Review// House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy & Mystery/ Thriller
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Book Length: 304
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Review: 5/5

My Review:

One of the most hauntingly beautiful books I’ve ever read.

On one New Year’s Eve ten years ago, three young sisters – Grey, Vivi, and Iris – were on a walk in Edinburgh, with their parents trailing behind them. For a split second, their parents turned to each other to share a midnight kiss, and when they looked up ahead, their children were gone. A month later, the children were found standing on that same road, naked, each with matching half moon scars at their throats, their dark hair turned white, and none of them remembering how they got there. Except, maybe one of the sisters does remember, and now that a masked man is starting to appear everywhere, seemingly after them all, continuing to live the lie means the difference between life and death. 

What initially drew me in was the cover – I mean, just look at it. As I started reading though, I realized that what’s inside is even more awe inspiring. The characters!! The setting!! The mystery!! The unraveling of secrets!! It was all so good. The book gave me witchy, fairytale vibes, and I loved it. There were a few parts that were pretty gorey, and actually spooked me out, but it was nothing too intense. It was creepy but beautiful at the same time, and I’m so impressed with how the two opposites were portrayed so well together.  

I think it ended perfectly because it could be good as a standalone, but also has a perfect segue into a second book if the author chooses. I could definitely go for a House of Hollow sequel, so I’m going to hold out the hope that there’s another book because I couldn’t get enough of this!

– Catherine

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Review// Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Shadow & Bone Trilogy #2
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Book Length: 448
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review: 3/5

Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

I’m going to be honest here, I felt a little disappointed with this! It just didn’t feel like that much happened, and what did happen, I wasn’t super excited about.

First, the good:

Nikolai was a very fun addition to this book; without him in it, I think I would have to knock my rating down a star – he was that impactful. His character has the perfect amount of charm and sarcasm, I love it. Other then him, it’s really hard to think of something else I loved. I guess I liked that the world building got better, but it was in such a subtle way in my opinion that I don’t know if it warrants making it to my ‘good’ list.

Now, the not so good:

Okay the plot… what even happened in this book – I don’t know if I can name 5 interesting things? The beginning was exciting, and the ending was a whirlwind, but the middle consisted of a whole lot of nothing.

Oh wait, it did consist of something: Mal being jealous and possessive of Alina. I’m trying to like Mal so badly, but their relationship doesn’t make sense to me! I find it so random because Alina apparently liked him for years, but now he is noticing her all of a sudden and is being really possessive over their relationship. Wasn’t she also described as ‘plain’ in the beginning? So tell me why Mal likes her now if he’s known her most of their lives? Not to mention, after all his whining about how he thinks he’s going to lose her to the Darkling, he goes and kisses Zoya? Facepalm, honestly. How am I supposed to root for a guy like that?! I would actually prefer if Mal got with Zoya instead, because then I wouldn’t have to hear him being so possessive about Alina anymore.

Speaking of the Darkling though, he was barely in this book. I’m sure that was done for a reason, but he’s part of the reason I liked the last book so much, so him not being in this one too much made it meh for me. Genya also barely made it into this book, and that’s another thing I liked about the last.

Notice how I’m mentioning side characters before I mention Alina? That’s because I feel like she is such a boring main character! I don’t dislike her, but I also don’t feel anything for her, she’s just sort of there. I think if I felt more strongly about her, it wouldn’t have mattered if all the missing characters were there more or not. I don’t know, I just feel like she’s replaceable, and it’s not how I prefer to view the main character of a book I want to love.

We’ll see what happens in the next book – here’s to hoping this one was on the more boring side because it’s supposed to set the stage for an amazing finale.

-Catherine


Review// Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Shadow & Bone Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Book Length: 358
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

My Review:

I LOVED this book; my only regret with it is that I slept on Leigh Bardugo for so long!

I’m not even gonna lie, a huge reason why I didn’t pick this up sooner is because I think the original cover is ugly (yes, I judge books by their cover; sue me) but wow, I’ve been missing out.

I know not all of the Russian aspects of this book are 100% accurate, but I actually loved doing supplementary research into some of the things I found interesting and getting to learn more about Russian culture that way. I would describe this as a Russian-inspired mythology, and I thought it was so cool.

While I like Alina, I hate that she feels like she needs Mal every second in order to be somebody. Usually it would bother me more that I didn’t love the main character that much, but in this case it didn’t for some reason. I think because I loved how she interacted with Genya and the Darkling – who are also big parts of the book – that it didn’t really matter.

Of course, I’m also that person who still ships Darklina even though he’s evil – sorry, Mal, you’re nice but you’re boring! I can’t wait to see how the trilogy plays out in the other 2 books, and what transpires between the Darkling and Alina; I really hope there’s something.

– Catherine

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Review// Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Author: Gail Carson Levine
Series: Ella Enchanted #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 1, 1998
Book Length: 232 pages 
Publisher: Scholastic Books
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the “gift” of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: “Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.” When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella’s life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you’ll ever read.

My Review:

Okay this was such a cute fantasy book! First off, I didn’t know that the movie was based on a book, and second, it had completely flown over my head until I picked up the book and actually thought about it that Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella (whoops!) – and honestly, I found this a lot more mystical and fun than Cinderella is.

Not to try and compare the book and the movie too much, but in the movie, Ella is played by Anne Hathaway who is definitely way older than the Ella portrayed in the book; it surprised me when I heard the narrator’s voice on the audiobook because it was very high pitched like that of a young child. However, once that initial shock wore off, I found the narration in general to be incredible! And although it doesn’t really have much to do with the actual writing, having such good, expressive narration really aided in how much I enjoyed the story. The story is told in Ella’s perspective, and I found her to be so adorable; it actually pained and infuriated me to the point where I sometimes had to pause the book whenever people took advantage of her obedience, especially Hattie and Olive. At the beginning of the book, Ella meets Prince Char. You do get the sense that she has a small crush on him, but I liked that that plot point was not the main focus of the book until close to the end. Additionally, I thought that all of the creatures: elves, ogres, fairies were written perfectly – I especially liked how they even had their own languages; it tied the book together so well.

Above all, what makes this book so good to me is that it transported me to an enchanted land, and even though I thought I’d grown out of fairy tales long ago, it was just so much fun to experience this in my mind; it made me feel like a child again. So if this book taught me anything, it’s that you are never too old for fairy tales; in fact, the older you get, the more magical it is to get to experience that feeling all over again when you thought you never would. 😊 

– Catherine

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