Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Bilford Bogin! It’s with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Rat Queens, Vol. 2 did not live up to Vol. 1. The magical D&D vibe was missing. There wasn’t nearly enough Betty for my liking. Two of the chapters felt so much like fillers, that they hardly had anything to do with the main story of this collection.

I’m sad, I’m hurt, but I’m mostly just let down. Since finishing Sass & Sorcery last night, in one sitting, I rushed out today to make sure I got my greedy little hands on this volume. I was filled with so much glee, while getting comfy on my bed, to start this graphic-novel that I was so sure would be a masterpiece. After I finished it, and while writing this review currently, I can’t help but feel disappointed.

As for the two chapters that I felt were more filler, we did get a lot of back-story, which I absolutely appreciate, but it just felt so weird with their city falling around them. Yet, at the same time, I didn’t really enjoy this “boss” as much as I thought I would, so part of me wishes that all three chapters were just more back-story on these kick ass heroines that I love.

I didn’t like the art as much either. I did notice another name as an illustrator for this volume, but I guess I just like Roc Upchurch’s solo style more. Apparently, Roc Upchurch stopped illustrating this series after issue 8 and Stjepan Šejić took over, so that explains why I was being so negative about the final pieces. This actually really scares me for Vol. 3: Demons.

I also want to also emphasize, again, that is not a PG book by any means! Go into this knowing that there will be lots of blood, swearing, drinking, drug use, and sex, lots of sex.

I’m now going to break down each chapter in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic-novel or its predecessor Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery!

CHAPTER SIX:
We get introduced to Sawyer’s second in command, Lola. They find a letter that leads them right to Bernadette, and Sawyer discovers who is really behind everything that happened in Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery. We also are introduced to Dee’s husband, yes I said husband, Mezikiah.

We have our third cameo from the beloved Gary, which was probably my favorite scene/panel from this entire bind up.

CHAPTER SEVEN:
The Haruspex Requiem has been stolen, which is a high priest mask that can summon creatures from the abyss, and that is why Mezikiah is in Palisade. Gerrig Lake has absorbed the masks power and has unleashed three demons to destroy all of Palisade while Sawyer is captured and forced to watch.

CHAPTER EIGHT:
This chapter was all about Violet’s past. We learn about her influential figure that is the reason for the name “Rat Queens”, and we also learn that her mother was a pretty strong female as well. Oh, and we get lots of scenes with Violet’s magnificent beard. This chapter had a wonderful message about being who you want to be, and fuck what others think about it.

CHAPTER NINE:
Then, this chapter is the one mostly all about Hannah and her past! Hannah has become my favorite Rat Queen. From her amazing aesthetic, to her past that we are able to learn about in this chapter, Hannah has forced her way into my little black heart. After Hannah’s blast form the past, we realize that these three demons are messing with everyone’s memories so they will be unable to fight. The Rat Queens, Four Daves, Lola, and Braga arrive to defend what is left of Palisade.

CHAPTER TEN:
Oh, I’m also in love with Tizzie. It’s completely normal for me to want to date a comic book character, right? This chapter shows Tizzie and Hannah’s past together, and how friendships can be very unexpected. Then we find out why Hannah’s hair is always perfect, and it will just make you like her even more. Dee does what she thinks is right, and maybe learns a secret about her God, N’rygoth. Oh, and she banishes the demons back home and completely saves Palisade, even though it is in ruins without many survivors. This compilation ends on a cliffhanger that has to do with Hannah’s father.

Overall, it was a good story, I just wasn’t blown away like in Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery. I will still auto buy Vol. 3: Demons when it comes out next month. And I still have to recommend this series to any fantasy lover, because it’s really worth it, especially if you’re just starting out with graphic-novels. Also, this installment was still focused on strong, diverse, females and their even stronger friendships. That alone makes me able to look past the not as great art, and not as developed story, because I need much more girl-power in my reading life.

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Where has Rat Queens been all my life? Seriously, this was spectacular, especially for someone who has played D&D campaigns that have lasted years! I was instantly attached to all four of these women, and they became my little babies and I wanted no harm to come to them!

I will say that is not a PG book by any means! Go into this knowing that there will be swearing, drinking, drug use, and sex, lots of sex.

So who are the Rat Queens?

We have Betty, the cutest little drug dealin’, candy addicted, rogue Smidgen you’ve ever seen. Because of her size, she plays such a big role in being very sneaky for the other members of the group, but also does some insane damage.

Then we have Hannah, our Elvish sorceress who is rocking a pinup aesthetic that is to die for. She can also tap into some pretty dark magic; that I’m sure will come out more in future installments.

Next, and maybe my favorite, is Dee who is a human necromancer with a healing proficiency. If I had to guess, and if we were actually playing D&D, I’d actually say Dee is a cleric and N’Rygoth used to be her deity.

Finally, our last member of this adventuring guild is a dwarf warrior named Violet. She seems to be running from her past, but slowly becoming the woman she wants to be. She can also grow a beard, and is pretty proud of it. How awesome is that?

Besides the characters being excellent, the content is suburb as well. This graphic-novel is five single issue comics, that are packed full of adventure, humor and action! Yet, one of the biggest shining lights is the sex and body positivity in this. And all of these wonderful concepts are surrounding these amazing female friendships that involve girls who are actually diverse! I mean, talk about a hidden gem! It was such a whimsical but refreshing read. I need to get my greedy little hands on Volume Two as soon as possible!

And the art! Holy moly, the art is so aesthetically pleasing to me. The colors, the lines, the dramatic points, all so perfectly executed. Each new chapter had a new drool-worthy full size picture that I was in utter awe of. I think I need to go buy some of Roc Upchruch’s art now.

I’m now going to break down each chapter in this bind up. There will be SPOILERS, so please use caution in continuing if you have not read this graphic-novel!

CHAPTER ONE:
Five groups of mercenaries are sent on five different missions. If a group fails their mission they will be banned from the city, Palisade. The four groups are: Peaches, Four Daves, Brother Ponies, Obsidian Darkness, and, of course, Rat Queens. Once the Rat Queens venture off on their quest, they find an assassin instead of their objective.

This is not only the first installment, but also the first glance at how heavily influenced this comic is by D&D. The “Surprise! -4 penalty to initiative” made me seriously school girl squeal.

CHAPTER TWO:
Someone has hired assassin to kill the mercenaries. The girls are suspecting Mayor Kane. They find Brage and Tizzie, the last remaining members of Peaches, after they have finished off their own personal ambush. Then, all four members of Four Daves show up, and the group realizes they are the last of the adventuring parties left in Palisade.

CHAPTER THREE:
Sawyer, Captain of the guard, tells Hannah that the Merchant’s Guild gave the Mayor the quests, therefore, the mayor is innocent. We also start to see subtle hints that Sawyer and Hannah totally are diggin’ each other. After Hannah gives the girls the news about the Merchant’s Guild, Betty and Dee pay them a visit, and we find out about Mr. Lake, his business, and just how sneaky Betty’s hands really are. Upon another sneak arrival to Mr. Lake’s office, we find out the big bad guy lady is!

CHAPTER FOUR:
A whole army is at Palisade’s gates, and they want the Rat Queens! Braga leads the charge, and the girls show how powerful they really are. Then, The Daves come in and help clean up all the intruders.

I don’t know who the hell Gary is, but I was literally laughing out loud at his cameos in this chapter.

CHAPTER FIVE:
With the invaders defeated, the girls throw a part in celebrate. All the girls, except Dee, are having a distracting time, but Dee is looking over some of the scrolls that Betty stole from Mr.Lake’s office. Dee soon realizes that the God she used to worship with her family, N’Rygoth, soon will play a much bigger role in this story.

This graphic-novel was so immersive and addicting! I would recommend this to fantasy lovers, feminists, anyone who has ever played D&D, or even WoW, or any RPG for that matter! Hell, I just recommend this because it’s freakin’ brilliant, heartwarming, and all-encompassing! I don’t read a ton of graphic-novels, but Rat Queens is, hands down, my favorite.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Readalong for the BooktubeSFF Awards which is being hosted by Nicole from Nicole’s Adventures in SFF, Chelsea from TheReadingOutlaw, Samantha from Novels and Nonsense, Paul from Common Touch of Fantasy, Elizabeth from books and pieces, Kaitlin from Kitty G, Lindsey from Lindsey Rey, Elena from Elena Reads Books, and Thomas from SFF180!

This lower rating is completely my fault. I mean, I understand that every rating I choose to give is my fault, but I feel like if I would have went into this blind it would have gotten a higher rating. Instead, I hyped it up so much that I was waiting for the “perfect time” to start this book. Unfortunately, I don’t think any time would have been the perfect time for me and this book.

I still enjoyed it, because it was unique and beautifully written, but it wasn’t the mind blowing masterpiece that I was expecting. It kept me entertained, and I enjoyed all the different fairy-tale elements that were incorporated within this story. I also read this relatively quickly; the 438 pages flew by.

I’m all about slow burn stories and romances. Hell, I have been obsessing over The Raven Cycle all month, and those books are filled with crack breadcrumb after crack breadcrumb. Yet, this story was some strange monster between fast paced and slow paced. The pacing is actually very reminiscent to Throne of Glass, except Uprooted isn’t a bad story. A big action event would happen in this book and completely hook you, and then it would be page after page, chapter after chapter of dialogue. I had to go back and reread quite a few paragraphs, because I kept noticing myself skimming, and every reader knows that isn’t the best sign.

Another problem I think I had was that Kasia was, hands down, my favorite character even though she was just a side character. She was fearless, and changed her destiny. She did what was right, and showed her selflessness over and over.

Many of my friends have already stated in their reviews that Agnieszka suffered from special snowflake syndrome, but I had no idea how accurate they were. She’d know “the right” or “the wrong” book just upon looking at a bookcase. Words would just stand out and sound better to her. So she’d make up her own song using them and, by God, she is the best witch to have ever lived! Maybe it was just how the magic system in this has a lot of unanswered questions, or maybe because I read Mistborn this year and that has the best magic system I’ve ever read about, but Agnieszka and her magic were a little over the top and unbelievable for me.

Then, Khanh got it absolutely right when she said that Dragon was literally Jericho-Fucking-Barrons from The Fever Series. I couldn’t get over what a constant dick he was, and how uncooperative he was with giving any information to Agnieszka. Yet, I could never get over my dislike for him (or his stupid, inaccurate “magic” name), unlike Jericho Barrons. The Dragon just seemed like an underdeveloped moody broody hot guy trope. I’m not sure if there is a point in this story when the reader is supposed to switch and like the Dragon, but that point and feeling never came for me.

I also feel like the synopsis for the book is really misleading. I thought we were going to have this evil anti-hero that steals away a brave young woman and locks her in his tower, and then we’d get to learn about the struggle of changing her evil captor, or the Stockholm syndrome of her falling in love with him. Maybe it will be about the magical journey of her training and becoming a powerful witch? I sure hope he doesn’t sacrifice these girls to protect the villages from the Wood! The blurb has so much whimsical potential, and this book is nothing even close to anything I just wrote. It’s barely even about the time spent in the tower.

My biggest problem with this book: Why couldn’t the Dragon pick a guy? They only tell you a million times how he does not have sexual relations with the girls. The Dragon, and others in the story, proves there are male witches/wizards. So why must he only take a seventeen year old girl every ten years? My mind could just not stop thinking about this detail.

I also had a really big problem with Prince Merek’s story line, especially when they go to his castle. It’s like we were supposed to sympathize with his actions, because he’s a mama’s boy. Yet, all I kept thinking about is how I’m not going to sympathize with a rapist. I was really resentful of that story line, and it left a terrible taste in my mouth. On top of his disgusting values on the inequality of different human lives. One royal blood person does not equal 30 non-royal bloods, or 300, or 3,000.

I will give Naomi Novik all the credit in the world for making a standalone fantasy novel. That is so rare; I’m actually hard-pressed to think of another one off the top of my head.

I will also give Naomi Novik all the praise my little black heart can offer for really centering this book on female friendships. From Kasia and Agnieszka’s unwavering love and loyalty to one another throughout this whole book, then all the way to the heart of the omniscient Wood.

I just feel like I’m missing something that my friends didn’t. Many people I actually trust with reviews, and with the books I buy, loved this to the extent of putting it on their favorites of all time lists! I’m like, did I get a bad copy? Is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out, and I’m going to have to punch him in the face?

I guess that’s the beautiful thing about books and reading; everyone can interpret everything differently and no book is perfect (except Harry Potter, let’s be real).

If you want a book like this, but better in my opinion, you should check out The Darkest Part of the Forest by the amazing Holly Black. Very similar concepts, with more likable characters, lots of scary woods, and faeries!

“truth didn’t mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn’t come and listen.”

Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Buddy Read with Ilona Andrews Addicts (IAA)!

I enjoyed this book, don’t get me wrong, but it really didn’t feel like a conclusion. I understand that Lark/Sophie, Gaston, George, and Jack are in Sweep in Peace as adults, but so much is left unsaid.

And if I’m being really honest, I feel like this series never surpassed the peak of the first book, On the Edge. This is a very fun series, and each book is in its own way good, but if I knew the final installment was going to end like this I probably would have passed on reading the rest.

I do also want to note that in Clean Sweep, Klaus Demille is the brother of the main character, Dina Demille, and he has yet to make an appearance. Hopefully, when Dina is able to finally locate him in her series, we will have a little more context since he is the one that recruits George in this series.

This final installment was surrounding a healer, named Charlotte, who escapes her privileged life to find herself in the Edge after an unfortunate turn of events. The male protagonist is Richard Mar, better known as Kaldar’s (from Fate’s Edge) brother, who has put quite a mark on his back for some very bad people who refer to him as The Hunter. They find themselves tangled up in an extremely sticky web and decide to try to take down a very organized sex trade together.

Charlotte and Richard were alright, but it seemed like, again, the kids stole the show, especially Sophie/Lark. I would love, love, love a book just about her and what has happened to her since in Clean Sweep, especially with “help” from Charlotte’s adoptive mother. Also, I always sort of felt like it was going to be Sophie/Lark with Jack, but this book kind of shifted (*ba dum tss*) the romance to George. Either way, she was phenomenal in this book and I don’t believe for a second her vendetta is truly over.

I’m not sure if IA plans on coming back and wrapping this up a little better, but I certainly hope they do. This world just feels so incomplete now, and I think a fifth book would definitely fill in the missing pieces. Here’s to hoping, right?

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is the physical manifestation of perfection.

This is a once in a lifetime series.

This book’s magic fills all my dark places with light.

This series reminded me why I fell in love with reading.

This series is the best thing I’ve read since Harry Potter and The Name of the Wind.

It’s always hard for me to write reviews for books that become my favorites. Hopefully those above five lines will help, or maybe they won’t. Either way, no amount of words I have can do justice for this masterpiece. You, yourself, should just give this series a chance and see if it puts you under the spell it has placed upon me.

“Humans were so circular; they lived the same slow cycles of joy and misery over and over, never learning. Every lesson in the universe had to be taught billions of times, and it never stuck.

Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.”

This book really explores a lot of different individualities, and I can’t praise Maggie Stiefvater enough. These are the kind of books that YA needs; different stories that are unique, while the characters are different races, different sexualities, with different family dynamics. This book even portrays feminism beautifully, because at this point Blue is my spirit animal.

“Everything jumbled against everything else in just a few chaotic moments.
Fingers in hair, hands cupping necks, mouths dragged on cheeks and chins in dangerous proximity.
They stopped, noses mashed against each other in the strange way that closeness required.
She could feel his breath in her mouth.”

Blue and Gansey’s relationship guts me with every line. Blue’s pain resonates with me, and just rips my heart out over and over again. Luckily, I have masochistic tendencies and ask for more.

I know I’ve been gushing about diversity and romance, but this book also has a lot of plot to its story. Blue’s mom, Maura, is missing and Blue, Mr.Grey, and everyone else, is in a desperate search to get her back.

Adam and Ronan get more in touch with Cabeswater and start discovering not themselves but each other. *swoons forever*

This book also reintroduces a somewhat new villain, Colin Greenmantle, and his wife Piper. Only this new character will make a much unexpected twist that you won’t see coming.

The gang finds another cave entrance, but finds someone much different than their sleeping Welsh King.

The anticipation for The Raven King is going to kill me. I keep thinking about and rereading the first chapter of The Raven Boys and I find myself being haunted knowing that I’m going to reread that scene next month in a very different perspective. I don’t think there is anything I can do to physically or emotional prepare myself, and mostly my heart, for reading the The Raven King. I’m just going to relish in the heartbreak, while trying to remember that I will forever love this series.

“He left bloody fingerprints on the rock, but there was something satisfying about that.
I was here. I exist. I’m alive, because I bleed.”

Love, Chloe by Alessandra Torre

ARC provided to me by author Alessandra Torre in exchange for an honest review.

I’m also buddy-reading this with SueBee and some of the amazing ladies at Shh… [Smut, Heroes & HEAs…] ❤️.

“I kissed his mouth and tasted his love and didn’t need another thing from this world.”

This story was so charming and heartwarming! Alessandra Torre is my favorite erotic writer, but, Lordy, she can write a good romance as well. This book reads like a much better season of Sex and the City, and will completely capture your heart. I’m literally blown away by how unique and mesmerizing this story was.

Many of the chapters start off with Instagram pictures from “Chloe” herself. This is the first book I’ve ever read with additional media like that, and I actually really liked it. It was really something special and some of the pictures were absolutely gorgeous. It really helped me get completely absorbed in this world, and the ending pictures gave me girly squeals and good closure.

Chloe is a really relatable character, who is trying to make it on her own and figure out who she really is in New York City. Yes, her situation was a little forced and probably isn’t a problem many of us have to deal with (she was rich, and then her family got into some trouble and lost all their money), but I still think most readers will not only connect with Chloe, but really like her.

Now that she’s broke, her university won’t release her degree until she pays off her tuition. Chloe then enters the workforce for the first time for a not so nice woman her family knew. She does receive some help, and a lot of encouragement, from her two best friends. Chloe also has the attention of a few men in her life that ends up being an even more difficult complication.

Who hasn’t struggled to cut ties with an ex, or better yet cut the temptation of contacting them because they feel safe, or because, lowkey, you want guaranteed good sex? This book is so real, and really empathizes the real things that twenty year olds legitimately go through, and feel, while finding love and themselves at the same time.

“I lost words, I lost thought, I lost every single piece of myself. My shoulders came off the table and I whispered his name, my eyes closing, hands grabbing at him, his mouth staying on me as the intensity grew and stretched and inhaled my world.”

This is such an endearing stand-alone contemporary that I cannot recommend enough. It’s fast-paced, super sexy, funny, and honestly surprising. I know I put Alessandra Torre on a pedestal that most authors will never achieve, but reading this book just reminds me why I do; her writing and stories are something of magic.

“That was the problem with love. There was no OFF switch.”

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Buddy Read with #RavenCycleReadAlong!

Whoa, that last line. How in the hell am I not supposed to immediately pick up Blue Lily, Lily Blue after that last line. It was so suspenseful, but so beautifully haunting. Pretty much just like all of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing that crushes, but rebuilds my heart constantly. I should have expected something like this, but my heart really wasn’t prepared.

Maggie Stiefvater is so gifted and it’s outstandingly incredible how real these characters feel. This book completely engrossed me from the first page to the last page. Many authors can create characters I love, but not many authors can create characters that I can actually believe in. On top of the poetic prose this whole book is written in, this series is really something above the rest.

This book definitely surrounds mostly Ronan and his unique ability to take things out of his dreams, like Chainsaw. Ronan did a much better job at winning me over in this book, and I loved learning about his past, especially his mother. I feel like this series throws so many twists at you, and you never see them coming, you just feel it in your gut afterwards. Ronan’s storyline was wonderfully developed and I can’t wait to learn even more about him and the rest of this family.

I disliked Kavinsky, but not because he was a bad person, but because he was just a bad person for the sake of being a bad person. Maybe the reasoning is because he’s obviously lonely, but it still seemed a little farfetched with his extreme actions. The resolution with Kavinsky was also very convenient. I wish his storyline ended in a different, not so clean, way. His character was the only thing that made this book not perfect, in my opinion. And how in the hell is the town going to explain a sleeping dragon that won’t wake up?

“Maybe she’d go for a walk, just her and the pink switchblade. They were a good pair. Both incapable of opening up without cutting someone.”

Blue is… God, Blue is just the perfect protagonist for me. She is everything I wish I was at seventeen and everything I still wish I was ten years later. She is such a wonderful representation of being yourself and not caring what the rest of the world does, yet being able to show immense amounts of empathy. Blue is so complex, and getting to see her character not only develop, but also the layers getting pulled back is an absolute joy to read. I can’t think of a female I enjoy reading about more in literature than Blue Sargent.

“He hadn’t realized yet that Gansey could persuade even the sun to pause and give him the time.”

I think it’s pretty solidified that I’m just going to fall more and more in love with Gansey as this series progresses, especially on account of Adam being pretty unlikeable from the start of this book. I get it, he’s a tormented soul with so much going on, but being nice doesn’t cost anything. Adam was just equal parts heartbreaking and frustrating in this book. My love for him in The Raven Boys diminish in this book, and Gansey reaped the benefits of an even bigger section of my heart. I feel so alone with my love for Gansey. My whole Goodreads is review after review of Ronan gushing and devotion. I understand that this book is primarily about him, but at this point I doubt anything could waver my love for this mysterious boy who is destined to die. Seriously, I’m in way over my head with a fictional character. I think I reread the car scene with Blue about five times, and I was still in disbelief of its utter perfection.

As much as Adam annoyed me, his relationship with Persephone helped his story line. Whenever she was in a scene with him, it was much lighter and easier for me to read. Hell, any scene with Persephone, Calla, Orla, or Maura is phenomenal. Blue’s house is just magic, and I don’t mean psychic readings or tarot cards. The only home I can think of that is as much of a joy to read about as 300 Fox Way is the Burrow.

Noah didn’t have much of an impact this book, but the scene with Blue literally gave me every feel in the world. My body felt so much happiness and sadness all rolled into one. I had to wipe so many tears away that I never even knew I was shedding. I know what my wish would be if I was part of this group and was able to get to Glendower.

“You really didn’t see the sadness or the longing unless you already knew it was there. But that was the trick, wasn’t it? Everyone had their disappointment and their baggage; only, some people carried it in their inside pockets and not on their backs.”

Our Welsh king, Glendower, is still nowhere to be found, but that last line pretty much promises that it will not remain that way in Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Overall, this book was as phenomenal as The Raven Boys. There is also a LGBTQIA plot that is about to take place and that just wants me to put Maggie Stiefvater on an even higher pedestal. This series is unlike anything I’ve ever read and I’m completely captivated by this world. There is something magic about this little Virginia town, and it has nothing to do with Glendower, Cabeswater, talking trees, pulling things out of dreams, or ghost boys. That being said, I know this series will break my heart. I just pray that it will be mended afterwards.

If I were Blue I would just walk around with a piece of duct tape on my mouth when not speaking, or maybe one of those dog-surgery cones. I don’t know, but something! Anything! Because something tells me that no matter what I will not be prepared for what is going to go down in The Raven King.

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches — that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”