Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

A Dragonbird in the Fern (ARC Review) by Laura Rueckert

Thank you so much to North Star Editions via NetGalley for the digital early copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

A Dragonbird in the Fern  is a debut YA fantasy, fast paced and full of magic. I think we can all agree that the cover is absolutely stunning as well.  Check out the book and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Dragonbird in the Fern
  • Series: N/A
  • AuthorL Laura Rueckert
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 08/03[2021
  • Length: 392 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice.
While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

The Plot&Story: the book blurb does a great job of summarizing the book.  Jiara is betrothed in her older sister’s place, and must overcome her dyslexia in a strange land while learning the language, winning over the people as a good queen, and solving a murder mystery.  I loved the who-dunnit aspect and it was a true race against the clock as Scilla’s ghost got more and more violent, going as far as killing someone.  The book is very fast paced as well, not repetitive, and there is blessedly little inner monologue so I was able to read it quickly and rate it 5 stars with no issues.

Themes: The book was a little heavier than some YA plots, as Jiara is married at the start of the book and juggling issues that many older characters generally face.  She is overcoming a disability while investigating and avenging her sister’s death.  There is betrayal on a massive level, lots of plotting, and she must adjust to married life as a 17 turning 18 year old.  I liked the themes of family ties, found family, double dealing, international relations, and learning about new cultures and religions while still hanging on to what made Jiara who she is.

Bravo too for Rueckert showing the male in the marriage being the one hanging onto honor and personal beliefs in the marital relations department.  In King Raffar’s country, adults are considered age 18 and he was absolutely not going to touch Jiara before then, and I just loved that.  There was also a lovely found family aspect but let’s do that when we talk about the …

Characters: Jiara is a strong young lady, absolutely determined to succeed in establishing international relations, peace, as well as finding her sister’s murderer.  On top of that heavy load she is severely dyslexic, so learning a new language is nearly impossible but she perseveres.  I feel like she should have just explained to people that she had a real issue, instead of letting them all assume that she just didn’t like to read, but it was Rueckert’s way of showing how people treat those with learning disabilities I guess

King Raffar didn’t have a huge role but I loved his boyish charm and awe for magic despite his originally gruff appearance.  He is a truly kind and honorable person, and I liked that he was there to support Jiara.  He seemed to be the only one NOT getting in her way.  The guards seemed to adopt Jiara after a while too, like Freyad and the other soldiers, and it was really nice to watch them come around to her.  Most of the side characters did something or another that was special and they are a great lot

The Magic and Worldbuilding: For a standalone novel there was an immensely satisfying amount of world building and magic.  The magic was in the form of vengeful ghosts, as well as Watchers and deities that had a small but critical role in the book.  The giant ferns, playful mounts, and magically lit up lake were small touches in a well described world including scenery descriptions, wildlife, food, weather, architecture to some degree, and cultural things.  I loved that everyone had tattoos too.

Overall: I can definitely recommend this one for young adults, and it easily crosses over into that new adult phase too I think since she is out on her own and missing home, and adjusting to married life.  My favorite parts were the magical touches, Raffar’s personality, the fact that Jiara just NEVER gave up, and trying to figure out who committed the murder.  This is an extremely fast-paced standalone and I loved it enough to preorder a signed copy!
Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartbreaker by V. Romas Burton (Book Review)

Two things prompted me to re-read Heartbreaker this month! The first is that I realized I never really adequately featured the book on bookish social media, the second is because I am SO SUPER LUCKY to have been chosen for an ARC box for book three, which will be out on September 7th!!

First off you should check out my review for book one, Heartmender, here, then proceed with this review if you’re interested!  I loved Heartmender for it’s lyrical mix of fantasy, adventure, clean content, and religious allegories that were not overpowering.  Heartbreaker sees the characters begin their journey in earnest, with all the growing pains of becoming a young hero.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartbreaker
  • Series: Heartmender, #2
  • Author: V Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 338 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA, fans of Christian fantasy/fiction, clean content seekers!

Here is the description from Amazon:

After finding out she is the Bellata–the prophesized warrior meant to save Decim–Addie, along with James, returns to Barracks to unite the Twelve Magisters. But as she discovers her old home in ruin, Addie stumbles upon Silas and Nana, the only people left in Barracks.

As Silas explains what happened, Addie remembers the special gift Eman entrusted to her. She gives the gift to Silas, only to learn that he’s the young blacksmith who fought through the Seven Choices, making Addie unsure of how to react to her old friend.

Dodging an attack from Schism, and another deadly ally to Ophidian, the group finally makes their way to Ramni, where a familiar face joins them–one Addie never wanted to see again.

If Addie can’t learn to balance her new power, successfully unite the Twelve Magisters, and figure out what’s going on with a new voice in her head, Ophidian will destroy all the twelve lands …

And she’ll never know who is capable of betrayal amongst her friends.

The Plot/Story: this second novel sees Addie and company out on a quest to unite the Magisters of Decim, gain their allegiance in the fight against Ophidian.  The plot is once again fast moving, with obstacles being overcome fairly quickly in order to advance the storyline.  Now that Addie has newfound confidence, responsibility, and a crew of friends & family to fight alongside her, what will happen? There is plenty of action, lessons learned, good along with the bad, but man – this one ends on a cliffhanger!

Themes: While Heartmender was about choices and the seven sins, Heartbreaker is about sacrifice and trusting in Eman’s plan.  He isn’t with Addie but his voice is still heard, his plan is known, and there is a super cool magical book that I am pretty sure is an allegory for biblical guidance, although I am not positive.  Other wholesome themes include friendship, trust, finding family, self worth, and trusting that one is never alone.

Continuing worldbuilding: One of my favorite parts was learning the back story of the antagonist, and how all of this evil came to be! A lot of questions from book one were answered in this, including questions about Addie’s family.  The author did a great job expanding on the world of Decim to include the other realms, inhabitants, issues, and even geography to make the world richer.

The Characters: Addie has some serious “coming of age” challenges to overcome.  She is the Bellata, so she should be independent, in charge, and unruffleable – right?  It was nice watching her learn to work with a team, test out her feelings for Silas, and start to come into her responsibility.  She also drove me nuts sometimes jumping to conclusions and blaming others, but it’s part of learning to socialize 

Silas is a good character in this one too but I can’t really say why.  He is a great protector to Addie and tests the group.  James and Nana and Claire ❤ also Damien … It is a good group.  

I think the reason I scored this one a little lower is because of how easily the answers to the puzzles come to Addie.  She races through the first few magisters and while it works to further the allegories and storyline, I think I would have liked her to be tripped up a little more.  The book makes up for that at the end though, how in the world are they ever going to get out of that situation??

At heart this is a complex story and I think it would make a great buddy read for readers of any age.  That targeted 13-18 range is totally 100% appropriate too.  In the coming weeks I will be posting about book 3 so stay tuned for that!!


Meet the author:

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards. You can find future updates and news on her website: http://www.vromasburton.com

from Amazon
Categories
Contemporary Fiction Young Adult

The Sea Is Salt and So am I (Book Review) – by Cassandra Hartt

Thank you so much to Roaring Book Press via Bookish First for the finished copy of The Sea Is Salt and So am I! Book received in exchange for an honest review – all opinions are mine!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Sea Is Salt and So am I
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Cassandra Hartt
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Book Press, June 8th 2021
  • Length: 374pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of YA contemporary

Here is the Synopsis from Amazon:

I’ll Give You the Sun meets Normal People in Cassandra Hartt’s The Sea Is Salt and So Am I, a stunning YA contemporary debut that asks if the secrets we keep and the people we love can change who we are.

West Finch is one hurricane away from falling into the sea.

Yet sixteen-year-old Harlow Prout is determined to save her small Maine hometown. If only she could stop getting in her own way and find someone, anyone, willing to help. But her best friend Ellis MacQueen “fixes” problems by running away from them—including his broken relationship with his twin brother, Tommy. And Tommy’s depression has hit a new low, so he’s not up for fixing anything.

In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between these three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.

Exquisitely honest and shimmering with emotion, The Sea is Salt and So Am I is a captivating multi-POV story that probes the depths of what it means to love and trust—both ourselves and others.

I’m going to open this with one of my infamous OneReadingNurse medical rants: Don’t stop taking your psych meds or antidepressants (or any other medication) just because you feel better!! I wish Tommy had gotten lectured a LOT harder on page for this.  Also parents: for f*cks sake don’t trust that your teenager is taking their meds, the lack of parental oversight in this book had me so frustrated as a medical person!

Anyway! It’s really a decent book though and takes a good look at mental health and why teens shouldn’t think everything is their fault. It explores how our actions affect those around us. There is great description and scenery, a small town atmosphere, and a silly dog named Goose sho is only 6 but everyone seems to write off as ancient. Why do they keep saying a 6 year old dog is ready to drop dead of old age!?  They are all environmentally conscious too and have to consider both sides of an issue surrounding a protected bird species.

This book focuses on three teens in a Maine town that is one storm short of being lost to sea, and the lifelong attention-seeking competition between them. There are twin brothers and a then a girl that entered the picture about 5-6 years prior to the start of the book, and they just constantly swing attention seeking behaviors back and forth through poor life decisions, making each other’s lives miserable, and refusing to be happy for each other. Like typical teenagers, they have no concept of “the big picture” and believe that the entire world, and all of the others’ life decisions just revolve around them, are caused by them, etc.

This is what the competition looks like: One brother lost a leg, and the parents spent a fortune on a running blade…so the other brother probably started feeling bad, and said well I’ll eventually bottom out and kill myself. Fast forward to now and I swear it’s a competition. “Oh yeah? Well I’m going to crash a car”. “I’ll top you by going off my meds again.” “Well I’m going to ruin your relationship and engage in risky sexual behaviors like picking up a random person at Friendly’s” … (These are not actual quotes from the book). The two brothers just. never. quit. Then Harlow is trying to fix everyone and everything but is so self absorbed, and each one thinks it’s their fault that the others are behaving as such. The other part is that their parents all seem too wrapped up in other things to be paying half enough attention and its one big confusing  summer in West Finch.  That said though, I think Harlow is probably the most likeable of the three.

The real issue though? None of these kids should be, or feel, responsible for each other.

There is a lot of vague writing concerning the teens’ back story, which is why i dropped so many stars – I don’t like when authors vaguely hint at things and expect us to make significant connections.  The connection I made was that all three teens are terrible people, secretly in love, and in competition for both parental and friendly attention. I never figured out the animosity between Harlow and Tommy that led up to the Ruby thing, but it seems like they’ve been picking at each other for years until it ended in outright sabotage.

One other huge issue was that God should be capitalized in text, even when *cringe* used in the slang. I think it appeared 2-3 times and I’ve never seen it lowercased like that. I don’t know if the author meant is as a slight but it comes across as such.

Ultimately: this is a good and probably important YA read, I know a lot of people are focusing on mental health these days so it’s a well timed book.  I can recommend it as an honest look at mental health, keeping secrets, and trying to come of age.

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the early digital copy of Namesake by Adrienne Young! It is always hard to review sequels and such without spoilers so I will just share my general feelings about the book! To recap, here is the review for Fable

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Namesake
  • Series: Fable, #2
  • Author: Adrienne Young
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 3/16/21
  • Length: 368
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ if you liked the first book

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception, she learns that the secrets her mother took to her grave are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Namesake is the second book in the Fable duology.  Due to the continuation of the storyline, this can absolutely not be read as a standalone.  If you skim my review for book one, you can find most of what I have to say about the world building and characters in general.  

There is more action than in Fable. This one was a much quicker read, although at the end of the day, the action fell into anti climax before drifting off to the ending. A few times during the action, Fable would think something like “ok *THIS* is the only way out,” and then she would never explain what *THIS* is and it drove me nuts.  Something else would just happen.  There is a chance that this will be clamped down in the final book though.

The title? Do you want to know where Namesake fits into the book? Hahahah probably the best storyline, you have to read to find out.  The only magic in the whole duology and it’s a great plot line.

Holland is the only new character worth mentioning, and we see a bit more from Zola and Saint as well.  I really liked this trio of adversaries.  Talking about any more characters may spoil book one. Learning more about West was also good for the story. The Fable and Saint storyline resolved a little bit cleanly for my tastes, and I swear that Fable and West never actually resolved any of the issues they were having.  These were big, real, practically unforgivable issues and they just *poof* went away in the next chapter, the same with the issues the crew were having with the situations. *Poof*.  The magic of the 7-9 grade level books.

Overall, I do enjoy the story and world Young has built here.  It’s a fun, high seas world with a tidy resolution and despite my gripes, they are good for that 12-18 ish age range.  Would I recommend the duology? Sure, if you like characters and romantic inklings more than constant action. 

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser

Thank you so much to Sterling Teen for the giveaway win! I won a finished copy of Mortal Remains and found it to be a quick and entertaining YA contemporary / paranormal read.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mortal Remains
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mary Ann Fraser
  • Publisher & Release: Sterling Teen, 2/2/20
  • Length: 360pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for Young Adult Readers and fans of YA

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Morticia. Ghoul Girl. Freak. Eighteen-year-old Lily McCrae has heard it all. But despite what the bullies say, she loves her job doing makeup for the dead for her family’s failing funeral home business. Lately, though, Lily’s best friend Mallory is too busy reinventing herself to hang out, her stepbrother Evan is preoccupied with college applications, and her father is pushing her into taking over the family business without even asking her opinion, so she feels lonelier than ever. She finds herself spending all her time in the prep room talking to her “clients.” After all, the dead are the only ones who really listen.

Then the neighboring house is leveled in an explosion, dredging up memories of Adam, the boy who lived there and saved her life the day of the accident that left her scarred and disabled, and of the things she saw there that she just wanted to forget. When she, Mallory, and Evan go exploring and find a mysterious hatch in the rubble, they discover that someone’s been trapped inside. Someone who says his name is Adam. Trouble is, Adam has been missing for four years. And this Adam doesn’t have any memory of her and seems to be keeping a lot of secrets. As she spends more time with him, she can’t help her growing feelings even as his unwillingness to be open leaves her troubled.

Lily is forced to reconcile her feelings for Adam as together they delve into his mysterious past while she also struggles to figure out what she wants out of life and tries to fix her rocky relationships with Mallory and her parents. Will Lily ever decide who she wants to be? And is love enough to overcome truth?

Wow, for once I am actually in the minority of favorable opinions on this one.  GoodReads seems split but hey, I enjoyed it.

Lily works in her family’s funeral home.  She is extremely talented at the makeup and fixing required to make bodies presentable for open casket funerals, although this profession earns her quite a bit of bullying and teasing from peers.  Lily had an accident as a child as well that left her slightly crippled, and now she finds her solace talking to bodies and honoring their lives.

Measure twice, box once

Adam was the neighbor kid that Lily used to hang out with until his father chased her off.  Did she see a body one night??  When Adam’s house is blown up and he is found weeks later in an underground laboratory, with none of his old memories, all weirdness breaks loose.

Tread lightly on hallowed ground

I think the relationship arcs in this book are great.  Finding Adam starts to slowly bring  out the self confidence and self acceptance that Lily needs to find her own path.  The father wants her to take over the mortuary  business, the step mom is kind of just mean, actually they both are.  Lily needed an external source to start seeing her actual worth.  Watching her gain the confidence to deal with the bullies AND her family was nice. Both teens have a great character arc.

Each death helps us to become more human

The supernatural part includes Adam and whatever his father was doing down in that underground lab.  No spoilers here but the mystery involved kept the story moving as they searched for answers about his life.

Don’t lose yourself in the narrative of death and dying

There was a bit of teen partying too, Lily had one friend that still tried to bring her out into the social world of her peers, with mixed results.  There are not so subtle hints at party safety and drunk driving included.  These parts were good to round out the lives of the characters and give them that real teenager aspect.

Leather has no place in a mortician’s wardrobe

So yes – a cute budding romance (only to kissing, nothing more), a paranormal mystery, also a murder mystery, mortuary science, a girl overcoming her fears and her bullies, and friends sticking together.  No language or sex or anything else that kids really don’t need to be seeing either.

I would happily recommend this one to teens and fans of YA!