Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra (ARC Review)

As the last book I requested from Wednesday Books, I can happily say that Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is one of the best I’ve read from the imprint.  Mehrotra takes medieval India, a culture that I haven’t been introduced to in fantasy books, YA or otherwise, and crafts an interesting world with plenty of lore, magic, monsters, food, politics, and tons more.

They also adjusted the age range on Amazon to 14-18. which is a small but awesome step.  The book has a few mature themes involving violence and gore, but overall I’m impressed with Mehrotra and her willingness to keep everything in the book age appropriate for the teen reading experience.  That all said, I’m willingly reviewing this one with no issues between me and the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Rati Mehrotra
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, Oct 18, 2022
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For fans of YA fantasy

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

In Rati Mehrotra’s YA fantasy novel Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove, a young guardswoman struggles with her unwitting role as a major pawn in the deadly games between two kingdoms in a monster-infested alternate medieval India.

Bound to the queen of Chandela by a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has never fallen short of what’s expected of her―becoming the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen and an advisor to the crown prince when he ascends to the throne. But when the latest assassination attempt against the royals leaves them with a faceless body and no leads to the perpetrator, Katyani is unwillingly shipped off to guard the Chandela princes in Acharya Mahavir’s esteemed monastic school in Nandovana, a forest where monsters have roamed unchecked for generations.

Katyani wants nothing more than to return to her duties, especially when the Acharya starts asking questions about her past. The only upside of her stay are her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul. But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested with monsters, Katyani must find the answers to her past so she can save what she loves and forge her own destiny.

Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

Starting with the plot today: This book kept me guessing.  I was frequently surprised by the darker twists and turns it took to keep the plot moving, something I don’t see as much in YA books these days.  This wasn’t a happy story. It took a lot of maneuvering and bloodshed to get from point A to point B and at no point was I bored, confused, trying to skim, or otherwise unengaged while reading.

The Characters: Let’s go here next because it’s YA and everyone wants to know about the characters.  Katyani is actually one I can relate to, because while she is super competent at her job, she has like absolutely zero social or diplomatic skills.  She did develop these as she went, as well as her general social maturity level. It was funny at times and other times detracted from the overall story, but it took very little time for me to be rooting for her as a character.

About the princes, the less said the better.  The banter was fun and bountiful.  There were quite a few side characters that played big roles, I don’t feel like any character space was wasted but there are too many to mention.

Daksh… ha ha Daksh. He is another super competent character that had the social skills of a rock, and I respected how strongly tied he was to his morals and rules.  I actually wanted to smack Katyani a few times for not respecting his beliefs at all, although it kind of became apparent that the teasing was the only way she could figure out to make him a little more human at times. He is just great, really great, where are the men like this in real life?

Let’s just say that I shipped the little romance (blessedly appropriate, they actually cared for each other and only kissed, like twice).

Next the worldbuilding: for a standalone YA book, I am all about the world building here. Mehrotra even wrote a fairly personal index in the back about the various aspects of Indian culture and mythology she brought in, which was lovely to read.  From geography to monsters to food, politics, clothing, music, weapons, and more, even ethics and moral codes, this one is packed full of world building and I’m all for it

Last but not least, the magic: Magic had two forms here, the natural spiritual force which could be turned into magic, and a form that could be conjured and considered stolen.  I liked how thoroughly these were brought into the story and used in various forms throughout, whether in the form of battle magic or healing meditation.

The monsters and ghosts tied into the magic in some ways too (some heartbreaking ways for sure) and I think it’s worth reading to find out how.  I loved how connected to ancestry and rites the culture is.

So let’s wrap this up by tying it all together: you get a YA fantasy set in an alternate medieval India, packed full of plotting, magic, intrigue, culture, worldbuilding, and just tons more.  The characters are ones that I personally enjoyed which went a long way towards my overall enjoyment, since usually I can’t be bothered to focus on YA characters.  The main themes involve the changing face of home, the various forms of monsters, adapting to other’s cultures, and learning to find your own way in the world.

Thanks for tuning in, up next will be my review of Foundryside coming later this week!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Blade of Secrets by Trivia Levenseller

Thanks to BookishFirst for the finished paperback of Blade of Secrets! I claimed this one with some saved up points and am leaving a review accordingly.

I’ve been hit or miss with Levenseller’s books so far and fall somewhere in the middle with this one. I think she got some pushback for the promiscuity in The Shadows Between Us and toned it back, thankfully keeping the hookup content off page. For a young adult book I just don’t follow her philosophy that all that content is needed to write a good story!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Blade of Secrets
  • Series: Bladesmith #1
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends May 2021
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for YA fantasy fans

** Note that the paperback released June, 2022 from Square Fish **

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

In Blade of Secrets, the first book in Tricia Levenseller’s exciting new YA fantasy duology, a teenage blacksmith with social anxiety is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she’s ever made.

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

This is a fast paced book with a fun sounding plot.  The synopsis presents a good idea and I can usually read one of her books in one or two sittings due to not having to think too hard, so I said WHY NOT and claimed a free copy.  Enchanted weaponry, an all powerful sword, anxiety, ok sure.

Blade of Secrets reminds me more of Warrior of the Wild than her other books. Levenseller gives just enough world building to support the story but it kind of feels like walking through a cool place in the dark with a flashlight – you see what’s in front of you and some periphery, but miss a lot of potentially interesting details.

The same goes for the magic system. It is intent based for Ziva and seems to be hereditary. What we see is pretty cool from the world’s two magic users but I think there’s potential for a lot more.

Character wise, I liked everyone except the main character. The four characters (Ziva, Temra, Petrik, Kellyn) had good group chemistry and I liked that the sisters looked out for each other. I get that the whole point was ZIVA HAS ANXIETY but at the same time, was she really so inwardly focused that she never considered how Temra deserved a life of her own? Ziva was so focused on providing for them that she kind of forgot that she had another human being on hand!

That said though, I liked seeing Ziva and Kellyn come out of their shells.  They did have good chemistry but again Ziva was so quick to overreact to everything that it was frustrating to read. Even more frustrating for her, I’m sure. I liked Temra and Petrik, who would put the feisty one and the scholar together? Yeah she was harsh but I really don’t think Temra owed anyone an apology for wanting her own life and sense of safety and she’s a wonderfully fierce character. By far my favorite.

Overall, this is a fast read with a fun plot and just barely enough world building to carry the story. It comes with an author interview at the end where Levenseller says her goal is to not bore readers with extra world content, like she writes the story then fills in the bare necessity of details.  I liked it but wanted more from both the world and the magic.

An entertaining story for sure and I’ll probably read the second one…because cliffhanger. I would recommend this as well as her other books (but not Shadows Between Us) for YA fantasy readers but honestly don’t think Levenseller works for most adult fantasy fans.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Burn by Patrick Ness (Book Roast)

I don’t like to waste a lot of time on books that I truly hate. It seems like a lot of my Bookstagram friends have this book on their list though so I’m going to run it down quickly.

I also said I would review everything I read for book bingo this month. Unfortunately.

Why? Because this book was just absolutely f*cking terrible. Thankfully Libby had the audio available and the narrator had a very pleasant voice, because I could not read one more page with my eyes

My actual thoughts:

The synopsis sounded amazing and it was off to a good start, like the first 50 pages was interesting. Then Ness took all these cool main ideas that he started and just dropped them for CONVENIENCE.

The main theme of the book was convenience. There was an alternate history ish cold war aspect that just ended … for convenience.

Ness killed everyone off then switched to alternate universe… for convenience.  What, can be not finish one idea that he starts?

Two teenage boys met conveniently at a camp ground and had insta love, and then there was way more intimacy than I want to see in a YA book. That was the only topic that stuck because apparently Ness writes queer fiction, except there was nothing to this relationship except that the boys happened to be at the same campground and took off together.

The prophecy girl wasn’t special at all, she was just the convenient person there to interfere with the sequence of events.  Literally convenience was the main topic and theme.

After like 6 days, I don’t even remember how the book ended.  I’m sure it was all very convenient. Additionally I don’t even know what the f*ck genre this was supposed to be, alternate history? Dystopia? The world build was so weak I didn’t expend the brain power to try to figure it out.

I give him two stars only because I did like one single theme of duplicity and prophecy that ran throughout the text.  Ness kind of had an interesting idea about how magic is created in a world but it was more weird than anything and not fleshed out.

I’m not even going to bother with the characters because they were all cardboard cutouts of whatever they were supposed to represent

To quote another reviewer named John Mechalas

“I have no idea who the audience is supposed to be. The dialog is so clunky and cringe-worthy that it’s too young for mature readers, but the surprisingly descriptive (and jarring) romance scenes are too adult for younger ones. The rest is just handled badly….. This thing is junk. Time-wasting junk. Life is too short. Read something else

Just … Really, really hard no thanks on this one

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Burn
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Publisher & Release: Quill Tree Books, June 2020
  • Length: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: 😵😵 no

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…

Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen (Book Thoughts)

Hi all – coming at you today with a short and sweet post about Bloodsworn! Without further lollygagging, let’s talk about this book!

I liked Ashlords quite a bit, but didn’t love it. Bloodsworn matured a lot in both plot, world building, and character development, and I don’t hesitate to recommend the duology to YA fantasy fans at all.

Plus – omg the cover artwork, right?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Bloodsworn
  • Series: Ashlords #2
  • Author: Scott Reintgen
  • Publisher & Release: Crown Books for Young Readers, February 2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon: 

Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.

The Races are over. War has begun.

Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.

Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.

Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?

All the characters from book one – Imelda, Pippa, Adrian, plus Quinn and now the gods, are back in a big way in Bloodsworn.

 I loved meeting the gods! Each had an interesting domain, abilities, “hobbies”. Seeing the other realm was cool too and I liked how Reintgen broadened the scope so much without letting the plot get away from him.

The lore was well done and I never saw the big plot twists coming at all.  Kind of hard to talk without spoiling but when the four characters (races) discover their history and team up against the gods…

…I loved the teamwork.  Overcoming racial differences and doing what is RIGHT, vs just continuing what past generations did, is a great theme for teens and this ties massively into the character growth shown here in book two.

Pippa and Adrian and Imelda might be sons and daughters of political leaders but they really step up and find their own future now.

Reintgen upped the emotional states a bit too with a few well placed side character deaths – I actually like when YA authors do this because war is not pleasant, nor should it be described as such.  I think he captured a lot of wartime atmosphere and ethical concerns well

It was cool to see the new phoenix rebirths and learn some of the ancient alchemy practices too.  I wish Reintgen had packed in more horsie related Phoenix things and alchemy related trick riding, but I have no real gripes about this book.

The end was a little corny but it packed a lot of emotional appeal.  Each of the three main characters obtained major victories and resolution. I was happy with how much each character came into their own and found some happiness going forward.  

Spoiler free ** regarding the “corny” ending – I have learned with YA books that I’m going to eye roll at a lot of endings, and I don’t dock for it anymore.  Teens eat this stuff up and because the language and broader content of the book is appropriate for the age group, I dropped 5 stars with no hesitation

Highly recommend for YA fantasy fans. If you are even vaguely interested after book one, keep reading!

** Quick note on the audio – the crew is back. Rebecca Soler, Andrew Eiden, Lauren Foftgang are back and deliver a decent narration. I think Eiden stepped into the Aiden character a little better than he did in book one and overall I enjoyed listening. About 10 hours, 41 minutes from Listening Library!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Human Hearts by Mary Beesley (Book Review)

Thank you endlessly to Monster Ivy Publishing for my finished paperback of Human Hearts! I have gushed about this series from the start and am not about to slow down because it’s over now 😅

I posted about this book a few times when I first received and started reading.  It is a super fast read.  I think I blanked and never posted my final thoughts because in my head it was already here! That said, I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I can but it is book three!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Human Hearts
  • Series: Draco Sang, #3
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, June 6, 2022
  • Length: 296 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A terrible battle rages between the humans and the Draco Sang, half human half beasts…

And the fate of mankind lies in the hands of three.

Jade. The emotionless killer. She’s trained to find the weakest in the human army and slaughter them. But witnessing love and loyalty has her hesitating to wield her blood-stained sword.

Ferth. The son of a mighty Draco Sang chief. He’s tired of fighting and wishes to find a place where he can finally lay down his sword. But there are enemies to face, slaves to free, and a father to battle.

Suza. A protector of liberty. She’ll give her life to defend humanity. But when she loses her heart to a Draco Sang, she must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice for love.

Here are the reviews for Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack – books 1 and 2 in the series.

The first thing I noticed about the conclusion is that it’s shorter than the prior two books! Usually the end of a series is the longest and most drawn out, but Beesley has already set her characters and world and is out to finish her story.

Not to say that there isn’t plenty of characterization in this installment. Ferth, Jade, and Suza are our three points of view and share fairly equal page time.  Ferth is on his quest to slay Nogard, Suza is fighting for love and family and Jade…. Well, Jade has a beast and empire to conquer. I loved her pages the most.

The big themes in Human Hearts are claiming family, freedom, and finding your honor.   It stayed fairly clean with no language, and only insinuated closed door coupling between wolves, that was in general a hilarious scene.  The wolf banter has been *everything* and it continues with no mercy here.

So there’s plenty of adventure and war, heart and heartbreak, and Beesley sets a characteristically breakneck pace that made it hard to not read the book in one sitting.

I would say an easy five stars if I thought Human Hearts held up to Wolf Pack.  It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly lacked but a lot of issues seemed easily resolved and I wish she had taken a little more page time to explore things like Jade’s hewan, Tobin and Jade, what Imanna ended up doing, even the Nogard sequence seemed easy.  I was hoping for some kind of epic dragon battle I think, I mean he was the root of everything. Beesley ruined my heart in the first two books and I didn’t feel it here.

That said, it’s still a great read and series. The characters had each been through more than enough already and the conclusion was satisfactory.  I absolutely 100% recommend this series to any fans of YA fantasy, sweet romance, and clean reads.  I can’t wait to see what the author does next!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard

Happy slightly late pub day to Game of Strength and Storm! Thanks to Flux Books via NetGalley for the digital arc, all opinions are my own

This is a very loose labors of Hercules retelling. It sounded interesting despite the fact that I don’t tend to be a fan of mythological retellings and have been breaking up with YA, so maybe don’t take my opinions too seriously

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Game of Strength & Storm
  • Series: The Labors of Gen
  • Author: Rachel Menard
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 06/07/2022
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for me personally. Content wise I would recommend for a pretty clean YA fantasy read

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Victory is the only option.

Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.

To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.

Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.

I seem to be in the minority here as the book has great early ratings, but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough for YA but took me almost three weeks to finish because I honestly was not interested and had trouble with the repetitive inner monologue.

The concept was interesting and there was plenty of action interspersed throughout, but overall as an adult reader I just wasn’t as engaged as I think a teen would be.  I also like the theme of family loyalty which is explored in different ways.

Character wise- I can’t deal with inner monologue that never changes. Pollux said the same thing over and over and so did Castor who had no character growth at all.  It’s hard for me to read multiple points of view when the characters just keep repeating themselves. The main character, Gen, didn’t really change much either except to open her barriers to a proximity romance and gain slightly more awareness of the way the empire works. I liked the magic, abilities, and attitude of the characters, although the most enjoyable part for me was the animals

What do you think it would be like to ride in a whale’s mouth? A monkey with 100 eyes? Flesh eating mares?

Gen’s ability to communicate with different creatures was the high point for sure

Plot wise I wanted a little more from some of the tasks. Overall it was fairly fast paced but I found myself skimming over a lot of repetitive introspection. The final battle’s ending struck me as a bit silly and I thought the book would be a standalone. I can’t see myself reading the sequel.

I like that the content and language was appropriately clean for YA.  There were a few kisses between m/f and briefly w/w but otherwise the content was extremely low. One of my favorite things about the Flux imprint is that they tend to keep things on the tame side!

I would recommend for YA 100% and accordingly went with my three star, aka neutral rating

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.

Screenshot_20220429-221633

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.

Screenshot_20220429-221607

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
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!