BOOK REVIEW: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

midnight sun

Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance
Series: Twilight Saga (EXTRA)

Serpent & Dove★★★★.5/5

SUMMARY: When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

REVIEW: Disclaimer…I was a twihard fan back in high school, like had the posters framed and hung above my bed kind of twihard. In a lot of ways, the Twilight saga really opened my eyes to writing. I loved everything about the series (except the first few movies…but that’s a whole other beast of a review). I remember being in a huge reading slump once I finished that series.

I had read the first couple chapters of Midnight Sun when they were leaked and was hooked! I’m so glad that Meyer decided to complete it for us to enjoy. You best believe that I preordered that bad boy right when I found out that it was being released. Now, for the nitty gritty!

I attempted a Twilight reread a couple months back. I couldn’t get over the simplicity of the writing. It just wasn’t as refined as the recent books I’ve read. But it was the first book and her writing has definitely improved since. I found Midnight Sun to be extremely engaging. Almost everything Edward thinks is written down–and being a vampire, he thinks FAST, so there’s a lot to unpack. It’s no wonder that the book is a massive 650+ pages. Literally, I was shocked at the sheer size of the book. It’s not as if the font is big either, so you know there is a lot of content packed into it. Overall, I thought her writing was great and really enjoyed the in-depth look into Edward Cullen’s torn mind.

At times, I felt I was waiting for things to happen for a little too long. Since I was already familiar with the story, there were some key parts that I was itching to get to but sometimes it took forever to get there. This book wasn’t one that I would be able to sit and read it in one go. But still, for nostalgia’s sake, I loved the extra content.

The insight on the background characters was a huge plus. Learning more about the vampire world was definitely intriguing new content. There were little easter eggs in this book that gave me “ohhh, so that’s why that happened…” moments, which were really fun to experience. Example, when Edward explained deeper into Jasper’s special abilities. That part in the Twilight book never really made sense to me. Putting her hair down and her hood on really wouldn’t hide her from a vampire–so that part made a lot more sense to me. Also, I love Emmett! Edward interacts with him a lot during this book and I really enjoyed the times they “conversed.”

Bella Swan: So, in this book, Bella seems so much…deeper. I loved her character in this book more than Twilight. That being said, it might be because it’s the way Edward sees her through his eyes. One thing is for sure, I was never able to picture Kristin Stewart as Bella throughout this book either! Bella had so much depth in her character. She was likable, strong, and overall good (as Edward would put it).

Edward Cullen: So, so much is going through his head. He comes off as dramatic at times, but that’s because he cares for Bella so obsessively. The creeping into her room every night to watch her sleep should have turned me off, but I still thought it was cute (haha! please don’t judge me!). He’s a complicated individual and has subdued himself to the darkest future possible. I literally hated the fact that throughout the entire epilogue, he had basically already decided he was leaving. He kept telling Bella, “forever,” and then adding in his head…until it’s not. I hated New Moon, so the fact that he already had one foot out the door, left a sour taste in my mouth.

In conclusion, if you’re a Twilight fan, then ‘yes’ you should definitely read this. I’m not a big audio book fan, but I think this one would actually be kind of nice to listen to–only because you’re already going to unconsciously picture the movie in your head while you read it (which is what happened for me). While it is a glorified rewrite of Twilight, Midnight Sun offers new content and insight that you’ll enjoy when throwing yourself back into a world of vampires.

Buy your copy of Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer here!

BOOK REVIEW: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance
Series: Serpent & Dove (Originally a duology but now a scheduled trilogy)

Serpent & Dove: ★★★★/5

SUMMARY: Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned. As a huntsman of the Church, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. But when Lou pulls a wicked stunt, the two are forced into an impossible situation—marriage. Lou, unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, must make a choice. And love makes fools of us all.

REVIEW: Before I start my review, I want to point out a few things. One, shamefully, it’s been almost a year since I’ve finished reading a book, so this is the one that got me out of my slump. Two, I purchased this book purely based on the cover. Three, this is my first book with witchcraft that I’ve read since Harry Potter.

I’ll start with what I loved: This book is about 500 pages–with pretty small font–but it didn’t feel like the book was long at all. The pacing made the story go by so quickly. I’ve read some other reviews that stated the first 200 pages were hard to get through, but personally I really enjoyed the build up. The last 50-100 pages is where I started having a bit of a problem with the pacing, but more on that later. I found the dialogue extremely engaging and enjoyable—it wasn’t overdone or forced.

In terms of chapter formatting, the book transitions between the views of Lou and Reid. I loved both characters and really appreciated getting two points of view. Originally, I’ve never really been a fan of multiple character POV’s, but Mahurin did an amazing job in integrating the story together. It worked because I liked both characters and genuinely wanted to know how they were feeling and thinking.

Overall, the plot was fresh and it kept me engaged. I hope that Mahurin expands on the different witch magics: Dame Blanches and Dame Rouge. The war between the two types of witches is definitely going to be revealed in the next book, and I think it’ll expose even more layers to the magic system.

What I didn’t like: Mahurin had a lot of twists throughout the book, but I saw each of them coming before it happened. All the twists were revealed one after the other, and I found it a bit jarring. It didn’t give me enough time to register them because it literally unraveled within a matter of moments. Since this was originally supposed to be a duology, I think the author felt she had to reveal the majority of the twists this first book so that she could wrap things up in the second. However, now that it is a trilogy, I’m assuming she’s going to be adding a new villain or possibly a betrayal of some sort to extend it. In my opinion, I thought keeping it a duology would’ve been perfect.

Also, the during the climax fight scene, I was really disappointed at the “Big Tiddy Liddy” part. Honestly, it was such a pivotal moment–intense, blood pumping–that fell a bit flat when the author added that in. It really didn’t make any sense to me at all. The buildup was climbing only to be disrupted with that small input. Maybe some people found it funny and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Louise le Blanc: She’s a badass, sassy main character. Despite her insecurities, she has a strong sense of compassion for those she cares about. Her loyalty and ability to draw the people around closer to her is apparent in her fun attitude. She’s definitely a friend that I would love to have. I’m looking forward to seeing Lou embrace her magic and face Morgane head on.

Reid Diggory: As a Chasseur (witch hunter), he’s as pure as it comes. His strong beliefs blind him for the majority of the book, but eventually love wakes him up. Even though his loyalty to Lou wavers for a moment, he subconsciously knew that he couldn’t live without her. I’m hoping there’s more character development for Reid, in terms of personal growth since his entire belief system came crashing down on him.

Coco: Lou’s best friend and confidant. I loved the friendship they shared, and when they interacted it was some of my favorite parts of the books. Coco is the smart, beautiful friend who cares for Lou so much that she would give her own life for hers.

Random thoughts: The author isn’t much of a world builder, in the sense that she doesn’t go in depth in writing descriptions of the surroundings. She’s very minimal. Personally, I don’t mind that because I have a really overactive imagination and was able to picture it in my head, no problem. But for those who really like to get the nitty gritty descriptions of setting, this book does not have that.

Also, Serpent & Dove is categorized as a young adult, but I think it should be considered more of a new adult book. There is one steamy sex scene. It’s not overly graphic and is written tastefully. Personally, I enjoyed it because it helped develop their relationship to the next level.

While I did enjoy the book, I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars because I felt something missing once I finished reading it. I think spreading the twists or emphasizing them in some way would have really improved the intensity of the reading experience. I would definitely still recommend this book to anybody looking for a fantasy romance book to read. Despite the length, the read is pretty quick, and all in all, it took me about 4 days to finish–the first day I read about 150 pages. 

The second book comes out on September 1, 2020, so it’s the perfect time to get started on this one!

Buy your copy here!

BOOK REVIEW: Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Image result for tamora pierce books alanna

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Song of the Lioness (Complete)

Alanna the First Adventure: ★★★/5
In the Hand of the Goddess: ★★★/5
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: ★★★.5/5
Lioness Rampant: ★★★/5

Summary Alanna the First Adventure: The first volume tells the story of Alanna’s page years. The book describes how she switches places with her brother and first comes to the palace—disguised as the boy “Alan”–, finds friends and makes enemies. She also learns most of the things she needs to know as a knight. Even though she is only a page, Alanna already has to fight the Sweating Sickness and the powerful Ysandir.

Summary In the Hand of the Goddess: Alanna, the squire of the Crown Prince Jonathan IV of Conté and still disguised as a boy, meets the Great Mother Goddess. From her she learns that she has to face her three greatest fears: the fear of the Chamber of the Ordeal, that of Duke Roger of Conté and the fear of love. But she also has to face another problem: Tusaine is declaring war on Tortall.

Summary The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Finally Alanna has become a knight and removed a great threat to the Tortallan Crown from the land. But the revelation that “Squire Alan” is now indeed “Sir Alanna” isn’t accepted easily by the court. To get away from all the gossip and to find herself again, Alanna and her manservant Coram Smythesson left Corus and traveled through the Great Southern Desert, where they encounter the Bazhir tribe of the Bloody Hawk. There Alanna has to deal with the Bazhir’s customs while teaching three young people the way of a Bazhir shaman.

Summary Lioness Rampant: On trying to save an old friend of Halef Seif’s, Alanna retrieved a map promising the Dominion Jewel which could help Tortall to prosper. Thus, she sets out to find this jewel. On her way she meets the Shang Dragon Liam Ironarm as well as the Sarain Princess Thayet jian Wilima, who both return back to Tortall with her after her quest is complete. But even after she brings the Dominion Jewel home there is still danger for Tortall. Duke Roger of Conté is back from the dead and trying to destroy Tortall.

Review: I decided to do a comprehensive book review of Tamora Pierce’s quartet, The Song of the Lioness, because as she mentions, this quartet started out as a standalone book before she separated it into four separate ones. However, the series itself still reads as one continuous adventure. There is an underlying conflict that hovers over Alanna’s head as the series continues, with each book allowing a smaller conflict to be resolved. Since it felt as though the series was one long book, some books were less interesting than others. Reviewed as a whole, the series is definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for me, but individually some books stood out more than others. My least favorite being The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. The high point of book three was how Alanna truly maintained her independence from the confines of the traditional role of woman. She was shattering the gender norms with grace and confidence. However, the story arch of this book fell a bit flat for me as I continued to anticipate more action, but was greeted with a slow build up.

Comparatively, while I love the world and story that Pierce has the ability to weave through her words, I much prefer her quartet, The Immortals. Set in the same world and years later, it really delves into a much more magical world that I always look for in fantasy books. However, one thing that always remains, is the fantastic growth and character development of the strong female leads as they truly discover their purpose and potential in an unlikely setting. Not only Alanna, but her supporting characters grow alongside her which really pulls you into the world as though it truly exists.

Alanna of Trebond: A strong and determined female lead who is a great role model to any little girl. While she understands her weaknesses, her humbleness keeps her grounded in her successes. She continually shatters expectations and follows the path that is true to her own beliefs. Alanna maintains her honor throughout the entire series and the growth her character makes is one to be awed.

George Cooper: The King of Thieves, despite his title possesses an honor equaling Alanna. I loved their relationship and how George truly accepted Alanna with an unconditional love. He embraced her strong personality and never tried to limit her while providing the support she needed when she felt struggled. This was a respected relationship of equals.

Myles of Olau: I truly loved the father figure Myles became to Alanna. He recognized how special Alanna was and his patience and support was constant. Without a truly compassionate relationship with her birth father, Alanna was able to experience it with Myles.

Jonathan of Conte: I loved Jonathan’s character through the first two books. He was an unlikely humble crown prince. He got down and dirty and never really expected special treatment. However, during book three, the heaviness of the crown began to change him. I struggled alongside him because he backtracked from the person he began as and I hoped for so much more for him. Though he lost his way, he always truly cared for Alanna, though it was apparent that they were in different places and would never truly be able to provide what the other needed.

I think the main thing to take away from The Song of Lioness is the relationships and growth between the characters. There is a little bit of something for everyone–love, passion, greed, friendships, heartbreak, sadness. This fantasy book truly touches upon the different relationships currently and in the future.

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds by Alexndra Bracken

thedarkestmindsbyalexandrabracken

Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian/Romance
Series: A Darkest Minds Novel (Book 1)

The Darkest Minds: ★★★★ (3.5)

Buy it on Amazon

SUMMARY: 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.

REVIEW: This is my first read of 2016 and it was a solid novel. I typically do not like to read young adult dystopian books, but I heard a lot of good things about this one (plus the fact that I stumbled upon a hardcover copy for only $3), I decided, why not? “The Darkest Minds” earned 3.5 stars from me. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, but something about the journey kept me from giving it a higher rating.

Bracken’s writing is spectacular. No doubt about it, this author has a talent. She was able to provide descriptive explanations without being too wordy or confusing. She builds the world and sets the tone early on in the story. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but I understood she wanted to emphasize the darkness early on by revealing a little bit about the main character’s background from her experiences. I did appreciate the fact that the author did not literally write everything out for readers and would allow them to discover things on their own though.

The world she builds is somewhat believable, but there were times I found myself thinking it was a post-apocalyptic one, only to remember that the government was still somewhat running and the older folk were still working and living life. It is a bit unbelievable that parents would send their children to a camp believing they were being rehabilitated and accept the fact that they’re NEVER allowed to visit them again. The fact that most of the thousands of children inside the camps are just shipped somewhere by their parents willingly is still a bit hard for me to believe.

Basically, children who don’t die from IAAN (this disease the government makes up) they develop special abilities which are defined by color:

Green: great memory and very smart

Blue: ability to move things

Yellow: ability to manipulate electricity

Orange: ability to play with the mind

Red: ability to manipulate fire

Ruby: Ruby is an Orange, one of the last in the world, and the protagonist of this book. She starts out as a nervous, unsure young girl as she is sent to Thurmond for “rehabilitation.” After she escapes, she begins a journey that is destined to change her forever. By the end of the book, Ruby is more resolute and “cutthroat,” I guess you can say. But throughout the story, I did find her to be a bit whiny. One of my my pet peeves is when characters insist on keeping a secret because they’re afraid of being shunned, which is what Ruby does for a majority time. Overall, she wasn’t a terrible heroine, but she also wasn’t one of my favorite.

Liam: Liam is a Blue and the charismatic leader of the pack Ruby ends up joining. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome, and looks older than he actually is. Liam’s heart is huge and he’s always thinking of others before himself, sometimes at a fault. (No one can be perfect after all). The Skip Tracers and Psi Officers are all after him because he organized a breakout, not to mention the $250,000 bounty on his head, but you know you can rely on him because he’s so capable.

Charles “Chubs”: Chubs is also a Blue and the comedic mean kid of the group. He doesn’t like outsiders but is extremely loyal once he accepts someone. He never lost sight of what needed to be done and wasn’t blinded by the temporary “happiness” at East River like the others were. And even though he was upset, he was loyal until the end.

Suzune “Zu”: Zu is a yellow and the cute, young Asian girl of the group. She doesn’t have much control over her abilities so wears rubber gloves all the time to protect the others. Because of her traumatizing past (that isn’t fully revealed) she’s mute and interacts with them with expressions and motions instead.

The romance is introduced near the later end of the book. I found it strange that in the beginning of the book, the author emphasizes how uncomfortable Ruby is with boys because she was separated from them for six years. Then all of a sudden, she’s on a journey with two of them and becomes more comfortable pretty quickly, as she’s sassy with one and starts to like the other. Her character was very vanilla, and the conditioning she experienced in the camp for SIX YEARS would not disappear in a few weeks or a month even…

The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because the whole story was basically a long road trip. There were some car chases and close calls with Skip Tracers and Psi Officers trying to recapture the group, but it consisted of them just traveling in a car trying to find out where East River was to find the Slip Kid (Rumored to be an Orange kid who was able to get in touch with parents). I also didn’t like how it ended. I understand why it had to be done and I can just assume what is going to happen later, but still it’s not a very “feel good” ending.

If you like young adult dystopian novels, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I do plan on continuing the series to see how it finishes.

Buy it on Amazon

BOOK REVIEW: The Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce

Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Series: Book 4 of Quartet (Complete)

The Realms of the Gods: ★★★★★/5

Summary: During a dire battle against the fearsome Skinners, Daine and her mage teacher Numair are swept into the Divine Realms. Though happy to be alive, they are not where they want to be. They are desperately needed back home, where their old enemy, Ozorne, and his army of strange creatures are waging war against Tortall. Trapped in the mystical realms Daine discovers her mysterious parentage. And as these secrets of her past are revealed so is the treacherous way back to Tortall. So they embark on an extraordinary journey home, where the fate of all Tortall rests with Daine and her wild magic.

The last book of the Immortals series! Ah. This was bittersweet. The battle between Tortall and Carthak, which even brought the gods into the mix finally comes to an end. Daine and Numair is brought into the Realm of the Gods and she finally meets her father, the God of Hunt, Weiryn.

The book starts in immediate conflict as we find that Tortall is in constant war with Stormwing Ozorne and his forces who is playing a dangerous game against the gods. Daine and Numair get pulled into the realm of the gods and need to find a way back to the mortal realms in order to help Tortall win a battle they seem to be losing. It starts a bit slow as they make their way to the dragons to hitch a ride back.

DAINE: Daine finally meets her dad, the God of the Hunt, Weiryn. There’s not much of an exchange between them and I kind of wished they had a conversation or two, separate from the other gods. In this final book, Daine has become a young woman. She’s strong, independent, and powerful. I love how, even though she’s only sixteen, she takes the initiative and is comfortable in her own skin(s). Daine is blunt and a refreshing protagonist.

NUMAIR: Ah…I love Numair. I will definitely miss him after this series. Despite his age, he has a young soul and is absolutely adorable. He finally makes a move too! He does everything in his power to keep Daine safe and never gives up on her even though there’s a possibility she’s dead. He cares for her as a student, friend, magical partner, and love. He’s extremely respectable as he continues to try and protect Daine’s innocence, though she won’t have much of it as she is very blunt with the matter.

RIKASH: I appreciate that Pierce developed a sort of humanity in the Stormwings when you hated them in the first parts of the series. Rikash is an honorable Stormwing and even Daine finds a friend in him.

DARKINGS: In the beginning you hate these little things and curse Daine for being naively kind to them. But by the end of the book you love these little inkblots. I love how each of our characters had one as a companion. It’s absolutely adorable that even King Jonathan had one.

Ok, so I’ll finally talk about the romantic relationship between Numair and Daine. I know some people criticize it because of the age difference (14 years). And, believe me, I am not a personal advocate of age differences in relationships. BUT, readers should remember that this is set in an age where girls are married extremely young and it is not uncommon for them to marry older. Plus, Numair possesses a young, pure soul and Daine is much more mature than her age reflects, so I calculate they meet somewhere in the middle and true age difference is around 4 years. I love the fact Daine realizes that Numair loves her with the little locket he’s been keeping and that she’s not all shy about it and is very upfront. They have been through so much together in the past 3-4 years that I really believed the development the relationship made. They struggled through life and death situations and at the end of each battle the first person they look for is each other, which does not change in this last book.

Pierce really developed the magical realms in this finale. You learn more of the immortals and the gods and their rules. It’s nice to see that even within the existence of gods there are limitations and rules and punishments. Overall, I loved this series. It was a reread from my middle school years, and it definitely renewed my love for fantasy.

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