Review: The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez

BOOK STATS

Rating:
Title: The Afterlife of the Party
Author: Marlene Perez
Series: Afterlife #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

The bestselling author of the Dead Is… series is back with a snarky, hilarious take on the vampire romance novel.

When my best friend Skyler told me about this party in the Hollywood Hills, I was less than enthused. As it turned out, my feelings were more than justified. That party ruined my life.

Tansy didn’t even want to go to the party. It’s hard enough living in one of your best friend’s shadows and secretly in love with your other best friend.

And now she’s leaving it a vampire.

Now her best friend Skyler is stuck on the road trip from hell, on tour as a groupie with a literal band of vamps. Tansy sets out with Vaughn, her other BFF turned maybe more, to save Skylar’s life and take down the band. But when they find themselves in the middle of a vampire war, will Tansy be able to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends?

MY THOUGHTS

I thought this would be a fun and cheesy paranormal romance featuring vampires and witches (along the lines of Crave), but it was just not good. The writing was not good. Tansy’s internal monologue was cringey. The romance was very immature. The world and supernatural lore were underdeveloped and confusing. All of the characters were very flat and illogical; they always either overreacted or underreacted to everything. It was quick read, but it just didn’t make sense to me. I almost DNF at about 100 pages, and I probably should have.

Review: The Seventh Queen [ARC] by Greta Kelly

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Seventh Queen
Author: Greta Kelly
Series: Warrior Witch #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Throne of Glass, Air Awakens
Content Warnings: violence, torture, captivity

SYNOPSIS

After the gasp-inducing cliffhanger ending of The Frozen Crown, the exciting conclusion to the epic story of Askia—a warrior, witch, and queen-to-be—as she confronts the monster that stole her throne…and is holding her prisoner to steal her magic.

The Empire of Vishir has lost its ruler, and the fight to save Seravesh from the Roven Empire is looking bleak. Moreover, Askia has been captured by power-hungry Emperor Radovan, who plans on making her his wife simply so he can take her magic as his own, killing her in the process. Aware of his ex-wives’ fates, Askia must find a means of avoiding this doom, not only for the sake of Seravesh, but now for Vishir as well. She must put both nations first and remember Ozura’s advice: you must play the game in order to survive. Askia was born a soldier, but now it’s time to become a spy.

But it’s hard to play a game where the only person who knows the rules wants to kill her.

And time is a factor. The jewel Radovan has put around her neck will pull her power from her in thirty days. Worse, Vishir might not even have that long, as the two heirs to the throne are on the verge of civil war. Without any hope for help from the south, without any access to her magic, alone in a hostile land, Askia is no closer to freeing her people than she was when she fled to Vishir. In the clutches of a madman, the only thing she’s close to is death.

Yet she’d trade her life for a chance to save Seravesh. The problem: she may not have that choice. 

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this new adult fantasy duology. The writing is so good, and Askia is right up there with Aelin for me when it comes to strong female protagonists.

Askia spends a lot of this book as Radovan’s captor, so a lot of the story progresses through planning, plotting, and politicking. Even though there wasn’t much action until the end, I didn’t think the book was slow. I was thoroughly engrossed in this dark fantasy world, and I thought the character development was fantastic. Romance is not a huge part of the story, but the romance followed MY FAVORITE TROPE (I can’t say what it is because spoilers).

This was different from the first book in the series, but I loved them both. My only complaint is that I want more stories in this world! I would love a follow up that takes place 5-10 years later to see how these events play out in the long run.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the gifted eARC.

Review: The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Page

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Ravens
Author: Kass Morgan & Danielle Page
Series: The Ravens #1
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Sophie Amoss
Length: 11 hours (400 pages)
Publisher: Clarion Books; Recorded Books
Release Date: November 3, 2020
Source: Library
Content Warnings: cancer, death

SYNOPSIS

Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches.

For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate—that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet….

When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.

MY THOUGHTS

I loved the premise of this book: a college sorority as a front for a powerful coven of witches to recruit new members, some who do not even know they have magic. Despite the witchcraft and murder, this book portrayed sorority life pretty positively as a place for friendship, belonging, and support. It made me very nostalgic for my own college sorority days.

I liked both of the main characters, Vivi and Scarlett, and the book did a great job of showing how people change and grow into themselves at college. However, the story was a little lackluster for me due to an unnecessary love triangle and some predictable plot twists.

Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Magic Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic 0.1
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Magical Realism
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 396 pages
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Practical Magic, Salem Witch Trials
Content Warnings: death, animal death, domestic violence, kidnapping, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

MY THOUGHTS

I love getting wrapped up in Alice Hoffman’s cozy and hopeful writing where anything seems possible with a bit of practical magic. This tale of the Owens family origin, focusing on Maria’s life and her infamous curse on men who dare to love an Owens woman, is by far my favorite of the series so far. It was a bit darker than the other books due to its historical setting around the Salem Witch Trials, but that Maria’s story even more inspiring.

The story is a slow burn, but so immersive and compelling as Maria learns lessons about life and love and witchcraft. Maria is the kind of flawed character you can’t help but love. She could be stubborn and misguided, but she was also deeply compassionate and smart. Maria experiences true hardships, but she doesn’t let them keep her down. I loved the way the story explored both romantic and family love, and how love is both more complicated and more simple than we often think.

Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback/audiobook
Narrators: Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
Length: 30 hours (753 pages)
Publisher: Tor Books; Books on Tape
Release Date: January 15, 1990
Source: paperback from personal collection; audiobook from library
Recommended for fans of: epic fantasy, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings

SYNOPSIS

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

MY THOUGHTS

As the first book in an epic 14-book fantasy series, this story is understandably a bit slow as it sets up the world, its history, characters, and magic system. This is a classic adventure tale of good versus evil. Even though the plot was slow-moving, it was easy to become engrossed in this story. The characters are very likable, and I enjoyed watching their growth.

I alternated between the paperback and audiobook to help me stay on pace for a buddy read. The narrators did a great job on the audiobook, but I had an easier time processing the story when I read versus listened to it. Going forward with the series, I expect to stick to a combination of audio and ebooks, but mostly audio since there are so many giant books.

This was worth the read, and I look forward to continuing this series and learning more about this world and its characters!

Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Kingdom of the Cursed
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #2
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy/Romance
Audience: New Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: From Blood and Ash

SYNOPSIS

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stalking Jack the Ripper Kerri Maniscalco comes the sizzling, sweepingly romantic sequel to Kingdom of the Wicked!

MY THOUGHTS

I can’t remember the last time a book made me want to stay up late into the night because I couldn’t put it down, but I flew through this hefty book in just a few days. This series transitions from YA to NA in Kingdom of the Cursed, and it gave me all the romance I was missing in the first book. Wrath is prime book boyfriend material.

This book is more character driven than the first, focusing on lingering mysteries surrounding Vittoria’s death and the curse, Emilia and Wrath’s relationship, and world building Hell. The writing is so lush and atmospheric. Looking back, not as much happened plot-wise in this book compared to the first, but it didn’t feel like a filler middle book to me; I was completely absorbed.

I really liked the way a certain reveal was handled. This had a lot of great twists and turns, and so many mysteries that still need answers. Don’t even get me started on that ending. What a tease! I am so excited for book 3 and I think it will be epic.

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls #1
Genre: Fiction/Paranormal Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours (579 pages)
Publisher: Viking Penguin; Penguin Audio
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Source: Library
Content Warnings: torture, death of parents, panic attacks

SYNOPSIS

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

MY THOUGHTS

This book started off strong with a fascinating premise: the origins of witches, vampire, and daemons may be revealed through a lost alchemical text and genetic biology. However, this book was way too long and desperately needed some better editing. The compelling aspects of the plot were bogged down by tangents on history, alchemy, rare books, and everyday life. There were maybe two scenes in the entire book that I would describe as “exciting,” and even though a sense of urgency increased throughout the book, the slow pace never picked up.

This has been described as “Twilight for adults,” and I thought it was exactly that: hundreds of pages of mundane descriptions, a possessive male vampire with ample red flags, a heroine who loses agency and common sense as the book progresses, rushed marriage, weird attitudes toward sex, and very little action despite a lot of build up.

The audiobook is 24 hours long. It truly drags and put me in a bit of an audio slump where all I wanted to listen to after I finished were podcasts with bite sized stories. I am interested enough in kernels of this story that I think I will read the next book after the odd cliffhanger ending. The blend of history, alchemy, science, magic, and paranormal lore in this book is fascinating, but the storytelling and romance leave something to be desired.

Review: Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Bridge of Souls
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Cassidy Blake #3
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Reba Buhr
Length: 6 hours (304 pages)
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Small Spaces, Nightmares!
Content Warnings: death

SYNOPSIS

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

MY THOUGHTS

This may have been my favorite of the series because I am absolutely enamored with New Orleans and its history and ghost stories. This time, a servant of Death itself stalks Cassidy since she should have died in the accident that gave her the ability to see beyond the Veil. The stakes are higher than ever, so Cassidy and her friends Jacob (a ghost) and Lara (a live girl) team up with a secret paranormal society with members on both sides of the Veil to evade the dark spirit.

I absolutely adore this spooky middle grade series. There’s just something about middle grade ghost stories that always appeals to me this time of year, so I highly recommend this series for spooky season!

Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Namesake
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Emmy Lysy
Length: 9 hours (363 pages)
Publisher: Wednesday Books; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: kidnapping, death of parent

SYNOPSIS

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

MY THOUGHTS

I went with the audiobook for the second book in this duology, and while I once again enjoyed it, overall this series didn’t wow me like I expected it to.

It was nice to learn more about Fable’s mom and her abilities as a gem sage, but the truth about Fable’s heritage was farfetched. West behaved like a completely different person. I didn’t think that all of the plot events were necessary or fit together cohesively.

Once again, Saint stole the show. He is by far the most fascinating character in this duology, and his arc is worth reading.

This had a really sweet and heartfelt ending, but for me, this book relied on too many typical YA tropes.

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 357 pages
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: pirates, All the Stars and Teeth
Content Warnings: child abuse, abandonment

SYNOPSIS

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

MY THOUGHTS

I enjoyed Fable, but it did not live up to the overwhelming hype for me. I expected to swoon for this pirate fantasy, but I just liked it.

Adrienne Young created a vivid, brutal world where everyday is a fight for survival, but the world building and “magic system” were fairly simple for a fantasy book. I liked the characters and the Marigold crew’s found family, but I would’ve appreciated a little more depth to the character development. The most interesting relationship in the book was by far Fable’s complicated relationship with her father Saint. I honestly didn’t think the inevitable romance was necessary in this story.

My book club read this book based on my suggestion, and while I liked it and thought it was well written, I don’t think the story particularly stands out amidst the sea of YA fantasy books.