Review: The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Devil’s Thief
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Series: The Last Magician #2
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 692 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: time travel, Six of Crows
Content Warnings: racism/cultural appropriation, drug abuse/addiction

SYNOPSIS

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

MY THOUGHTS

First, I want to say that I adore The Last Magician. It is a totally underrated YA historical fantasy about time travel and a magical heist, a la Six of Crows. I love the characters, their found family dynamic, the setting in turn-of-the-century New York, and the magic system in this series, but Lisa Maxwell tried to do too much in this book.

This book pushes 700 pages, and it has no business being that long. By separating the core characters from The Last Magician across space and time AND adding multiple new POV characters to each timeline, the story became sprawling and unwieldy. I didn’t like most of the new characters as much as the originals, and some of the new POVs seemed unnecessary.

The story slowly built and built, and I really expected it to pay off with an explosive ending, but the book ended SO abruptly, leaving me confused and unsatisfied. The book was so long and we didn’t even get to see the final events play out completely! I will eventually continue this series because I love the concept and the first book earned five stars from me, but I need a little time before I’m ready to attack book 3 (which is even longer than this one!).

Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Series: Dread Nation #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Length: 12 hours (455 pages)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: zombies
Content Warnings: racism, violence

SYNOPSIS

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems. 

MY THOUGHTS

This book is so unique and creative, unlike anything else I’ve read. I love the zombie twist on Civil War, Reconstruction, and Old West history. The way this book addresses race and gender feels both authentic to the time period and incredibly relevant today.

Jane was smart and headstrong main character, and I really liked how her friendship with Katherine developed throughout the book. All of the supporting characters were vivid and well-developed.

This book took some WILD turns I could not foresee, but it was so much more clever and entertaining than I expected. The audiobook was great, and I can’t wait to see what adventures book 2 has in store!

August 2021 Wrap Up

In August I finished 18 books, including 6 physical books, 2 ebooks, and 10 audiobooks.


PHYSICAL BOOKS

Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin ☆☆☆☆
Smile by Raina Telgemeier ☆☆☆☆
The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell ☆☆☆
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman ☆☆☆
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman ☆☆☆.5
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds ☆☆☆☆☆

EBOOKS

Ghost Girl [ARC] by Ally Malinenko ☆☆☆
Payback’s a Witch [ARC] by Lana Harper ☆☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn ☆☆☆☆
The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell ☆☆☆☆☆
Flash Fire by T.J. Klune ☆☆☆☆☆
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard ☆☆
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ☆☆☆☆☆
The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang ☆☆☆☆☆
Thrawn: Treason ☆☆☆☆
My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows ☆☆☆☆☆
Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko ☆☆☆☆
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix ☆☆.5


2021 READING GOAL PROGRESS

At the beginning of the year, I shared my 2021 reading goals. When I post my wrap up at the end of each month, I also want to reflect on the progress I’m making toward reaching my goals.

Read 100 books: 152/100

Finish 5 series in progress: 2/5 – Red Queen

Read 12 graphic novels: 8/12 – Smile

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 8/12 -Long Way Down

Read 6 nonfiction books: 2/6 – none this month

Read 3 classics: 3/3 – Even though I read 3 classics this year, I still need to read one that’s pre-20th century

Reread 10 books/series: 9/10 – The Last Magician

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 8/12 – Dread Nation

How did your month go? What was the best book you read in August?

Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Dragon Republic
Author: R.F. Kuang
Series: The Poppy War #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover/Audiobook
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Length: 24 hours (658 pages)
Publisher: Harper Voyager; Harper Audio
Release Date: August 8, 2019
Source: Hardcover from personal collection; audiobook from library
Content Warnings: rape, drug abuse, graphic depictions of war violence

SYNOPSIS

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.

MY THOUGHTS

This book took me a full month to read because it started as a buddy read that fell apart so I kept setting it aside for other books until I finally switched to audio to finish it up. (by the way…the audiobook is fantastic)

This is an excellent sequel. It starts off a little slow, but it picks up once Rin stops feeling sorry for herself. The book is quite long, but it offers so much expanded world building, including a deeper understanding of the shaman magic, warfare, and politics in this world.

I am so impressed by the writing. The ending was very twisty and mind blowing. Like The Poppy War, this book has lots of potential triggers and is very graphic and gruesome.

Review: My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: My Contrary Mary
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Series: Mary #1
Genre: Humor / Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Length: 12 hours (512 pages)
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: My Lady Jane, historical parodies

SYNOPSIS

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.

MY THOUGHTS

It was so fun to return to the era of My Lady Jane where it all started. I love the way these authors play with history and humor while developing such lovable characters.

This fresh take on Mary Queen of Scots was delightful, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a basic understanding of European history looking for a fun, light read.

Review: Thrawn Treason by Timothy Zahn

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Thrawn: Treason
Author: Timothy Zahn
Series: Star Wars: Thrawn #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Length: 13 hours (334 pages)
Publisher: Del Rey; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Source: Library

SYNOPSIS

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

MY THOUGHTS

Excellent conclusion to this trilogy! Thrawn continues to fascinate me, and I love how this series gives insights into Emperial politics and mystery surrounding the Death Star project.

I enjoyed learning more about Chiss and finally meeting new characters from the Ascendancy.

This book ends with Thrawn departing for his final appearance in Rebels so it’s the end of his story for now, but I’m excited to read the other Thrawn series that are out there!

Review: Thrawn Alliances by Timothy Zahn

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Thrawn: Alliances
Author: Timothy Zahn
Series: Star Wars: Thrawn #2
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Length: 13 hours (342 pages)
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars Rebels, The Clone Wars, The Prequels

SYNOPSIS

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown . . . and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire . . . and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

MY THOUGHTS

Thrawn and Vader together are a FASCINATING combination. They both have such distinct minds, brutal in their own ways.

This story is told through dual timelines, following Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn as they investigate a threat to the Empire, and flashing back to when Anakin Skywalker and Mitth’raw’nuruodo first crossed paths on the same planet during the Clone Wars. I enjoyed both stories (especially Padme’s involvement in the past), but they could have meshed together better. The book would spend too much time in one timeline before switching back to the other, and I would’ve liked to see stronger parallels between them.

It is interesting to see how Thrawn handles his divided loyalties as the Empire and the Chiss Ascendancy. So excited for MORE THRAWN!

Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Thrawn
Author: Timothy Zahn
Series: Star Wars: Thrawn #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Marc Thompson
Length: 17 hours (427 pages)
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: April 6, 2017
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars Rebels

SYNOPSIS

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

MY THOUGHTS

I was introduced to the character Thrawn in the Rebels animated series, and I found him to be such a fascinating villain with his cunning, tactical genius. I think I would enjoy ANY story that gives me insights into his mind, and this did not disappoint.

This book is a great background for Rebels fans as it establishes Thrawn and Governor Pryce’s rise in the Empire. The story was a bit long and convoluted at times, and I wish Thrawn and Pryce’s paths had first intersected earlier in the story, but I still really enjoyed it.

This is the first Star Wars book I’ve read with a villain MC, and I loved the perspective. The audiobook performance was great, and Marc Thompson did such a great job with Thrawn’s voice that I initially thought he was the actor from the series. I am very excited to make my way through more Thrawn books, both in new canon and Legends novels.

Review: Gods and Monsters by Shelby Mahurin

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Gods & Monsters
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Series: Serpent & Dove #3
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: YA/NA
Format: Hardcover
Length: 624 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: ACOTAR, From Blood and Ash

SYNOPSIS

The spellbinding conclusion to the New York Times and IndieBound bestselling trilogy Serpent & Dove. This stunning fantasy take on French witches and forbidden love is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

Evil always seeks a foothold. We must not give it one.

After a heartbreaking loss, Lou, Reid, Beau, and Coco are bent on vengeance more than ever before—and none more so than Lou.

But this is no longer the Lou they thought they knew. No longer the Lou that captured a chasseur’s heart. A darkness has settled over her, and this time it will take more than love to drive it out.

MY THOUGHTS

The best thing about this series is the characters. I absolutely adore the found family and the romance, and I’m sad my time with them is over.

Despite my love for the characters, I had a few issues with this conclusion. I was not a fan of a particular plot device that created unnecessary conflict between Lou and Reid when there were so many other potential sources of conflict that could’ve been explored. Considering the length of the book, the story should’ve been way more epic. Even though the book was building toward a final battle, the journey felt disjointed, and the final battle didn’t completely make sense to me.

I would give the plot three stars, but the way Shelby Mahurin writes characters deserves four. The epilogue gave me all the feels. This isn’t a perfect series, but I recommend it to readers looking for a witchy fantasy romance that’s perfect for spooky season!

Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆.5
Title: King’s Cage
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #3
Genre: Dystopian Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Amanda Dolan, Adenrele Ojo, Erin Spencer
Length: 17 hours (512 pages)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Red Queen

SYNOPSIS

When the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s been four years since I read Glass Sword and didn’t love it, and I’m not sure why I suddenly felt the urge to finish this series. I just wanted to be able to say that I’ve read it. And now I can. (I read recaps for the first two books since it’s been so long)

This starts off so sloooooooow and a tad boring with Mare in captivity. The book got more exciting when she was finally rescued, but I just couldn’t make myself care about the politics. I ended up very annoyed with Cal. I feel for Maven and I wish his character could be redeemed, but I don’t think that will be possible.

I do really like Victoria Aveyard’s writing style. I loved Red Queen when I first read it, but I thought each book in the series got progressively worse. I think she has great potential as an author but this series just doesn’t do it for me.