Can you believe it is July already? The year is flying by, it is almost scary! But as one month ends and another one starts, it is time for my reading recap of June 2019. All the books I read in June, and I hope a few book recommendations for you!
1. Lady Smoke – Laura Sebastian
|Author: Laura Sebastian
Published: February 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 512 pages
Series: Ash Princess
Synopsis: The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess–a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.
Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage–Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.
To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done. Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.
My review: If you’ve read my reading recap of May, you know that I very much enjoyed Ash Princess, the first book of the series. Lady Smoke starts where we left off in Ash Princess. And I think I loved this second book even more than I loved book 1.
I won’t say the plot is necessarily more intense. Indeed, I did not feel like there were many revelations, secrets or schemes uncovered. However, the whole book felt like a very long action stretching from beginning till the end. I hold my breath all along. Although I do not think there is much mystery nor suspense in this second book, I could not stop reading. I wanted more, I needed more. Thus I kept on reading until we would come to the end of the action… Which is the end of the book.
I mentioned in my review of Ash Princess that I thought all the characters were not explored as much as the main one (which is somehow logic I’d say). However, book 2 gives much more background on the secondary characters. We learn their story, of their personality, their background, etc, and it is amazing! It is not a story about just one person, the Ash Princess, but a group of people who have the same aspirations, goals and dreams. Furthermore, the novel deconstructs characters thought as “perfect”, like the previous Fire Queen. She was kind, smart and strong. Yet, she was also flawed, imperfect and maybe not the right person for the crown.
Another thing I loved is that nothing is ever easy for the main character. No one trusts her at once, follows her without questions, etc. She has to prove herself, shows what she is capable of and works hard to get the trust of her people. The end absolutely shocked me. In a positive way I might add. Because that is something I would have never expected, ever! And it was so good and perfect! I can’t say more because I don’t want to spoil!
My only negative criticism, is that I have found the main character, despite all her development, to be a little cliché at times. Also, even though I appreciate prominent female characters, some in the book, fall into very old clichés (i.e. poison is a woman’s weapon) that the book could have done without. However, even those characters have their contrast. To sum up, you should read it if you like YA.
2. Sorcery Of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson
|Author: Margaret Rogerson
Published: June 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 512 page
Synopsis: All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
My review: This book is such a favorite that I don’t even know what to say to not write a whole essay about it. I will start with the few negative points I have and then go on to why I loved the book so much!
I would say that the vilains in this book are a bit cliché. At one point, I was almost expecting the main vilain to burst into an evil laugh and start a monologue. But I also have to stay that his scheme was on point, perfectly planned out and executed. He was also never underestimating his opponents or ridiculing them, which is also, refreshing to see in a vilain.
Now onto why I loved the book so much. First of all, the universe is amazing! Libraries, magic books, wardens, sorcerers, demons, all you need to have me in love! The books have feelings and emotions just like human beings. They could talk or sing, behave like people, have their heart broken, etc. From beginning to end, I was very curious at to per what effect growing up in a magic library would have on the heroin and OMG, what a good one! Really, not disappointed! The characters were also very well constructed with strong personalities, feelings, qualities and flaws, nothing too cliché nor too good to be true.
The writing was so good, fluid, easy to read. It had the perfect flow, with a lot of humour, always there to help the reader relax or have a little laugh even when the situation is desperate. Because it quite often is for the heroin. I held my breath, started feeling all those emotions. Anxiety, angst, fear, impatience, frustration, powerlessness for the heroin. But she is never a damsel in distress, no. Even though we might think she is done for, she can’t do anything, it is over, she finds a way. Because she never gives up, she refuses to let the vilain wins, she wants the truth to come to light. And I love all the themes in the books, from being cast aside for speaking up against a man, to being framed by a man for something she did not do, from changing a very old and negative perception of one thing with the potential to hurt people, to opening your mind to other ways.
Jesus, I have so much to say! I even dedicated a full Youtube video to this book! But it is in French… so if you understand French, feel free to watch! You’ve got it, I highly recommend this book!
3. Aurora Rising – Amie Kauffman & Jay Kristoff
Author: A. Kauffman & J. Kristoff
Synopsis: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch . . .
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger-management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
My review: Before I start, I can honestly admit that sci-fi and I aren’t usually good friends. It is not a genre that really attracts me… BUT… so many videos say so may incredible things about Aurora Rising, that I could not not pick it up. And no regret. WHAT A BOOK!
I do admit that at first, I was still skeptical. The characters did look a bit clichés and I was afraid that it would be like that for the whole book. Fortunately, not. The characters grow, mature and change as the story goes and move away from the labels they stuck to. How it happens was actually super smart. Seeing one cliché popping up, I thought I knew what was about to happen. I expected it so much than when the “thing” actually did happen in a total complete different way, I was mind blown! And this book does that a few times, which makes it so unpredictable, so good and so full of suspense!
I had heard bad things regarding the change of point of view in each chapter. As a matter of fact, each chapter is narrated by another character, each in turn. Thus, we get six to seven different points of views. As far as I am concerned, this made me love the book even more. I really enjoyed reading the story from a complete different point of view each time, getting in each character’s mind, understand their thoughts and ultimately their personality better. This made them even more endearing to me. Add the that the jokes, humor and witty comebacks, and you had me sold!
I was just a bit disappointed that one POC character did not have so much time under the spotlights. She did not have that many chapters narrated through her point of view, and when she did, they were very very short. So I felt like her voice was not heard nor important. While she is probably the smartest character in the book. However, I sort of understand why the authors made that choice, as I suspect she might be on the spectrum, which would explain why she is so quiet, reserved, not sociable and her entire personality. But, as the story progresses, she gets to know her teammates, she finds her marks, opens up, get confident and speaks more. So I hope this will carry on in the next book.
Overall, I loved this book. The end really surprised me and I can’t wait to read the next one! It made me change my opinion on sci-fi and also made me buy another book from those authors. The Illuminae Files. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Another new favorite! But I’ll talk about it in my July recap!
4. Nocturna – Maya Motayne
Author: Maya Motayne
Synopsis: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.
As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.
My review: Again, I am gonna start this review being 100% honest with you. Before Nocturna, I read three books which I found absolutely amazing, two of which are now all time favorites. Thus, I might have been in the wrong mindset when I started to read this book. I had very high expectations. Nocturna had to be at least as good or even better than the three previous books. And obviously, with such high expectations, I was could only be disappointed.
I had so much trouble finishing this book. The synopsis was so promising, the promise of an exciting and thrilling adventure. The writing and description were beautiful though. However, it was just what it felt. A description. A very long description of a very slow story with a very slow plot. Each chapter is narrated from an external point of view, yet still following each character in turn. Considering those two are not together at first, we get 150 pages where we follow one character or the other until they meet. Safe to say there is not much action in the meantime. Even when they finally meet, the pace stays the same. Until the 400th page. Finally, you get a lot of action all at once but at the same time, it feels very rushed, too quick and ends up feeling unreal and unrealistic.
There are no revelations of any sort during the book and nothing that will make you hold your breath. We get hyped with the enormous threat of a destructive power that could end the world. However, there is no real feel of emergency at all. In the end, all this hype ends up being for nothing since the main characters manage to prevent its ascension so easily. Talking about the characters, I found them quite shallow and clichés. Their “I love you, I love you not” relationship dynamic changes from “I love you not” to “I love you” very very fast without any logic behind it. End in the end, we have 465 pages of this relationship building up for a result, that although very different to what we often see, ends up not being satisfying at all.
I found it weird to have just one female character when the author is female and that we have many other male characters. That some characters are introduced to never be heard of again. And overall, I really had trouble finishing this book. It is a shame because again, the synopsis was very promising.
5. Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
Author: Cassandra Clare
Synopsis: When Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks, and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
My review: After Nocturna, I had zero expectation on anything I’d read next. Clockwork Angel actually turned out to be a very good surprise! When I was in high school, I read The Mortal Instruments trilogy but never went on to read the second one or any other books from Cassandra Clare. As I kept on hearing about her and her books, I decided to go back to them and to start with the trilogy of the origins, The Infernal Devices. Clockwork Angel is the first book.
I will start saying that many characters sound very cliché at first. However, as the story goes, they move away from those cliché. I loved how multidimensional all the characters were and there were changes I really did not expect. Which were very good surprises of course and added some more mystery to the story. Some characters did piss me off for many reasons but I think that is a sign they are very well built. After all, one thing good books do is set off many emotions and feelings in the reader.
I loved how the author manipulates the reader in thinking something and then surprise them with something so far from what they expected. How we are presented with the perfect vilain – narcissistic, egocentric, selfish, vain, blood and power thirsty – and that everything in the book convinces the reader that this character is the vilain. However, it is just a distraction. And when the bombshell drops at the end, you absolutely did not expect it and are mind blown. This is how I personally felt.
I really loved this book, the plot, the mystery, pretty much everything was there to make it a fantastic book and if you have not read it yet, I highly recommend you do so asap!
Did you read any of the books mentioned in this post? Which did you or did you not like? Any books you read in June 2019? Any recommendations?
I hope you liked this post. Thanks a lot for stopping by.
See you soon,
Sounds like you had a great reading month! I have yet to read Aurora Rising but I can’t wait to read it even more after seeing how your expectations were subverted and you enjoyed it! I read The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty recently and it was such an incredible book with a lot of poc representation as well as great writing in itself. Thanks for sharing! X
I love your system for rating books, it’s so handy if you want a brief summary. Sounds like a good month for reading with lots of high ratings. I really like the sound of Clockwork Angel x
Crikey you read a lot of pretty beefy books in June! I haven’t read any of these but some definitely sound amazing! I think I read like, 1 book in June!
I love how you write and organise your monthly wrap up here! I love your system of rating books as well! Aurora Rising is definitely a book that I am now interested in reading.