Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Series: All Souls Trilogy #2

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

***Spoilers ahead for Book 1, A Discovery of Witches ***

Diana and Matthew time-travel to Elizabethan London and are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana searches for a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

This book, above all other things, reads as the author’s love letter to Elizabethean Europe.

While it was truly interesting learning about a lot of these places in this time period, I’m the type of person that has to stop and google any names that seem significant to find out why they’re important. I will say this contributed to my learning a lot more about Elizabethean figures and politics than I knew before, but it also probably tripled the amount of time it took to read the book. For this reason, I often found my attention drifting when sitting down to read and I had to take a break after getting about 1/3 of the way in because I just had no desire to continue. Ultimately, I am glad that I picked it back up.

This book is more…steamy than book 1, but a lot of the sex scenes have some hella awkward dialogue in them that had my snapchatting my buddy-reader to share secondhand embarrassment. There were some touching moments as well which gave a glimpse of what the future holds for Diana and Matthew. Matthew’s controlling tendencies are in full blast during the events of this novel. I’m more inclined to go along with the fantasy setting and fantasy man (cause Lord knows I would never put up with this type of behavior in real life), but it does get on some peoples nerves i.e. my aforementioned buddy reader.

Despite the length of this book (nearly 600 pages) I feel like nothing SIGNIFICANT really happened. Yes, there were some big lifestyle changes for the main characters, but no major revelations with Ashmole 782 or the origin of supernatural species occurred that justified the length to me.

I’m still holding out hope that the conclusion of the series will draw me in like A Discovery of Witches, but some of the review I’ve read are making me a little hesitant to start it.

RunDisney: Prepping for my first half marathon

Around two months ago I made the decision to start training to run a half marathon. My decision was based off of a lot of factors – a wish to be more fit now that sedentary office life is starting to take a toll, and the fact a lot of my friends had decided to start training towards the same goal being the main influences.

To help motivate myself, I chose a race date before starting my training so I had a definitive goal to train for (and couldn’t push anything off!). This initial research into the running world was how I stumbled upon all of the RunDisney races! I decided upon registering for the Disney Princess Half Marathon because Disney Princesses have been such a large part of my life. The participants for this race are mainly other women, and I’m so excited to run with my fellow princesses! I’m also excited to experience Florida in February and hopefully escape the cold of a Delaware winter.

This of course means that I have to plan a Disney vacation around my race day! Originally, I was going to go by myself but my wonderful and supportive family decided to make a trip of it and we are now venturing to the land of magic for five days. The race day is the second to last day of our trip so I’m curious how navigating the exhaustion and diet of an amusement park is going to be with the running goal in mind.

Now going into this training, I was and am by no means an experienced runner. Most of my running experience comes from sports played in high school (which I haven’t played competitively in about 6 years) and short runs in gyms. As I said earlier, I feel that my job has been taking a toll on my fitness because I’m not outside exercising as much as I was in college, so forcing myself to stick to a plan was necessary.

There are two different running plans that I decided upon trying in case anyone else wants to try to follow one themselves! RunnersWorld is for people who can already complete a “long mile” run of 6 miles, which was about my fitness at the start of the run. However, the specific mileage goal each week was hard for me to reach with a busy work in social schedule. For this reason, I’ve switched to using the RunDisney training plan!

The RunDisney plan is a bit more lax than the RunnersWorld with time goals for runs during the week and a distance goal for the weekends. I also like the explanation of run/walk division for long races (I’m a huge fan of my mid-run walks). There are different training plans based on distance and experience level on THIS page if you want to check other options out.

I’m planning on keeping this blog updated on my journey so stay tuned!

Holly Black at the Christiana Mall

As expected for a event featuring the Queen of the Faeries, there was a huge crowd – probably the largest I’ve seen at the Christiana Mall Barnes and Noble. With the event being held on a Sunday (before the holidays no less), people came from all over. I showed up about 20 minutes after the store opened to get my wristband for a place in line (I had bought the book and saved the receipt earlier in the week), and was the last person to get a ticket for the first group!

I ended up camping out in the second row and reading four the next four hours – because lets all be honest, if I had gone home I would have just ended up reading anyways. The night before I had stayed up until 1 AM finishing The Wicked King because I had wanted to wait to read it until closer to Queen of Nothing‘s release date and ended up waiting too long.

The Holly Black book talk and signing was a bit atypical compared to other that I have attended because there was no structured Q/A with a moderator before she dove into crowd questions.

A lot of the crowd questions had to do with writing personal projects – story building and publishing. Some tidbits that stood out to me:

  • If you aren’t in love with your main character, then the story probably isn’t working. Your main character and the stresses they go through is the driving point of a book.
  • A book has multiple plots – the main “contention” (such as a dragon needs to be slayed), and the emotional journey of the character (the king that needs to leave to fight the dragon to win back the heart of his wife, who is in love with his brother etc.) Figuring out how these work together is one of the main building blocks of any book.
  • When looking to publish, research agents on publisher websites and check out the new agents as well as the established ones. New agents are trying to build a name for themselves (and they may be willing to try and do that with your book!) Check out the acknowledgements section of authors books to see if they thank their agent. If they do, that probably means they’re awesome, if not… you may want to avoid.

Some other things discussed during the Q/A: Holly is working on a new darker YA series currently, although of course she would love to return to the Fae world of The Folk of the Air (I personally would love a Grima Mog backstory).

One of Black’s pleasures is watching “trash” reality TV shows. A large part of the inspiration for her book The Coldest Girl in Coldtown came from these shows and how we as humans enjoy watching the angst and suffering of others for entertainment.

When working with Cassandra Clare on their shared book series, Black and Clare would each alternate writing a few hundred words. The person would backtrack and “write over” the last hundred or so words of the last person to write so that the novel could achieve a more uniform voice. Holly would love to collaborate with Clare again if either of them are able to find free time and the right story.

Even after her all of her success, Black still feels “impostor syndrome” when she finds herself in positions like author panels with other well-known colleagues.

I’m so glad to have been given the chance to meet this wonderful author! Now that I have all my books signed, I need to catch up on reading them all. To date, I’ve only read the Folk of the Air trilogy and I need to read all of the backlog so I can understand the character references!

Book Review: Soul in Darkness by Wendy Higgins

Soul in Darkness by Wendy Higgins

Published: February 12, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

People travel from afar to the small isle in the Aegean Sea hoping for a single glimpse of Princess Psyche. Their adoration for the mortal woman is so all-consuming that citizens begin to shower her with the very gifts and offerings they once left at the alter of Venus, goddess of love and beauty.

But gods are known for their jealousy.

Cupid, the god of love, takes pleasure in causing strife and mischief in the lives of humans. He uses love as a weapon, humoring in the weakness of people at the whims of their feelings. When his mother Venus approaches him about punishing the human girl who dares to steal her offerings and affections from the people, Cupid gladly accepts.

Even though I consider myself a fan of Greek mythology, I was previously unaware of Cupid and Psyche’s myth or its relationship to the story East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

The author stated the book was initially meant as a YA crossover before she chose to make it an adult romance, and it was apparent throughout the novel. This was part of the reason that I ended up finding the explicit sex scenes throughout a bit jarring at times.

Pieces of it read very much YA, with Psyche acting like a typical 17/18 year old young adult novel protagonist which caused a bit of a clash with Cupid’s character. Cupid is often portrayed as overtly sexual, sometimes coercing affection out of Psyche at the beginning of their relationship. This makes the beginning of their “love” story seem a bit one sided, although they do reconcile and seem a good fit by the end.

The beginning half of the book is focused on the building relationship between Cupid and Psyche. This drags on for just a bit too long, causing a bit of a slump around the middle. I considered putting it down around this point, but am ultimately glad I continued because the pace picks up in the latter half of the book.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Check out the book on Goodreads.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

I’m so glad that Book of the Month introduced me to this great book! I probably would never have picked it up on my own – and I’m so glad that I did!

Gods of Jade and Shadow reads like a myth in the best way – introducing the reader to a timeless story full of mini parables and insights. I loved that this book read like a living myth. I can see how the writing style is not for everyone – like many myths it can seem a little disjointed at times, however this just added to the story for me.

Although this book is marketed as a 1920’s Mexican Cinderella, I feel that the overall story is timeless. Learning about some Mayan mythology was very interesting as they aren’t stories that I have lots of exposure to.

The main character, Cassiopeia went through a lot of growth throughout the story and it was so wonderful seeing her evolve and change. She can be a little dry at times but neither one of the characters got on my nerves which is something I can’t say about a lot of books I’ve been reading lately. Hun Kame of course helped her along her journey, and he was just the type of brooding hunky guy that gets my heart racing.

Overall a very enjoyable book, possibly one of my favorites of the year!

Rating: 5/5

Ilona Andrews Book Signing at the Christiana Mall

On Thursday October 24, I was fortunate enough to be able to see the amazing writing duo Ilona Andrews at my local Barnes and Noble! For most of the signings I’ve gone to I’ve had to drive about two hours away to the Philly area, so I’m super excited that a northern Delaware book store is beginning to draw more big name authors.

For about the first hour, Ilona had to hold the floor by herself because due to flight confusion Gordon was showing up late (if it all). Hearing her tell the story of airport horror was highly amusing – and I’m glad she was able to smile about it because I would probably still be close to tears. Gordon did show up during the last about fifteen minutes of Q&A though so I’m glad he was able to get there for the signing part!

It was interesting hearing them talk about their publishing process as “bigger” authors. A lot of the previous signings I’ve gone to were YA authors, so hearing the perspective of adult romance was very different. Among the many things I learned, I had no idea that authors could pitch certain projects to a specific editor they wanted to work with. The talk about finishing out contracts before working on new projects, hearing how stories had to change or morph from the original shape to better fit a romance audience, and pitching projects to publishers that may never happen was also intriguing. (I would totally read a “pretty dark” YA fantasy series by Ilona Andrews if it ever ends up happening.).

I still haven’t read the Hidden Legacy series yet, which this book appearance was mainly for, so I can’t really relate to some of the questions that were asked regarding those characters. Gordon does apparently love sharing spoilers to fans who ask though.

Overall it was a wonderful night, and I’m looking ahead to many of the other authors coming to the area!

Review: The Burning Shadow

The Burning Shadow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Origin #2

Published: October 8, 2019

Summary: When Evelyn Dasher crossed paths with Luc, she was thrown headfirst into the world of the Lux—only to discover that she was already far more involved in their world than she ever suspected…

I’m a huge fan of the Lux series, so it should be no surprise that love has transferred to the spin-off.

The Burning Shadow picks up right where The Darkest Star left off, with Evie still processing the attack by an origin and the shake up of her world. The beginning of this one was a little slow for me. It picks up right where The Darkest Star left off, and the first 40% is mainly spent with Evie ruminating in self doubt about her identity. It’s not until this mark that the main “conflict” of this book is revealed, but after it is it’s nearly impossible to put down!

This books is pretty graphic and bloody and I loved every second of it. I feel like Armentrout knew that many of the readers would be original readers of the Lux series and aged up the content to match more of a New Adult audience. There were some pretty shocking deaths and revelations (hello, massive cliff hanger!) and I’m excited to see how the story will change because of them. I read somewhere that this series is projected to go on for about five books and I’m not entirely sure how thats going to happen with the current storyline – unless we get a Lux series 2.0 situation with the end of the world.

Definitely a book and series that I recommend – although some of the reunions and world-building will be better understood if you read the Lux series first! I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Rating: 4/5 Dark Stars ****