Hi friends! We're back for another reading wrap-up. This is the last one for the year 2021.
I'm working on updating this blog more frequently, but to be honest, since I've been for focused on my youtube channel (danicainpages) this blog has been unintentionally put on the back-burner. But I've been cooking up a few things and I can't wait to share them to you soon! For now let's get back to this recap.
Please note: Thoughts and reviews are potentially spoilery.
November was for my witches. I did a lot of some re-reads and a lot of new ones. It's always interesting to see how authors tackle this classic and well-loved lore.
The Bone Witch Series | Rin Chupeeco | YA Paranormal
The Bone Witch series has a very unique lore and a unique story telling. I admit that the writing style was confusing at first, but once I got the hang of it, the style added to the intrigue and experience. This intentional style was perfect for what Chupeco wanted to accomplish in the story. The lore is brilliant and reels you into the story. We see two different timelines in the story and i have to admit that the intrigue was mainly what kept me going. we see the beginning of Tea’s journey and also her end. It was a unique and intentional writing choice and added a lot to the story itself.
The Bone Witch (Book 1) | Book 1 starts off pretty strong. I'm immediately fascinated by the world Chupeco has created and all the details she laid out. The lore itself is brilliant and reels on in. However, Tea isn’t my favorite kind of MC and it was more the secondary characters that kept me reading.
Heartforger (Book 2) | Tea wasn’t my favorite character in the story but I appreciated her more when she joined the “dark side” and slowly becomes the villain the world deemed her to be since the beginning of her story. We get to learn more about the lore of this series, its unique magic system, and they are so unique and wonderful. I adored the side characters so dearly much and their stories broke my heart.
The diversity of the characters and their stories, struggles, and desires were the highlight of the series for me.
Shadowglass (Book 3) | The last book in the series. I appreciated the Asian influences in the lore and world-building. I’ve said it before Rin is incredible at these two things. But aside from the those, the individual stories of the characters themselves as well as Rin’s storytelling format are compelling. Some of the story is told from the present day through the words of a bard and the majority of it is told from Tea’s current day. The two timelines meet and are woven together to tell a captivating ending.
Death (The Four Horsemen # 4) | Laura Thalassa | NA Paranormal | Death is the 4th book in the Four Horsemen series and is possibly my favorite. Although, picking a fave is challenging considering I enjoyed and loved each book equally. I’m amazed by Thalassa’s writing and how each book in the series - characters, plot, drama, tension - are all so different from each other and yet they are all so cohesive. Death was a wonderful conclusion to a great series. It was great to see old favorites and how they interact with each other. Thalassa always writes lovable and relatable characters that I always end up loving. Her writing is so addictive and compelling and pulls all of the emotions out of you.
Bloodwitch | Susan Dennard | YA High Fantasy | I first read this book back in 2019. This time around, reading the novella, Sightwitch, made me appreciate and enjoy Bloodwitch more than I did the first time. As I’ve said before, Dennard’s world-building is impeccable. I truly want to know how she comes up with all the unique aspects of her story. She is an underrated High Fantasy writer. I aspire to be even half as good as her when it comes to lore creation and world-building. She is also incredible with writing chemistry. And it isn’t just about the romance or lack thereof. She writes such complex relational dynamics from friendships to parenthood and mentorship. I truly don’t know where this story is going to go and I’m very curious.
If We Were Villains | M L Rio | Adult Contemporary Mystery | Maybe I would have loved this story more if I was more of a Shakespeare fan so I could geek out and appreciate more all of the references. I did however enjoy the complexity of the characters even if the MC grated me most of the time. The intrigue was what held me. I wanted to know the truth behind the mystery and to see if my predictions were right. I, however, loved Rio’s prose. Some of my new favorite quotes are from this book. She has a wonderful way with words. I appreciated the moral debacle too and how each character dealt with it. Overall, I think it was a good nod to Shakespeare and his tragedies
These Violent Delights | Chloe Gong | YA Historical Fantasy | This was one of my favorite reads last year and I can honestly say that it doesn’t disappoint & I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about it. I was drawn to the setup once I read the synopsis. Chloe blended a lot of unique and fantastic elements into one delightful story. These Violent Delights is wonderful nod to the classic, Romeo and Juliet. Set in the 1920 Shanghai, with a bit of romance, political tension, mystery, and a bit of fantasy, TVD is a story that delivers. I thoroughly enjoyed what Chloe added to and changed in the story. The intrigue and tension were perfectly done and I’m glad she kept some of the well loved scenes from the classic. I appreciated the complexity of the characters and their dynamic with each other. Chloe writes wonderful, relatable characters. Even the ‘side-characters’ were already so fleshed out and they are all so unique with their diverse stories. I can’t even tell you which one I loved more because my feelings constantly oscillate.
A Lesson In Vengeance | Victoria Lee | YA Contemporary Mystery | I’m gonna be honest and admit that it took me a while to finish this book. I had a hunch about where the story was going and I didn’t want it to be true. I loved the setup, the atmospheric vibe, and the aesthetic that it delivers. My dark academia heart was elated. @sosaidvictoria’s prose and the way they describe things is so beautiful that I can only dream of writing like them. Even though it took me a while to get into the story and I have some unanswered questions, I appreciate the thesis of this story and it was executed so beautifully well. I’m definitely adding Lee’s other works - published and ones to come - to my TBR.
Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass 4) | Sarah J Maas | YA High Fantasy | I used to think that I did not have a favorite Throne of Glass book. However, my initial, unedited 5-page review of Queen of Shadows would beg to differ. I won’t post them all on here and that is what that little envelope in the spread is for. Ha.
I do agree that the series only gets better from here. But being the 2nd longest book in the series, QoS has so much content, and good ones too. Have you ever felt like a book you were reading was too long and they should just cut it then and there? Not this book. I wanted more. I NEEDED more. You would think that Maas would have peaked in this one. Yet somehow, she has managed to top every single book since this, but I shall talk about the rest of the series in the coming posts.
Queen of Shadows, though, has everything. The lore & world-building were god-tier. I was obsessed with the witches - I consumed every information about their background, their raison d’être, how they came to be, why they were displaced, & why they are at war with each other. Forget the faes. I needed more of the witches. Manon Blackbeak stole my heart from the moment she appeared on the page in Heir of Fire and quickly but surely established herself as my favorite character in Queen of Shadows. The complexity of her character and background is so incredibly compelling that I rooted for her from the very beginning. But enough about Manon because I could seriously go on forever.
As an avid fan of epic battle scenes, QoS absolutely delivered. Sarah is also yet again superb at foreshadowing and setting up the plot for future books, at least in this series. CC is probably a close second but as we are still waiting on book 2, I can’t confirm just yet. In QoS we see her drop names of people, places, and things that won’t be pivotal to the story until 2 or 3 books later. Re-reading the series has been wonderful for this very reason. I loved seeing all these nods and foreshadowing. Knowing how it all comes together in the end only adds to the experience.
The side/minor characters stole the show for me, but the original trio has come a long way. And yet they are nowhere close to the end of their journey.
My favorite couple in the series doesn’t meet until the next book. You better believe I ship them with my whole heart. In this book, we get to see Sarah layout their backgrounds a bit more and slowly show us how each of their steps and paths is, somewhere along the way, destined to intersect - A premise Sarah is in love with if you have read her other books. Each of these characters is fated to find each other, to be in this time and space, here and now. And they all have a part to play in the story, however huge or small. Those are my favorite kinds of stories.
Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass 5) | Sarah J Maas | YA High Fantasy | I once again cried while writing this little snippet of review. Empire of Storms will forever have a special place in my heart. First of all, second to Manon, Elide is my favorite female character in the series. She's probably the one I relate to the most aside from Manon. Her story never fails to break my heart and I am so proud of her. Second, my favorite couple in the entire series FINALLY meet & I will have you know that I will ship them until my dying breath. The way Sarah interwove these characters’ stories from the last book to finally meeting in this one was done so deliciously and is perhaps her best couple meeting so far. I may be slightly biased on this because Lorcan Salvaterre will forever have my heart. But there are also so many other things and scenes in EOS that had me squealing, screaming, and crying my eyes out. It’s a challenge to talk about this book without being spoilery but I shall attempt to do so. The political intrigue and tension in this book are so accurate and emulate real-life well that was frustrating. The lore and world get even better without being too ambitious that it no longer makes sense for the characters. In EOS, she introduces us to new wonderful characters and brings back beloved ones from previous books and novellas. Her foreshadowing shine well in this one. And Maas once again delivers superb battle scenes. It is admirable and completely unfair 😂 how equally excellent she is at writing political intrigue AND fight scenes. And I stand by this, characters, & character development wise, TOG is still Sarah’s best series.
Witch Please (Fix It Witches #1) | Ann Aguire | Adult Fantasy Romance | I have to admit that I was initially drawn to this book because the heroine has the same name as me. Witch please is a delightful and cute rom-com about modern day witches.
Danica is from a long line of witches living in the midst of regular humans, unbeknownst to them, while Titus is a charming, cinnamon roll, baker who thinks he might be cursed when it comes to women. I truly adored the premise and how the magic system in this world works. The execution was a bit lacking in my opinion, but the main focus was on the main characters’ relationship with the people around them, with each other, and with their own selves. I did not expect the twist and it seemed a little out of pocket. I’m still unsure as to how I feel about it. This was my first Ann Aguirre book and I didn’t have any expectations going in. I am, however, very curious about book 2 since it features Clean who might be my favorite character in the story.
Last December, I had fully intended to read Music related books and I had quite a line-up for it as well. Alas, I didn't get to read much that month since I was traveling for the first two weeks and sick for the last one.
Musical Chairs | Amy Poeppel | Adult Fiction | Musical Chairs was the first book I read for my Music reading theme back in December. It was also my first book by Amy Poeppel. Set mainly in Connecticut and NY, Musical Chairs mainly follows the story of Bridget and Will, long-time friends and founding members of the chamber group, The Forsyth Trio, and their former bandmate, Gavin. The book also follows a lot of characters surrounding them and it was challenging to keep track of all of them at times. However, their individual stories and struggles were wonderful ride and they each brought something to the story. The book highlights the chaos and complexity of friendships, relationships, and family dynamics. How people are flawed and regardless of where they are in life, a lot of us are still finding our way and looking for where we belong. And regardless of whether we are in our 40s, 30s, or wherever, it isn’t too late to begin again.
The Lucky Ones | Liz Lawson | YA Realistic Fiction | I lost track of the number of times I cried while reading this book. The themes are heavy, intense, and heart-wrenching, but there were beautiful moments all throughout. The Lucky Ones is a story about the aftermath - the survival and surviving after the survival. It mainly follows the story of May, a high school student who lost her twin brother in a mass massacre. She along with many others of her schoolmates who survived are known as the lucky ones. But are they truly lucky? This book tackles the repercussions of one person’s choices and how the guilt of surviving when others did not eat one up on the inside until it destroys them. Even though the story is heavy, it is a beautiful story of broken people finding solace in each other and helping each other find healing, even if they don’t believe they deserve it. There are so many other themes that Lawson addresses in the book and I think she explores those complexities very well. The Lucky Ones is a great debut novel and definitely worth a read.
The Mythic Koda Rose | Jennifer Nissley | YA Contemporary | I’m not sure how I feel about this book and I might still be processing my thoughts. I truly wanted to love it. First of all, the cover is STUNNING. The story itself is set mainly in NYC and is centered around music and musicians. Koda is the only daughter of the late rock star Mack Grady. She’s managed to stay out of the limelight for most of her life, despite her father’s fame. At age 17, she finds herself in a new place, grappling with who she is, and who her father was. She forms some kind of bond/relationship with her father’s ex-girlfriend who is over thirty years her senior.
I wanted to love Koda and I wanted to love her story. But for the most part, she was naive, immature, and has no regard for consequences, which in hindsight was a perfect reflection of her upbringing. There were times when I wanted to DNF the book because of all the red flags, but I had hoped for Koda’s growth and for the people involved to do better. Sadly, I was mostly disappointed. For the most part, Koda and Sadie were the same people they were at the start of the story. There weren’t appropriate consequences for their actions. Koda does learn a bit more about herself by the end. Maybe the end of the book is the beginning of her story, of her coming of age. Perhaps that's what makes this story compelling. It is realistic in that growth and figuring out who we are and who we want to be isn't always linear, nor does it come quickly and easily. So while I did not like nor enjoy this book, I respect it.
Witchshadow (The Witchlands #4) | Susan Dennard | YA High Fantasy | Oh man, I wanted to love this book. As I’ve said before, I truly do believe Dennard is incredible at world and lore building. However, I think she may have been a bit to ambitious in Witchshadow and profusely lore/info-vomited on us. There were so many things happening at once. The lore got so confusing and a bit out of pocket and there were a lot of inconsistencies. I’m also sad that a lot of pivotal characters were sidelined here. And as much as I truly did love Iseult’s character before, it felt like she was forcing us to love Iseult that her character became a tad inconsistent. The new structure did not help either. The multiple povs and flashbacks only added confusion to an already complicated lore. I do agree that Dennard is still great at character development and world-building. Perhaps it would have been better if this was split into two books instead of smushed into one. It wouldn’t give her more space to explore and flesh out her characters as well as the plot development.