Happy Monday everyone! I hope your weekend was great 🙂 Today I’m doing a double book review, one of them being an Audible audio book and an ARC that I just finished! I’m pairing them together since I’ve been behind on my content and I’ve even been in a bit of a blogging slump: blame some recent RPG video games for that lol! But here we go: I’ll start with the more disappointing read first and then end on a surprising high note.
Title: Angel Mage
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Release Date: October 1st 2019 from Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Format: Kindle ARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads Synopsis: More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .
So if you’ve followed me for any length of time, especially if you’ve seen my posts talking about anticipated releases, you KNOW how much I was dying to read this new Garth Nix book. It has angelic magic and is an alternate 17th century of Europe and is inspired by The Three Musketeers? What could go wrong? Well…enough that this was one of my most disappointing reads of the year.
So this book opens well with a prologue that talks about an Ash Blood Plague and the country of Ystara being taken over by monsters. Then, Lilliath, a young woman who only cares to achieve her goals, wakes up more than a century later after a long sleep and sets out to accomplish her goal of being with Palleniel, an Archangel. But there’s four people she needs to find, since they are the only ones that can help her goals. I liked the idea of this powerful, ruthless young woman whose capable of a LOT of power and how she’ll do anything to get what she wants. I liked the bit of mystery surrounding her and that was the main reason why I kept reading so that I could know more about her and how she was going to accomplish her goal.
But other than that mystery, there were only pockets of this 500+ page book that I cared about. This is written like an actual classic, probably like Dumas or other classic authors. I can tell that Nix was really bringing that classic re-imagining of this classic book to life and the writing style was a major part of that.The classic writing style never allowed the characters to really come to life for me; the world building and all the extra details far out-weighted getting to know the four characters: Simeon, Agnez, Dorotea and Henri. While, like I said, did see moments of them getting to know each other and start to be friends, that was it for me. Agnez was a complete stereotype of a tough girl who only wants to get a musketeer, drink and be hero. Simeon is a gifted doctor who only wants a challenge in learning and doesn’t want excess and Henri is a bumbling guy who isn’t really sure what he needs to do to reach his goals. Dorotea got a bit more personality by the end and I did like her icon making gifts. But no one really jumped out for me and even in the end, Lilliath became a disappointing villain who just felt like she was a “mustache twirling” villain for most of the book.
So I will admit that I skimmed over 40% of this book because it was just describing too many things that just didn’t matter. And then, after finally getting towards the end of the book, the answers don’t come until the last 5% or so and the end result is just so simple! Where’s the final battle? Where are the answers to some of the deeper questions: How did Lilliath get that power? Why does she love Palleniel? I wanted those things to be expanded upon, but it just…didn’t happen. I skimmed so much of this book, just to see a simple few things solve all the problems of the plot. The GIF above really describes my reaction upon finishing. This is a denser YA book, so I don’t know if this will keep some reader’s attention.
Overall: I will say that I loved the details of the icon making, the idea of this book being a re-imagining of Dumas’s novel and the mythology of angels. Garth Nix did draw commonly accepted lore about angels and then made it a bit more fantastical for this book. I always respect him as an author for writing what he has always wanted to read and for making a fantasy story with angels, cardinals, musketeers and icons. But these details aren’t enough to make me invested in a book. I will always try books by Garth Nix and be a fan of his work, this was a major miss for me and I’m SO SAD about it.
Title: Serious Moonlight
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: April 16th 2019 from Simon Pulse
Format: Audible Audio Book
Narrator: Devon Sorvari
Listening Time: 12 hours, 4 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.
Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and home schooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.
In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.
To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.
So after not liking Alex, Approximately but absolutely loving The Lady Rogue by this author, I wanted to give one of her contemporaries another chance after loving her historical fantasy book that came out on the 3rd of this month. So I picked up this book and I’ll admit I was unsure of how I would like this book. But MAN was I surprised! This book was sweet, honest, full of great mystery references, a TREASURE of a love interest and some great representation as well. Birdie has narcolepsy and also lives with her grandfather and Daniel is Japanese-American and is deaf in one ear.
First of all, I LOVED the Seattle setting so FREAKING much! I love the Pacific Northwest and always love visiting up there. There’s references to stuff like Pike’s Place, which is a famous peer in the city and just all the descriptions of the city, greenery and also the fun and colorful people who live there. This book made me want to go visit again so badly and earns so many brownie points for being set in a favorite area in the world to me. Jenn Bennett brings this setting to life!
The next thing I loved was the narrator: Devon Sorvari. I hadn’t listened to any audio books by her before, bu she was fantastic! She had such great variation in her voices for the characters and also brings the emotion to the more heavy moments in the book. I liked that I listened to a new narrator and have found a new narrator that I can’t wait to check out more of her work. From the very beginning, her voice sucked me into the story and I had to keep listening to large chunks of this audio book throughout the days I listened to it.
Then, we come to Daniel who is a TREASURE to cherish forever! I loved how honest he was, how charming and warm he was to Birdie. He likes doing magic tricks and works at the hotel that Birdie starts working at. Despite with them having a one night stand that freaks Birdie out, I loved that he wanted to find her and get to know her more. He really appreciates her and tells her how much he appreciates her. He does have a bit of a sad past, but he doesn’t let it get him down and it makes him even more fleshed out and he felt like a real person. Him and Birdie had SUCH chemistry that just flies off the page and I was hooked on their romance, which is a lot to say for someone whose way past their age lol. He’s one of the best male characters I’ve read in a long time.
Next, while I did have to get used to Birdie’s personality, I did end up liking her growth. She was restricted by her very strict grandmother, so she didn’t get to really experience many things growing up after her mom died when she was ten. Birdie is very scared and doesn’t like confrontation and while she did have reasons for being that way, I was still frustrated that she was so scared of things. For example, Daniel is so genuine to her and doesn’t give her a reason to not trust him, yet she kinda avoids him despite having feeling for him. But while she did frustrate me, the ways that she does grow did feel genuine and made it worthwhile.
Next, I loved all the mystery references. Like Alex, Approximately, there’s quotes at the beginning of every new chapter from mystery movies, books and TV shows. While I’m not a mystery aficionado, I still recognized more than half of them and it was fun that Birdie does mystery profiles of the people she knows. Her quirk of wanting to solve mysteries makes her a plucky person and that was likable about her.
Finally, there’s a few last things to address. First of all, I did think that this book was a bit long for a contemporary. There was a section that involved stealing a painting that didn’t seem necessary and some parts did seem a tiny bit dragged out. Then, I would also say that this is a sex positive YA novel. There aren’t really any explicit scenes, but I do think this is appropriate for high school teens due to some of the heavier subject matter and how mature the relationship between Daniel and Birdie.
Overall: I really enjoyed this so much more than I expected! While it was a little long and it did take time for me to warm up to Birdie, this was a much better contemporary for me than the last one I read by this author. Daniel is a freaking treasure and the way he felt about Birdie was so sweet. The narrator was also amazing and it’s an audio book I highly recommend. I will try the final contemporary that’s out by this author soon in the future and I’m looking forward to her future books.
Have you read these books? If so, what did you think about them? What did you read recently? Let me know in the comments!