Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney Review and Giveaway!

Black Dawn
Mallory McCartney
Published by: Clean Reads Publishing
Publication date: February 14th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Young Adult

The end of an Empire. The rise of a Queen.”

Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life that is until two mysterious, and dare I say handsome soldiers show up at her apartment doorstep and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Coming from the magical and ravaged world of Kiero, Emory is brought back not realizing that both men are darkly woven in her past. Discovering she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line Emory is thrown into Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne. With both lives clashing Emory uncovers hidden secrets from her past, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King.

Some things are better left in the shadows.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


Review: 

I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s pretty short at less than 200 pages so with the length and quick pace it was a pretty fast read for me. The premise really intrigued me because it’s basically every young girl’s fantasy, lol. A young woman in her 20’s is swept away with two hulking handsome strangers to a world where she is supposedly the princess and needs to help save the entire world? Uh-yes please! 

Emory was a very likable protagonist to me. She wasn’t some dim witted girl who trusted a guy just because he was smoking hot. She also wasn’t a bitter spinster who was jaded to the world and refused to believe what was right before her. I also really liked Memphis and Brokk, with each posessing a hint of vulnerability and loads of charm to make loving each one easy.

I would say the only thing that I didn’t love in this book was how often the POVs changed and that sometimes I forgot who I was reading about. Other than that I really enjoyed this book and would read more from this author based on my experience with Black Dawn. 

Rating:


Author Bio:

Mallory McCartney currently lives in London, Ontario with her husband and their two dachshunds Link and Lola. Black Dawn is her debut novel, the first in a series. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found dog grooming, book shopping and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!
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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Format: eBook
Description
(Source: Amazon):

The Star-Touched Queen by [Chokshi, Roshani]Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.
A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.


Review:

First of all, can we just appreciate this cover? 😍😍😍😍😍

The Star-Touched Queen is about a girl who is cursed with a horoscope of death and destruction. This makes her a social outcast and expendable within her kingdom. The story starts out pretty quickly with not an overabundance of world building, which is helpful if you are like me and don’t want to wait 3-5 chapters to get hooked on the book. I think one of the reasons the book begins so well is because of the protagonist Maya. She struck me as immediately likable, as she is strong, independent, an quick-witted. She makes some pretty stupid decisions in the book, but they aren’t out of character and I think readers can empathize with her logic during these decisive moments. 

Although the story starts out interesting, I found most of the first half of the book went pretty slow for me, but the last half definitely made up for it. The last half was more action based and starts to wind in the plot of the next book. The action scenes were well done and the climax didn’t seem rushed, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.  

I find that I’m torn on Chokshi’s descriptive style throughout the book. Some of the metaphors used just didn’t really make a lot of sense, but there were other times that I found myself completely enthralled with the tale Chokshi was spinning. Obviously this is subjective to who is reading, but overall her writing was beautiful. 

There were two reasons this book was only 3/5 stars for me. The first was what I had already mentioned about the book moving slowly in the first half. The second is the connection between Maya and Amar. I didn’t feel the passion or love between them and would have liked to have seen their relationship grow through more interactions in the book, rather than just a few kisses here or there. 

Rating:

    

Final Thoughts:
– I have the next book A Crown of Wishes on NetGalley so I will be moving onto that book next. Although I gave this book 3 stars (which is still NOT a bad review) I am excited to move onto the next because I love the character the story will be surrounding. 


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Format: Audio
Narrators: Will Patton
Description
(Source: Amazon):
The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, Book 1) by [Stiefvater, Maggie]

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”


Review:
There has been a lot of hype about this series, which is why I think I was reluctant to start them, and the synopsis didn’t really appeal to me either so I kept putting it off. I ended up getting the audio from my library because it was available and I’m on the wait list for a few other things.

From the very first chapter something about this book ensnared me.  I absolutely adored this book, but I still don’t even know how to put into into words why. The writing is beautiful, the story is interesting and surprising, and the characters are well developed and complex, but I’ve read plenty of books this year that share those same characteristics. This book had a little something extra that had me feeling addicted – just one more chapter. I’d take the long way home so I can just get a few more minutes. Yesterday while listening I even moved a restoration project up (one of my hobbies is restoring antique furniture) so I could work on it while listening to this book. It had that “it factor” that kept calling me back. I had just finished ACOWAR and had a bit of a book hangover from that, which makes me even more surprised at how much I loved The Raven Boys. 

I’m not going to give away anything from the plot because I think it’s better to go in not knowing what the book is really about and without getting any of the twists hinted at. 

Review of the audio:

At first, I though Will Patton kind of sounded like Donald Trump – which had me initially:

Within the first chapter though I thought maybe I was mistaken because I didn’t notice it anymore so I was surprised that my husband commented “that guy sounds just like Trump” when he walked into the room and I had the book on speaker. Don’t let it deter you though because it seriously vanished for me as he began getting into the story more.

His southern accents were great. I’ve found that some voice actors/narrators make southern accents sound like either stereotypical red-necks or uneducated. Patton did a great job at capturing that “old money” Virginian accent. And the whispering willow trees were creepy AF with him narrating, I kept getting goosebumps and looking over my shoulder every time they “spoke”.

Side note: I can’t be the only person who pictured this at first with the tree? 😂😂

Rating:

    

Final Thoughts:
– It has got great characters, a forward moving plot, and superb writing. I’ve already purchased the next book on audio.


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Format: Audio
Narrators: Steven Crossley
Description
(Source: Amazon):

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.”



Review:
Sigh. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. Pretty much everyone I know told me how amazing this series was, but I hard a hard time with this one. I think there be a couple reasons for this: 1. The hype going in 2. the narration (I listened to the audio). The narrator did terrible female voices. Honestly, some of the worst I’ve ever heard. I listened to this on the heels of Illuminae, which is easily the very best audio book I’ve ever listened to, but still this was bad. His male voices were good, but maaaannnnn those female voices.

The story also moved a bit slow for me for about the first 50% of the book. There was a lot of world building and character development (the world Schwab creates was pretty amazing), but this made for a slow start.

With that being said, I did enjoy the book once I got past the halfway point. The two main protagonists are well developed and complex, and even the supporting characters are engaging.

 

Rating:

    

I rated it 4/5 stars because while it was slow moving for me, I can appreciate the incredible world building that was cause for it being a little slow to start. 

Final Thoughts:
– While it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, I will continue the series. The second and third books have a different narrator so I would be willing to give those a shot again. 


The Barrier Between: Collector, Book 2 by Stacey Marie Brown

Title: The Barrier Between
Author: Stacey Marie Brown
Genre: NA, Urban Fantasy
Format: Audio
Narrated by: Amy Landon
Description (Source: Amazon):

As a reminder, I review sequels a little different from other reviews. I am going to hide the description from the main page so you will have to click “Read More” due to potential spoilers from previous books in the description or my review. 

My review for the first book, City in Embers, is here:

Rating:

 

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Re-tellings (Beauty and the Beast)
Format: Hardcover
Description (Source: Amazon):

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones–and in her blood. Though Yeva grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory–a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?”


Overall Assessment:
I’m still on my Beauty and the Beast binge (and actually beginning another retelling tonight, lol). Hunted has been one of my most anticipated reads this year so I actually set aside everything else I was reading once it came in. 

Hunted is a B&B retelling, yes, but it is also different in many ways. Yeva, our “beauty”, is a hunter. Yeva’s family consists of her, her two sisters, and her father. Her father is a merchant, but lost all their fortune – not in a bad slimy way like gambling. It was just a mixture of bad business decisions and terrible luck. Immediately I loved all of them. Yeva’s father is loving and dotes on his daughters; her sisters are strong and kind, and Yeva herself is strong-willed, selfless, and intelligent. She is one of the most likable characters I’ve read in a while and thoroughly enjoyed reading about her. I don’t want to give too much away, but many of the other characters are different as well. 
.
One cool feature of the book is that before each chapter we get a short journal-like entry from the Beast’s POV. We see his struggle as he continues to grapple between humanity and becoming the beast he shares a mind with. The beast’s curse is unlike any other I’ve read in these kind of retellings. Saying anything other than that might give it away, but it’s definitely unique.
.
I know I’m not giving much of the plot in this review, but I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Just read it! And then come find me so we can talk about it!

Rating:

   

What I liked:
– Likable characters all around. There was literally not a single character that I didn’t like in the book.
– The many twists on the original tale. Even though it was a retelling, it still felt very original.
– The slow-burn romance between Yeva and the beast. It’s definitely not an insta-love situation.
– The big surprise at the end. Actually, throughout the book there were many surprises to be had.

What I didn’t like:
– I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. It was a little slow in the beginning, but it was necessary for the plot progression and character development.

Final Thoughts:
– Hunted is not just another regurgitated B&B retelling. While sticking with the common overall theme, it is filled with original ideas and characters. I recommend it to everyone in need of a refreshing B&B retelling, and anyone who loves a strong female protagonist.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Audio, via Audible
Narrated by: Elizabeth Evans

As a reminder, I review sequels a little different from other reviews. I am going to hide the description from the main page so you will have to click “Read More” due to potential spoilers from previous books in the description or my review. 

Also, there is some swearing in this review….just be warned. 

See my reviews for the other books in the series here:
–   The Assassin’s Blade
–   Throne of Glass
–   Crown of Midnight
–   Heir of Fire
–   Queen of Shadows —> I didn’t do one on my blog. It was my least favorite book and I would only rate it 3/5 stars. SJM turned Chaol into a complete asshole, which was so out of character for him IMO. I have some other issues with the book, but I’m not getting into them here. 

Rating:

 

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Re-tellings (Beauty and the Beast)
Format: Paperback
Description (Source: Amazon):

Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known that her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is what she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart.”


Overall Assessment:
I have been on a Beauty and the Beast retelling binge lately. I’m going to be honest, I picked this one for the beautiful cover. I mean, just look at it! 😍😍😍


  This was an okay read for me. The story was entertaining, but not remarkable. I found myself not really caring what happened to the characters, but finishing out of curiosity. I honestly don’t even care enough to write a full review, so I’ll just add the high (and low) lights. 

Rating:

   

What I liked:
– Nyx’s sassy attitude. I like that she didn’t roll over in the face of conflict with Ignifex.
– Like I said above, it was a fairly entertaining read. It did slow for a few points in the middle, but for the most part the story moved quick, which made for a fast read. 

What I didn’t like:
– Without giving too many spoilers, it kind of had a love triangle. Blegh

– The ending felt rushed and confusing. 
– Nyx’s relationship with her family was annoying. The way she couldn’t make up her mind really grated at my nerves. Actually, her indecision in general really bothered me. 
– The romance itself was meh. It felt like a lot of the novel focused on it, but I still didn’t feel any sparks or connection between Nyx, Ignifex, or Shade. 

Final Thoughts:
– It was okay. I think there are a lot better retellings out there though. I’m still probably going to read the next book in the series though, since I already bought it, lol. 


Top 5 Wednesday (8)

Hey everyone! This feature is hosted in the Top Five Wednesday group on Goodreads.

The topic this week is….

I feel a little cliched and “basic” here with a couple of my choices. I’m going to leave the most obvious out (Harry Potter) because I think pretty much everyone will have it on their list.


.1.

The Chronicles of Narnia changed the way I read. My librarian in middle school suggested these to me and I fell hard for the fantasy genre.


.2.

So Long, Lollipops (Until the End of the World, #1.5)And After (Until the End of the World, #2)All the Stars in the Sky (Until the End of the World, #3)

My favorite adult sci-fi or fantasy series is the Until the End of the World series. I gush over how much I love it here, if you’re interested. 


.3.

The Giver was my first taste of what a dystopian world would look like, as with most American kids since we read it in school. I remember it being the first time I ever questioned authority. 


.4.

The ACOTAR Series is one of my new favorites! I like Throne of Glass too, but ACOMAF in particular had me obsessed. My reviews are here:

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Mist and Fury


.5.

Lastly, The Lunar Chronicles. I read the first three books in less than 5 days and then read the last one the day it was released. 


That’s it! What are your favorites? Leave your link so I can check yours out! 🙂 

Slumber by Samantha Young

Title: Slumber
Author: Samantha Young
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Format: eBook (self-purchased)
Description (Source: Amazon):

Molded by a tragic childhood, nineteen-year-old Rogan finds it extremely difficult to trust people. Now Haydyn, her best friend and the one person she does trust, is dying and only Rogan can save her.

Setting off on a journey to retrieve the plant that will cure Haydyn and subsequently the ills that will befall them all if she dies, Rogan is stuck in close quarters with a protector she distrusts above all others.

Wolfe Stovia.

The son of the man who destroyed Rogan’s family.

At a constant battle of wills with the handsome Captain of the Guard, Rogan just knows this adventure together will be fraught with tension. She never imagined, however, that the quest would be so dangerous… not least of all when she finds herself falling for a man she could have sworn was her no.1 enemy…

Overall Assessment:
Slumber is set in a land with magic. The king (Kral) and princess (Princezna) of this land have a type of magic that envelopes the lands around them into a calm and peaceful state. Seems cool, but maybe a little manipulative, right?

There are several types of magic:

  • Dyvatzi – only the Kral (aka King) and Princezna, Haydyn
  • Glava – kind of hard to pinpoint, but from what I understood they have multiple powers that can vary per individual Glava. These powers can include: controlling the elements, telekinesis, and a very strong intuition.
  • Dravilec – healers
  • Azyl – essentially, seekers. They have the power to find things. They used to be able to find things the Azyl themselves most desired, but over time it evolved to only being able to find things that others ask for. This is what the female protagonist, Rogan, is.

The story starts when Rogan, is 11. She is headed home with her younger brother after a day of playing in the meadows when her whole world falls apart in a matter of seconds. Since this happens in the very first chapter I don’t think it’s really a spoiler. A man who works for the Kral, Vikomt Stovia, comes to her home to announce the Kral’s death. He is rounding up all children who have strong magic to bring to the castle to help the Princezna, as she is only 8 so her magic is not very strong. –>there is a lot more to this, but I don’t want to get in the weeds here. Vikomt Stovia  is insanely cruel and slaughters Rogan’s entire family right in front of her. He then uses Rogan’s magic to find other children, and then slaughter’s their families as well.

Fast forward 8 years. Rogan is now 19 and the best friend and handmaiden to the Princezna. The Princezna has become ill, and because of this her powers are waning. Chaos is beginning to break out in the outer limits of the kingdom. All of a sudden the Princezna falls into a sleeping sickness and Rogan is told there is only one plant that can save her. The problems: 1) it’s very far away and in dangerous territory, 2) Rogan needs to be the one to retrieve it because she is the only one who knows were it is, and 3) She has to travel with the son of her family’s murderer to find it…enter Wolfe Stovia *drools*. “Strikingly tall, broad, a thick head of silky chestnut hair, olive skin and beautiful almond shaped eyes. His was a strong face, masculine, powerful. I disliked it greatly.”


Rating: