Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) by Brian Staveley
Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 by Brandi

Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) by Brian StaveleySkullsworn by Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Published by Tor Books on April 25, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, print ARC
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Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death.

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer--she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including "the one you love / who will not come again."

Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.

Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love...and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

“Music is inextricable from its own unmaking. Each note is predicated on the death of those before. Try to hold them all, and you have madness, cacophony, noise.”

I’ve made no bones about how much I love Brian Staveley’s writing, and when I saw he was bringing one of my favorite characters back for her own story I was overjoyed! The bad news is that this took a bit for me to feel pulled in, but full disclaimer – I have been in the most epic of epic reading slumps. Literally the worst slump since I learned how to read. I’m pretty sure that’s what my disconnect was all about but the start was a little heavy, a little purple-y, but that could just be me right now.

This story is about Pyrre, who became one of my ultimate faves in his Unhewn Throne series, and it was super awesome getting inside her head and learning some of her past. This story is set before the Unhewn series and is about Pyrre becoming a Priestess for her god (the god of death). She decides to go back to her homeland to carry out her Trial with Ela and Kossal as her Witnesses. Ela is enchanting and I would happily devour a stand alone or more of just her (please, Brian!!), and Kossal was the perfect compliment to both women. Pyrre, of course, knows that she must give to the god someone for whom she loves but she can’t quite decide what love is and how to get to that point. Ela and Kossal can only do so much to help her understand what love is, and there were some serious philosophical conversations within Pyrre’s own head on this matter. Her story is a tense waiting game to see if she’ll succeed or meet her god.

“The goddess makes us in endlessly different ways. Our Struggles are no more the same than our face.”

Pyrre is fascinating to crawl inside of: her childhood was shocking, her training relentless, her mind a warren of endless entertainment. I loved going between deep philosophical debates on love and worship to seeing her biting humor and adventurous spirit. Seeing her find the one person she might be able to love and going through that journey with her was tough. The synopsis tells us what she has to do so as I’m falling for Ruc I’m all upset that his death is coming and I would go back and forth between glaring at Staveley and feeling sad for Ruc and mad at Pyrre. Even in my horrific slump Brian Staveley knew just how to draw me in.

“All that they have is the old stories, stories of snakes in throats and violets in eyes – those stories are their only weapon, and stories are only weapons if you repeat them.”

“As long as they remained unspoken, they could be denied, disowned, but saying a thing gives it strength.”

This book is a true stand alone but I can’t recommend the Unhewn series enough, Pyrre is a supporting character there so you really can read this without them, but it’s the same world which always makes the reading that much more interesting I think. This book has all that I love in stories: action, adventure, love, sex, humor, myths, legends, and fun. It is an easy read being pretty short for a fantasy which is a great way to break into the genre if you’re not already a fan – or don’t like reading super long books. Brian Staveley is a must-read author.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Once Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer
Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2016 by Aimee

I received this book for free from Penguin, Speak in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Once Upon a Kiss by Robin PalmerOnce Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer
Published by Speak on January 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, print ARC
Source: Penguin, Speak
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So much has happened since 1986, and Zoe Brenner is about to find out just how much.
From the author of the book that inspired the Disney original movie Geek Charming!

It's 1986 and sixteen-year-old Zoe Brenner's world revolves around Depeche Mode, Judd Nelson, exercise-obsessed parents, and her best friend Jonah. Then one day, in a freak Fun-Dip choking accident, Zoe falls unconscious, and awakes in the year 2016. So much has changed, and Zoe needs Jonah to help her make sense of it all. But in this life, Zoe is the most popular girl in school, and she soon realizes this Zoe doesn't associate with nerds like Jonah. As Zoe juggles new technology, attempts to hide her enthusiasm for poet blouses, and manages to keep her super jock boyfriend at bay, she tries to rekindle her friendship with Jonah and use her popularity for a good cause. Will she ever get back to 1986? And more importantly, does she want to?

A Review Told in Reaction Images: Once Upon a Kiss
(aka Sometimes I Write Short, Harsh Reviews)

#1: The Plot

Once Upon a Kiss is filled with nothing but filler, filler, filler. And plot holes. Lots and lots of plot holes. (Basically NOTHING that happens is ever explained.)

#2: The Heroine

Zoe is a judgemental “special snowflake” character with absolutely no redeeming qualities. The sad part is, she THINKS she’s totally nice and open-minded, when in fact she’s the quickest one to stereotype and judge. The girl-on-girl hate was just… ugh.

#3: The Writing

This book was so full of pop culture references that it was going to explode. Dude, I get it. Some part of the book’s set in the 80’s–I got that from the 231287 you reminded me so. And by that, I mean the heroine takes every opportunity to TELL us it’s the 80’s.

#4: The Characterization

EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. IN. THIS. BOOK. IS. BASED. ON. A. STEREOTYPE. They’re basically just cardboard cutouts with no depth to them whatsoever.

#5: The Romance

This is the only saving grace of the entire novel for me. Again, it was your typical high school romance, but you guys know how much I love best-friends-to-lovers stories.

Overall, way too shallow and full of teenage drama for my tastes. With annoying language and one-dimensional characters, Once Upon a Kiss was just not the read for me.

One Star

Air Awakens by Elise Kova
Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Aimee

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Air Awakens by Elise KovaAir Awakens (Air Awakens, #1) by Elise Kova
Series: Air Awakens #2
Published by Silver Wing Press on August 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 377
Format: ARC, print ARC
Source: the author
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A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond...
The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

This book and I got off on the wrong foot, really. It was probably the COMPLETELY inconsistent pacing that threw me off. I mean, sometimes things happen way too fast, (like the romance, ugh. More on that later) while others take foreverrrr (like, unfortunately, the rest of the plot).

Read more… »

One StarOne StarOne Star

Made for Us by Samantha Chase
Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Aimee

I received this book for free from Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Made for Us by Samantha ChaseMade for Us (The Shaughnessy Brothers, #1) by Samantha Chase
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 4th 2015
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ARC, print ARC
Source: Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks Casablanca
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The Shaughnessy brothers—Aiden in particular—have spent the years since their mother’s untimely death taking care of each other and trying to make their father proud. And Aiden has managed pretty well so far. But his father is starting to worry he’s neglected himself. At the age of thirty-four, he is successful and handsome, and he still has no grandchildren!

Aiden’s met plenty of attractive women over the years, but who has the time? It isn’t until he meets Zoe, a designer on one of his jobs, that he starts realizing he wants something more...

Adult contemporary isn’t a genre I normally dive into, but the promise of a hardworking hero and a fierce heroine definitely appealed to me. Made for Us gave me that… but only in the first ten pages. Ultimately, this book ended up turning into an overly dramatic book full of angst.

Read more… »

One StarHalf a Star

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Hi! I'm Emily May but feel free to call me Emily. I'm a book lover, beta-reader, and Politics graduate from the North of England.

Hey there! I'm Brandi; I'm a Navy veteran, Army wife, mother, feminist and book lover! My go-to genre would have to be Urban Fantasy, but any fiction is game really.

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