July-August Wrap-Up

Despite my resolution to keep some regular posts, I slipped up and forgot to post my July wrap-up last month. So, instead of doing it later, I thought I would just do a joint wrap-up for both July and August.

First off, Goodreads Reading Challenge:

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Krutula has
read 190 books toward
her goal of
250 books.
hide

July
11 full-length books, 3 novellas/short stories, 2 graphic novels and 1 re-read.
August
20 full-length books, 6 graphic novels, 1 novella

Since the total number of books read so far had reached 190, I raised my goal to 250 books.

Books I loved

 Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening The Raven King The King's Men (All for the Game Book 3) Stars Above The Bane Chronicles A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

Books I liked

 The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1) The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn, #2) Tiny Pretty Things (Tiny Pretty Things, #1) Shiny Broken Pieces (Tiny Pretty Things, #2) Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit Blame

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1) The Fixes The Thousandth Floor Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1) Girl Mans Up The Lost and the Found

The Siege (The Six #2) As I Descended The Foxhole Court (All for the Game, #1) Three Dark Crowns Girls on Fire Fairest: Levana's Story (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)

Blackhearts (Blackhearts, #1)

Books that were good but could have been better

Girl on a Wire Girl in the Shadows Mystery Girl Volume 1 Machinations (Machinations, #1) The Otherlife Soundless

The Assassin Game Dragon Age: Magekiller The Form of Things Unknown Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming (Wynonna Earp #1-6) Diplomatic Immunity Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 2

Alena

Ugh no

Devolution Lucifer, Vol. 1 The Cabin

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

How do I even begin to describe A Darker Shade of Magic. The world – it’s so imaginative, the concept of four interlocking universes, with magic flowing between them, and special magicians called Travelers able to pass between them. And the magic itself is created in such a way, that it lends itself to the danger in the world and one of the prime obstacles of the plot, which makes the setting unique for the story – something I like in fantasy books. Also, there are two kinds of magic – elemental and blood, which is an interesting combination in that they are both commanded differently and react differently.

Kell, an Antari, can command both, and is basically a very powerful person in his world, but his existence is a lonely one. Lila, a thief, is seemingly normal but gets caught up in his story when she picks his pocket. The thing I liked about their partnership is how they complement each other – Kell is the cautious tender-hearted one and Lila is the fierce storm living for adventure. Also, I loved the fact that this book focused on the worlds and their developing partnership, rather than any romance. If there is to be any, I feel it will be a slow burn, but I am very interested in how their story plays out further. The ending of this book felt very complete, but of course, the possibilities are myriad. There is still Black London to be explored, and Lila’s future aspirations to be a pirate, as well as Kell’s fate. I am just to excited to read the next book.

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ARC Review: The Cabin

The CabinThe Cabin by Natasha Preston
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When Mackenzie treks to a secluded cabin in the woods with six friends, she expects a fun weekend of partying, drinking, and hookups. But when they wake to find two of their own dead and covered in blood, it’s clear there’s a killer among them.

As the police try to unravel the case, Mackenzie launches her own investigation. Before long secrets start to emerge, revealing a sinister web of sins among the original seven friends. The killer is still free. Every one of them is a suspect. And Mackenzie starts to realize that no one is innocent…

When a book with a promising synopsis disappoints you, it hurts. The Cabin was supposed to be this murder mystery but honestly even at the start, I could tell it was not going to be good. The dialogue was stilted, making me wonder how and why the teens are talking like characters in a poorly made slasher flick. Then the writing was pretty bad, too, and I was stuck reading this quasi-mystery romance (that I didn’t ask for but got nevertheless; nothing makes love bloom like the idea of imminent death) that wasn’t setting up a mystery as intended. There is no build up, too many red herrings (if you could call it that), too many cliches (anonymous texter much?) and too less of actual hunting for the killer.

The characters – well, they weren’t properly constructed either, just a bunch of cliches thrown together. The protag and her love interest were boring – she wants to see the best in this mysterious bad boy, and he is growing a heart. The police are incompetent (that one is expected for a mystery) and the lead detective idea of investigation is to seem eccentric but really just keeps accusing the suspects with “is that why you killed them”. Mid-way through, I ditched my interest and speed read towards the end. Speaking of that ending, adding a twist right at the end for sake of a cliffhanger – nope, doesn’t work if you haven’t put in the effort to build it. Overall, this book was disappointing.

Received a free galley from Sourcebooks Fire, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Blackhearts

BlackheartsBlackhearts by Nicole Castroman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

A historical fiction about a notorious pirate? Sign me up! Blackhearts builds a wonderful story about Edward Teach and what he was before he became Blackbeard. The son of a wealthy merchant, Teach had every luxury in life, except the freedom to do what he wanted. He lived for adventure, and the sea, and sees a kindred heart in Anne, a biracial girl who feels out of place in a time that is very racist. Anne is the hidden illegitimate daughter of his family friend, but comes to work as a maid in his household. Their initial interactions are charged more with frequent arguments, and it slowly develops into a tentative friendship and eventually into romance. Certainly helps that the both of them are beautiful.

A big part of the storyline is the divide between them: society won’t ever look at their relationship at properly, and his father would have him make an advantageous match. The pirate part is not really a part now, but there certainly is foreshadowing. Teach’s gentle character and the way the author spoke of how she came to write this story certainly add an extra dimension to this infamous historical figure. Anne’s role in the storyline and her voice, too, complement the plot so well, but I feel her story has much more to tell. This is definitely a series I am eager to be following.

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Review: The Bane Chronicles

The Bane ChroniclesThe Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the  The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.

Magnus Bane has always been a favorite of mine from the Shadowhunter series – he is a wonderfully complex character, who is simultaneously the funniest and gravest character. Also, he is immortal which means his story spans through centuries and across the various Institutes and series. But the Bane Chronicles, while set in the Nephilim world, gives us a better view of the Downworlders through him. They are the marginalized denizens of the Shadow World, and the Nephilim are barely more than a cruel policing force, a fact that is made apparent several times during the course of this anthology. There are funny stories like What Really Happened in Peru and serious ones like The Midnight Heir, cute ones like What to get a Shadowhunter who has Everything. Overall, it is a wonderful addition to the Shadowhunter Universe and adds plenty of background to characters and missing pieces of the puzzle. Like the fact that Ragnor Fell and Raphael Santiago are basically besties who regularly gossip about Magnus; how Tessa and Jocelyn first meet; how Magnus came to have a cat – all these little things that wouldn’t probably add much to the main series but give depth to the characters. A must if you are a Shadowhunter fan.

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