The Book Barrio

A Blog for Fantasy and Romance Readers


4 stars

Review: Marked in Flesh (Others #4) by Anne Bishop


Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop
I’ve been following this book series since Written in Red first came out and wowed everyone with its unique brand of urban fantasy. Re-reading each book in the series has always been a pleasure. I make no exception for Marked in Flesh, the fourth book in the series.

Here, we see our favorite blood prophet, Meg Corbyn grow into herself and discover things about telling prophecy without having to use the razor. And the story gets bigger. It’s not just about Meg and her little world in the courtyard anymore. The conflict between humans and the Others is growing. One mistake can cause the entire thing to collapse. Other parts of Thaisia are also awakening to the dangers posed by these conflicts. We also get to see some of the Elders who are even more otherly than the Courtyard Others. Let me just say that huge changes happen in this book.

Meg and Simon’s romantic relationship is progressing ever so slowly. But whatever progress they have is so sweet and endearing. The Meg and Simon moments are always my favorite parts to read. They’re like little treasures scattered here and there to quietly surprise with its emotional depth.

The real strength of these books are the characters. I could read about Meg receiving deliveries or about Simon hunting meat all day. Similar to the previous books in the series, the plot pace is a bit slow, which allows for introspection and character growth. There were some parts that did bore me, but the tension picks up and the big things that happen in this book are not to be missed.

When I finished the book, I immediately went back to re-read my favorite parts.

Rating: 4 Stars



Review: A Gathering of Shadows by

A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab


A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. The first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, was very unique and fast paced. Kell is an Antari, which means that he has the ability to travel between different worlds. In the book, there are different versions of the same world, which are separated by a veil of sorts. Kell lives in Red London and occasionally travels to the magic-less Gray London and the slightly corrupted White London. There used to be a Black London too, but it got too corrupted by dark magic and the city is said to be dead.

A Gathering of Shadows continues the story in the first book. Unlike the previous book that was full of action, intrigue and adventure, this book was a more like a preparation for the future epic battle to come. It also focuses on the aftermath of the first book, and how the characters adjust to the changes in their lives.

Here we see Kell face the consequences of his actions in the first book. I can’t really go into detail without being spoilery about the first book. But this book delves deeper into the relationship between Kell and his brother, Prince Rhy. The bromance was really impressive. In the meantime, Lilah is having a blast going sailing and joining pirates and such. She learns about how magic works and develops new skills of her own.

To add some spice to story, Red London is holding a tournament for magic wielders. It’s an important event to maintain the peace and healthy rivalry between nations. It’s also a way for certain characters to challenge themselves and get into fights. I just love love tournaments. No fantasy series is complete without having its own tournament episode, and this does indeed deliver.

The ending is a medium-level cliffhanger that left me wanting for more. I eagerly anticipate the next book in this series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2) by Brandon Sanderson


Genre: Fantasy


The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.


So I’ve been binge reading the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. After the events of the first book, The Final Empire, the characters are now facing the consequences of their actions. In short, they’re trying to keep things together amidst all the chaos they started.

I really like the fantastical elements of these books. Brandon Sanderson continues to expand the Empire. We learn more about the world and the magic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this series is worth the read if only to witness the amazing world building that Brandon Sanderson is a master of. The world continues to grow, we learn about some of its history and the things to come. We also get to see Vin and Elend grow into themselves. They face up to the challenges and we see how their characters change and yet not change. I particularly like how Elend learns to take command and be a king, while still holding up his ideals.

My one complaint remains the same though, that the romance between Vin and Elend feels bland. There are some lovely Vin & Elend parts, but I need something more to make their love epic. Their love is more like a pleasant love rather than the soul destroying kind. It’s probably because they have so much to give to the people, and with everything that is happening, a lot of other things have to come first.

We see more of the side characters and learn about their lives, which is a definite plus. The action, politics and scheming will keep you turning pages until you reach the end. Not a moment of boredom in the Well of Asecnsion. And good news, the ending left me wanting to read the next book asap. So that’s what I did.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goddreads | Amazon

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover


Genre: Romance, New Adult


At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be.

Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.

A passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance, Maybe Someday will immerse readers in Sydney’s tumultuous world from the very first page.


Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover is quite the angsty read. After breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Sydney finds herself attracted to Ridge, the guitar player whose music she loves. The problem is that Ridge has a girlfriend who he loves very much.

I can’t say much without giving the story away. This is the book you read when you trust Colleen Hoover. The story addresses so many things. Like how it is possible to fall in love with two different people, and how some actions have certain consequences. It’s very emotional, high drama, with some light humor sprinkled on top. I can see that it could make some other people cry, but not me. Angst junkies will love this book, plus it’s also one of the Top Romances of 2014.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren


Genre: Romance


A bombshell bookworm. A chronic Casanova. And a lesson in chemistry too scandalous for school.

When Hanna Bergstrom receives a lecture from her overprotective brother about neglecting her social life and burying herself in grad school, she’s determined to tackle his implied assignment: get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to turn her into the sultry siren every man wants than her brother’s gorgeous best friend, Will Sumner, venture capitalist and unapologetic playboy?

Will takes risks for a living, but he’s skeptical about this challenge of Hanna’s…until the wild night his innocently seductive pupil tempts him into bed- and teaches him a thing or two about being with a woman he can’t forget. Now that Hanna’s discovered the power of her own sex appeal, it’s up to Will to prove he’s the only man she’ll ever need.


I decided to read Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren because I saw it ranked high on the Top Romances of 2014 List on Goodreads. Given the many votes, I was ready to be swept away.

Hanna, is a total nerd. She’s been spending her days in the laboratory instead of having a social life. So her brother enlists the help of his Best friend Will, who is supposed to check in on Hanna and make sure that she has a social life. Yes, this is one of those fall-in-love-with-the-brother’s-best-friend tropes, which I normally don’t like that much. But at the same time, it’s also one of the friends-to-lovers plots, which I happen to really really like.

The friendship is genuine, and I like how they gradually develop feelings for each other, which eventually makes for really hot sex. I love the dialogue between Will and Hanna. There is some humor. Will is such a player and Hanna is also endearing. What I do not like is all the uncertainty about the status of their relationship, whether it’s casual or exclusive and how it’s hurting them both inside. I just feel that it dragged a bit too much.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a nice romantic read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) by Brandon Sanderson


Genre: Fantasy


In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


I first discovered Brandon Sanderson from his Youtube Lectures on Creative Writing. I found his class very useful and practical for fantasy writers.

When I was browsing through my kindle, I saw the Mistborn series parked there and thought I’d give it a try.

The Final Empire is about an oppressive fantasy world, wherein the Skaa are treated as slaves. A band of thieves decide to take on the task of overthrowing the tyrannical rule of the Lord Ruler. Each of them has their own special ability that involves using metals to manipulate emotions, gather strength, push or pull on objects, etc.

About a third into the book, I began to realize that I’ve read it before. I recognized some scenes in the book, particularly the scenes involving a budding romance, which was maybe even less than 5% of the entire book. It wasn’t enough for me to recall the entire plot, magical laws, and politics. But something clicked and I just knew that it was something that I have already read before. The experience was both new and old.

I liked the premise of the book. I was fascinated with the character’s manipulation of different metals. I had to suspend my disbelief at some of the magical elements. My favorite parts are the plotting and scheming. I could not put the book down, the plot is fast paced and action packed.

My main criticism is that some of the characters lack depth in their relationships. (Here comes a slightly spoilery part.) I think that Vin and Elend’s relationship is too shallow. They need more time to develop a deeper bond to justify their declaration of love. Same goes for the band of thieves. They always talk about working together, being crazy and taking risks, but there isn’t much backstory to them. I never saw the reasons for the depth of their friendship, and what makes them loyal to each other.

I think this flaw is also what led me to forget about the story after I read it the first time. The Final Empire is not the kind of story that stays with the reader forever or leaves a big stamp in one’s mind. That’s how I felt after reading Harry Potter, and the Name of the Wind. And The Final Empire failed to do that for me. The characters in the Final Empire are not real enough to live beyond the pages of the book.

Nevertheless, it’s very fun and enjoyable. The world-building and magical laws alone make this book well worth the read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Link: Amazon

Mini Reviews for the Hardcore Romances

Occasionally, we like to read the Romances that didn’t cross over. Here are some of the guilty pleasures I’ve read this week.


Act Like It by Lucy Parker

The hero and heroine are stage actors who have to pretend to date each other for publicity. The hero’s image gets cleaned up, and the heroine gets to have some money donated to her charity, which would be a win-win for all. The author’s voice is authentic and fresh. I like the light-hearted banter and how the characters grow on each other. There aren’t any of those “I’m pretending but I’m not and I’m so confused” thoughts that we usually see in these tropes. They are honest from the moment they stop pretending and really begin seeing each other romantically. The hero is a redeemable alpha-asshole.

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Widow falls in love with guy who inherits her dead husband’s estate. There are a lot of parts where the heroine was all, “We can’t because I’m a widow, it’s not proper.” It’s a Lisa Kleypas romance, which means it’s guaranteed to be a good read. I also like how the side character’s stories are set up future books. The ending left me wanting to read the next book because I am very intrigued by the side characters.

Rating: 3 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Forsaking Gray by K.L. Kreig

A Twitter follower recommended this. It’s very heavy soap opera drama. The heroine left the hero because her father sold her to be the wife of some evil guy. Years later, they meet again and she is an emotional wreck about it and can’t tell him why she left. There is a lot of angst and just the right amount of tension. Since I’m an angst junkie, I couldn’t put the book down and I stayed up until 3 am to finish it. I think the love triangle is unnecessary and the ending feels a bit rushed.  (Book 2 is out today!)

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grimm 2) by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Fantasy, Romance 22567177


Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.


Tower of Thorns is the 2nd book in Juliet Marillier’s Blackthorn & Grimm series. As told in the 1st book, Blackthorn struck a deal with Conmael, one of the magic folk. In exchange for helping them escape prison, Blackthorn must never refuse a call for help, or actively seek revenge against her enemy for 7 years.

The book starts when Blackthorn is already in her 6th year of her deal with Conmael. So far, life has been peaceful and simple, she is the local wise woman at Winterfell. Her loyal friend Grimm, is happy to stay with her and help.

Blackthorn meets someone from her past who offers her a rare opportunity to bring her enemy to justice. This would mean breaking her 7 year deal with Conmael and giving up her freedom with Grimm. Blackthorn very much wants to avenge her lost family and seriously considers the undertaking.

At the same time, Lady Geilies needs help. There is a tower in her land surrounded by thorns. By day, the creature that resides in the tower cries and leaves everyone with dark, depressing feelings. It has taken a toll on the land and the people. Lady Geilies needs someone to help stop the howling monster in the tower. She believes that Blackthorn is just the person who can stop the monster.

As with any Juliet Marillier novel, the story is interwoven with little tales and myths with a strong folk tale influence. The love between Blackthorn and Grimm is a slow burn. They are both too damaged to go into a full blown romantic relationship. They are comfortable with their friendship, and it’s good step towards healing and moving on from the past. Their loyalty to each other will be tested. I think this is the book wherein they realize how much they really mean to each other. We also learn a little about Grimm’s past that haunts him.

I also liked the mystery about the tower and the creature. Marillier keeps us guessing at the true nature of the curse and the secrets surrounding it.

The ending is bittersweet and hopeful. I recommend this to fans of the series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy 


Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.


Walk on earth a stranger is a western young adult fantasy novel. It is set during the gold rush period in America. The heroine, Lee has the ability to sense gold, wherever it is. This proves to be a useful ability and it allows her family to get by. One day her parents are murdered, and their secret stash of gold is stolen. Lee is left alone and under the control of her uncle, who she suspects was behind the murder.

Luckily, gold has been discovered in California, and people from all over are travelling to California in the hopes of getting rich. Lee decides to take the dangerous journey and make her own fortune as well. She hurries to catch up with her childhood friend, Jefferson, who left earlier for California.

I normally do not read western novels. But this one I really liked. Lee is fifteen years old when the story starts. She is resourceful, sensible, and a good shot with a gun. She is smart about hiding her abilities, and also hardworking. Jefferson, her childhood friend, left his abusive father to make his own fortune as well. He is half-cherokee, and faces racial judgement from the people around him. Despite all this, there is a sense of goodness and honor in him. There is a possibility of a romance, but it’s too early to tell. If ever there will be one, it will probably be a slow burn. Their relationship is built on friendship and trust.

Lee and Jefferson join a company of travelers and we also get to meet characters from the company, who grow and change in the course of the journey. The interaction between these characters during the journey was the part I liked best. And yes, people die.

The story felt very real to me. And for someone who hasn’t read much westerns, this is excitingly different and new. I look forward to the future books in the series, which will probably be even more focused on Lee’s gold-finding abilities.

Rating: 4 stars


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