Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: Protagonist Bound by Geanna Culbertson

     Thank you so much to the author for a review copy in exchange for an honest review! A while back I won a hard copy of the second book in the series in a giveaway, and she was nice enough to provide the prior novel too!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Protagonist Bound
  • Series: Crisanta Knight, #1
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing – 2016
  • Length: 462 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for middle grade/YA and fans of good clean fantasy fiction and fairytales

Here is the synopis:

The next generation – the children of Snow White, Cinderella, and others – have lives and stories of their own. And not just long ago and far away but (sort of) here and now! Enjoy!

I was going to be a great protagonist. At least that’s what my mom, Cinderella, kept telling me. I, however, had my doubts. Unlike most main characters at Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists, I was opinionated, bold, and headstrong. Moreover, for a princess, I had a lot of issues. I’m talking vicious nightmares about people I’ve never met, a total stalker prince, and a Fairy Godmother for an enemy.

But I digress. Because here’s the thing about living in an enchanted realm of fairytale characters, crazy junk you never planned on happens all the time. One minute you could be practicing fainting exercises in Damsels in Distress class, sword fighting in a field, or flying on a Pegasus, and the next, BAM! Your book has begun and you’re saddled with a prophecy that changes everything.

I still don’t know if I will be a great protagonist one day. But I know one thing about my fate, for certain. Despite what The Author and the antagonists have in store for me, whatever it costs. . .I’ll be the one taking charge of my own story

     I think the synopsis says it all.  The children of our favorite fairy tale characters are learning how to be protagonists.  The females don’t have great prospects as far as Crisa is concerned, and she is determined to write her own fate and be something more than a legacy character.

     It’s a good concept and there is plenty of world building to set the stage for the series.  Descriptions of the land, food, societal expectations, and animals are awesome.  We even get a peek into some of the other kingdoms and I like the world of Book so far.  If flying horses and a fairy godmother agency aren’t enough to interest you, maybe the mysteries and antagonists are?  I’m quite curious about them since we only got a glimpse in this first installment.

     The characters are a tight group of friends who each have their elements of surprise too.  SJ is brilliant at potions, Blue is a daring young lady, and Crisa just wants to be her own person.  I liked the teamwork and banter between the friends.  There are some boys in the group who seem to act like pretty typical teenage boys, and I’m curious to learn more about the new boy in the group, Daniel.  Crisa got to learn all about how frustrating teenage boys can be🤣  Thankfully without the romance elements.  Crisa’s romantic prophesy sounds terrible to her so far, so we’ll see how that turns out.  

     For a good, fairly wholesome, clean read that I would happily recommend to any age group at all, definitely check out this series.  The series and its various books have been recognized by a number of independent book awards for everything from girl-power to excellence in young adult literature, and I think it’s all well deserved.  I am told that each book holds more action than the prior so I’m excited to read the next one soon!

Thank you again to the author for my review copy, all opinions are my own

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for providing a finished copy of Skyhunter in exchange for an honest review!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skyhunter
  • Series: Skyhunter, #1
  • Author: Marie Lu
  • Publisher & Release: Roaring Brook Press 9/29/20 
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for the target age range, sure

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A broken world.
An overwhelming evil.
A team of warriors ready to strike back.

Talin is a Striker, a member of an elite fighting force that stands as the last defense for the only free nation in the world: Mara.

A refugee, Talin knows firsthand the horrors of the Federation, a world-dominating war machine responsible for destroying nation after nation with its terrifying army of mutant beasts known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? What secrets is he hiding?

Only one thing is clear: Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers for the only homeland she has left… with or without the boy who might just be the weapon to save—or destroy—them all.

To put my rating into perspective, I look at the target age range of the book and how appropriate it is for that group too, not necessarily for my own adult enjoyment. In this case 12-17 is advertised and I am not necessarily rating these in comparison to adult novels.

Skyhunter is a pretty exciting YA scifi/dystopia where a conquering nation is taking over it’s continent and one free nation, Mara, is left to fight back. Mara presents an elite force of fighters, mainly teens because death forces a high turnover rate, that fights against the war-machine monsters created by the Federation. All bets are off when one of the Federation experiments breaks loose and joins forces with Mara’s soldiers, especially with Talin, the main character.

I really liked the plot and scheming and felt like the action remained steady enough to keep me reading. The chapter lengths were perfect too to keep pages turning. Teens should have no problem staying engaged here, even if some of the action and plot revelations happen rather conveniently, i would expect this in books geared for 12 year olds. There is some monster face mashing gore and war scenes that might be a bit much for the low age range but it wasn’t too graphic.

I just loved the characters too. Talin can’t speak and is a bit of a pariah among the Strikers due to her ethnicity, but she remains strong in the face of it and continues to be a strong fighter. Red the Skyhunter is interesting too, I liked him ever since his little mouse friend popped out.  The book puts a huge emphasis on enemies and “enemies” also having human faces, and he is a great example of this.  There were a whole host of funny, strong, soft, ancillary characters too and I liked their little war band family of proximity.

The book remained more action than character driven, which I prefer. More world and action than character/relationship building and I am thankful that any romance remained contained mostly to shy glances and observations. One of my favorite aspects was how each enemy, even the monsters, had a human face presented as well and it kept the characters truer to their own humanity I think.

The ending too, omg the ending. I will need to refresh myself on this book before the next comes out because honestly I’ll probably forget it in two weeks but I definitely want to know what happens next!!

Categories
Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

  • Title: Hood
  • Series: no. stand alone
  • Author: Jenny Elder Moke
  • Publisher & Release: Disney – Hyperion, June 9th 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fans of the genre!

Thank you so much to Disney Book Group via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Hood is actually the first Robin Hood retelling I have ever read.  It follows Robin & Marien’s daughter, Isabelle, as she learns her parents’ true identities and discovers her place in the world.

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.

Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.

As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

I don’t know much about the actual historic time period but rotten kings and dashing outlaws and overcoming oppression always attracted me to the Robin Hood story.  Even with little to no historical knowledge, Hood makes a great story.  I loved seeing Isabelle grow in confidence and strength, and was so happy when she made a few choice excellent bow & arrow shots.

The characters are great, I never felt too attached to any of them but they are a witty, loyal bunch of mixed talents. The banter in Hood is definitely note worthy.  Isabelle’s romance probably could have been left out – I didn’t see any context to it – but the Robin and Marien love story was PERFECT. Truly perfect.  What a pompous ass Robin was 😂

The pacing was very well done as well, plenty of action spread out so that I never got bored.  I read the book in two sittings and enjoyed it fully.  Between the plot itself, the characters, and the absolutely excellent ending, I would definitely recommend this one to young adult readers and fans of these types of legends.

I docked the star for a tad bit of repetitive language and for not feeling the romance aspect at all.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke

Thank you so much to North Star Editions: Flux for the ward via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

If you know me, you already know that all the And’s and But’s in the summary are driving me crazy; I do hope that this won’t be the books final description. It is a common error to start sentences like that (cough Caraval books) but we were always taught that it was not proper English.

Anyway!  Magic in the form of Silver has been outlawed in the country of Erdis for years.  The Kingdom’s bloody history includes a huge genocide of magic wielders and a systematic eradication of trade routes and immigration from areas where refugees fled.  The King is a murderous bastard, the crown prince is even worse, and the youngest prince is the snarky one that wants nothing to do with royalty.  He reminded me of Nikolai except he’s a pit lord, not a privateer.

The rebellion is seeking to overthrow the crown and has been planting seeds to do so since before Darek (this generation’s rebel  leader) and Ren were born.  The characters are pretty well described in the summary.  There is a lot of squabbling (or sexual tension) between a few of them, but the book has a lot of quite well done banter.  I just kept being reminded of Nikolai with the whole second prince syndrome.

Silver is just an innate ability like fire wielding or any other mage ability.  It seems to be the only magical ability in the kingdom.  Silver can be used for anything from lockpicking to torture to making a giant silver lion appear – like an illusion with substance.  The king uses it to torture people while Ren picks locks and destroys ships… I felt like we were deprived of a good mage fight.  I wanted to see silver vs silver in combat.  While it is a simple enough magic system, and a cool ability, it’s a bit underdeveloped.  Hopefully there will be more explanation in book two.

The world building is really excellent in some places.  The descriptions of the city, buildings, river, mood, political structure, and tension in the city were real.  We even got to see the festival, some food, and see some music and entertainment.   The characters used English slang though, in high quantity.  It isn’t a bad thing but I forgot this was a YA book while reading. There actually isn’t a lot of magic since only the Royalty and Ren wield it now, and seeing as there wasn’t other magic described in the world…. This isn’t quite low fantasy but the fantastical aspect is limited to silver wielding.

Speaking of age appropriateness: the tortures used in the book aren’t for the fainthearted!  I enjoyed reading a book with some teeth, but kind of had it in my head that I was reading an adult fantasy.  I enjoyed it though. Flaying skin and muscle, blood and arrows stabbed and sliced in unconventional ways, courtesy of Adley and Lesa.  I cringed a few times during torture scenes😳 As long as I’m talking about those two, they are a pair of women but the worst that they do is pine and kiss and pine some more.  Otherwise for romance, two characters hook up off page.  I kind of feel like if we get to read about Adley flaying off a guy’s skin, we could have read about Darek in bed, but to each their own.

The pacing of the entire book was good, fast, and then the last maybe 100 pages were BREAKNECK!! I could not put it down!

All in all I think older teens and young adults are a good audience for the book.  I actually enjoyed it as an adult. The most eye-rolling thing that happened was how often the two coupled pairs eyed each other before getting it over with, but some scenes definitely require a slightly more mature audience.

My original instinct was 5stars for the last part of the book – but overall I will go with a strong, strong four.  Thank you again to the publisher for the advanced read!

Categories
Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the ARC of Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare! The book was won in a bookish raffle and given for free in exchange for an honest review.

Guys I apologize because this is one of my rare “more-rambly-and-less-literary” reviews. It is good to be back in the Shadowhunter world, especially Will & Tessa’s time.  The Infernal Devices is by far my favorite of Clare’s trilogies, so I was thrilled when I heard the next generation of Herondales and Lightwoods (and Carstairs and Blackthorns) were getting a series.

The Description from Goodreads:

“Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.

James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love”

Let me come up front with my biggest gripe about the book:  The first 150 pages held very little action at all.  Clare used the space to introduce the entire next generation – a TON of characters – their friendships, lives, and surface connections to each other.  We got to see what Will and Tessa and Charlotte and Sophie and Gideon and Cecily and Gabriel and their entire HOST of offspring have built in the peace following the clockwork war.  I was also happy to hear that Henry’s injuries didn’t affect his babymaking abilities. It took me most of the book to have the characters straight. I drew one but it would have been cool if she had included a family tree up front.

Anyway, once the action got going I really enjoyed the book.  The typical  Clare themes of strong young women, magical weapons, self discovery, friends with secrets, and a tangled web of romances present themselves per usual. It was different to have everyone on the same  page as a shadowhunter already, as in prior books someone is always having to discover their true identity and abilities.  There is a healthy amount of this in the Herondale children though, I mean, What kind of abilities would TESSA GRAY’s children have? My favorite part was finding out. James and his shadow travels and Lucie with her affinity for ghosts were both awesome story lines.   Cordelia with her Cortana are obviously going to be great heroes and I love her as well.  There is a full cast of other characters including Sophie and Cecily’s kids, Charlotte and Henry had a few too, and crazy old Tatiana Lightwood is even a main character with her stuffed bird hats and general lunacy. I won’t share ARC quotes but believe me, the banter continues to be most excellent.

As for the bad guy – the villain – First we had Valentine, then The Magister, and now… wow.  I can’t really go too much into the villains here without spoilers but there is a manticore demon and plenty of adversarial magic for the young friends to ward off.  Learning more about warlock magic and demons was cool, it was explored more in this book than in prior series.  I really enjoyed the build up to the reveal of the villain (and the world building) in this novel, Clare took her time but it worked.  The villain is definitely worthy of the series, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Speaking of the ghosts, how about Jesse and Jessamine!  How about the warlocks? I was so excited to have Magnus Bane gone before he showed up. I am ready for a new warlock.  If nothing else, Clare does like to recycle her characters a bit.  I think she honestly needs to quit this universe after this trilogy, there are just so many repeating themes and fan fiction with those short stories now!

Yes yes yes, I am talking about Chain of Gold, not Clare’s formula.  I want to divert one more time and say that YES, these books are paranormal…romance.  Girls like boys, boys like girls, boys like boys, boys like both, and someone is a crossdresser.  None of these things are too heavy but be aware that it’s there in greater quantities than in previous books if those things bother you, although if you’re still around after Malec I’m assuming they don’t. The worst than anyone does is kiss anyway, with mentioned themes of seduction and spending the night.

I guess the most important question a lot of you will ask is: Can I read this book first?  If you have never read a shadowhunters novel, (I personally HATE The Mortal Instruments) and would start with The Infernal Devices, then back track to TMI, then you’re home free with either this series or the one with the LA shadowhunters.   You literally can’t read Chain of Gold first without a shit TON of spoilers that will ruin your reading of The Infernal Devices.  Clare’s writing is getting better as she goes though, I’ll give her that.

Thank you again to Bookish first and the publisher, All opinions are my own!