Review: Mists of the Serengeti, by Leylah Attar

Mists of the SerengetiMists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Telling the story of two people brought together by an unspeakable act of violence, ‘Mists of the Serengeti’ proves to be a heartfelt and emotional read. Listening to the Audible edition, I found it difficult to motivate myself to get out of my car once my commute was over. I lost myself in this story.

Rodel Emerson and Jack Warden meet in the wake of a terrorist attack. When a shopping mall in Africa is bombed, Jack’s young daughter and Rodel’s sister are among the dead. This prompts Rodel’s trip to Tanzania to collect her sister’s belongings and lay her to rest.

While going through her sister’s things, Rodel stumbles across unexpected information. Always one for an adventure, her sister had agreed to help transport children safely across the country. In honor of her sister’s memory, Rodel commits to complete the work that her sister started.

Soon she realizes that her sister was involved in a dangerous cat and mouse game. She was helping rescue albino children, who are highly sought after because it is believed that they possess special powers. They are often murdered and their body parts sold as key ingredients for witchcraft. These children are even sold by their own families because of the money that they can bring in. It was a horrifying reality that Rodel was not prepared for.

When Rodel ends up at Jack’s home with a young girl in tow, his grandmother offers them sanctuary until the weather clears up. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this is the beginning of a great adventure. Despite his gruff demeanor and all-consuming grief, Jack’s character won’t let him send Rodel and the girl out into the African wild without protection. He knows that this foreigner is in over her head and has no idea of the danger that she’s in.

Gradually, Jack and Rodel’s attraction grows. They help each other through their grief. Each has to face their feelings of survivor’s guilt and the what-ifs that haunt them. Meanwhile, they are on a life or death mission to try and save these hunted children, since they could not save their own loved ones on that tragic day.

‘Mists of the Serengeti’ was a touching and highly emotional story. I listened to the Audible version and it was well-narrated. The imagery was beautiful. I could envision the plains of Africa as if I were right there with Jack and Rodel.

Although there was plenty of tragedy, I was impressed with the author’s ability to address such subject matter without letting it affect the overall mood of the book. It is easy to imagine the dreary, depressing book that this easily could have been. Instead, it was inspiring and heartfelt.

With a slow-burn romance and plenty of action/adventure, this book kept me fully engaged. It was heartbreaking at times, but I fell in love with this story and it’s characters. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for an heartfelt romance with mature characters.

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Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the books in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, ‘The Iron Queen’ is my favorite. This book is pivotal and takes the story in an entirely new direction. Not only is this book filled with action and adventure, but I finally got to see the romance between Meghan and Ash evolve.

Not only does the relationship between Meghan and Ash grow, but Meghan undergoes a great deal of self-discovery and growth as an individual. ‘The Iron Queen’ really is Meghan’s “coming of age” book. She grows stronger, both physically and spiritually. She is faced with many painful truths and twists along the way, but she rises to the challenge.

To say the least, I felt that this book had a strong “girl power” vibe going on. In earlier books, Meghan was always cast as the damsel in distress, waiting for Ash or Puck to come to her rescue. While she still has a plethora of male protectors to do her bidding, Meghan also rises as a leader in and of her own right. She is only beginning to learn about the power within her and I cannot wait to see what she will be able to do once she is able to access it fully.

Meanwhile, this book proved to be emotionally engaging and, at times, heartbreaking. Mostly, my heart went out to Puck. He made some mistakes along the way, but none more serious than anything that Ash ever did, in my opinion. He loved Meghan so much, but it was evident that he had been “friend-zoned” and had no chance at ever becoming anything more. As much as I loved Ash and Meghan as a couple, I couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Puck.

King Oberon and Queen Mab take on unexpected roles, as the false Iron King continues to gain power. In order to save faerieland, Meghan will have to rise to the challenge. She is faced with many difficult choices and adversity along the way.

More so than other books in the series, ‘The Iron Queen’ ended with a huge upset. I was left reeling. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Knowing that the story wasn’t over yet kept me pushing forward. I knew that things wouldn’t be left like that.

Like the other books in the series, the narration for this book was superb. I continue to be enthralled with this story and the magical world that Ms. Kagawa has created. After finishing this one it was on to the next on immediately. I had to know how things would work out for these characters.

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Review: The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm… I’m at a loss with this one. I can’t say that I loved it, but I didn’t dislike it either. I feel like I’m missing something. This is a story that I should probably go back and re-read at a time when I can give it my full attention…but I didn’t feel a strong enough connection the first time around to make me want to do that.

When I listen to an audiobook, I’m usually doing something else that requires part of my attention (i.e. driving). For this reason, I try to keep my audiobook selections pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, this book proved to be too detailed for me to follow in that format. I ended up having to “rewind” several times to reorient myself because I’d find myself completely lost.

‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ ended up being a bit too complicated of a story for me to take in via audiobook. There were details and connections that I’m sure I missed. The fact that I didn’t understand some of the Russian words and wasn’t able to look them up at the time, certainly contributed to my bewilderment.

In a nutshell, the story dealt with religious persecution as the “old gods” and religions were being pushed out by Christianity. The story is set in medieval Russia and the imagery crafted by the author was beautiful. Even when I was admittedly lost, I greatly enjoyed the detailed descriptions provided.

The heroine, Vasya, had special abilities and represented “good” in this book. Her mother was determined to have her, even knowing that she would sacrifice her own life. As a result, Vasya grows up to be resented by her father in a way.

When her father decides to remarry, largely in an attempt to tame the spirited Vasya, a political marriage is arranged to Anna. Anna had planned to become a nun and religion is a very large part of her identity. To say the least, she ended up being a nightmare for Vasya.

When the self-righteous Anna teams up with the fear-mongering priest, Konstantin, nobody is safe. Let the witch hunts begin!

Meanwhile, Vasya is given a protective talisman. She is tied to “Frost”, the winter demon king. Through their abilities and old “magic” the two are interconnected. — I won’t lie. I am hazy on the details here.

In many ways, this story was intriguing. At some point, I might give it another try because I’m certain that I missed a great deal. I had a hard time staying focused on this story, not because it was bad, but because I was preoccupied. Nonetheless, it ended up being a “good but not great” read for me this time around. It just didn’t keep my attention.

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Review: Caraval (Caraval, #1), by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a surprisingly captivating world Stephanie Garber has created in ‘Caraval’! I listened to the Audible version of this book and I was mesmerized by the beautiful and vivid imagery that ‘Caraval’ contained. I was drawn in by the world that Ms. Garber created and it held my attention right to the very end.

Every once in a while, I love a great paranormal romance. I love to leave reality behind and take off on a journey to a place where magic and fairytales exist. This was the perfect story to do just that.

Scarlett, aka “Crimson”, and her sister Tella have lived under the oppressive rule of their father. His cruelty seems to know no bounds and he takes satisfaction in tormenting his daughters. Knowing how close the girls are to one another, he uses their love against them. When one of his daughters breaks a rule, it is the other one that will receive the punishment.

Awaiting her arranged marriage to a Count that she’s never met before, Scarlett is just biding her time until she can get away from her sadistic father. She’s literally counting down the weeks until she will be married and can take her sister with her to her new home. Unlike Scarlett, Tella is skeptical of the mysterious fiancé that seems to say all of the right things but whose identity remains shrouded in mystery.

Before Scarlett can be married off, she receives an invitation from Legend, the famous mastermind behind the Caraval. Despite writing to Legend ever since she was a young child, Scarlett has never received a response before. Now, with the clock counting down to her wedding, it seems like fate that she would receive her first ever response and an invitation to participate in the Caraval.

With the support of her sister, Scarlett sets off for the mysterious island where Legend has indicated that the Caraval is taking place. Along with Tella, she sets sail with Julian, a young sailor, to participate in the forbidden game. Both sisters know that they are risking their lives by sneaking off against their father’s wishes. However, they are willing to take their chances in order to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity.

From that point forward, the girls are caught up in a magical and dangerous world. Appearances are not what they seem and even time moves differently in this new world. Caraval is a game where the stakes are very high and not everyone will come out alive or unscathed.

I don’t want to give anything away or ruin the surprise for others. There were many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming while listening to this story. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, something else would happen that made me question everything again. This story held my attention and kept me guessing right to the very end.

If you like adventure/fantasy/paranormal stories with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great choice. There is some romance, but it took a back seat to the magical world of Caraval. For me, the adventure and mystery of Caraval reigned supreme. Of course, there is a love story weaved into this fantastical story as well. Just, don’t plan on a super-smutty type of story where the focus on the romance is paramount.

All in all, I thought that this was a wonderful story. I was enchanted by the world that Ms. Garber created and cannot wait to read the next installment. This book filled my head with some beautiful and vibrant imagery that will hang with me for quite some time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a paranormal/fantasy/adventure to read. It was fantastic!

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Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With every one of these books, I’ve been amazed with the evolution of the characters and storyline. ‘Queen of Shadows’ has upped the ante for this already incredible series. While the third book in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series might have had Celaena tentatively exploring her royal heritage, this fourth book has her finally embracing her queenly role. She doesn’t do anything small, and the same can be said for her transformation from assassin to long-lost Queen Aelin.

However, Celaena isn’t the only character that undergoes a drastic transformation. Chaol morphs into a completely different person, becoming mostly despicable for the greater part of this story. Dorian is also fighting against the demon within him, becoming a bystander to his body’s own actions. Celaena’s childhood rival, Lysaendra, also proves to be an unexpected ally. It seems that everyone is changing.

This book shows major shifts in power and foretells of the great war to come. Supernatural beings return to the forefront. A great king’s dynasty falls. Past wrongs are avenged.

With everything going on, Aelin still has time to find a new love interest. As much as I love this story, I have to admit that this is my biggest gripe. She changes her men out more often than she changes her underwear! After a while, it becomes hard to believe that any of her romantic entanglements are sincere. There’s already been Sam, Dorian, Chaol and now Rowan…and the series isn’t finished yet!

Despite her rapidly changing love interests, I still am completely enthralled with this story. It is far heavier on the action/adventure side than my usual reads, but I’m enjoying the change of pace. I am completely hooked on this series and cannot wait to see where the next installment will take me.

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Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1), by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I continue to work my way through the audiobooks sitting on my Audible shelf. ‘City of Bones’ had been sitting there for quite some time. I thought a paranormal story would be a nice change of pace, so I dived in.

Unlike many of my friends on Goodreads, I haven’t seen the movie and I didn’t read any of the fan-fiction. In fact, I was surprised to find out that there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding this book. Apparently, a lot of people feel pretty strongly about this book/series.

Since I was blissfully unaware of the controversy, I can say that it didn’t impact my listening experience. That being said, I don’t read a large amount of paranormal/fantasy books. Readers that are partial to this genre will undoubtedly pick up on things that I didn’t.

For me, this magical world of Shadowhunters, vampires, werewolves and fae was intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed Clary and the other characters. Although there were some predictable parts, there was enough mystery and suspense to keep my attention.

I tend to listen to my audiobooks while I’m doing other things around the house or driving to work, etc. For that reason, I try to pick books that are straightforward and easy to follow. At times, this book became too complex to multitask and I had to “rewind” a few times to reorient myself.

Overall, I thought this was a great story. I enjoyed the world the author created and the characters that were introduced. I look forward to reading more of this series in the near future.

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Review: City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2), by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picking up where ‘City of Bones’ left off, ‘City of Angels’ doesn’t waste any time before plunging you right back into this supernatural world. This book was packed with action and adventure. With ever-changing information and plenty of teenage angst, this cast of characters tries to stay one step ahead of Valentine, making for a highly entertaining read.

Still reeling from the news that they’re siblings, Jace and Clary struggle with their feelings toward one another. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe the dynamic between these two after that cat was let out of the bag. Maybe it’s just my wishful thinking, but I’m betting that somewhere down the road we’ll find out that they aren’t really siblings after all. I just refuse to believe that they won’t end up together.

While the blooming romance between Jace and Clary came to an abrupt and uncomfortable halt, Simon steps out of the shadows. With Jace out of his way, Simon decides to pursue his feelings for Clary. He’s always wanted to be more than just her friend and now is his chance.

Soon, Simon finds himself experiencing a major, and unexpected, life change. Nothing will ever be the same for him. He is forever changed, as is his relationship with Clary and everyone he’s ever held dear.

Like Simon, Clary and Jace begin to discover changes within themselves. Valentine made it clear that they were “different”, but didn’t give any details. Little by little, they begin to figure out some of their unique abilities. Although it is early-on in this series, it is evident that they are powerful and their full strength is as of yet unknown.

Overall, I thought this was a great continuation of this series. I am enjoying these characters more and more as the story evolves. I don’t know what is in store for them, but am certain that we’ve not seen the last of Valentine yet. I’m on to the next audiobook now.

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Review: City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3), by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The further I get into this series, the more I enjoy it! I’m enthralled with the stories of these young characters in this paranormal world. With every book, the plot thickens and another layer of the mystery unfolds.

This third book had many tests, turns and revelations. Some, I expected and some were completely surprising to me. All of them pulled me deeper into this story and left me craving more.

Action was also plentiful in this book. An epic battle ensues that will keep you wondering what will happen next. The dynamics are constantly changing as new characters and relationships are revealed.

I am hesitant to say much about this book, because I don’t want to spoil the secrets that come to light. There is a lot going on in this book. If you’re a fan of paranormal/fantasy, this is a great book.

Of course, this book leaves just as many questions unanswered as you had going into it. Some mysteries are solved, while others surface. One truth revealed seems only to lead to another question. This was no big surprise, since this book is in the middle of the series with plenty more to follow.

Overall, I thought it was a great continuation of this series. I enjoyed every minute of this rapidly changing story. I’m so glad that I listened to all of my Goodreads friends that told me the series got better as the story progressed. They were so right! I can’t wait to see where the next book will take me.

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Review: City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6), by Cassandra Clare

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6)City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series. Here and there, I find myself wanting to break out of my usual romance genre and read a paranormal/fantasy story. This series was a fantastic choice for me!

I listened to the Audible version of these books and they were a joy to listen to. The narrators did a wonderful job of drawing me into the story and holding my attention throughout the series. With six books, that’s quite the feat.

The final book in the series, ‘City of Heavenly Fire’ brings everything full circle. All of my questions were answered and I felt like I had closure. I was left feeling content, which is something I absolutely need with the end of a series. I can’t stand to be left hanging, knowing that the answers will never come.

That being said, there was definitely a bittersweet feel to some of the twists and turns. While I was glad to see things come to an end, there was some heartache along the way. The fates of Simon, and even dare I say–Sebastian, were tough to swallow. I was surprised by my own reaction to some of the events.

One aspect of this book that I really liked was the way the author pulled all the characters together. It was rare to see them all working together vs. breaking off into small groups or pairs. Although everybody wasn’t there at all times, my favorite characters were all together for the important action/battle scenes.

On that note, let me say that I was very impressed with the authors ability to describe the worlds, battles and creatures throughout the series with such detail. The imagery was brilliant. I could easily visualize everything as if I were right there…down to the slurping sounds the bodies made as they fell to the ground.

While I enjoyed the story very much, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought it could use some whittling down. At over 700 pages, or 27+ hours of audio, this last book was a mammoth. In fact, the story continued on for over 3 more hours past the point where the “epic showdown” had occurred. Things had pretty much been wrapped up, but there were excessive details about the aftermath of the war that just seemed to drag on and on…at least for me.

If all of that length was meaningful content that enriched the story, I wouldn’t be complaining. However, I thought that much of it could’ve been eliminated without taking away from the story. I “zoned out” a few times while listening and doing housework for minutes at a time, only to “come to” later without having ever skipped a beat. So, clearly some of that content wasn’t critical to the story.

All in all, this was a great conclusion to a fantastic series. It was certainly on the long side, but think of it as getting more bang for your buck! Pretty soon, I think I’ll have to check out the prequel/spinoff series that my GR friends have been recommending to get my fix!

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Review: City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4), by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the series, ‘City of Fallen Angels’ was a bit of a disappointment for me. That isn’t to say it wasn’t enjoyable though. I liked it, but it wasn’t as great as the earlier books, in my opinion. It was lukewarm for me, at best.

While the third book seemed to leave off on a promising note, this book quickly rained on my parade. Just when I thought that they were making progress in their war against “evil”, everything goes and gets messed up again. The guys, in particular, were grating on my nerves.

Simon is a huge focus in this book. He spends most of his time trying to juggle his relationships with Maia and Isabelle. He feels kind of guilty for two-timing both of the girls, who also happen to be friends…but not guilty enough to choose or to stop.

This time around, the girls aren’t the only ones that want to get their hands on Simon. His special “day walker” blood has made him a hot commodity. Some want to protect him, while others would like to use or kill him. Several new characters were introduced that kept things interesting.

Like Simon, Jace spends a lot of time screwing up his personal life in this book. His behavior is all over the place. He spends a great deal of time distancing himself from Clary, nearly ruining their relationship.

Again, the guys were driving me bonkers! They were really messing up my mojo.

In the end, some big events transpired and more secrets came to light. This may not have been a total win for me, but I can appreciate that this book has paved the way for future events in the series. I am still enjoying the series as a whole and I can’t wait to see where it is heading. I’m on to the fifth book now.

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