Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Alexis, wearing a green flannel, holds a up a Kindle copy of This Savage Song in front of a fenceline and an autumn forest.

Alexis:

I have to admit: Schwab’s books are either a hit or miss for me, and I’ve avoided reading more of her books for that reason.

But I think This Savage Song, the first in the duology, is my favorite of hers so far!

It follows two juniors in high school named Kate and August, in an apocalyptic America that’s been divided into territories and overrun with monsters born from violence.

Kate is the daughter of Harker, who rules one side of the city of Verity, and August’s father is Flynn, who rules the other side. Kate does her best to get kicked out of every boarding school her father has dumped her in, in an attempt to come home to Verity. When Kate finally returns to Verity, August is enrolled into her high school, his enemy’s high school, in order to spy on her.

But here’s the thing: August isn’t actually human, no matter how hard he tries to be. He’s a Sunai, and he can reap souls through music, with his violin. 

I loved the gritty, urban feel of this book. Schwab’s writing style definitely works the best with this kind of book (as opposed to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which is a lot less punchy and to the point, and instead very flowery). And I’m always a sucker for a dual POV.

August was by far my favorite character in this book. I loved his personality, and how he tries his best to balance who he wants to be with his monster side. And his musical, monster-y superpower was so interesting to read about. He’s such a wholesome and well-rounded character.

Kate is a great character, too. Schwab did a great job of writing how her past trauma impacted her and continues to influence her character. She’s a strong badass with a soft side, and she and August’s personalities mesh well together. 

Though a long book, the pacing was great, and I loved the survival plotline. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 

Our Dark Duet

I flew through this book because I wanted to know what happened. That being said, it just felt a little disjointed, especially in comparison to the first one. The gritty vibes were all there, all good, and I really liked Kate’s character arc.

I liked August’s character arc, too, but I felt like we didn’t get to see his transformation, while we got scenes in the beginning explaining and detailing how Kate got to where she is.

The plot was a little bit frustrating, mostly because there was one monster that appears and is never explained/explored enough, so that I was left with a lot of questions. But mostly, I enjoyed this book overall…if it wasn’t for the ending.

It was a very specific kind of ending that I really, really don’t like. It’s totally a personal preference, but for me, it just kind of ruined the story.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐

Overall, if you’re looking for a gritty, YA urban fantasy, definitely pick this up! Now, the question is: should I finally read A Darker Shade of Magic?

Review: Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Alexis:

Well, I had this review ready to go over a week ago. I never got around to posting it, and then, unfortunately, I just got out of the hospital yesterday. The only good thing about being in the hospital was that I got to read 4 books, but I’m glad to be out and doing well.

Now, onto the review!

Thank you so much to Fierce Reads and NetGalley for sending me a digital arc of Lakesedge!

If you’re into dark YA fantasies, atmospheric books, lyrical writing, and dark themes, you might be into this book. It often gave me Jane Eyre vibes with a sprinkle of A Sorcery of Thorns thrown in. I’ve seen it described as a gothic book, and while I wouldn’t describe it as gothic, per say, it does have a creepy, haunted estate ruled by a morally grey man. 

Violeta lives with her abusive, overly-religious adopted mother along with her little brother, Arien. Arien has magic; he can make shadows. But his shadows are unpredictable, and they come out when he sleeps. When Rowan Sylvanan comes to their village to collect the tithe, he sees Arien’s shadows. He comes to collect Arien, but Violeta refuses to let him, her last surviving family member, leave without him. When they arrive at Lakesedge, Rowan’s estate, not only does she have to deal with the prickly Rowan and a cursed lake, but the Lord Under…the lord of the underworld himself.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Clipstone’s writing style completely sucked me in. Her details are dark and creepy, and her writing has a dreamy, atmospheric quality to it. Clipstone describes magic in a clear and beautiful way, and I thought the religion in Lakesedge was written well. Even though the story itself was slower paced, I found myself speeding through it because I wanted to know what the heck was going on. 

Rowan was my favorite character. I liked Arien, too, although I hope his character, and some of the others, are more well-rounded in the sequel. 

The biggest thing keeping this from being a five-star review is Violeta’s character. In the beginning of the book, she was naive and annoying, to be honest. While she got a little better as the book went on, she still wasn’t my favorite character. Because of this, I had a little bit of a hard time rooting for the romance. On top of that, while I’m happy to say that there is LGBTQ rep, it felt like it was a little thrown in at the last minute; but once again, I have high hopes for the sequel, where I hope everything will become more fleshed out! I’m here for the spooky vibes, magic, and romance. 

TW: Self harm/mutilation, abuse/parental abuse, death, blood, drowning imagery 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

A Kindle version of A Court of Silver Flames is being held up in front of a money tree, which is in a gray cat planter.

Alexis:

I was finally able to read this book after getting it from the library on my Kindle! And good timing too; unfortunately, I’ve been fighting a sinus infection, so I barely moved from the couch while I read this book.

A Court of Silver Flames is the fourth installment in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. This book is from Feyre’s sister’s, Nesta, point-of-view, and follows her as she hits rock bottom and tries to come to terms with her new life, and come to terms with her feelings for Cassian.

I loved parts of this book and wasn’t a fan of other parts. The actual plot that makes brief appearances? Great! Nesta’s hard, uphill battle to heal and come to peace with herself and her family and those around her? Also great! Nesta forming strong, supportive friendships with other women? Amazing! Nesta learning how to fight with Cassian as her teacher? Awesome!

And I might be in the minority in this, but there was just too much sex in this book. I knew that was going to be the case going into it (as the word had been going around the Bookstagram grapevine) but I found myself just flipping through the sex scenes. They just kept happening, in abundance and a wild amount of detail! I’m not a prude by any means, but it absolutely could’ve been pared down and the point still gotten across; it got very repetitive.  

It probably doesn’t help that Nesta was never my favorite character. However, this book did make me feel for her and understand her journey and her trauma. Maas always excels at that. But Nesta’s POV made Feyre and Rhysand not look great, honestly, and it was sometimes weird to read about this cast of characters from Nesta’s negative POV. 

While I enjoyed the book overall, even after skipping through the sex scenes, I still can’t help but compare it to Crescent City: A House of Earth and Blood. It deals with similar themes, but it’s Maas’ best work, in my opinion, and it’s significantly less racey, and A Court of Silver Flames almost felt like a shadow copy of that story.

Like I said, I still enjoyed the book overall, and I think it’s worth a read if you’ve been closely following ACOTAR. But just be aware of what you’re going into if you read it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5

DNF: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

A Kindle cover of Girl, Serpent, Thorn, is held up in front of a Good Morning mug and a small pot of yellow flowers.

Alexis:

The goods news: I’m officially done with grad school! I don’t graduate until next week, but I finished classes, my comprehensive exams, and turned in my thesis! I feel like I’ve been in school forever, so it’s a bit strange but exciting at the same time.

The not-so-great news: I had to DNF Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. It’s been on my TBR for a long time, so I was excited to pick it up. It’s a Persian retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which sounds right up my alley.

This is not a bad book by any means. However, I just don’t think it’s for me.

The pacing was rather slow, which I don’t mind as long as I enjoy the characters. But I got 50% through the book and realized I didn’t care as much about the characters as I should. The writing style also wasn’t my favorite, and I had a hard time visualizing the world and a lot of what was going on. The actual plot was interesting, but I kept having to put this one down, and I decided it was best to DNF.

Maybe I’ll try picking up a physical copy sometime, and see if that helps move things along!

Review: The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

Alexis:

I don’t usually read romance books, but I’ve had so much intense reading for class lately that I needed a fun book to read as a distraction!

The Spanish Love Deception follows Catalina, a Spanish woman living in NYC. Her sister is getting married back home in Spain, and Lina promised to bring her boyfriend as her date to the wedding. The only problem: she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But her coworker, Aaron, convinces her to take him along, and pretend to be her boyfriend.

What I liked:

The dialogue was fun, snappy, and playful. Lina and Aaron are foils to each other in many ways; Lina is loud and talkative, and Aaron is serious and quiet. Their relationship is fun to read about, and I enjoyed the dynamic between them, as well as Lina’s dynamic with her family.

The romance takes a while to happen (definitely a slow burn) but it was written well (it does get steamy!)

What I didn’t like:

The book went on a little long. I definitely think 100-200 pages could’ve easily been condensed or cut out. Because of this, the writing, including Lina’s internal narrative, often feels repetitive. We see Aaron’s description literally every chapter; I got a little tired of reading about his blue/ocean eyes and huge/bulky physique.

That being said, if you’re looking for a fun romance, specifically enemies to lovers, an office romance, and the fake dating trope, consider picking this one up.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Alexis:

Here’s the thing: This was a highly entertaining read. It’s basically The Bachelor but in a dystopian America: drama, drama, drama. Once I reached page 140, I was a little more invested, because that’s when the worldbuilding actually started.

The world itself is interesting, and I wish there was even more of it! I think the overall themes and commentary on the current American society are great, including purity culture, self worth based on class, and the US’ relationship with China, despite the main character’s name being too on the nose.

BUT

The writing is…not great. Too much telling. And if felt too unpolished, too unedited.

The dialogue is stiff and too direct. Aspen’s character is such an asshole; Maxon comes off as a little, well, off; America is basically, “Oh, poor me. Everyone thinks I’m beautiful enough to win this contest, but I don’t think I’m good enough and want to go home to my asshole boyfriend.”

I also couldn’t help but compare this to The Hunger Games the entire time I was reading. That might be my own fault, but I think there were just too many similarities (though watered down similarities, to be fair).

This had the potential to be a great commentary on American society, but what can you do!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐.5/5