Category Archives: Kat Mandu

Villainous by Kristen Brand

Black Valentine and White Knight are back in the sequel to Hero Status! After the events of the first book, Dave (White Knight) is dealing with the repercussions of his actions. If she wants to keep him out of jail, Valentina has to play nice with the feds and track down some nasty narcotics.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Villainous
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: White Knight/Black Valentine Book 2
Publish Date: September 28, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Received for review from author

Publisher’s Description: Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) This time, she’s not the one in trouble with the law—her goody-two-shoes, former superhero of a husband is.

He saved her life two months ago but committed a spectacular amount of assault and property damage along the way. The feds plan to press charges…unless Val does something for them in exchange. Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, but things turn deadly fast, and Val finds herself up against another supervillain—one who can out-play her at her own game.

Val’s worried she’s gone soft since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…


Kat Mandu says…

This series is super full of action and I love it! It blends a lot of genres. It’s not just cool villain versus superhero fight scenes, it’s also got a touch of romance, mystery, and humor. Plus the characters are relatable to real life despite its fantasy appeal.

Valentina is sexy and hardcore and ready to take on anything if it means getting her husband a get out of jail free card. She makes a deal to track down a shipment of a drug called “psyche” and its seller, but discovers her own sister and her twisted arch-nemesis, Dr. Sweet, may be behind its trafficking. As she tracks down clues and skirts dangers thrown at her at every corner, she’s gotta use her telepathic abilities and sheer force of will (which is a lot, for the record) to save the day.

This series is growing to be one of my favorites in the superhero genre. It’s the little tidbits of information about the characters, plus the awesome flashback scenes, that really make it for me. Valentina and Dave are awesome on their own, but even cooler together. I’m very eager to see where the next book, Almost Invincible, whisks me off to on their adventures.

But don’t just stop there – check out Hero Status and her episodic online, all of which you can find on her home site. https://kristenbrand.com/web-fiction/ – I really recommend this fun, crime-fighting (or in some cases, crime-loving) series.

Other recommendations…

…you might try other badass superhero books from Lexi Dunne, Jennifer Estep, and Bethany Frenette.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

In this stunning companion to The Star-Touched Queen, we reunite with Guari as she finds herself faced with a choice: stay prisoner to the city of Ujain and let her older brother Skanda rule over her country with cruelty, or join a stranger in a competition through a magical world full of dangerous creatures and even darker desires.

Title: Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Star-Touched Queen
Publish Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Provided by Good Reads courtesy of a giveaway

Publisher’s Description: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Dual review from Kat Mandu and Luna Lovebooks!


Kat Mandu says…

Kat_Mandu_100I absolutely loved this. For me it was all about that gorgeous imagery, hilarious dialogue, and the dual-narration of both Guari and Vikram. Though I didn’t dislike A Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes just really tickled my fancy more than its prequel. I almost couldn’t put it down and even then when I was forced to, I had serious withdrawals. It’s just so fascinating from beginning to end.

The continual banter between Guari and Vikram is the best. They’re bickering from start to finish, even as they grow fonder of one another. They really made this book for me because they each learn that they both have secrets and pasts, and learn to understand each other. I had a feeling they might fall in love but I was glad it wasn’t the focus of the story. It was more about them discovering who they really had to be in life, getting past their fears and showing their true identities.

There were a few scenes that kind of threw me for a loop, ones I either just don’t get or have been corrected in the final version. I didn’t really understand all that was happening in the courtesan tent – with the mirrors – and I wish I would have understood all that was happeningbadge5v5 when Vikram and Guari both “died.” Like I said, not sure at this point if those have been cleared up with editing or if I am just confused in general.

However, that writing is still there, succulent and mesmerizing with every page. It makes you really want to read more Indian fairy tales. It’s really gorgeous and I adore Roshani’s writing style.

All of this made it a five for me!

 Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: As much as I loved the beautiful writing of The Star-Touched Queen, I think I love Luna_Lovebooks_100Crown of Wishes even more! The writing is still beautiful and lyrical. The characters Guari and Vikram are beautifully written and I enjoyed their playful banter. This novel is a bit more fantastical features even more of the beings from Indian mythology.

badge5v5Dislikes: Once again there isn’t much I didn’t like about this novel. There were a few instances where I was confused during a scene or by what a character did but it didn’t distract from the story.
Other recommendations…

…you might try Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer, Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

 

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Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede

Cimorene longs to be more than just the ordinary princess – so when she runs away from her kingdom and volunteers to be a dragon’s “captive” princess, all new adventures unfold.

 

Title: Dealing With Dragons
Author: Patricia Wrede
Series: Enchanted Forrest Chronicles Book 1
Publish Date:  November 1st 2002
Genre: Middle Grade
Cover:  Peter de Sève
Source: Purchased

 

Publisher’s Description: Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart – and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon – and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.


Kat Mandu says…

I used to read this series a lot when I was growing up and like Harry Potter, it still calls to me no matter what age I am. This isn’t your typical middle-grade story, though sometimes it reads like one. Cimorene is technically a teenage princess, she even has that streak of defiance in her that often leads her into trouble – but she embraces it. However, this reads so different from books today that I find its simplicity and innocence the best part about it.

Cimorene sneaks off from her family’s kingdom and discovers a group of dragons. She offers her services – cooking and cleaning mostly – to one of them and finds a companion in Kazul, a female dragon with a feisty spirit. As the two become friends and Cimorene becomes accustomed to her new home, she meets a couple new friends, including another princess named Alianora, a witch named Morwen, and a stone prince who had an unlucky adventure himself and is now looking to redeem himself.

But she also uncovers a plot between the wizards and a shifty dragon that includes killing off the king of the dragons and putting a specific dragon in his place. When she teams up with her friends and Kazul, Cimorene manages to defeat the wizards and save the day.

This is really an enjoyable, funny read that people of all ages should enjoy. I’m eager to read the next in the series.

Other recommendations…

You’ll also love authors like Rick Riordan, Marissa Meyer, and Katherine Roberts.

 

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The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Ascendance Trilogy comes to an end with The Shadow Throne and Jaron’s biggest battles are coming to the frontlines. With war pressing in on him from all sides, he’s got to gather up his allies and defeat his greatest enemies.

shadow-throneTitleThe Shadow Throne
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
SeriesThe Ascendance Trilogy, Book 03
Publish Date: Feb 25, 2014
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionWar has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighboring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron’s adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Though I didn’t particularly like a certain part of this book (which I will detail for you further on), I really loved the majority of it. The action scenes are incredible, the chapter-ending cliffhangers are awesome, and a lot of the characters I’ve grown fond of each get their time in the spotlight.

There’s a lot of pulse-pounding excitement as Jaron goes from leading armies to getting held hostage and fighting his own personal battles. This time, though, he’s got his friends there to help him secure victory. There’s a bit of a happy ending, though as always with a lot of high fantasy tales, it comes at a great cost.

The main issue I had with this one? The romance. Okay, so Amarinda and Jaron don’t quite hit it off and they agree to disagree while remaining friends and allies. Which of course then leaves the Imogen and Jaron spark to reignite again….only *SPOILER ALERT*….


…the author kills Imogen off, giving Jaron’s enemies a reason to taunt and break him because they claim to have responsibility for her death. She’s shot with an arrow in the middle of a battle, pronounced dead by like three different people (one being Mott, and as Jaron believes him, the readers do, too) and then Jaron’s sad and all that. I figured with Imogen’s death, that meant he and Amarinda would settle their differences and get together since they’re already bound by oath anyway.

However, those were my opinions before Amarinda decided to do her own thing and fall in love with Tobias. Which is cool and all because she’s making her own decisions and not going with something she doesn’t want to do for political reasons.

There were quite a few times where I suspected that Imogen might not have been dead. But then I got 2/3 through the book and got used to her not being around.

But then BAM. Suddenly she’s not dead. She’s very alive and being held prisoner and I’m upset. Why? Because I feel like she should have stayed dead. No offense to her, I mean, yay, she’s breathing and what not.

However, I’m upset because I feel like this was a cop out. I’m also very passionate about this point. I feel like she should have stayed dead because, by that point, Jaron was so deep and focused on what he was doing that he’d kinda moved on from her. I feel like Imogen was brought back only to satisfy the romance and I’m very disappointed by that.

badge4v5Then again, some of you readers may like the happy, romantic endings. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book because I did. This is a wonderful middle-grade trilogy, but it definitely borders young adult with some of its darker, brutal themes. I’m giving it four stars!

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

I’d recommend this to fans of high fantasy everywhere, especially fans of Sara B. Larson, Erika Johansen, and Melina Marchetta.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

In a high fantasy world based on the Seasons, Meira, a young refugee from the Winter kingdom, is thirsty to prove just how worthy she is. But taking on the big bad guys means she’ll have to step up her game – but as she ventures through a series of political mind games, can her heart handle all the secrets she learns along the way?

TitleSnow Like Ashes
AuthorSara Raasch
SeriesSnow Like Ashes, Book 01
Publish Date: October 14, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionSixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Dislikes: I figured I’d switch it up and get my dislikes out of the way, considering there are few of them. First of all, this is not a terribly original plot. Strong heroine, royal politics, magic, stolen kingdom, and of course, a love triangle. All elements that are normally used in books of this genre. However, it seems to work. While it doesn’t make this novel particularly standout, it doesn’t take away from a good read. Secondly, this book can get a touch info-dumpy at points. Lastly, there is a love triangle! Which leads me to my…

Likes: While Meria is a strong female lead, fighting for her kingdom and refusing to back down, she is also flawed and complex. She tugs at your heartstrings. She is likable. But she isn’t the only one. Even the side characters are complex and well-developed—even the two love interests. They are both so likable and for different reasons. I just couldn’t choose who to root for. The world is another well-developed wonder. This is a seriously complex world with eight kingdoms that have their own customs and people. This information is woven into the plot fairly well for the most part, but as I stated, it can be a bit of an info dump at points.

Despite not being an entirely fresh take on the YA fantasy genre, this book has amazing character and world development that makes it a worthwhile read. I give it 4 snowflakes.

Kat Mandu says…

Meira is feisty and fierce, and the fact that she uses a chakram makes her reminiscent of a younger Xena Warrior Princess in my head. Only with very white hair and pale skin. Her fellow Winterians also have similar features, physical traits reminiscent of their former kingdom, Winter, which is a land that many of them haven’t seen in sixteen years. Meira and her companions are all refugees, driven from Winter by their rival country’s leader (Spring), Angra. Sixteen years ago, Angra forcibly took over the kingdom by imprisoning the Winterian citizens and killing anyone who resisted, including Queen Hannah.

Now, Meira and a handful of survivors – including her mentor, “Sir” (William) and Hannah’s only son, Mather. They’ve managed to stay out of Angra’s eye until now – but they’re trying to get their magical conduit back (the item that represents their power) and Meira knows they can’t wait any longer, especially once news of the conduit’s locations is brought to them.

This story has a lot of adventure and a lot of layered plots as the story unfolds. Aka, there’s a lot going on. It’s not confusing in any way, but prepared to go through a lot of multi-faceted stories within one story.

For one, there’s the fact that the Winterians are trying to get their hands on the conduit, a locket; but Mather, their supposed “king” of Winter, is male and therefore unable to use it due to magical laws set way back when the conduits were first created. This particular detail of the story eventually takes a turn later, but they manage to get the locket anyway.

Then they decide to ally with a Rhythm kingdom, Cordell, and by doing so, Meira ends up engaged to Theron, the heir of Cordell’s king, Niall. She’s not exactly thrilled about the situation, as her heart has always belonged to Mather. But at least in this book, Theron proves to be a very understanding and what more, a protective friend who grows close to Meira’s heart.

So there’s also the romance angle – a love triangle between Meira, Mather, and Theron. Meira finds herself drawn to Theron and seeing Mather as more of a friend.

There’s an entire plotline where Mather and Meira discover a new kind of magic within themselves and that they’re not who they think they are.

Then of course, there’s the final epic battle as Cordell, Winter, and Autumn join forces against the armies of Spring and Angra. And well, stuff happens (no spoilers here).

Overall this is a great book. I found the characters really drove it for me, or at least they mattered more to me than the actual plot, which although is given a unique spin, seems to have a similar theme to other high fantasies I’ve read before. The world building is pretty cool too! But as much as I enjoyed it, I found it hard to keep reading at times; it just didn’t have the same “I’ll stay up all night to finish this” feel for me.

I still give it a four!

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

If you love high fantasy check out these other great reads! Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, the Elemental Trilogy by Sherri Thomas, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White.