s horribly sad and quite graphic how everything is written (in no way is it romanticized or glorified – but be aware.) The garden master keeps the girls in line by harming the ‘wilted’ girls – girls who are raised alongside of the performer girls. 

Anyway, after a horrific tragedy that I won’t mention, Rose realizes she must escape so that she can find a way to free the rest of the girls. During a performance in front of the emperor, she ends up taking someone hostage – not realizing he’s the ex prince and leader of a powerful rebellion. 

That all happens within the first few chapters so the book starts off VERY intense. 

Some of the highlights for me were the magic system (totally unique and looks super cool in my head) AND the book takes place in a fantasy nation that I believe was inspired by a mix of Japanese and Chinese cultures (I’m not an expert and I could be wrong but according to the terminology/descriptions, this is what it seemed like.) And Rayce, the former crown prince, was pretty much wonderful all around.

*Minor spoilers below – nothing big*

Rose ends up joining the rebellion, mostly because she wants to convince them to help rescue her friends. Things get pretty interesting as they are sent on missions. The pacing was really great all around. I also loved the fact that Rose’s secret was obvious and the author didn’t try to make it a big reveal. It was never meant to be a plot twist – she lets the reader piece it together it in Rose’s thoughts without a major ‘aha’ moment.

Let me be clear… this is a fantasy romance. It is the main focus (at least it is a semi slow burn). I’m not really one to complain about that if it’s done well – and even though I loved Rose as a character, I got reaaaally tired of her overanalyzing her feelings towards Rayce. Even amidst major scenes, she was thinking about him WAY too much. It didn’t even really line up with her character because she wasn’t petty or whiny at all. Some writing advice I received myself was to not ‘think too much for your reader’ and I believe this is what was happening here.

The whole ‘garden’ aspect was so unique (and heartbreaking). Mitchell’s storytelling was phenomenal and she definitely knows how to break your heart. While there were several creative elements, the main plot line wasn’t exactly anything new after the last 50% but I still enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it and I’d totally read another book by Amber Mitchell.

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