Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Published by Berkley on April 7, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, LGTBQ, Historical
Pages: 270 : Paperback edition
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

I’ve come to the realization recently that I have series phobia. On top of that I’ve been adverse to hype ever since I was extremely let down by Looking for Alaska and The Hunger Games in high school. So, when this slowly started filtering onto my radar the past couple months on Tumblr, I questioned if it was really THAT good.

And IT IS. Whatever hype you’ve heard about it? It’s true. I flew through this (total) in probably just a few hours, and only stopped reading because school, work, and sleep got in the way. I haven’t been this sucked into a book in such a long time and it felt great.

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A pretty accurate representation of how I felt upon finishing Captive Prince.

There’s so many compelling things going on within these first 270 pages (I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the rest of the series), but above all you’ll find political strife, gay/lesbian/bisexual relationships, a historical aspect that lends a hand to some really excellent fanart, and a writing style that sort of slaps you in the face in its simplicity, yet complexity.

There were a few times I would put this down and just kind of stare into space like “what the hell did I just read? How does C.S. Pascat do that with her words?” And the rest of the time I was just left gaping at the page, shocked that anything could be that good.

Long story short? Buy this series right now. Buy the whole thing. I’m serious, you’re not going to want to make the mistake I did of not having the sequel right next to you to pick up immediately. Need more convincing? Check out my status updates on Goodreads while I was reading this:

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ARC Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Series: N/A
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Pages: 352 : e-ARC edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (via NetGalley)
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Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

When I read this I felt like I was being transported to another world. Which honestly hasn’t happened too often, or even recently, so it was a refreshing read over all. Chokshi was able to weave together a story as enthralling as it was beautiful. Steeped in mythological references and deeply sated in Indian culture, I loved finally having a protagonist who was a really awesome woman of color and a story that felt true to its roots.

Maya, our main character seemed so real to me. She makes mistakes and see’s the error of h9781250085474_il_2_0c898er ways and isn’t this perfect cookie cutter type character where everything works out perfectly. She experiences joy, but there is also loss in her life and this helps her grows and defines her as a person and a ruler.

Amar *fans self* wow. Amar was interesting and intriguing, always being shown as this mysterious figure. By the end of the novel though I wish we could have gotten to know him a little better because I didn’t 100% connect with him (and the relationship felt underdeveloped).

I ultimately gave this 4 out of 5 stars because I think the writing needed a smidge of refinement since at times I wanted to be shown not told, but there are some really beautiful passages and imagery here that will make this one really memorable for me. I highly recommend pre-ordering this or picking it up once it comes out in a few weeks!

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Series: Into the Dim #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Time Travel
Pages: 432 : e-ARC edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. 

I thought after the catastrophe that was Lady Midnight that I could dive into something that was much more fast-paced and enthralling but…I was left disappointed again.

It wasn’t that Into the Dim was necessarily bad, I just was so uninterested with the story after finishing 21% of it. I had little care for the main character, who’s name I can’t even remember, the story, or pretty much anything. I wasn’t sucked in as I had hoped and while I think there is a good premise here, it’s not something that had me on the edge of my seat, chomping at the bit, trying to figure out what was going to happen next.

The whole thing felt like a set up for a very stereotypical YA novel. Which, you may be thinking, “what the hell does that mean?” I just felt like it was very “I’m not special” character who is special coupled with “I don’t know what all this means” when a new world is thrust upon her. I actually yawned.

Maybe I’ll give this one another go at a later date, but as of right now, I just can’t push myself to read (or even skim) any further.

The one thing this book does have going for it? Gorgeous cover!

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 720 : Paperback edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

Let’s start this review/discussion with a couple prefaces to set the scene for you.

I have never been a huge fan of any the Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices series’ mostly because I avoided the hype of both of them for 9 years (and counting) and I could never get invested into the storylines. I owned almost the entire series for years and it just stood on my shelf collecting dust. I never watched the movie, the TV show, and I won’t. Yes, it was a huge honor to receive this ARC from the publisher and I thank them generously for taking the time/money to send it to me, but I stopped halfway through because of some ethical issues that I will try to tackle here in this post.

I read (and reviewed) City of Bones a few weeks ago and was told my numerous people that it wasn’t that great, but I had to continue reading to really get into the series. Not having the time to do so (as I am a college student who is still approaching finals), I read through the story plots on the Shadowhunters wiki pages. These were pretty informative and helped me understand the gist of the series so that I could jump into Lady Midnight and get my review done.

Flash forward almost three weeks later and I still can’t get into Lady Midnight. The action scenes felt dull, the story itself should probably be 200 pages shorter than it is, I didn’t connect with the characters, and it stressed me out having to read it. I’m not kidding. I would come home from class and see it sitting on my desk, and it stressed me out having to think about reading it and reviewing it, knowing that there was such a huge fan base behind the series. Eventually, I had to hide it in another room so it would stop staring at me and shouting “Read me! Love me!”

The past week alone has given me such guilt about not liking the series and worry about being attacked by the fandom that I even became stressed thinking about writing this review. An over exaggeration? For me, no. For others, maybe.

The past two weeks I have also been hearing reports here and there about some plagiarism scandals surrounding Cassandra Clare and the series. So, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I did my research. I read the court documents that cited what Sherrilyn Kaye was accusing Cassandra Clare of, I found examples of plagiarism from other works, and I read other opinions on the entire matter. As someone who works in my University’s Writing Center, I ethically could not continue reading this series, nor will I pick up her other works (I only recently bought some because I thought I would be able to attend an author signing for her).

So, this leads me to my current predicament and something that has been tumbling around in my mind for awhile. Yes, this may offend some people, and I’m sorry about that if you genuinely do like the series/works. However, as I said before though, I was never a fan of the series, I don’t see myself becoming a fan of the series because I’m over paranormal books, and I cannot ethically support this author.

But, what is the book blogger community if not honest? We are all allowed to have our opinions. It is not my end goal to go shouting my opinion all over social media nor do I stand for author bashing; this is just an honest portrayal of my feelings, something that I am entitled to.

For now, I’ll quietly purge myself of these books, and fade away so that others can enjoy the series as they see fit.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Simon Pulse on March 27, 2007
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 485 : Paperback edition
Source: Purchased a LONG time ago
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When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

I think I’m getting too old and too sick of this paranormal genre stuff. I was so let down by this book. After NINE YEARS of over hype, I was expecting a lot more from the story, the characters, and pretty much everything. I guessed both “plot twists” and the writing felt very lazy and very “2007” (i.e. it sounded so much like Twilight to me at times that I thought I was reading Twilight again *shudder*).

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I’ve had multiple people tell me that it does get better from here, and let’s just say that I hope it does because I’m so meh about the whole thing at this point. But let’s rewind a bit; when this series first came out in 2007 and onward, I heard a lot about it and wasn’t intrigued. I was on the tailspin of my paranormal loving phase, and was so done with that side of things. Then someone in middle school told me there was a TON of incest in this (there’s not) and if you were seen reading it, you’d be “that kid” that reads weird incest books. Not something I wanted to be known for. The cover turned me off as well, and they still do. The premise is still sort of eh to me, and I really wondered as to why people get so hyped over it.

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My reaction to the hype.

But this is written for a different audience. I’m five years older than the main character, and I just couldn’t relate to her that much. Or her friends. Simon annoys the hell out of me (he’s playing the friend-zoned victim and I’m having none of that shit). Disappointing.

Will I continue with the series? Yeah. Maybe. I’m not 100% sure yet. Half the people I talk to say keep giving it a chance, but the other half say it’s not worth my time. I have to wonder as to why I should devote so much time to a series for it to, at some point, pay off. I want it to pay off NOW. And of course, I have massive guilt over the whole thing because I received a Lady Midnight ARC, so I feel as if I should power through. Maybe I’ll just skip right to that one.

What have you thought of the Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices series? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Did you read it when it first came out, or are you a late bloomer like myself? Leave a comment!

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #2
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 15, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Pages: 512 : Hardcover edition
Source: Received as a gift from Kavs!
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Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

WARNING: Review will contain spoilers from the first book in the series, The Darkest Minds

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on December 18, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Pages: 488 : Hardcover edition
Source: Received as a gift from Kavs!
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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

I blew through this in only a few days, because I just could not put it down. This is one of those books i was reading while doing every possible task; eating, brushing my teeth, when I was supposed to be doing my homework…oops. If I didn’t live alone this would have pretty much been me:

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Okay, now how can I talk about this book in such a way that won’t wreck me more than my current state. Well, let’s start out with the good: the entire premise is awesome. It paralleled a lot of my feels that I had when reading/watching V for Vendetta (basically a really horrific society). The PSF’s are super creepy and awful which, to me, sold the whole point of how sad the situation was for the poor kids in these “reform” camps.

Our main character Ruby, I feel, is very underrated. I’m surprised I don’t hear more people talk about her when it comes to kick ass females. Sure, she’s flawed (because she’s a person), and she grows exponentially throughout the book which was interesting to see. Her powers slowly reveal themselves to us and I like that we were able to see inside her head and get the reasoning behind why she is so terrified of not only everything going on around her, but also herself.

And then, Liam. Oh wow, I love him. A lot. I was listening to the audiobook for part of this and the narrator did this perfect accent for him and it was just like *swoon*

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What I would look like if I ever met Liam.

And Chubs and Zu are awesome too. I thought I wasn’t going to like either of them but their little motley crew really grew on me and left me with so many feels….I need to get my hands on the sequel ASAP so I can figure out what other shenangins these four are getting up to. And don’t even get me started on the Slip Kid. I will say no more for fear of punching my computer.

And then that ending! My god. I started crying probably 20 pages from the end, and just didn’t stop until I put it down. I had to physically move the book away from me so I wouldn’t fling it across the room.

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I was a combination of both of these. It’s been about half an hour and I’m STILL not okay.

So, overall it was awesome! I’m actually pretty upset with myself for not having picked up this series sooner (which means you should all read it right now. Go. Put down the book you’re reading and read The Darkest Minds immediately. Then come cry with me). I can NOT wait to get started on the rest of the series and hope that all my precious babies are happy and safe. Down with the PSI’s.