Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (Book Thoughts)

I group read Sorcery of Thorns finally and was able to chat about it finally.  I valued the group’s perspective and it helped me put my finger on how I felt about the book too.  P.S. I read 6 whole books off my shelves this month!!

This is a great YA fantasy that had lots of YA inconsistencies. I’m trying not to think about it too hard

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sorcery of Thorns
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Margaret Rogerson
  • Publisher & Release: Margaret K. McElderry Books – June 2019
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for YA Fantasy fans and books about books

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Alright so overall, without over thinking this, I enjoyed it for the most part as a YA fantasy.  It’s mostly fast paced with plenty of action, magic books, and demons who are the best characters.

It’s a magical gaslight era fantasy where books are living things with breakable hearts and women aren’t held in very high regard. Sorcery has a bad reputation, as do grimoires, and the main theme of the book is about uncovering the nature of things despite their appearances or what society says.  Knowledge is power – a great YA theme.

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The characters are… Ok.  Elisabeth is literally a strong, tall, hard to kill woman, and Rogerson avoided MarySue-ing her by not bringing other girls into the picture in comparison.  Her special traits ended up having a feasible explanation.

Nathaniel is supposed to be a typically dark, brooding man, but even in completely inappropriate situations (danger, levity, middle of a battle) he always seems flippant and ready to banter.  He did have some extremely serious moments but then would snap out of it real quick and I mean heck he just wasn’t believable 90% of the time.

The banter was funny though, like legitimately funny so it’s hard for me to layer this enjoyable comic dialogue over some of the scenes it was occurring during.  The dark scenes at night though – ok, ok, there were some good ones.

Now I’m joining everyone else who thought Silas saved the day entirely.  All my highlights were Silas related.  If for no other reason besides magic books, read the book for Silas.

P.S. hello we have another Garth Nix copycat.  Silas in cat form and Silas in general really reminded me of Mogget. Can anyone think of a white cat/demon/magic familiar before Mogget? I can’t for sure, but can name about 5 since!

I also didn’t love the sorcery magic but the demon to owner magic was cool, and, omg the books.  If you’re not reading for Silas, read for the books. Books and atmosphere.  Rogerson loves atmosphere and went over the line at times with purple prose, but sometimes I enjoyed it.

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Anyway – I did the positives first, now let me do the negatives. I docked a star because while it was super YA even in the most serious moments – or most of them anyway – the characters went from like two quick kisses, to clothes off, mad quick, in a gaslight fantasy era where I’m sure Elisabeth would have had reservations.

Gaslight – think stagecoaches and insane asylums and women being diagnosed as insane because they read books. Which then becomes SUPER INCONSISTENT because some of the library directors are women, as are lots of the apprentices and wardens and librarians.  Now we know the libraries aren’t cut off from social prejudice because they don’t like sorcerers, but they randomly allow women in while a huge point was made elsewhere that women were treated …. poorly.  It is the biggest plothole inconsistency ever.  Plus it’s apparently totally cool for Elisabeth to just live with Nathaniel and ignore all social norms, right lol.

Sooo I’m trying hard to stick with 4 stars and not overthink this because I did enjoy it while reading.  I didn’t love it but for a YA audience I think it’s a good bet

Categories
Historical Fiction Young Adult

The Silent Unseen by Amanda McCrina

Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for my free copy of The Silent Unseen in exchange for an honest review! I don’t remember entering this raffle. I also don’t regret the read, even if it ultimately fell flat for me

I am a terribly myopic history reader, so a book about WW2 era Ukraine + Poland + Russia was hard to put into context.  Apparently the Germans were mining the area for slave labor and worse, and once they left, the Russians were coming in to mop up the forces still fighting (Polish transplants vs native Ukrainians)?

This is the setting, with Maria and Kostya on two very different sides of what seem like the same page, yet having to work together. Both had villages ruined by war, dead family, and were fighting for whatever they had left.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  •  Title: The Silent Unseen
  • Author: Amanda McCrina
  • Publisher & Release: Farrar Strauss & Giroux (BYR) April, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Poland, July 1944. Sixteen-year-old Maria is making her way home after years of forced labor in Nazi Germany, only to find her village destroyed and her parents killed in a war between the Polish Resistance and Ukrainian nationalists. To Maria’s shock, the local Resistance unit is commanded by her older brother, Tomek—who she thought was dead. He is now a “Silent Unseen,” a special-operations agent with an audacious plan to resist a new and even more dangerous enemy sweeping in from the East.

When Tomek disappears, Maria is determined to find him, but the only person who might be able to help is a young Ukrainian prisoner and the last person Maria trusts—even as she feels a growing connection to him that she can’t resist.

Tightly woven, relentlessly intense, The Silent Unseen depicts an explosive entanglement of loyalty, lies, and love during wartime

I feel like this book is SUPER YA and missed it’s emotional impact due to the rushed and somewhat silly romance and ending. While I learned of some of the horrors (forced labor and murders and kidnappings and such) that happened, I had trouble with the broader historical context.

First let me say a few good things.  It was a quick read and the action (if not confusing at times) was constant.  I couldn’t keep the three resistance/military groups apart in my head very well without understanding their conflict and governmental reach.  It was an exciting plot though and I would like to know more about this area during the end of WW2.

Also I liked the characters.  Maria was brave and a little silly at times (like a teen) but I liked that she and Kostya showed both their strong and scared kid sides.  That made them feel like real people.

I wasn’t buying the romance though, not one bit, not at all. Even becoming friends would have been challenging for the two main characters, and meaningful, but they hadn’t even trusted each other before they started having feelings and it went from enemy to romance nearly instantaneously.

I also think the book wrapped up super quickly like it just glossed over the plot points towards the end, not explaining a lot.of things, and then ended. Maybe there’s meant to be a sequel but this ending was just silly to me and felt like it shrugged off the gravity of the rest of the novel.  That said though, the author probably did not want to leave YA readers feeling depressed afterwards so she gave all of the characters something to be hopeful about.

I didn’t dislike it but didn’t love it either. Would recommend for YA / WW2 readers who like YA romance elements.  The content (minus some violent acts and descriptions of violent acts) is appropriate for the age group and I think she left a lot of room for a sequel in Kostya’s storyline.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Book Thoughts)

My entire adventure into YA fantasy started because of Bookstagram. Strange the Dreamer was put on that reading list very early and I’m glad I finally had a chance to read it. A solid follow-up to the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series -which I apparently never blogged about – let’s take a look at what I loved (and didn’t love) about Laini Taylor’s magical book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Strange the Dreamer
  • Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
  • Author: Laini Taylor
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – March 2017
  • Length: 544 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for those who like lush fantasy worlds where the romance may or may not make sense

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

From National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes an epic fantasy about a mythic lost city and its dark past.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared his dream chose poorly. Since he was just five years old, he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the form of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? And who is the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams?

In this sweeping and breathtaking novel .. the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

The answers await in Weep.

Alright I don’t want this to turn into a 5 page long essay so I will hit the mainstays –

The Worldbuilding: One thing I’ll say for Laini Taylor is that she is a master of lush world building.  The settings are so vividly described, the buildings and architecture, weather, terrain, food, mood of the citizens, everything you could want from the micro world building is present.

On a larger macro level, there is also lots of history and custom given.  Many stories and folklore and popular legends are given through Lazlo’s storytelling, which really adds another dimension to the world

One of the main mysteries – where the Gods came from and what they are doing -will likely be discussed in Muse of Nightmares. 

The Characters: speaking of the Muse of Nightmares – let’s do characters next. I really applaud Taylor for starting the book out the way she did –

How can you turn away from a book after learning that a blue girl falls out of the sky?  Sarai and the other godspawn had a complicated and interesting dynamic.  Their imprisonment and survival chipped the humanity away from some, while it seemed to flourish in others.  I liked Sarai and felt for Minya, they were all just surviving in the world of their parents. And wearing their underwear. 

Lazlo is one of my favorite YA MC’s ever, except he is around 20 or so.  While completely appropriate, I think this book falls into that NA age category.

I love this quote almost as much as I love Lazlo. He was an orphan who was swallowed by the Great library. He is funny and has a wonderfully vivid imagination, is deeply caring, and might be “just a librarian” but definitely has a sense of adventure.  He always sought out the good that he could do regardless of whether or not it would benefit him in turn.

A lot of the side characters had important rules as well. No one was there just to be a plot device. Master Hyrrokkin was one of my favorites, just because his old man banter was not what you would expect from an ancient librarian.  It was also funny when his Warrior friends were giving Lazlo mistranslations and having him say silly things 

The magic:  tying into the world building, Taylor also created a lush magic system. Each of the god’s children had an ability, some of which were kind of cool. All the abilities were useful for survival. Sarai’s involved moths and Nightmares, and if that doesn’t make you interested in the book I don’t know what will.

What I didn’t love: I enjoyed the book immensely up until the point where the action was ready to boil over, and Laini grinds it to a full halt. A *screeeech*ing halt.  Then takes something like 10 chapters to expand on a true insta love – OMG HE *SAW* ME – gag. I hate insta-love. It was a cute sequence but I don’t think jumping at the first (second)? boy she’s ever interacted with constitutes a romance that I care about.  It just seemed like an excuse for Laini to add more magic into an already magical world, where that page time could have been spent trying to help keep the peace, keeping the action going, or literally anything else.  Seeing each other and being fascinated doesn’t constitute a romance, even if Lazlo did have a wonderful mind to spend time in. One other thing is that I actually spotted ‘The Twist’ this time, as soon as it was said. No spoilers but it’s pretty rare that I actually get the hint so I thought it was worth mentioning

Random:  I also liked that there were some harder themes tackled, such as survival

That’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can – Sarai

And hard truths like justice

You think good people can’t hate? .. You think good people don’t kill? […} Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice – Sarai 

Don’t forget found family!

“You two idiots,” said Azareen, and Lazlo felt a curious twinge of pride to be called an idiot by her, with what might have been the tiniest edge of fondness

One final parting quote, even though half of the book is quotable-

“Dream up something wild and improbable. Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”

“All the best stories are.”

Overall – stupid “romance” in an otherwise  wonderful world.  The plot unravelled mysteries as it went and created (minus the block of “romance chapters”) a fantastic reading experience.  The banter had me laughing out loud, the writing is beautiful, and the magic felt real within the world. Check it out!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Lost Dreamer (Book Review) by Lizz Huerta

Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for my finished copy of The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta!

I’ve never read anything based off of MesoAmerican type culture so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The story idea is a good one, and I enjoyed the read, but I think the overall execution hurt the end result. Let’s take a look at this newly released YA fantasy!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Lost Dreamer
  • Series: I *think* it’s going to be a duology
  • Author: Lizz Huerta
  • Publisher & Release: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – 03/01/22
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for YA fantasy readers  – for adults I think it will read young

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

A stunning YA fantasy inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, this gripping debut introduces us to a lineage of seers defiantly resisting the shifting patriarchal state that would see them destroyed—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir.

Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.

Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.

With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one

Lets talk about execution first: A TON of names, places, abilities and different magics were thrown out at first with no background given, creating a lot of initial confusion. I see a lot of people agreeing that they started out without knowing what was happening or being able to keep track of characters, which can sour a book.  It definitely did for me until I got about 100 pages in and became more interested.

Many things are explained at some point but especially at the end I could just not keep track of so many minor characters.  Most big world building things were at least touched on at some point but per a typical YA, Huerta focused more on the characters than explaining the world 

I also wasn’t sure about describing everyone by their structure, hips, and build, but I read that as a nod to the Mesoamerican culture.  What she did describe very well was the natural world: flowers, animals, hidden temples,  smells, and some of the ceremonies and rituals.

The characters were decent.  I loved Saya’s story.  She deals with escaping abuse and finding family, discovering herself and her abilities, and watching her find joy in the world was awesome.  I loved her Singing abilities too and how it connected her with natural spirits.  In general, I think the different innate magical abilities of the clans were the best part of the book.

Indir, the first main character, felt like cardboard to me.  She clearly has some kind of social anxiety and never liked to leave the Temple.  She was a powerful Dreamer but seemed essentially worthless when it came to travelling or really doing anything 

That said, and needless to say I was SHOCKED when she randomly and very quickly became attached to a male warrior, and hooked up without much hesitation.  It was a means to the end for the story but that “romance” storyline became a WTAF thing real quick in a book that I would otherwise hand to a 12 year old

Thankfully – it was vague and more or less had to be inferred but still – I didn’t see it as consistent with Indir’s character at all. 

There is a big “twist” towards the end that – again – it was a good idea but I had to backtrack and consider the book from a new angle. I think when readers will appreciate the big reveal more than adults.  For me, the timelines should have been given along with the points of view and let people reason the twist out on our own if they hadn’t figured it out already

The end result was a starting point going forward for the next book with a LOT of background missing. I have so many questions about the meantime, like the book was getting too long and Huerta just found a way to wrap it up!

Even with the issues, I thought there were many good themes like dealing with the death of a relative for the first time, sisterhood, girl power, different beauty standards, choosing your family, being curious about the natural world – and many more.

Overall – I think this is a good series for teens.  Other than a 15 (I think) year old shy character having a sexual partner, there was absolutely no language and a bit of blood and violence but nothing explicit at all.  I would be ok with my teens reading this one!

 


As always, thank you again to the publisher for my free reading copy! All opinions are my own ❤

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

Edgewood (ARC Review) by Kristen Cicarelli – plus words for the publisher

Hey Wednesday Books… thank you for the review copy of Edgewood! All opinions are my own. (I do briefly review the book below, in a bold paragraph.  Bookish quick facts and synopsis below that).

I love y’all truly but we need to have a chat: this is this second pretty obviously “new adult” or at least “upper YA” book that I’ve read from Wednesday coming out this year and I’m having a moral conflict

I am over seeing these books advertised for the 13-18 age group. I strongly believe Amazon is heavily at fault for not having more specific age options for books – AND – I get that the “new adult” market is fuzzy.  The thing with these books though is that these characters are out of the house already, leaving home for careers and coming back home, and EVERY SINGLE BOOK I’ve read from you guys this year is pushing sex on that YA age group. I get that it’s a “crossover” imprint but still still STILL what message are you and the authors trying to send to young teens?  That is something the editors/publishers/authors can control and frankly as far as I’m concerned it comes down to integrity

I’m not ok with y’all trying to attract adults to these books too.  Send these books to the adult imprint. Edgewood would have had a market with the adult fae/fantasy romance crowd with a bit more spice.  With the two sexy scenes deleted it would have been at least suitable for teen/YA readers, if the themes weren’t still targeting that 18-22 crowd 

In a world where 16 and pregnant is a real TV show I know content is a moot point, but you wouldn’t believe how many people agree that this isn’t what teens need to be reading in Every 👏 Single 👏 Book👏. Heck I’ve got TEENS messaging me to say they agree and don’t want to feel that pressure.  

⭐⭐This isn’t a bad review, this is me having a conflict.  I think Edgewood is a great book. I love magical forests and mischievous fae and the theme of keeping the grandfather with memory issues safe.  Found family, remembering, dealing with dementia – all wonderful themes. Being your true self is beautiful.  I liked Emeline and Sable, Rooke and Hawthorne especially.  The book has great characters with real and very personal struggles.  There are darker themes too like curses and entrapment. With a little more spice Edgewood would have fit right in with that adult/NA fae romance genre. With 2-3 scenes deleted it would have been a YA masterpiece. There are some great themes for that 18-25 age group. Like really, I enjoyed the book immensely. I read it in 3 sittings. A lot of her similes read a little YA (x like y, x like y, x like y, sometimes more than one in the same sentence – otherwise I like the author’s style.) That said, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RATE IT AS A YA book when y’all are killing me content wise?⭐⭐

 I’m asking Wednesday to find a way to do better as a ‘crossover’ imprint and stop selling sex in every single book to young teens.  I know they aren’t the only publishers doing it but honestly – it’s most consistent that I’ve seen.

For now – I’m out on the YA reviews.  If I keep reading and buying YA books, fine, but I am not obligated to rate something I purchase with my own money and this stress will go away

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Edgewood
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Kristen Cicarelli
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/01/22
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: for the 18-25 group sure, and I did enjoy it.  

Here’s the synopsis:

Edgewood has everything I love in a Kristen Ciccarelli book: lyrical prose, a romance that will hurt, and themes rooted in raw and intimate questions, making for a timeless tale.” – Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Can love survive the dark?

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal―her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne―an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day―Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy.

“Darkly gorgeous and moving, Edgewood is full of curses and fae magic that will capture your heart and wrap it in thorns before setting you free again, forever changed. I devoured Edgewood whole and couldn’t put it down.” – Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game

Synopsis from Amazon.  I included the two plugs too because yes – honestly it’s a great read.  My issue isn’t with the book at all 

Pardon my rant as part of the review, do check out the book and let me know what you think!

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Thunderhead (book thoughts) by Neal Shusterman

Happy Presidents Day! In the spirit of historical figures and Shusterman’s many nods to obscure ones from across world history, who is one of your favorite lesser-known historical figures?

The OpenlyBooked Book Club read Thunderhead earlier this month to continue the ARC OF A SCYTHE series. I think Scythe should have been left as a standalone – it had a Printz nod and wrapped up so nicely.  Thunderhead felt way too long and the new points of view weren’t very interesting to me, detracting from the overall reading experience.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Thunderhead
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Series: Arc of a Scythe #2
  • Publisher & Release: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – Jan, 2018
  • Length: 512
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ it will be hit or miss with the sequel, but a good series for YA readers

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times bestseller Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Overall: this was a much longer book.  I liked the Scythe and Thunderhead history and world building.  Faraday and Curie brought a lot to this second installment.  Tyger and … Uh … Grayson? Not so much. It was fun to get a better look at the Tonists too.  Thunderhead was the true star!

Although I do not require devotion, am I not deserving of it?

The last 25% picked up in pace again and  finished on a truly dramatic and apocalyptic note.  I appreciate Shusterman’s willingness to be brutal.  Some parts were truly brutal too with more political scheming, injustice, and murder overall.

If we were judged by the things we most regret, no human being would be worthy to sweep the floor

❤❤My favorite part was the Thunderhead’s little chapter segues, when it was meditating on divinity and responsibility.  It reminded me of Aidan having to make some tough choices in Illuminae.  It was also interesting to see all the random scythe names that Schusterman was plucking from world history, it would be a fun classroom activity to have kids pick a name and research the person❤❤

How ironic, then, and how poetic, that humankind may have created the Creator out of want for one. Man creates God, who then creates man. Is that not the perfect circle of life? But then, if that turns out to be the case, who is created in whose image

I liked the character arcs of Citra/Anastasia and Rowan, i just don’t think they have one bit of chemistry. Not. One. Ounce. I lost a chunk of respect for the way he ended the book with the two characters. Overall he could have done much worse and it was a closed door scene – but still – like just why.   Authors need to stop throwing in what they think people ‘expect’ in books.

That’s exactly what the scythedom is: high school with murder.

I’m not too keen on reading The Toll, after this one, but I probably will finish the trilogy.  I would 100% still tell teens to read Thunderhead. There’s a lot of good food for thought there and compared to a lot of modern YA, these are excellent books.  I am probably just bitter that the author caved to what he thinks people want to read but I  respect Thunderhead‘s many great qualities

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction Young Adult

Scythe (or themes for teens) by Neal Shusterman

I finally got the time and chance to read another book with the OpenlyBooked Book Club, and really enjoyed Scythe!

I liked it well enough as an adult and I also think it’s a fantastic book for teen readers.  There are lots of good themes, ideas, and what-ifs for discussion fodder and there’s a discussion and classroom guide in the back of my edition! Honestly I think I’d have gotten more out of this as a teen than I did, say, trying to understand Brave New World at the time so that’s something teachers are hopefully looking at.

In one sentence: one of the more unique and interesting YA books I’ve ever read

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Scythe
  • Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Publisher & Release: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – November  2016
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ for anyone interested

Here’s the synopsis via Amazon:

I don’t read many utopian sci-fi books and was definitely happy with this one.  What the heck would the consequences be when humans are immortal, there’s no government anymore, everyone is provided for, and life is one big neverending run of mediocrity?

There are so many great themes and ideas for teens to consider in these books. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a world like this? Is the Thunderhead better than individual governments? How do you feel about turning back the clock?

Is cultivated random death better than the old method of natural selection? My favorite question is, without suffering, how does one’s life and the world at large change?

I tried hard to poke holes in the world building as well and it seemed extremely solid.  There were lots of sci-fi and utopian ideas but not enough technology and science to bog down the book.  It was more there in ideology. I was thinking quite a.bit about cultivated random death vs old-school random death, is one or the other really better? The whole idea of disease, accidents, crime, government being rendered obsolete was fascinating.

I think this is a unique plot with a thoughtful look at humanity.  The scythes hold a LOT of power, and therefore of course is the source of corruption as well.  Seeing how different scythes operate, the good and bad, new vs old, and how they essentially preserve the age of mortality was interesting to me.

The characters all had their unique aspects too.  It’s rare that a book is equally plot and character driven.  Rowan and Citra didn’t want to be scythes, therefore they are perfect candidates – but how do you ease people into taking life? How do they react to this? I liked their different strengths and weaknesses, and how each of their famous Scythe mentors had different approaches to the gleaning

My only negative thought was how the two teens ended up romantically inclined towards each other. I get that the author thinks people “expect” “romance” but the characters had zero, absolutely NO chemistry, and nothing except proximity.  This should have been a friendship, as proximity romances are stupid and the characters only had one brief physical encounter.  I honestly don’t think that teens want or expect romance in every book and it was so obviously forced into Scythe.  1/2 star docked for the author being silly

Overall: I thoroughly recommend this one and consider it a wonderfully appropriate teen read too.  Confirmed by the fact that it won a Printz honor, it definitely reads as a standalone but I’ll be reading book 2 asap.  This could easily be read and discussed in schools.  The language was clean, the worst anyone did was kiss, once, and while there was violence and death it was usually well compensated.

Likely one of my lifetime top 10 YA reads but I would have to think out a list to confirm

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Stars Above (Book Thoughts) by Marissa Meyer

I’m definitely glad that I started reading the short stories, novellas, and other extra content included in my favorite series.

I enjoyed this short story collection that wraps up The Lunar Chronicles. It gave each main character a true origin story, or something else that pertains to their personas. Lastly it let us know what the characters have been doing since the series ended and showed what their future looks like going forward. I think it was a really satisfying end to the reading experience.

The biggest surprise to me was that this is 400 pages long, because it felt so much shorter. The audiobook was also a lot shorter than what 400 pages would normally be, at only 9:27 not including the preview of Heartless

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Stars Above
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles # 4.5
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, February 2016
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the series

Let me say two spoiler free lines about each story!

The Keeper – about Michelle Benoit and how she eventually ended up with a very charred charge.  Scarlet has a cameo

Glitches – from the end of the prior story: how Cinder was met by her new family, and incidentally how she discovered her mechanical prowess.  I like this little glimpse of their early family life

The Queen’s Army – how Wolf became Alpha Kessley.  This one showed me something about Scarlet that I missed, or misunderstood while reading 😳

Carswell’s Guide – super cute mechanical kitty and a bunch of scheming by our favorite captain

After Sunshine Passes By – this was probably my least favorite, about Cress and when Sybil Meara put her on the satellite

The Princess and the Guard – Winter’s decision to no longer use her Gift, and what that decline looked like.  It was a nice glimpse into her and Jacin’s childhood friendship

The Little Android – one very brave, very boy crazy little Android that definitely does not have a defective personality chip.  Loosely based on The Little Mermaid, it also showed the first time that Iko and Cinder met and I loved it

The Mechanic – super cute story from Kai’s point of view

Something Old, Something New (or Stars Above) 😁

All in all, I definitely think that if you read the series you need to read this too. The final story is absolutely everything needed to put a big beautiful bow on the series

And of course on audio, once again Rebecca Soler brings the entire cast to life. Bubbly hyper excitable Iko and floaty Winter were my favorite voices in the series.

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Wake the bones (ARC Review) by Eilizabeth Kilcoyne

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate.  I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wake the Bones
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it

Here’s the synopsis:

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Winter (book thoughts) by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles was a refreshing and binge worthy reading experience.  I am getting so sick of YA books with terrible language, dumb characters, s*x scenes that aren’t at all appropriate for the advertised age range…

Then I read this series! Whew. I binged all 5 books and also checked out the short story collection.  Zero swears that I recall, innocent romance that’s appropriate for both age and situation, and, even the gore was pretty well contained.  The battle scenes and fighting were exciting and delivered shocks without going to extreme.

So yes I 100% confidently recommend The Lunar Chronicles for both teens and adults looking for a fun, futuristic battle for Earth and beyond.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the final book in the series – Winter

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winter
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #4
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, November 2015
  • Length: 832 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Here is the summary:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

We got a glimpse of the title character, Princess Winter, at the end of Cress, and also got some of her back story in Fairest. At first I wasn’t sure about her, since she is frankly nuts, but once we start learning more about the lunar sickness and how Winter refused to be like the rest of the lunar court, aka fake and using their glamours for ill, she becomes a much more likeable character.  Yes she is flaky but also strong enough to defy Levana for so long, and she is definitely not stupid.  Her strength comes out pretty evenly with the crazy and it’s an endearing combination.

Winter was a well loved princess who was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken.

Also for some reason I thought that, due to the pets and the palace guard, that this would be an Aladdin theme … but it was definitely, very loosely, Snow White.

But anyway, the gang is back and there is more banter, more adventure, more kidnappings of Kai, and thankfully some hard won victories for the Rampion crew.

I like that the war and occupation of Luna wasn’t easy.  There were tons of civilian casualties, injuries and near deaths for the crew, trauma and everything else you’d expect from a war.   Parts of it felt a little Hunger Games ish with the gang going to different sectors to recruit people to overwhelm the Capitol.  Also reminiscent were the questions of sanity and PTSD after the conflicts and terrible things that were both done and witnessed.

I also liked how the main points of Fairest were recapped incase anyone hadn’t read it, although I still think that book enhanced the overall reading experience.

Best side character award definitely goes to Konn Torin in this one.  He turned the tide and came through in huge but subtle ways.  Everything would have been lost without him.  Bonus points to Alpha Strom too, that whole sequence with the wolf soldiers was something else.

I still think Scarlet is the most useless of the group.  It was great to see Cress really come out of her shell (pun intended) and be a hero! I have had some Cress coasters forever and it’s good to know what they mean finally.  Iko was another superstar throughout this one.

Meyer didn’t shy away from emphasizing either how brutal the Lunar regime was in itself.  As she really showed how the elite kept the outer sectors in poverty and submission it was the perfect grounds for a revolution.  There were those individual instances too like with Maha Kesley.  Everyone in the crew lost someone precious to them during the series.

One last thing to hit on the setting – I thought it was great to finally see all of Luna.  A lot of the history was finally given too, or at least enough to provide a background without bogging the story down.

The spot where the setting hit me the hardest was when Cinder hit the edge of the dome in the middle of the lake – and the crater was hundreds of feet below on the other side.  From that imagery to that of the Lunar palace I think Winter really tied things together well.

In a nutshell: four (five because honestly, let’s count Iko) unique main characters.  Banter and snark for days.  Adventure, plotting, war, rebellion. Heroes and villains. Dashing captains (haha had to mention Thorne somewhere). Happy endings.  Age appropriate content!  What’s not to love about this series?

Quick notes on the audio: this is obviously a pretty long audio, around 24hours.  Rebecca Soler made her first obvious OOPS in this one but considering it was the first noticeable one in 5 books, I was very impressed overall!  I think she added a lot to the book by voicing and interpreting Winter and the others how she did.  Definitely 100% recommend