Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (7/14/20)–The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Black Witch back in May, I’ve been ITCHING to read the sequel. Of course, it wasn’t available on the Kindle library (*sniffle*), but now that my local library has started curbside appointments, I was able to get back into the library haul routine–and pick up a few sequels and anticipated books, including this one! And I must say, The Iron Flower did not disappoint in the least!

Enjoy this week’s review!

WARNING: This review may contain spoilers for book 1, The Black Witch, so proceed with caution! If you’d like to read my review of book 1, click here!

The Iron Flower ARC – Laurie Forest | The YA Drama Llama

The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)–Laurie Forest

Sort of a photoshoot ft. my library copy and a very nice cup of tea

The veneer has been lifted from Elloren’s cushioned life, and now, she is neck-deep in the Resistance, hoping to restore peace and equality to the magical races of Erthia. High Priest Vogel has won the election, and now he rules with an iron fist, stealing massive swaths of land and bringing racial tensions to a fever pitch. Elloren and her friends are caught in a grand search for peace, trying to find solace for the ones that the Gardnerian government targets most, and rescue others from a fate worse than death. And Lukas Grey, the new commander of the Gardnerian army and the boy who her aunt wishes to Wandfast her to, has grown closer still, but Elloren is pulled away by Yvan, an enemy-turned-ally and a staunch member of the resistance. Both seem to awaken something in her–something that hints that she may not be as powerless as she has been led to believe.

Can Elloren and the Resistance protect themselves–and the world they seek to restore to harmony?

“Mage Council Ruling #271: Smuggling Selkies or spirits across the Gardnerian border shall be grounds for imprisonment.”

[“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” theme blaring]

It’s Always Sunny at Verpax University?

[ahem] just thought of that while reading the book, don’t mind me

Rejoice, folks–The Iron Flower doesn’t fall into the trap of disappointing-middle-book-syndrome. On the contrary: it’s a truly worthy successor to book 1, with all of the elements that made The Black Witch so powerful still present and just as lushly beautiful!

Now that Elloren has shed much of her idiotic prejudice, she’s a far more enjoyable protagonist, and a worthy member of the Resistance. Though she still wasn’t my favorite character, her struggles were now far more palpable, and watching her heart turn kinder was character development at its finest. Most of our show-stealing cast was back and better than ever; though some of the characters had a reduced role after The Black Witch (ex. Aislinn, Wynter, etc.), I adored being back with Elloren, Tierney, Diana, and all the rest. At times, there were a few too many characters to keep track of, so some of them lacked attachment for me, but Laurie Forest still managed to create an incredibly strong cast with nearly impeccable chemistry. And I LOVED a few of the newer characters, especially Valasca and Marina. (We technically get introduced to the latter in book 1, but she has a much more prominent role in The Iron Flower.)

Another strong aspect was the political commentary. Book 2 has some even clearer parallels to the political climate today, making it all the more timely, and speaking to themes of racial equality, the senselessness of racism and xenophobia, and fighting back against the system. It’s certainly a very political novel (which I’m 110% happy about, honestly), and it serves to inspire others to make changes in their own communities. WELCOME TO THE RESISTANCE!

GIF Set: Rogue One Trailer #2 Rebellions are built on hope | Rogue ...

The one aspect I wasn’t a huge fan of was the romantic aspects. As much as I loved this novel, it sadly fell prey to what’s probably my least favorite trope in media…

…the dreaded love triangle.

The Path to Oadara — You can see how stern Jon is with her here ...

Even though Yvan grew on me in The Iron Flower, I still wasn’t a fan of the whole dynamic of Elloren bouncing between him and Lukas. There’s some nice forbidden love being set up, which I’m all for, but Lukas’ interference dragged parts of the story down. It’s certainly making the situation more complicated, which I appreciate, but I’m still just…eh.

But overall, I can overlook the love triangle for once. Forest truly gave her all in The Iron Flower, and it shows in the best way possible. From the worldbuilding to the plot twists to the political commentary, this novel is truly a worthy sequel, and a unique and timely fantasy novel. 4.25 stars!

Ras Al Ghul "impressive" Gif. by BM516 - Meme Center

The Iron Flower is the second book in Forest’s Black Witch Chronicles, preceded by The Black Witch (book 1), and succeeded by The Shadow Wand (book 3, 2020), The Demon Tide (book 4, 2021), and The Battle for Erthia (book 5, pub. date TBD). There are also two novellas, Wandfasted (0.5) and Light Mage (1.5). Book 3 just came out this June, so I am SO EXCITED to get my hands on it…

Today’s song:

Finding out that there’s a love triangle in book 2 like

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (7/7/20)–The Sound of Stars

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I put this one on my TBR almost exactly a year ago (what are the odds?), forgot about it for a little bit, and once I remembered its existence, I got INCREDIBLY excited. I did a Goodreads Monday on it about a month ago, and it seemed like my dream book. (Aliens, secret libraries, music, and LGBTQ+/POC representation? Of COURSE you have my attention!) I recently bought it on my first trip to the bookstore since the pandemic started. And while it wasn’t without its flaws, The Sound of Stars was a beautiful and poignant tale of resistance.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Sound of Stars eBook: Dow, Alechia: Kindle Store

The Sound of Stars–Alechia Dow

⭐︎ A mini photoshoot I did with my copy (feat. some similar YA sci-fi books I own, as well as my trusty iPod and David Bowie) ⭐︎

Janelle–Ellie for short–Baker lives in a world not so far from our own, but one ravaged by the aftermath of an alien invasion. The Ilori now have control over most of the population, and have deemed all forms of creative expression, be it art, literature, or music, as dangerous. Ellie ekes out a living in New York City, running a secret library of her personal collection. She knows that if she’s ever discovered, it could mean execution for her and her parents, but her love of books keeps her business going.

M0Rr1s (Morris), an Ilori boy raised in a lab, knows that his differences could also mean the death of him. Unlike most others of his kind, he has the capacity for emotion–and a penchant for music. He finds solace in the old human music, illegally downloading it into his mind to hear. When he stumbles upon Ellie and her secret library, he knows that he should turn her into the authorities. But their shared love of literature and music leads them on a road trip, smuggling their artwork to a safer place, where they may be welcome and accepted. The journey won’t be without its obstacles–namely, the Ilori authorities–but Ellie and Morris will do anything when it comes to the fate of their art–and humanity itself.

Library images GIF - Find on GIFER

YOU GUYS. WHAT. A. BOOK. This is, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2020. And I don’t say that lightly.

The Sound of Stars is a powerful and poignant novel about the power of friendship and resistance–and the uniting power of music and literature.

Let’s start off with the characters. I ADORED both Ellie and Morris. Ellie’s strong will and love of books truly resonated with me, and it’s great to see characters with her representation (Mixed race/POC, demisexual, has anxiety) in literature. Her chapters always have lovely YA references and quotes from classic novels slipped in there, so I enjoyed every minute of her perspective. And MORRIS. MORRIS IS AN ABSOLUTE SWEETHEART. I also resonated with his love of music, and he was just such a tender-hearted character in general. His chapters were laden with GREAT music references–David Bowie, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, all the good stuff. And having Ellie and Morris in a romantic relationship was everything I’ve ever wanted–not only are they super cute together (adorable enemies to friends to lovers dynamic), it’s great to see LGBTQ+ characters in straight-passing relationships. There’s an awful stigma these days with bi/pan/etc. people that if they’re in such a relationship, they “aren’t valid,” and it’s great to see the stigma being broken down in the best possible way.

Beyond that, The Sound of Stars is just the kind of story we need for these times, in an age of bigotry and division. There’s a clear commentary against racism and colonialism, and to have Ellie and Morris fighting back against the system is something I love to see. Some of the more obvious political commentary was a bit ham-fisted at worst, but at this point, it’s probably what readers need to wake up and realize the situation around us. It’s the perfect story for those looking to make a difference in their communities–especially with the power of art.

For the most part, I found this book to be almost flawless–the writing, the characters, the representation, you name it. But I did have one problem, which, judging from the reviews I’ve read, seems to be common–the ending.

It’s…weird. Not in the best way, to be honest. It’s a bizarre, deus ex machina kind of deal, where the characters are on the brink of death, and BAM…well, I won’t spoil it, but it kind of had me scratching my head. The very end was hopeful, at least, but it still left a strange (metaphorical) taste on my tongue.

But all in all, The Sound of Stars was a phenomenal gem of a resistance novel. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

Listening Music GIFs | Tenor

At the moment, it seems like The Sound of Stars is a standalone novel, though it had an open ending that could *potentially* lend itself to a sequel. (I’d be happy either way, honestly.) This novel is Alechia Dow’s debut novel, but as of now, she has another book, The Kindred, scheduled to be published in 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/30/20)–The Kingdom of Back

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu’s works ever since I first read Warcross, and the Legend series after that. Her writing has never failed to stun me, no matter what genre her novels happen to be in. So naturally, I decided to buy this one on my first bookstore trip since the pandemic started. And though I expected to love it, The Kingdom of Back blew me away–one of her best novels to date.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Kingdom of Back (9781524739010): Lu, Marie: Books
Bonus photoshoot with some of her other novels (and a few crystals and rocks)

The Kingdom of Back–Marie Lu

For as long as she can remember, Nannerl Mozart and her younger brother Wolfgang have had an unbreakable bond, spurred on by their shared talent for music. But as her brother grows older, it becomes clear that he is a musical prodigy. Her father now overlooks her in favor of her younger brother, even though she possesses an almost equal musical prowess. Now, she and her brother are to perform for the royalty all over Europe, only stopping when she is of age to be married off.

But one night, before they leave on their grand tour, Nannerl is visited by an ethereal stranger, who claims to come from a faraway land beyond human sight. This land is the same place that she and Wolfgang have dreamed up, a backwards reflection of our own world, dubbed the Kingdom of Back. He offers her the chance to be remembered in history, but in exchange, she must complete a quest that will take her through the perilous underbelly of this fantastical world. These feats may secure her place in history alongside her brother–but at what cost?

corpse bride piano | Tumblr

Ladies, gentlemen and others, this is solid, concrete proof that Marie Lu can dish up a lavish tale in any genre that she so chooses, and do it masterfully no matter what.

The Kingdom of Back reads like a lush fairytale. Lu’s signature writing style shines through in the worldbuilding, both in the historical setting of 18th century Europe and the magical Kingdom of Back. Her prose is positively enchanting, transporting me to faraway lands and making me enjoy every single minute of it. Every word painted a gorgeous picture of a land that I would gladly immerse myself in. I read this one up in almost a single sitting, and a beautiful treasure was found on every single page.

And the characters. CAN WE TALK about these characters? With both Nannerl and Woferl/Wolfgang, Lu has breathed new life into these figures, transforming them into sister and brother that could fit into any fairytale. Nannerl’s struggles with being overshadowed and being a society that doesn’t take kindly to women expressing their talents were all too real, making for a lushly relatable character. Oh, and HYACINTH. HYACINTH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAH…again, Lu’s prose makes him seem beautifully real, and though I did predict that something was shifty with him, I adored him anyway. He might have been my favorite character, reminiscent of the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, and many others.

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All in all, one of Marie Lu’s best novels to date, an ethereal fairytale with relatable characters and prose to be reckoned with. 4.5 stars!

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The Kingdom of Back is a standalone novel, but Marie Lu has many other series out, including the Legend trilogy, the Young Elites trilogy (my favorite of the bunch), the Warcross series, and the upcoming novel Skyhunter.

Today’s song:

This just popped up on my recommended. I haven’t heard anything by Slum Sociable, but I love “Somebody to Love Me,” and this is a great cover!

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/23/20)–Fourth World

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I hope you’re all having a good day. I had a lovely hike yesterday, and just a spectacular day in general…and I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY WIP.

I FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT! THIS IS THE FIRST OF MY IDEAS THAT I’VE ACTUALLY BOTHERED TO WRITE OUT IN FULL!

vince mcmahon excited gif on Make a GIF

So that was certainly a bright spot.

Now, back to our scheduled program…

I found this book on Queer Books for Teens, and the fact that it was a) sci-fi and b) had great LGBTQ+ representation ultimately hooked me. I quickly found it on the Kindle library and read it. But while it boasted great representation, Fourth World failed to meet its ambitious premise.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Fourth World (Iamos Trilogy, #1) by Lyssa Chiavari

Fourth World (Iamos trilogy, #1)–Lyssa Chiavari

2073. Isaak Contreras struggles to go through the motions of his life on a Martian colony. Two years ago, his father disappeared, leaving him to long for him back in his life. But when he finds an artifact hidden among his father’s old possessions, he stumbles upon a conspiracy hidden by the Martian government–one that may answer the question of the humanoid skeleton that the archaeology team dug up on Martian soldier. What they’ve hidden? A portal to another world, and one that may not be as alien as they believe it to be.

Now stranded in this foreign, dystopian world, Isaak is taken in by Nadin, a girl struggling with an oppressive society of her own. But what they both don’t realize is that the ground beneath their feet is not so different as they thought. Will they be able to save both of their worlds?

David Rose Schitts Creek GIF - DavidRose SchittsCreek Eh ...

Let’s start off with the good aspects. Our cast of characters is incredibly diverse–virtually all of the characters are POC (Isaak is Latinx, Nadin is POC, and several other POC side characters). Additionally, Isaak is demisexual, and Nadin seems to be on the asexual spectrum. So props to Chiavari for creating a wonderfully diverse cast!

Now…other than that…

[awkward silence]

Eh…

The main problem of Fourth World is that it seemed to get lost within itself. The plot became very convoluted far too quickly, and I found myself losing interest rapidly. There’s an interesting, almost cosmic-horror aspect of it (Remember what I said about the humanoid skeleton they dig up?) that was well-executed at the start, but failed to capture my attention as the book went on.

The concept of a past civilization on Mars is fascinating, but I found it poorly executed. There’s so much possibility for these kinds of societies, but alas, it fell into the trap that all too many sci-fi YA novels fall into…

Ah, yes, Aliens™️, but…they’re basically just humans with different hair/eye colors. NOT AGAIN…

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[Luke Skywalker screaming] “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

And beyond that, this past civilization is the exact same, overdone, dystopian society. You’ve got your oppressive class systems, your tyrannical government, and your secret, underground resistance, and the realization to our naïve heroine that the world she’s grown up in is far worse than she imagined. At this point, the trope has become so overdone that it doesn’t get any emotion out of me anymore. Sometimes, it can creatively done, but in the case of Fourth World, it…just wasn’t. Nope.

Overall, Fourth World was an ambitious sci-fi novel, but while it scored points in the diversity department, it crumbled to pieces in most other places. 2 stars.

Sorry GIF by Michael Bolton - Find & Share on GIPHY

Fourth World is the first in the Iamos trilogy, followed by New World (book 2, 2018), and One World (book 3, 2020).

Today’s song:

Okay, Danny Elfman, I love you, but the fact that you decided not to release this is a crime. A CRIME.

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/16/20)–Ash

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ash had been on my TBR for quite a while, and I’d read a few of Malinda Lo’s stories in an anthology or two, so I figured that I’d give her solo works a try. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least–this retelling reads like a true fairytale, and is a wonderfully subversive take on the classic tale of Cinderella. And, it’s a perfect read for Pride month! 🏳️‍🌈

Enjoy this week’s review!

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash–Malinda Lo

After the death of her parents, Ash’s life changes forever. Gone is the loving family she once knew, replaced by her cruel, domineering stepmother and her two daughters. Her only solace is the book of fairy tales that her mother read to her as a child. A walk in the woods at night, however, makes her realize that her fairy tales are more than tales for children.

Now under a pact with a formidable fairy, she finds herself falling for Kaisa, the king’s royal huntress. As the pair fall in love, Ash must choose between her newfound love and the pact that binds her to the wicked forest.

Cinderella is already plum-full of gilt and brocade and magic; it ...

We all know it–Cinderella has been retold so many times that it has almost become stale. But reading this, I realized that Ash may have been one of the first of its kind–a YA retelling, groundbreaking not only for the higher stakes and subversion of the tale, but with the sapphic aspect of the romance. And without a doubt, Ash is a retelling to be reckoned with.

Lo’s writing reads like a well-loved fairytale, filled with lush prose and the air of a seasoned storyteller. Every description, from the woods outside of Quinn House to Ash’s enchanted gown, is lusciously written. It almost reminded me of the classic style of narration used in films like Pan’s Labyrinth, and other fairytale media.

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Aside from the borderline, almost annoyingly edgy quality of the blurb on the cover and the Goodreads synopsis, Ash is a wonderful example of a fairytale retold in a darker way, staying true to the original tale while having fresh, dark, and lyrical elements that make it stand out from the volley of other retellings on the YA market today.

And can we talk about Ash and Kaisa? I. LOVED. THEM. They were both such relatable characters with poignant struggles, and they had chemistry to die for. SAPPHIC POWER COUPLE SUPREME. BEAUTIFUL.

All in all, a groundbreaking retelling, and one that will surely stand the test of time. 4 stars!

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Ash is a standalone, but there is a prequel set in the same universe, Huntress, which is set many years before the events of this novel.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/9/20)–Hollow Kingdom

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This one hasn’t been on my TBR for very long, but I did a Goodreads Monday on it back in January. Aside from the fact that…well, the book basically deals with the zombie apocalypse (forgot about that when I put it on hold), I figured it would be a good read for quarantine. And I was not disappointed in the least! All at once irreverently funny and a beautiful testament to the power of nature.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom–Kira Jane Buxton

S.T. is a crow, living a comfortable life after being rescued as a chick by a man named Big Jim. Along with Big Jim’s dim-witted bloodhound, Dennis, they live in peaceful harmony just outside of Seattle. But when Big Jim begins acting strangely and lashing out, S.T. faces an unfortunate truth–Big Jim will never be the same again.

With Dennis at his side, S.T. must venture outside the comfort of his home and into the wild. Will they be able to find a cure for Big Jim’s malady–and potentially save the human race?

Birds Wings GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Hollow Kingdom was such a unique book! A wonderful deviation not only from your garden variety zombie apocalypse book, but very different from many written from the perspectives of animals.

S.T. has the most clever, irreverent voice–often colorful in language, but capable of deep reverence and wisdom as well. The intellect and mannerisms of these intelligent birds made for no shortage of hysterical interactions and observations between him and the other creatures he encounters, be it the language he picks up from Big Jim or his commentary on other types of animals. I don’t think I’ve laughed as much at a book since I read Good Omens last year.

Buxton clearly put so much detail into the lives and familial structures of all the animals, from the domestic ones to the murders of crows that S.T. and Dennis encounter on their travels. There’s even some little tidbits from other animals across the world, from a Polar bear in the Arctic Circle to a maniacal house cat not far from where S.T. used to live. Buxton’s reverence and love for the animal kingdom truly shines in this novel.

As someone who has grown up with a myriad of pets and watched David Attenborough’s documentaries almost religiously, I connected so much to this book. I haven’t read any books from the perspective of an animal in ages (mostly because I’ve moved over from more MG-leaning novels to YA ones, and animal POVs are incredibly rare in the latter), and Buxton does such an incredible job building this multilayered world of animals, wild and tame alike.

My only criticism is that part of the theme got a bit lost in the writing. Buxton mentions something about the cause of the zombie virus coming from technology, which is an obvious critique of our disconnection from nature and our coddling of electronics. However, the topic doesn’t resurface afterwards, which left me a little confused as to what Buxton was trying to say otherwise.

However, my criticism really ends there. All in all, a clever novel that strikes a perfect balance between flippant and reverent writing and shows a true respect for the natural world. 4.25 stars for me!

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Hollow Kingdom is a standalone, and Kira Jane Buxton’s debut novel. At the moment, she has nothing else out, but I look forward to anything else she writes 🙂

Today’s song:

(Woke up with this song stuck in my head…)

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (6/2/20)–The Masked City (The Invisible Library, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Before I begin, I just wanted to check back on the petition I posted in my weekly update last week (to arrest the other three officers involved in the murder of George Floyd). We ALMOST have all of the signatures–we’re 96% of the way to reaching the goal–but we still need more to reach our goal! So if you haven’t, please take your time to do your part to fight back against racism and police brutality in America and elsewhere. Black Lives Matter. (The petition is linked below.)

Justice for Big Floyd

Ever since I read The Invisible Library about a month and a half ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting to read its sequel. Unfortunately, there was a rather long line for holds of it, so I didn’t get to read it until a few days ago. And now that I’ve read it, I have…mixed feelings. It was still a great novel, but I felt that there was something missing.

WARNING: If you have not read The Invisible Library, this review may contain some spoilers for book 1.

If you want to read my review of book 1, click here!

Top 30 Spoiler Alert GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Masked City (The Invisible Library Novel): Cogman, Genevieve ...

The Masked City (The Invisible Library, #2)

After the tumultuous search for Grimm’s Fairytales, Irene is already faced with another mission. But while undercover, her apprentice, Kai, is captured by a group of Fae from a high-chaos dimension. Now that his heritage as a dragon prince has been revealed, Irene knows that his kidnapping could lead to war between the two magical powers. As she searches for him in an alternate Venice in an eternal state of Carnival, her prowess as a Librarian will be put to the test. Will she be able to rescue her apprentice–and keep an inter-dimensional war at bay?

Spinning Thinking Emoji With Music GIF | Gfycat

After The Invisible Library, I think I might have set my expectations a tad bit too high. I enjoyed it, sure, but the whole time, I just kept thinking that it felt like something was missing. And after a bit of deliberation, I think I’ve realized what it was.

Remember what I said about Cogman pulling out all the stops in book 1? Mechanical monsters, airship chases, fae, crocodiles, and whatnot? I’m beginning to think that she used all of the possible weird elements and twists, used them all in book 1, and then didn’t quite have anything left to give for this book. Now, there’s still werewolves and fae and whatnot (not to mention dragons), but I didn’t get the same feeling of WHOA as I did when reading them in book 1. Which is a shame, really. There’s so many possibilities with the topic of other dimensions, so I’d hope that Cogman has something more up her sleeve.

That being said, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy The Masked City. I did. My personal favorite aspect of this book was the in-depth exploration of the Fae. Now that we know a little bit about them from book 1, Cogman dives in even more into their culture. I LOVED the concept of them existing as their own story, and their entire purpose was just to live out some fantasy as a protagonist in their world, where humans and other creatures would merely be the background characters. That added a fascinating (and not to mention creatively narcissistic) aspect to their portrayal in the world(s) of The Invisible Library.

I still enjoyed being with Irene, especially seeing how she operated when she was left to her own devices. Both Kai and Detective Vale were gone for much of the novel, which just goes to show that she’s just as formidable of a character without them at her side. Bottom line: you don’t mess with Irene.

The stakes seemed a little lower this time, but I still enjoyed some of the action scenes. I felt that some parts were a little bit *too* easy for the characters to squeeze out of, but I could let some of it slide, because magic.

Overall, a sequel that didn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but still enjoyable nonetheless. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4.

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The Masked City is the second book in the Invisible Library series. After The Invisible Library and this novel, there is also The Burning Page (3, 2016), The Lost Plot (4, 2017), The Mortal Word (5, 2018), The Secret Chapter (6, 2019), and The Dark Archive (7, expected publication Dec. 2020). I’m definitely gonna try and continue with this series, and I already have The Burning Page on hold! (Hopefully it’ll pick back up from there…)

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/26/20)–The Black Witch

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Let me start off by saying that I regret not buying this book. It’s been on a front display in the YA Sci-fi/Fantasy section of my favorite bookstore, and I’ve almost bought it at least three times, but ultimately decided to pick up something else. One of my closest friends is a massive fan of this one, and so since it was available on the Kindle library, I decided to go ahead and read it, finally. And, as always, my friend has excellent taste in books, which is to say that The Black Witch truly stands out in the midst of the vast genre of YA fantasy with its spectacular worldbuilding and character development.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles, #1)

Elloren Gardner is used to a life of secrecy. As the granddaughter of the famed Black Witch, a legendary war hero, she was born with a target on her back, and so lives with her uncle in a secluded cottage in the forest.

But her secrecy could never last for long, and before long, she is swept off, along with her brothers, to the prestigious Verpax University. Forever dwelling in the shadow of her grandmother, Elloren soon learns that there are more than one side to the story–the ideals that her society taught her to covet, and the history she was brought up learning, are far more wrong than she could have ever imagined. But as an evil begins to mount on the horizon, she must grapple with her heritage and where her heart truly lies in order to pave her own destiny.

22 Stages You Have When Your Best Friend Is Getting Married
Sidenote, I can HEAR this gif…”AAAAAAAAA, GENE!”

First off, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS WORLD-BUILDING? I talked about this a few weeks ago, but I remember when I first started reading The Black Witch, it was so well-written that I swore that I could smell fallen rain on the grass and trees outside Elloren’s cottage. It was such a good feeling. Heavenly. And beyond that, Forest clearly took so much care into creating such a rich, multilayered world. From the history of each magical race to the wars and political intrigue that have shaped it, there was so much attention to detail. Delving into the history–however horrific it was, at some points–was absolutely fascinating.

The Black Witch is certainly a very character-driven book, as opposed to a plot-driven one, which I had no problem with at all. I won’t sugar-coat this–I hated Elloren at first. And honestly, I believe it was the point. Her character development was what truly stood out in this novel. She goes from this overtly naïve, deeply (and I mean deeply) prejudiced in terms of the other magical races, but eventually realizes that all of the xenophobic lies that she’s grown up with are complete nonsense. There are certainly some very uncomfortable moments in the first part, in terms of the xenophobia/racism towards some of the other magical races, but in the end, it served to perpetuate a very timely theme–and that is that racism, xenophobia, homophobia, whatever kind of prejudice is a bundle of twisted lies. And in this time where such -phobias are being grossly perpetuated by political leaders and crazed internet zealots alike, it’s an incredibly timely theme.

Another aspect I enjoyed in The Black Witch was the multitude of show-stealing side characters. They were almost essential when Elloren was in her period of idiocy, and not only were they there to help spur on her character growth, but they were wonderful. Just wonderful. Diana, Ariel, Wynter–especially Wynter, I love her 🥺–were show-stealing in the best sense of the word.

One of the only aspects I wasn’t a fan of was the romance. I get it, I love enemies-to-lovers romance as much as the next person, but Elloren and Yvan felt far too forced and insta-love-y for me.

All in all, The Black Witch stands out in the world of YA fantasy, with detailed world-building, stellar character development, and a timely theme. 4.25 stars!

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The Black Witch is the first in a series of 5 (!!!), continuing with The Iron Flower (2018), The Shadow Wand (coming in June 2020), The Demon Tide (2021), and The Battle for Erthia (TBD). There’s also two prequel novellas, Wandfasted and Light Mage. And, of course, book 2 isn’t available at my library…[single tear slides down cheek]

Today’s song:

My friend sent me this yesterday, and said it had my vibes…THIS IS THE SWEETEST SONG, I LOVE IT

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/12/20)–Aurora Burning (Aurora Cycle, #2)

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I don’t think I’ve anticipated a book as much as I’ve anticipated Aurora Burning (though Soul of Stars is a close contender). After falling in love with book 1, I jumped at the chance to preorder it, and as the date came closer (it’s officially been a week since its release), I counted down the days. My day got SO much better once I got it in the mail, and my day was filled with so much joy thereafter. I read it twice, and I must say, this is a truly worthy sequel, filled to the brim with plot twists and heart-wrenching writing.

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1, AURORA RISING. If you haven’t read book 1, then I suggest you don’t read this review yet. 

For my review of Aurora Rising, click here! 

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Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle) (9781524720926 ...

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Bonus photo from my mini “photoshoot” last week

Aurora Burning (Aurora Cycle, #2)

Squad 312 is in more trouble than they’ve ever been in.

After the tumultuous exploration of Octavia III, the colony that Aurora was set to live in, Tyler, Scarlett, Finian, Kal, Zila, and Auri are back on the run. The TDF now blames them for the destruction of Sagan station, and with targets on their backs, the stakes are higher than ever. Especially considering that the Ra’haam–an interstellar entity bent on consuming the galaxy and all its denizens–is after them, infiltrating the Global Intelligence Agency, and bent on assimilating Auri. Now, Squad 312 must unlock the mystery of the Eshvaren–the beings that defeated the Ra’haam millions of years before–in order to complete Auri’s destiny as the force that will purge the Ra’haam from the face fo the galaxy. With targets on their backs and bounties on their heads–and not to mention, Kal’s sister after them–will Squad 312 defy all odds once more?

 

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WOW. WHAT. A. BOOK.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have absolutely done it again, pulling out all the stops of a sequel truly worthy of the near-perfection of its predecessor. There was nothing I enjoyed more than being back with Squad 312–especially now that we’ve got some necessary backstory on all of them.

Namely, Zila and Kal. We learned almost nothing about Zila in book 1, other than something vaguely hinted in her (very short) POVs; now that we have some insight on her past life…whew, somebody give her all the hugs the universe has to offer…

But beyond that, we also saw her grow such a great deal, and watching it made my heart so happy. Kal gets a similar treatment–we get an insight on his past (namely, his family), and we also get to see his relationship with Auri grow. I already adored both of them in book 1 (I mean, hey, they’re my favorite characters), but seeing them blossom together was one of my favorite aspects of this book.

Aurora Burning was just as action-packed as book 1, if not even more. I enjoyed every minute of it–everything from the escape from Emerald City at the very beginning to the chaos that ensued towards the end of the novel. I was on the edge of my seat for every page, and grinning from ear to ear through it all. (Well, almost all of it. More on that a bit later.)

One of my favorite scenes/sequences, by far, was Auri’s training by the Eshvaren within the Echo. It was such a beautifully written and archetypal few chapters–not only a chance for Auri to realize herself and her mindset, but a chance for her relationship with Kal to grow as well. The imagery was gorgeous, and I’ll admit that the last bit got me choked up. Mostly because it was so reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, with Luke undergoing training to be a Jedi knight in the swamps of Dagobah. The Hero’s Journey parallels between Luke and Auri made me swell with joy, for lack of better words.

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And all of it built up to an absolute WHOPPER of an ending. If you love this series as much as I do, PLEASE prepare yourself emotionally, because I guarantee that you won’t be ready for what’s coming. I know you’ve all heard everybody saying something on these lines, but I mean it when I say that Kaufman and Kristoff DESTROY EVERYTHING THAT YOU HOLD DEAR. AGAIN. And now I have to wait a whole year to find out what happens…

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@ Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

 

And on a sidenote, REPRESENTATION! Finian is now confirmed to be bisexual, and Zila makes several comments about liking girls, though her label has not been confirmed. A+!

All in all, Aurora Burning proves once more that Kaufman and Kristoff are nothing short of a force to be reckoned with. A true stunner of a sequel, and one that I certainly won’t forget anytime soon. 5, ENORMOUS STARS! Or more, if that’s possible…

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Aurora Burning is the second book in the Aurora Cycle, preceded by Aurora Rising. Book 3 is confirmed to be happening/in the works, but as of now, it’s untitled, and does not have a cover or a release date. [sad harmonica]

 

Today’s song:

Gah, I love this song…

Reminds me a little bit of Kal, to be honest. Not completely, but some of the lyrics and the general feel of the song have the same vibes as him.

 

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/5/20)–The Invisible Library

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Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I forget exactly when I put this one on my TBR, but it was…fairly recently? I’m not sure. Anyway, I dug it up again for Goodreads Monday a few weeks ago, and I was once again fascinated by the premise. I’m happy to say that The Invisible Library blew me out of the water–perfect for anyone who appreciates the value of a good story!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library Novel): Cogman ...

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)

In the gap between dimensions lies the Library, which houses books from all manner of alternate realities. Their Librarians are responsible for the preservation and retrieval of these novels from dangerous hands, putting their lives on the line to protect rare fictions.

Irene is one such Librarian, tasked with one mission–to bring a copy of Grimm’s Fairytales to safety at the Library. This copy is not only hidden deep in the heart of an alternate London, a world filled with airships and mechanical beasts. To make matters worse, many sets of powerful hands seek to snatch the copy away, and by the time they’ve made it to London, the Fairytales have already been stolen. With the help of her new assistant, Kai, and a detective who’s suspected them from the beginning, Irene must retrieve the book, before it falls into the wrong hands–again. 

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First off: you had me at “library.” As a library volunteer and a lifelong lover of books, I always love to delve into adventures involving books, literature within literature. It’s a subgenre that’s rarely done well, but in this case, Cogman pulls it off spectacularly. 

Beyond that, The Invisible Library has everything that you could possibly want in a great adventure novel. Faeries, vampires, dragons, and werewolves? Check. Mechanical insects? Check. Detectives? Another check. Evil entities? Check. Espionage and airships in a pseudo-steampunk version of Victorian London? Check, check, and check. (Oh, and there’s a few crocodiles thrown in as well. Can’t forget the crocodiles.) You’d think that with all of those elements crammed in, there’d be little room for plot, and the story would needlessly jump from place to place with no sense of direction. Wonderfully enough, this novel pulls off having all sorts of fantastical elements mixed in, while still making for a wild mystery through an unfamiliar London.

And can we talk about Irene? I LOVED HER. She’s absolutely no-nonsense, fiercely intelligent, and can hold her own against ALL OF THE AFOREMENTIONED WEIRDNESS. Beyond that, she has the unmistakable love and respect for good books, and the places that a well-written story can take you.

Kai, on the other hand…he was totally set up to be the love interest, but Irene’s dealing with it is HYSTERICAL. The whole time, everyone seems to be setting them up, but Irene can go on a mission with a member of the opposite sex without romance interfering, thank you very much. She’s much an independent, logic-ruled character. Judging from the amount of books that come afterward, there’s a good chance that they’ll get together, but I’m personally hoping that they stay friends. Guess that’s just me, fed up with insta-love.

All in all, an absolutely wild, adventurous ride, and a love song to libraries and the books they house. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5! 

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The Invisible Library is the first in a series of seven (!) books, including The Masked City (#2), The Burning Page (#3), The Lost Plot (#4), The Mortal Word (#5), The Secret Chapter (#6), and The Dark Archive (#7, expected to be published in December of 2020). As of now, I’m not sure whether or not this will be the end of the series, but…whew, we’ll see…

In the meantime, I still have The Masked City on hold, and I eagerly wait its arrival…

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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