Book Review – ‘Love, Creekwood’ (#3.5 Simonverse) by Becky Albertalli

A glimpse into the future of Simon and his pals…

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 128

It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.

Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email.

I was expecting a novel (because I didn’t read the blurb – I just saw another release in the Simonverse and added to cart,) so when a novella arrived I wasn’t too disappointed. But then to find it’s not entirely a novella, but a collection of emails between the ‘Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ cast, it kinda knocked a lot of the joy out of my sails.

Granted we get more Simon goodness and more Leah sarcasm… and get to glimpse into the first year after graduating high school. It’s all adorably cute and fluffy and full of love and dad jokes. But it doesn’t really tell a story. Just a lot of I miss you’s and I love you’s. ‘Love, Creekwood’ is definitely solely for the fans who have read the books (so you know who all the players are.) It does fill in a bit of missing pieces from the novels, the movie and the ‘Love, Victor’ television series.

There’s not a big storyline, and not a heck of a lot of character development. It’s not like you have to read between the lines of the emails, it’s all spelled out for you. I didn’t get any surprises, not laugh out loud moments. And it concluded just as I thought it would.

Yes, I love the saccrine overload that is Bram and Simon; and Abby and Leah. It was great to indulge in those characters again if somewhat briefly. But I think ‘Love, Creekwood’ is just fan service. It would have been so much better if we got more about Simons family, more about the characters plans for the future, discuss some the life lessons they have learned and changed from… kind of where are we now compared to where we came from.

So, this was lovely and interesting, but nothing ground-breaking and essential to the Simonverse.

I’d recommend only for hard-core stans of the Simonverse.

Overall feeling: fun but slightly disappointing.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Regretting You’ by Colleen Hoover

Part of this is every mother-daughter relationship ever, part is an over-dramatised trope.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 354

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

This is a difficult one for me to review. I enjoy Colleen Hoover’s work so much; she always manages to pull out all the feels and notch up a great amount of angst.

Regretting You’ was a little off kilter for me. The pacing is slower, even though the alternate perspectives between mother and daughter Morgan and Clara switch with each chapter respectively and move the plot forward; there was a lot of misunderstanding, blustering off without getting the full picture, having a spat…. it felt all very over-dramatised. Plus – and this is my personal preference – I did not entirely like any of the characters.

Clara was doting one moment and irrational the next. Morgan was a people pleaser who drifted through life and felt washed-out as a character for me. The love interests were all-too-doting and secretly in love with the protagonists and felt like Hoover was painting the men with the same brush. Miller felt clingy and something about his characterisation made me feel very uncomfortable – like he was over-compensating for something. Johan is probably the one character I liked the most, but still, I wanted more dimension from him. Like I said, it’s just my personal impression of the cast.

The characters develop nicely, are complex and have different motivations. I think there was an element of emotional connection I wasn’t getting. Maybe I’m turning into a cold-hearted shrew? Maybe I’m tired of romance? Maybe I’m just dead inside? Only joking. Some books connect really well with certain readers, and ‘Regretting You’ didn’t do that for me. I still love Colleen Hoover’s writing and will continue to indulge in her books.

There are some nice reveals and a well written plot, I think it was somewhat simple, and the whole misunderstanding/misjudging trope in contemporary romance can be great if executed well, but it is so overused that may had added to some fatigue in my reading of ‘Regretting You.’

Overall a fun read, but one I did not enjoy fully. I’m on the fence recommending this one – probably for those who loved contemporaries and big fans of Colleen Hoover.

Overall feeling: just okay for me

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Lock Every Door’ by Riley Sager

A modern-day thriller with gothic undertones…

Genre: Y/A, Thriller, Mystery,

No. of pages: 370

They’ve offered you a luxury apartment, rent free. THE CATCH: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents.

These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules readily accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished.

And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

Welcome to the Bartholomew…You may never leave.

I’ve really enjoyed Riley Sager’s work in the past and ‘Lock Every Door’ promises to be another chilling tale of a twisty murder mystery for an outwitting final girl. This book did not disappoint.

Our protagonist, Jules as an apartment sitter with a checkered past and sets up this novel nicely – though with the rules and regulations around this job immediately had flashing lights and sirens going off in my head. They were literally screaming ‘Run Girl!’ So the believability was on shaky ground from the get-go. What sort of haunted house ish was this set up? I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek, playing on the horror trope intentionally, or just lazy plotting.

The mystery part and tense ambience was written really well. I was making my list of suspects even before there was a murder to think of – and believe me there are plenty of suspects. I will say I had hunched out the mystery of sorts but then second-guessed myself because I thought it was too obvious; though the details of said mystery were way off, so it kept me interested and the pay-off was well worth the journey to get there.

The world building is executed with aplomb. Marrying the New York City and gothic tone of the Bartholomew were just perfection – sprinkle in a little bit of isolation and powerlessness for Jules and it paints the perfect landscape for this thriller. There is a heavy element of trying to impose the supernatural in ‘Lock Every Door’ that I feel wasn’t dealt with properly – it could have been so much more than it was.

I think some of the ridiculousness of the plot, combined with a missed opportunity is what held me back from being fully immersed in the story, but Sager’s writing style really shines.

I’m on the fence about recommending this one – it’s an entertaining read for sure, but there was something about this that just didn’t sell the story for me… so I’ll say a soft recommendation. Maybe for the reader who wants a taste of the mystery/thriller demographic but who doesn’t read a lot in that genre.

Overall feeling: Spooky-oooky

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Book Review – ‘I Wish You All The Best’ by Mason Deaver

Beautifully understated and gorgeously representing minorities.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 329

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

A beautiful queer romance that brings representation from a close-to-invisible group on the rainbow spectrum, told in an understated but cherished tone that touched my heart.

Loved the representation of a non-binary protagonist and the unique challenges they face. With a quiet-toned storyline and how it matches the tone of the narrative told from protagonist Ben’s perspective. The story did feel slow in pace and took a while to get places. I feel like I wanted more complexity, but in saying that, I don’t think it would have worked with ‘I Wish You All the Best.’

This had a bit of a feeling of educating the reader and not making things too difficult for Ben – even though what they go through is pretty rough… a more realistic approach would’ve been messier and lost the tone ‘I Wish You All the Best’ has. It’s cute, quiet, but resounding. 

Because of this quiet tone – be it from Ben being an introvert, having to protect themselves from hurt and rejection, as well as dealing with mental illness; it made it difficult to relate to them. There was always a distance between Ben and other characters. And a distance with the reader. I think this element was why I wasn’t sold on the romance between Ben and Nathan. I enjoy romances which aren’t afraid to get messy and get down to the bones of character development. This in comparison felt as though it was whispered through a tin can telephone.

There was a bit of repetition that I felt an editor should have addressed which pulled me from the narrative a handful of times. While this is a beautiful story, I did not get that emotional connection I was hoping for.

Overall feeling: Not too shabby

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Tweet Cute’ by Emma Lord

Roast your pizza and your tweets all in one tasty read.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 368

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

An adorable tale of modern technology and the love of pizza! The title is a pun on ‘meet cute’ and is exactly that. This was cute.

The characters are all likeable and well rounded. There is a sense of angst, anxiety, and pressure to be perfect and know your direction in life. ‘Tweet Cute’ is told in alternating perspectives each chapter from our protagonists and love interests Pepper and Jack. Pepper is a high achiever in school and runs her mother’s pizza chain’s social media account with a heavy dash of sardonic wit. Think how Wendy’s roasts its competitors on twitter. I had a bit of an issue in how Pepper’s mother laid a lot of pressure on her daughters head in basically heading the marketing department for a major fast food franchise… it felt unrealistic and irresponsible. But it was a great set up for an environment ready to launch so many tropes in contemporary romance.

Jack is a hard-working student and employee in the family pizzeria, shouldering a lot that is essential for their family’s well-being. Again, a lot of inappropriate pressure placed on the head of a teen who should be focusing on school and their future, not managing his parent’s affairs. He struck me as that always positive type, goody-two-shoes, underdog.

Though it took a while to go anywhere. The first half of the novels pacing is on the slower side, but after that the book gets a lot better. The plot is very predictable, but there were a few surprises that popped up which delighted me. The storyline unravelled very cleverly in the last quarter of the novel.

Overall feeling: The title says it all.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Mayday!’ (#2 Dirk Pitt) a.k.a The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

An action adventure of epic proportions (and epic failure).

Genre: Action, Adventure

No. of pages: 362

Major Dirk Pitt picked up the frantic distress call as he cruised his lumbering amphibious plane over the islands of the Aegean. Brady Air Force base was under fire, its entire force of jets destroyed on the ground . . . by just one First World War bi-plane!

A psychotic ex-Nazi, a bloodthirsty Greek strongman and a beautiful double agent set Pitt on the trail of the warped mastermind behind a devastating sabotage plot. And on that trail, danger and death are never far behind . . .

I am a huge fan of the Dirk Pitt series, and started reading them in the early ‘90’s and was hooked straight away. Lately I’ve started to read more of the back catalog of this series, as I came into this about mid-way. It’s also allowed me to uncover a bit of history in what started off the Dirk Pitt legacy. ‘Mayday!’ (written first, but a second release in this franchise) did not live up to my childhood images, carrying an undertone of arrogance, white male privilege, and microagressions.

Dirk Pitt is a sexist pig. The characters are very two dimensional and it is apparent that the characters in this novel only exist to service Pitt’s self importance. This is the worst book from the series that I have read. If I had started reading this collection from this debut, I would have tossed the first few books into the fire and dismissed Cussler as a writer completely.

Dirk Pitt slaps a woman across the face because she is grieving for her dearly departed father and doesn’t want to deal with her emotions, reduces her to her looks and sexualises her. Like if she can’t look pretty for him, what use is she. The tone of ‘Mayday!’ is terribly sexist and left me with the worst taste in my mouth. And that about sums up the novels attitude towards women, and the number of women present in the plot.

Pitt is coming off as a bit of a pompous asshole.  The physical descriptions in this novel don’t entirely match those I’ve read in the many subsequent novels. I think this franchise went through a major re-vamp at some point (thank goodness.)

I found this offensive on so many levels.

The language structure of American cast – the syntax reads like London English… if indeed Cussler was trying to write a Bond type novel as cited, he must of had that in his head, then but failed to craft dialogue for his characters properly. It read with insincerity and clumsiness.

Plus we have spies and agents blurting out their operations, exposing their agents and identities all over the place. So not plausible. This book is ridiculous. The blurting of facts and identities from government officials about clandestine operations and agents in the last few chapters is mind-boggling. It was so unrealistic and harkens back to the days of simple plots and stereotypes… lest be said there was actually a moustache twirling character in this story. It was so bad I was actually having a ball poking holes in the plot and the terribly written characters. Lucky I didn’t turn it into a drinking game – I would have ended up with liver disease.

The only redeeming quality to this was the imagination to come up with the plot, the mixing in of maritime culture and a dash of marine biology.

The pacing was medium… it could have been a tad faster in the middle considering this is an action adventure spy thriller.

A big, huge, massive, NO for recommending this one. I’d be happy to chuck it out the window while driving along the Great Australian Bite and watch it sail into the ocean for a great white to swallow it whole and poop it out in the depths of some dark oceanic trench.

Overall feeling: Kill it with fire!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Bloom’ (#1 Bloom) by Kevin Panetta

Mood inducing art in this delightfully innocent queer tale

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, Graphic Novel, GLBTQIA+

No. of pages: 368

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

A lovely story. Atmospheric, but very simple and didn’t give much attention to the periphery characters. The aquamarine colouring marries with protagonist Ari’s depression and the seaside location, and the artwork is beautiful.

Ari’s feelings aren’t thoroughly explored – why he’s so unhappy. I would have liked some more examination into his isolation and sadness, maybe uncover the contributing factors to give the reader a full character arc.

The relationship with Hector jumpstarts with a kiss, there felt like there was little build up or angst. They were friends, and suddenly seeming boyfriends… nothing is addressed before the story ends. I feel cheated as a reader that there was no build-up and pay-off for their relationship. I craved more emotion and higher stakes.

The story, because it is simple in plot and structure is very predictable, but don’t let that discourage you from a beautifully innocent tale. I felt like I needed to see a lot more to happen. More intense feeling explored. As cute as ‘Bloom‘ is, it felt a little flat. With ‘Bloom II‘ schedules for release in 2023 we might see some more complexity, and the secondary characters fleshed out more… I’m looking forward to this sequel.

Overall feeling: she cute

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue’ (#2 Wires and Nerve) by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate, and Stephen Gilpin

… the one where Iko stands on her own, kicking butt and swooning the boys.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 324

Iko – an audacious android and best friend to the Lunar Queen Cinder – has been tasked with hunting down Alpha Lysander Steele, the leader of a rogue band of bioengineered wolf-soldiers who threaten to undo the tenuous peace agreement between Earth and Luna. Unless Cinder can reverse the mutations that were forced on them years before, Steele and his soldiers plan to satisfy their monstrous appetites with a massacre of the innocent people of Earth.

And to show he’s serious, Steele is taking hostages.

Cinder and Kai, Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, and Winter and Jacin all feature in this epic new battle. But it is Iko who must face her deepest fears when she uncovers the truth about her own unusual programming.

This follow-up graphic novel series following Iko from the Lunar Chronicles gives a glimpse into all the characters in that series after the events of the novels have unfolded. There is a particular child-like joy and humour in the story (and illustrations.)

Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue‘ is entertaining. I loved the expressions of the character drawings- can really set a mood/tone – as did the cool tones of the colour panels. It was lovely to see the characters from the Lunar Chronicles expressed to see if my imagination had done them justice from reading the series.

This is a simple story, but has grit and does not shy away from surprises. There was a little more tugging at the heart strings than I anticipated with the discussion of what it is to be human as Iko comes to terms with her identity and relationships. 

The narrative is that same juvenile tone as Iko, same silliness, which can be enchanting. I will admit, for all the charm this story has, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in the novels. The tone and simplistic nature of this graphic novel loses some sophistication and intricate plot of a novel – but it is the nature of some graphic novels.

Not much else to add other than this is a lovely addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe, and if there are any more sequels of this nature, I would happily snap them up.

Overall feeling: Full of Iko cuteness!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘My Calamity Jane’ (#3 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The historical retelling I didn’t know I needed…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical, LGBT

No. of pages: 544

Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

JANE (a genuine hero-eene)

Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

FRANK (*wolf whistle*)

Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

ANNIE (get your gun!)

Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

A HAIRY SITUATION

After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.

Another entertaining fantastical historical romp to conclude the My Lady Janies trilogy. ‘My Calamity Jane’ pairs western legend with werewolf mythology in a comedic venture into the Wild West.

A spaghetti western with a paranormal twist written with humour and hints of feminism. I really enjoy this trio of authors working together. I am always amused and entrenched in the stories they write, the little twists to story and character, the little asides breaking the 4th wall to the reader.

We follow multiple perspectives revolving around the anecdotal stories of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill and the Pistol Prince. Calamity Jane, a member of Wild Bill’s travelling show, marvelling townships with their skills in gun slinging, knife throwing, and whip-cracking. But it’s all a cover as they hunt down werewolves bent on killing or intentionally infecting the naive populace. Jane is a smart-mouthed tom boy, driven to forge her place in a male dominated world… and live up to the legend the group had crafted to sell tickets to their show. Annie is a determined young lady, if a little rough around the edges, eager to join the sharp shooting crew as it’s newest member – because there aren’t many places for a lady with her skills to find employment. Wild Bill and his posse are the ticket to a life she’s always dreamed of. Frank is slightly egotistical, but always up for a challenge. As the team track down the leader of the garou pack, bent on infecting every unsuspecting human they can to build an army of their own; Wild Bills group has their work cut out for them. Facing off this threat is going to uncover some secrets buried from the past and force the gang to open up to each other about their own hidden past and desires.

I literally flew through this book. It is highly entertaining with plenty of twist, turns, and reveals. I was saddened to hear this was an end to this series, but joyous to hear of another trilogy following Mary’s in history. This trio of authors have struck gold.

The writing style is very tongue-in-cheek and combines historical deportment and language mixed in with a contemporary sentimentality: the combination is magical. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do comedy well in combination to creating fantastic, relatable characters, and encompassing worlds.

The plot wasn’t quite predictable; you get a sense of its direction at the beginning, and then the plot take you on a wild ride, the many reveals completely displacing you from the saddle. There is so much charm in ‘My Calamity Jane’ I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Overall feeling: Blow me down!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Siege and Storm’ (#2 The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Hunting water serpents and dodging a Shadow-wielding manic.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 432

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Another fantastic entry into the Grishaverse. I love the mythology and the magic system as Alina and Mal dodge The Darkling, the religious faction of the Sun Summoner and quest to find another amplifier.

The plot and writing style are astoundingly great, though the characterisation of Alina fell a bit flat for me in ‘Siege and Storm.’ It’s like she became single minded and stubborn and lost much of her complexity. It was harder to connect with her character, and I found myself getting a little bored of her at times. So too was Mal. Like he had been painted in the first novel as the forever and reliable best friend that Alina may or may not have romantic feelings for, it didn’t give Mal much room to shine as a complex character. I still loved their dynamic, and the story, but their characterisation left the tone of ‘Siege and Storm’ a little flat.

Leigh Bardugo raises the stakes with a more powerful and threatening antagonist with the Darkling, but then I felt like a lot of the politics with the royal family and all the posturing slowed the pace somewhat. There was less action in comparison to the debut, more in library research and angling for support with those in power. I’m not one that finds the politics all that fascinating and it always pulls me from the narrative feigning disinterest.

Siege and Storm’ ends in a cliff-hanger which has me very excited to pick up ‘Ruin and Rising.’ While a zoomed through the debut ‘Shadow and Bone,’ it was a little more difficult to get through this sequel, evidently suffering that famous middle-book syndrome (slump).

I’m interested to see the television series take on this novel in the second series of the Netfix production. It has become one of my favourite television adaptations of all time.

I can’t honestly sad this book is predictable in its details, but for the over-arching storyline of the trilogy it is fairly easy to guess the direction of the story; nonetheless I love Leigh Bardugo’s talent in crafting a plot, unexpected reveals, upping the ante, and throwing in a twist or two.

Still a strong recommendation from me, if a fantasy can have me this much engaged, it must be good.

Overall feeling: Happy travels!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.