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review 2018-07-21 07:44
Unbreakable (The Unblemished Trilogy) - Sara Ella

Eliyana Ember is a reluctant queen. As vessel of the Verity—the purest of souls—only she can lead the fight against the wicked magnetism of the Void. If she fails, the paths between Reflections will cease to exist, and those she loves will remain plagued by darkness. After falling through a draining Threshold and suffering near-death, Eliyana awakens to a Shadowalker-ridden Venice, Italy. From there, she must learn to navigate mysteries of time and space. Traveling across the seven Reflections, Eliyana seeks one thing: the demise of the Void. But something else is at stake—the fate of her heart. Kyaphus Rhyen and Joshua David, brothers in arms, duel to win her hand. Ky remains ensnared and tortured by the Void. Joshua, though well-meaning, harbors dark secrets. Meanwhile, Eliyana finds herself torn, her mind and memories leading her in one direction, but her heart pulling her toward a man she knows she shouldn’t trust. How can she discern whom to believe when she cannot even depend on her own fragmented memories?





*NOTE: This is a continuation / conclusion of a series, so we have some spoiler-y material down below. Click away now if you haven't yet read the first two books and don't want spoilers!



Eliyana is now queen of the Second Reflection and vessel for The Verity. As such, she prepares herself and her kingdom for leading an attack against The Void. She survives a fall through a Threshold that nearly kills her (attempting to suck her life force out), awakening in Venice, Italy to find the place full of Shadowalkers. From Venice, Eliyana begins a journey that takes her across the Seven Reflections, gathering info on how to most successfully destroy The Void once and for all. During all this, Eli also goes through an unexpected physical alteration that leaves her quite shaken. 


Meanwhile, Ky is struggling with being periodically controlled / tortured by The Void while his brother Joshua David, still not quite right in the head after the events of Book 2, has developed the early stages of DID (once referred to as Split Personality Disorder). Honestly, this part of the book was a little hard to keep straight but I BELIEVE "David" was the good side while "Josh" was the evil one?! The chapters in this book, as in the earlier installments, alternate POVs between Eli, Josh and Ky and in Josh's chapters there's a lot of first person referencing "Josh" in third person. For real, compared to the first two books, this one was a massive headache to keep sorted out. 


Even the world building! While impressive in the first book, in this one it was more like a literary Christmas lights tangle. Just all over the place. A ton of info dumps.




What else went wrong? Well, Eli's sister, Ebony -- While I actually kinda liked her character in the earlier installments, in this conclusion piece I found her distractingly obnoxious. Seriously, WHAT happened to all these characters I loved so much in Book 1??!


Also, AGAIN the reader is assaulted with pop culture references. Goodness, Miss Sara Ella does play to a certain demographic, and HARD. This was an issue I had with the second book and right off the bat in Book 3 I already hit the "hey, young millennial!" wall. Being of the millennial generation myself... for me, being so obvious felt a little desperate to sound relevant... which is generally not really required of a FANTASY novel. But I will say she does ease up on the habit SOME as you move along in this third book. Even so, it's noticeably grating for this reader.  


While I found the first book very unique and gripping, having now reached this conclusion novel I find much of the series to be a sort of YA / NA soap opera with mild, not always well plotted out fantasy elements.


Indulge me a momentary rant: *VENICE. SERIOUSLY --- HOW DO YOU DO SO LITTLE WITH SUCH A SETTING??? -- only brief mention of some canals and St. Marks Basilica and then off to anywhere, everywhere else! Why bother working that location in at all, then? At one point, Eli is even going to the literal Land of Oz. No joke. 


I read this one in a day but it took ALL DAY with LOTS of breaks in between. Not because of "OMG THE FEELS. SQUUEEE!" but more like I'm so bored outta my gourd I was doing anything and everything -- even laundry and deep cleaning projects, y'all -- procrastinating going back to this book... not a good sign, but since I was sent this one for review, I don't feel right bestowing a DNF on it. 


Noted, Sara, you're a fan of OUAT, Disney and all things princess-y and whimsical. You're hip. You're with it. Dukka Dukka Dukka.


 Image result for im hip im with it


One line I will give Sara Ella props for though, is in Chapter 22, when Ky explains how he perceives The Verity: "Pure of heart doesn't mean without darkness... it means a desire for the light." As someone who has had a lot of darkness in her life but still strives for good, I thought this was rather well put. 


But yeah, maybe next go 'round, pull back on the pop culture refs just a bit, girl. 



FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.




My review for Unblemished (Book 1)

My review for Unraveling  (Book 2)


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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-20 06:31
Say Goodnight to Snow Like Ashes with the Frost Like Night Audiobook
Frost Like Night - Sara Raasch
This post will contain spoilers for Frost Like Night, the third book in the Snow Like Ashes trilogy by Sara Raasch.



Frost Like Night is the third and final book in the Snow Like Ashes trilogy which I absolutely adored because it centred around lands that only have one season, and our heroine is a refugee royal of the Winter kingdom. Also, there is magic, and our young heroine becomes the fucking queen of Winter. I mean, what more could I possibly want in a fantasy trilogy?


Nothing, I tell you.


The whole thing is wonderful and directly appeals specifically to me.


Frost Like Night picks up where Ice Like Fire left off, with Meira travelling to Paisley to learn how to control her magic. There is heaps of introspection in the first half of the book, which I found really frustrating because it just seemed like there was a whole bunch of talking and thinking and hardly any DOING SOMETHING, but it actually needed to be there because of what Meira decides to do later on in the book to stop Angra and the spread of Decay. Without that slow part, with all of Meira’s introspection, the emotional hit at the end of the book wouldn’t have been so powerful. Anyway I think the trick to get past this part for me was to listen to the audiobook, because that way the pages turn anyway.


Mather was a genuinely good guy, a brave, loyal Winterian, who wasn’t afraid to step down from his role as future king and serve instead a queen, as her soldier, but my favourite part about him was his narrator, Nick Podehl. Nick is such a great narrator that I actually Googled him, found out he did a Communications degree with a minor in Theatre and thought, “Oh, THAT’S why he’s so good!” I felt kind of lukewarm about Mather until I heard Nick’s portrayal. I might kinda have a crush on Nick?


Sorry, Nick.


Meira’s narrator is also really awesome, both of them put heaps of emotion into their voices, do decent jobs of character dialogue including gender switches, and don’t hold back anything at all, committing 100% to telling a great story.


Ceridwen’s narrator was fine too, but to be honest I was not really sure why we got Ceridwen’s point of view until I discovered the short story Flame Like Vines was about her. The story could have been told without her, even parts that are shown right near the climax. It would have been nice if we could have stuck to only Winter narrators. Maybe Nessa or Dendera? I don’t have a problem with Ceridwen, except for the whole Jesse thing…


And OK Theron. Let me talk about Theron.


But first let me point out that this book is heavily biased towards the Winterians. It’s about the Queen of Winter, and she’s got to be perfectly imperfect and all of her Winterians are super loyal and inherently good (bar one, who for no reason betrays everyone, so he’s probably not even WInterians). It’s almost genetic, how everyone else can’t possibly be as good and pure and honourable as Winterians, except if you’re Princess Ceridwen who is almost an honorary Winterian anyway courtesy of her Point of View chapters.


So anyway Theron gets possessed, but because he’s not Winterian and therefore one of the inherently (and tragically) good guys, Meira goes on and on about how he CHOSE to be possessed and do evil things he had no control over, like it’s his own fault he got mind fucked and fucked over and jeez, poor Theron. I actually liked him until he became this possessive possessed shithead whose motivation consisted of very possessive attitudes towards Meira.


Also one thing I found a bit weird was that Cerdiwen and Mather told their stories in third person past tense, whereas Meira told her story in first person present tense, but really over audiobook I hardly noticed this and only really discovered it when I wanted to look something up in my paperback version.


Probably the only things I actually had issues with involved the worldbuilding:

  • It’s a huge world with eight distinct cultures and then magic with strict rules on top of that.
  • There’s SO MANY rules for this magic, for example you can only use it on specific peoples or you can’t attack or be selfish with it but you can defend or protect someone else without it turning into Decay but even then there are very specific loopholes…
  • It’s been a while since I read the other books, but
  • Raasch is really great at dropping hints and reminding you what happened previously, so I wasn’t as lost as I feared I might be, but still,
  • The magic and worldbuilding is so intricate, detailed, entwined and sometimes heavy that sometimes I did feel a little lost, and
  • even though Meira can heal her fellow Winterians, one dies from blood loss in her arms and I’m like OH RIGHT MEIRA WHERE IS YOUR MAGIC NOW YOU’RE ALL TRAINED?
  • There was no reason why Meira couldn’t have healed this character and she didn’t even think about it, it was just all sad and stuff, except that I wasn’t sad because I remembered that Meira could heal people the rest of us thought were dead like what happened in the first book, so I kept waiting for it, and it never happened…
  • and then later on she heals someone else, and I’m like, OH, SO YOU JUST LET THAT OTHER PERSON DIE BECAUSE REASONS.

I love a big climax, and Frost Like Night has a great big climax that involves everyone you want to be involved, really difficulty hurdles to overcome,including physical, mental, and emotional, and a really satisfying conclusion that happens as a result of all of the struggles everyone goes through over the series.


I really enjoyed seeing Meira rise from an orphan refugee into such a position of power, challenge the destiny she is forced into, and her decisions revolving around that and her coming to terms with it. She really is a great character to hang out with and I enjoyed almost every moment with her.


PS it’s not Game of Thrones meets Graceling, come on marketing department, you can do better than that.

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review 2018-07-16 21:59
No Thank You! I Said Good Day Sir!
Fallout - Sara Paretsky

Okay let's start with the good, we get into the racial history of a town in Kansas. You can see how things were set up different for those who were white and black. If the book had managed to focus on that this would have been stronger. Instead, Paretsky throws in the military, hidden secrets about germ warfare, Russians (how topical), and the initial investigation seems to be lost in trying to tie into too many things in this town's past.


"Fallout" takes place entirely with VI in Lawrence, Kansas tracking down a man (August) that Bernie (Boom Boom's goddaughter) knows from her hockey teammate. Bernie asks VI to help find him since there was a break in at a gym he worked at and many people are starting to think he had something to do with it. When VI goes to work and finds out August left town to go with an aging African American actress to her hometown in Kansas to film her life, she follows. From there the book flails into a chaotic mess. 


VI is at a crossroads with her relationship with Jake. Yeah things looked great in the last book, but out of nowhere he has gone to Switzerland to play music for a year (I was so confused about this) and gets resentful of VI's job, her life, and her not following him. I hated we just got emails from this character with VI not doing anything to head off what is coming her way relationship wise.

VI's nosy neighbor is missing (thank goodness) and Lotty and Max are barely in this one. Unfortunately we have freaking Bernie showing up in this one again and I swear I loathe this character. I am not the only reviewer that cannot stand her. After this book she better not pop up in one of VI's cases again. 


The secondary characters we meet are interesting in this one. I did laugh at people pointing out that wherever VI went dead bodies or women in need were out there. Small towns are pretty hilarious. So kudos for Paretsky for capturing that in this book. I just wish the book had focused more on the town and the history. Throwing in the germ warfare and what happened in this town in the 80s (which is not believable) was a hard pillow to swallow. I just found myself rolling my eyes through most of this book. There was another big plot point (who was a character's father) that I could not with. I maybe slammed my Kindle at that point and turned on Netflix to watch Death in Paradise for a n hour. 

The writing was typical Paretsky, I just had issues with the logic leaps in this one as I said above. The flow was off mightily in this one though. The whole book felt draggy. Reading about VI trying to work out, or walking her dog (why was the dog even with her???) just became monotonous after a while. 


Moving the action from Chicago to Lawrence wasn't a problem for me. Just the way the plot unfolded. I like it when the main character is out of familiar surroundings. Makes the books more interesting when you get into a long running series like this.

I read an excerpt of the next book, "Shell Game" and it looks interesting. 

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review 2018-07-16 21:35
This Book Was Bonkers-Not in a Good Way
Brush Back (V.I. Warshawski) - Sara Paretsky

Besides the clever ending which gets at the title of the book, this one was a chore to get through. At first I thought a case tying things back to VI's family, specifically her cousin Boom Boom would be great. But after a while the whole thing sounded so freaking implausible I just could not. I also hated that we get a Petra stand in (Boom Boom's goddaughter Bernie) and Mr. Contreras was maddening. We also get a return of Bobby and Conrad (bah to him, I am glad that VI finally told him to let shit go) and the whole book felt endless. I think the big problem is that there were too many moving parts that didn't make a very cohesive plot. 


In "Brush Back" we have VI being asked by her ex-boyfriend (from high school) to look into his mother's murder case. More than decades has passed since Frank Guzzo's mother Stella went to jail for the murder of his sister Annie. Stella admits to beating Annie and going to bingo (as one does) but claims she was alive when she left. Things seem to be out of VI's hands after Stella refuses her help and acts like an asshole while doing so. When Stella accuses VI's dead cousin Boom Boom of murdering her daughter and her father covering it up, VI starts snooping to figure out who could have killed Annie if not Stella.


VI was rightfully riled up in this one. I like to see her mad and her investigation skills have not gotten rusty. She knows immediately her cousin could not have done this and starts pulling out threads about the Guzzo family. You also find out how hard things were for VI after her mother passed away and how some of the neighbors were jerks. I can see why she booked it out of South Chicago. 


We get familiar secondary characters in this one: Lotty, Max, Bobby, Conrad, VI's tenant she shares office space with, Mr. Contreas, Jake. We also get some new characters, VI's cousin's god daughter who is obviously a Petra stand-in. I didn't like her much in this book and loathed in the next book. She ends up being a pain in the ass and costs VI in both books cause she doesn't listen and swears she knows all. I hope that Paretsky poofs her in book number 19 (Shell Game).


I have to say though the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. The why behind people trying to set up Boom Boom was dumb as hell. If you met VI even once you have to know that threatening her or her family member's memories would not make her back off. Things don't tie together nicely and I have to say the ending was very frustrating/not believable things at all. VI can't just get people to always come out and rescue her and her doing this I am an independent woman who needs no one shtick. I wish she get a partner again, but looks like we won't see that happening anytime soon. 


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review 2018-07-16 21:23
Critical Mass- Most I Have Liked VI in a While
Critical Mass - Sara Paretsky

After the last book in the VI Warshawski series I was tempted to just leave the series alone. But I am a completionist at heart and finally just buckled and bought this book. This one actually hangs together very well. VI is focused on figuring out how a daughter of one of Lotty's childhood playmates is doing after it looks like she may be in danger. The plot revolves around that, pre and post War World II, and the arms race. There were so many lines in this book that I found myself loving.


"Critical Mass" has a 50 year old or 50 plus year old VI off to help a childhood friend of Lotty's daughter. Lotty actually washed her hands of the friend and though she tried to help the daughter, eventually gave up on that too. When VI shows up at a meth house, she finds a man dead (the scene described is stomach turning) and realizes the woman is missing. From there VI finds out the woman's son is also now missing and huge tech giant is scared he has stolen their plans and is out there selling  his secrets to the highest bidder.

VI does what she does best, asks questions, and goes investigating via libraries, the internet, and just using old fashioned intuition to put two and two together. She manages to once again find herself in a gun standoff (seriously that part is getting old) and once again has to deal with being so run down and tired but managing to push through. One wonders though when VI is going to just have to retire. I cannot see her still taking punches and getting shot in her 70s. It's already pushing realms of belief that she is able to walk after some of her run ins.

VI is still in a romance with Jake. I do like him and was surprised to see how well they mesh. 

The secondary characters of Lotty and Max were welcomed. I was so glad to see Petra (VI's cousin) banished to the Peace Corps. I wish Mr. Contreas would go with Petra. I don't see how a guy pushing 90 is even doing running around with VI.


The writing was good and of course we get some historical facts mixed in to make this more realistic. I do love that Paretsky has made VI an unapologetic feminist and pushes for more individual rights over the government, cops, and anyone that could oppress them. Even though these are fictional characters, reading about what the fictional Nazis did to people during the Holocaust was awful. 


The flow was actually pretty good in this one and I was able to follow the plot easily enough.


The setting of Chicago continues to surprise and Paretsky manages to make things fresh. 


There were some surprises here and there and the ending was a surprise. We find out a lot of secrets that even the main participants in this one didn't know. 

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