Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake – ARC Review

Thank you to Tor Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.

Most of them.

This book blew my mind! Every single time I thought I knew what was happening a plot twist came and left me reeling! This book is very character driven and we get to see the point of views of all six characters. Each and every character is absolute chaos and I love them all so much. My favourites however are Nico and Libby, I absolutely loved their dynamic.

No one here is good. Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.

This book follows six people who have some incredible abilities as well as being some of the smartest minds on the planet. I loved every single one of them, they’re all so unique and each have their own story within the main story of them fighting for a spot to be part of the society. They each have their own strength and weaknesses and they have to learn to work together despite not trusting each other. When they get to the decision of who is going to be eliminated it was so interesting to see it from each of their point of views.

Really there was nothing more dangerous than a woman who knew her own worth.

Libby was one of my favourites because although she is incredibly smart and very capable, she has anxiety which shows in how she is constantly needing to prove herself and the way she fidgets all the time and it was so relatable. Nico is so caring and loyal to his friends and I loved seeing his friendship with Gideon. I also loved Parisa and how confident and smart she is and uses everything to her advantage even the fact that she incredibly beautiful which always makes others underestimate her. Tristan’s ability was also really interesting and one of my favourite scenes is of him and Libby working together to protect the library. Callum was one who I didn’t like until the end which honestly surprised me.

Either you believe you’re worthy or you don’t, end of story.

Right from the beginning I was completely hooked and stayed up late at night to read just one more chapter because I just needed to know everything! Every time I thought I had figured things out, I was left reeling because I did not in fact figure things out and it was such a wild ride! There is a lot of science in this and when I’m reading I felt like I was sitting in class with them listening to the smart kids talk about advanced science that had me feeling like I was not as smart as school had convinced me I was.

But princesses can be monstrous at times

I loved reading this book and the interactions between the characters especially Nico and Libby and their bickering but also knowing each other so well. The last part of the book were we finally start to see all the pieces fitting together and figuring out what everything has been leading up to was so satisfying and it had me screaming. Then we get to the end which was intense and an absolute wild ride and now I am dying in anticipation for the sequel because I need to know what will happen next.

YA Books

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco – Book Review

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from goodreads:

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…

I really enjoyed Kingdom of the Wicked so I was looking forward to reading the sequel but unfortunately I did not enjoy this book at all. It was a hot mess.

This book takes place just after the events of the first book and while the first book had an interesting plot that kept me reading one more chapter this book is mostly Emilia trying to be smart and scheming but not actually doing much at all. You could read the last couple chapters and move on to the third book and not miss anything of importance.

This book is also aimed at younger YA and yet it is not appropriate at all for them. There is romanticisation of sexual assault and violent behaviour. One scene where Wrath gets Emilia completely drunk to the point she can’t even feed herself so she unable to consent and then later tells her he was doing it to teach her how to protect herself. Later in the book, Emilia comments that some people like violent behaviours when it comes to romance and this is such a dangerous thing to normalise for young people. I honestly don’t know how this was all included in the book.

Emilia also annoyed me to no end in this book, she acted like she was being so smart and badass but she was not, she was just plain stupid and unable to work anything out that every single person around her already knew. But at least she did it with confidence, I guess. She repeatedly said the same thing again and again and yet all we see from her: no thoughts, head empty, only horny. I don’t have an issue with romance in general but this was just not it. It felt very toxic and Wrath withheld important information from her regarding who she is actually supposed to be marrying and it just felt ick.

Wrath was just as annoying and after him basically assaulting Emilia in the name of training her, I just did not like him at all after that. This wasn’t addressed at all in the book at any point and I really need these scenes to stop being shown in books aimed at young teens.

This book is also very romance heavy and the plot suffered because of it, in fact there was very little plot at all. We make zero progress throughout the whole book and then right at the end all the reveals happen together and in the span of the last two chapters which were also generally very obvious to everyone except Emilia.

The ending of this book was really underwhelming because there was so little plot and everything was so vague and just I was barely interested by the end because I was so irritated by having to get through a whole book to end on THAT ending when the ending of the first book suggested we would get a lot more information but we got very little.

I’m so disappointed because I actually enjoyed the first book and this book was a mess.

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh – ARC Review

Thank you, Hodder and Stoughton, for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking… 

I was instantly drawn to this book because of the absolutely beautiful cover and the story is just as beautiful. This story takes place under the sea in the spirit realm and Mina has to try to end the curse that is not only causing destruction to her home but also in the spirit realm.

This book is magical and enchanting and honestly I was not expecting the story to be like this but I ended up loving it anyways. I love the world we get to see and how the culture and traditions are shown in the story and how those in power may not be the right people for the job and then there are others who would sacrifice everything to help those around them.

I loved all the characters and especially Mina. She is brave and kind and caring and smart. She does not stop doing what is right because it is difficult or because she is scared. She makes the sacrifices again and again to save and help those she loves. She is also reckless at times and often putting herself in danger but is helped by her friends that she makes in the spirit realm. I just really loved her and the relationships she builds with others. Her love for her brother, so that he isn’t separated from the woman he loves, she takes her place instead and that alone is a huge sacrifice and yet she continues to be caring and kind and helping others even putting her life at risk for them. It doesn’t make her bitter and angry and I really loved seeing that.

Shin was a bit more of a mysterious character and it took me a little longer to warm up to him but by the end when we learn more about him I loved him too. I loved his friendships and how he protects everyone. I think my main issue with the book is that the romance felt a little rushed and I wasn’t completely sold on how suddenly they developed these feelings for each other but I was rooting for them by the end.

I loved the discussions around fate and whether we can change the fate that others decide for us and I loved seeing the women who were sent as brides before given more thought. Mina thinks about how they didn’t have a choice and whether they wanted this for themselves. She also has a huge decision to make in this story, whether she will tie her fate to the sea god or follow her heart. And I really loved going on this journey with her.

This book is whimsical and beautifully written and I highly recommend everyone read it!

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday – Favourite Book Settings

Sharing some of my favourite book settings in this post. Some of the places I would absolutely love to visit!

Daevabad from The City of Brass – I mean duh! If Alizayd turned up and said lets go, I would drop everything and absolutely go!

Caraval from Caraval – It seems so magical to go see everything there just as long as I could definitely leave unscathed

Arawiya from We Hunt the Flame – Look let me just go hang out with Altair and eat good food.

Ketterdam from Six of Crows – Would I survive? Who knows? But it will be fun!

The Shire from Lord of the Rings – It just seems so peaceful, I just want to spend my time relaxing and reading there

Camp Half Blood from the Percy Jackson Series – I would love to go hang out with them all!

Lunar from The Lunar Chronicles – Obviously I would visit once Cinder is in charge

San Cristobal from Nocturna – I just want to visit Alfie, Finn and Luka and hang out

City of Noor from The Candle and the Flame – It seems so wonderful and I just want to spend a day walking the streets

L’Edan from The Gilded Wolves – I want to hang out with Laila and Zofia and them all and eat good food, maybe plan a heist or two

Where would you love to visit?

Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri – ARC Review

Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire. 

TW: Discussions of being burned alive

I really loved the story though it was really dark at times. The world that Tasha has created was incredible. I loved that it’s inspired by Indian/Desi culture and all the things that was so familiar to me. From things like the clothes and food to the architecture and language, it was just so wonderful to see it in the book.

The discussions of how colonisation and the oppression of the indigenous populations and erasure of their culture and history was written into the story so well. It was a complex nuanced discussion which we see through both the oppressed and the colonisers and how it has impacted different people and communities. How the oppressed have lost their language and culture how they have become the most vulnerable and poor, unable to live safely and peacefully. How people will have different definitions of what resistance looks like and what lengths people will go to, to put an end to the occupation.

This book has some incredible female characters from Malini who can be ruthless to achieve her goals and kind hearted Priya who will always look out for those she loves and Bhumika who’s powerful in her own way despite people thinking she is weak because she cares for the poor and vulnerable. I loved seeing how women can be powerful in their own way and there isn’t just one “right” way to be strong and powerful.

I loved seeing the different points of view and how these women made a difference in a society that holds little value for women and how they are in many ways better and more resilient than the men in their lives. I am so excited to see where the story will go next after the ending of this book. I am especially looking forward to seeing Malini taking down her brother!

I think my one issue with the story was that I felt the romance between Priya and Malini felt a little forced, I just didn’t find they had chemistry or depth in their relationship past the attraction they had to each other and that they were both fighting for an end to the oppression of their people.

I am still really excited to read the next book especially because I completely fell in love with the world building and the story had me hooked from the beginning and I cannot wait to see where the story will go next.