Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (8/18/20)–The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As most of you probably know, I’ve been following the Black Witch Chronicles (and loving them) since late May, after a friend’s recommendation. I saw that The Shadow Wand came out this June, and immediately put it on hold at the library after finishing book 2. Luckily, it came a LOT sooner than I expected, and I got to read it recently! But after reading it and letting it stew for about a week and a half…I have some major Thoughts. So this is likely going to be more of a rambling than a review. You have been warned.

Brace Yourself GIFs | Tenor

ALSO! This review may contain spoilers for books 1 and 2, The Black Witch and The Iron Flower, so tread lightly if you haven’t read them and intend to!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles ...

The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles, #3)–Laurie Forest

My library copy feat. a cool filter and Hobbes, one of my lovely cats

Elloren Gardner harbors a secret that could change her world forever.

She is the Black Witch of prophecy, destined to save her world of Erthia and bring glory to the Gardnerians. But under the tyrannical rule of High Priest Vogel, the truth about her is best kept hidden. Separated from Yvan, she must learn to hone her power before Vogel and his allies discover her identity. Joining forces with Lukas, the Commandor of the Mage forces and the boy she was unwillingly wandfasted to, she must control her powers and gather her allies before it’s too late.

Mixed Feelings GIFs | Tenor

Remember how I said in my review of The Iron Flower that book 2 didn’t fall into the trap of middle-book-slump? I seem to have forgotten then that the series is slated to be a series of five books, making The Shadow Wand the middle book.

And I hate to say it, but there’s some serious disappointing middle book syndrome going on here.

From the start, I feel like at least 100-150 pages could have been cut out (for clarification, The Shadow Wand clocks in at 554 pages). The first portion of the book jumps between the POVs of several, completely new characters; they show up later, and those chapters gave a little bit of backstory for them, but I don’t think entire chapters were needed to explain their backgrounds. We also get to check in on a few favorites from the previous books, including Tierney and Wynter. I liked seeing where Wynter was (because I still have a major soft spot for her, and she deserves so much better), but I…don’t know if it contributed to the story much at all. At least they’re…okay? Maybe? Sort of?

And…Forest is deeeeefinitely toying with our feelings here. The love triangle between Elloren, Lukas, and Yvan is expanded upon, but in…an interesting way. And by “interesting,” I mean “entertaining the notion that one party may or may not be dead.” We don’t see any of Yvan for the entire book, and the romantic aspects are primarily focused on Lukas. While that created an interesting dynamic between Elloren and Lukas, I feel like there could have been a bit of tension if Yvan had shown up once or twice.

For much of the book, it felt like the classic YA middle book where the Chosen One heroine (oh hey, look, another trope that this series fell into! Whoopee!) has to harness her abilities and build her army. There was quite a lot of the book that felt like a training montage, which, while I enjoy a good one every once in a while, was stretched out too long. The Shadow Wand needed a bit more tension and plot for me.

But for all that, that’s not to say that this book wasn’t entertaining. Even though we don’t see much of the wide and varied cast of the first two novels, I still love being back with Elloren and the gang. As always, Forest is a master at lush writing and worldbuilding, which shone through once more in this installment. And plus, who isn’t up for some good ol’ magic and dragons? I mean, COME ON. DRAGONS!

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Aaaaaaaand of course, it built up to one of those “it looks like everybody’s dead, but chances are they’ll all be alive and well by book 4” endings. AND NOW WE HAVE TO WAIT A YEAR TO SEE HOW IT’S RESOLVED. HOW DARE LAURIE FOREST PLAY WITH OUR FEELINGS IN SUCH A WAY…

Overall, The Shadow Wand was definitely a lower point for the series as of now, but it was still a (mostly) fun read. 3.5 stars!

Mixed Feelings GIF | Gfycat

The Shadow Wand is the third book in Forest’s Black Witch Chronicles, preceded by The Black Witch (book 1) and The Iron Flower (book 2) and succeeded by the forthcoming The Demon Tide (2021) and The Battle for Erthia (pub. date TBD). Additionally, there are two novellas set in the same universe, Wandfasted and Light Mage.

Aaaaaaand, now I have to wait a year to find out what happens…[angry screeching]

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 (8/11/20)–Honor Lost (The Honors, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I hope you’re all having a lovely week, and that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

Those who’ve managed to stick around this blog for a while know how much I’ve loved The Honors trilogy. The world of YA sci-fi–particularly space opera–is a small one, and it’s hard to come by one that has the perfect mix of elements that make for a thrilling joyride through the universe. So you can imagine how excited I was to finally get my hands on the final book in the trilogy (and it wasn’t just because I could finally talk about it with my school librarian, who read it before I did 🤣). And I’m happy to announce that Honor Lost did not disappoint!

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the two previous books, Honor Among Thieves and Honor Bound, so tread lightly if you have not read them and intend to!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Honor Lost (Honors) (9780062571052): Caine, Rachel ...

Honor Lost (The Honors, #3)–Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine

My library copy, feat. some more quality sci-fi

Anything that you can imagine in the universe, Zara Cole has likely fought against it. Be it human crime bosses, vengeful Leviathans, or gangs of power-hungry aliens, she, Nadim, Bea, and the rest of their ragtag crew have faced it down. But now, they may have gotten into a war that they can’t escape from.

Lifekiller, an interstellar entity bent on devouring all worlds that fall in its path, is on the hunt. And Zara and her crew are at the top of its Most Wanted list. Can her newfound family defeat this world-swallowing entity–or will they fall prey to it?

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Ending Scene GIF | Gfycat

Finishing a series is always bittersweet. There’s a satisfaction of knowing what happens to our beloved heroes, but it’s always followed by the lingering feeling like you’re saying goodbye to a friend. And now that the Honors trilogy has come to a close, I can say with certainty that it will always have a special place in my heart. Aguirre and Caine pull out all the stops to make a blazing firework of a final installment.

You all know how much of a sucker I am for the found family trope, and Honor Lost has made the sweetest, most tender, and lovable gang of space misfits! Besides the original crew of Zara, Nadim, and Bea, we also get to see more of Chao-Xing (absolutely iconic), Starcurrent (MY PRECIOUS CHILD), Xyll (objectively deserves better), Suncross and the rest of his crew (“Cheers, I’ll drink to that, bro”), and all the rest. They each had such distinct personalities and impeccable chemistry, making for a cast of characters that made me feel every feel in the universe.

Now, CAN WE TALK ABOUT ZARA AND BEA? At this point, I think they’re one of my favorite couples in YA sci-fi. Period. Not only do we have a sapphic, multiracial relationship, they bounce so well off of each other, and they have the most caring and beautiful relationship. I just…[happy queer tears]

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Going off of that…this is one of the only aspects I wasn’t a fan of in the novel, but how Nadim factored into the relationship. Let me make myself clear–I’m 100% fine with polyamory, but what makes this kind of odd to me is the fact that one party is…well, y’know, a sentient alien spaceship. A spaceship. There’s obviously a connection between the three of them, but I felt like it could have worked just as well if Nadim’s role was purely platonic. Then again, you’re talking to someone who’s favorite movie is The Shape of Water (and yes, I did think that *the scene* was plenty weird, but it didn’t take away from the film for me), so take that as you will. Like the aforementioned film, though, this didn’t take away from my rating of the novel, mostly because I have a major soft spot for Nadim. Gotta love him.

Even though the Lifekiller is your standard, world-devouring, overpowered sci-fi villain, Aguirre and Caine made it work–he lurks more at the edges of the novel, not truly showing up in full until the climax. Add in some past grudges from Zara, and there’s plenty of heart-pounding conflict to carry the final installment. Through it all, there’s resonant and timely themes of acceptance, family, and individuality, making for a beautiful sendoff for an unforgettable trilogy.

Overall, a thrilling and heartstring-tugging end to a sci-fi trilogy that is not to be missed. 5 stars!

james mcavoy | Tumblr shared by Lux on We Heart It
Will I include an X-Men gif in every post I make this week? Stay tuned to find out!

Honor Lost is the final book in the Honors trilogy, preceded by Honor Among Thieves (book 1) and Honor Bound (book 2). Both Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine have other works in several genres besides this trilogy.

Today’s song:

ALL RISE FOR THE COTTAGECORE NATIONAL ANTHEM

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 (8/4/20)–Into the Crooked Place

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I know I’ve been focusing a lot of my reviews and memes on fantasy in the past few weeks, but I promise that I’ll put in some sci-fi and other genres soon(ish). But the novel I’m reviewing today is vastly underrated, so I thought I’d spread the word.

I was browsing Edelweiss for eARCs to request the other day, and I stumbled upon a new book by Alexandra Christo. I’d liked To Kill a Kingdom before, and I figured that I’d give her another try. As it turns out, the book that I found was a sequel, and that book 1, Into the Crooked Place, was available at my library. To my surprise, I liked it even more than TKaK–a thrilling fantasy with a lovable cast of characters!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

Into the Crooked Place–Alexandra Christo

My library copy feat. the kale plant on our front porch

In a city as filled with crime as it is with magic, four unlikely criminals must join forces to halt an unstoppable evil.

Tavia makes a living as a busker, hawking magic to whoever wants it. Wesley is a feared crime lord, and the right-hand man of a gangster who has the city of Creije tightly clenched in his fist. Saxony is an undercover agent of the resistance, working to take down the crime empire that rules over her city. Karam watches over the worst of the worst, while building her reputation as a formidable fighter.

The four are drawn together after Tavia makes a critical mistake, and a vial of dark magic falls in the wrong hands. What seems like one misstep soon turns into a web of conspiracy and the threat of a magical war.

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-Tavia, probably

For such a low rating on Goodreads (3.43), I enjoyed nearly every page of Into the Crooked Place! At this point, comparing it to To Kill a Kingdom is like comparing apples and oranges–they’re both fantasies, but they’re very different novels. Either way, I enjoyed this one even more. Boasting a cast of characters with impeccable chemistry, magic, political intrigue, LGBTQ+ representation, and no shortage of witty banter, this novel is a must-read.

Into the Crooked Place is definitely a very character-driven novel, which worked well for the plot. Save for Wesley, who…okay, not gonna lie, was evident that Christo was trying far too hard to make Kaz Brekker 2: Electric Boogaloo, I adored all of the main characters. Tavia had no shortage of hilarious lines and antics, and I loved watching her character develop. Saxony was wonderful as well, but I think Karam is my favorite of the four. She reminded me a lot of a girl version of Kal from Aurora Rising, and she just warmed my heart. She and Saxony had the sweetest relationship, and they’re just [happiness noises] SO CUTE TOGETHER. So props to Christo for not only having a casual wlw relationship, but making it ADORABLE.

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They all had wonderful chemistry, and it made for a wonderful execution of the found family trope.

Like I said, it’s definitely a more character-driven novel. Though the plot was a little bit weak, it almost fully made up for it in the explorations of the individual characters. Want to get to know them? Just put them all in a near-death experience and throw them on a train and see what happens. A good third of the book occurs in a single train car, and Christo managed to make me enjoy every second of it.

The world-building left a little to be desired, but what it lacked in structure, it made up for with the individual, original elements. All the little quirks of the magic system made for an interesting read, especially…BATS. I LOVED THE LITTLE MESSENGER BATS! What can go wrong with that?

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Overall, an exciting and character-driven fantasy that wasn’t without its flaws, but a fun ride all the way. 4 stars!

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Into the Crooked Place is the first in a duology, ending with City of Spells, which comes out next March.

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 (7/28/20)–Serpent & Dove

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve had this one on my TBR for about a year and a half, and I finally got to read it last week after having it on hold for…a good month or so? It was one of the most hyped YA fantasies of last year, and though it wasn’t a perfect novel, I’d say that it mostly lived up to it!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Serpent & Dove eBook: Mahurin, Shelby: Kindle Store

Serpent & Dove–Shelby Mahurin

In Cesarine, witches are feared. The only thing that may be feared more, however, are the Chasseurs–the Church’s personal witch-hunters who will stop at nothing to burn their prey at the stake.

Lou is on the run, struggling to keep her powers–and her infamous witch heritage–under wraps. But after being caught by the Chasseurs, she is presented with an ultimatum: be killed for her crimes, or marry Reid, the captain of the Chasseurs. Stuck with the second option, she is forced to live with him, but she soon realizes that, despite their backgrounds, she has feelings for him–and they might even be mutual.

The witch GIF - Find on GIFER

Alright, right off the bat, I noticed something…

Did anyone else find it funny that we have two characters named Lou and Reid that were in a romantic relationship?

Like…

LOU REED?

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[ahem] yeah, probably just me, carry on…

Overall, Serpent & Dove was a hysterical thrill ride of a fantasy novel! Not without its flaws, to be sure, but a whole lot of fun all the same.

My main issue with the novel was the world-building. At best, it felt…very messy. The setting is clearly inspired by 18th-19th century France, and uses tidbits of French in some of the dialogue. But even though it’s a fantasy world apart from our own, the predominant religion (and the religion pushed by the Chasseurs) is Christianity? Additionally, though some of the dialogue is hilarious, it often felt…a bit too 21st century? I mean, there’s no “yeet” or “vibin'” or anything, but mostly on Lou’s part, it didn’t mesh well with the historical-inspired setting. Reid’s dialogue felt appropriately stuffy, but that definitely threw off some of my suspension of disbelief.

But that’s where most of my issues end. I LOVED the characters–they were all completely over-the-top, but IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. From the beginning, I loved Lou and Coco–they were both wonderfully sassy and spirited, and I loved their friendship dynamic. Reid has a lovely beginning to his character arc, and honestly? I love him just as much as the others, especially since he got over some of the prejudice he held in the first part of the novel. And since I’m a total sucker for enemies-to-lovers romances, I enjoyed every bit of Lou and Reid’s relationship. Hey, opposites attract.

And with the theme of witch-burning and whatnot, Serpent & Dove not only presents messages of shedding previous prejudice, but it’s morally grey as well. There’s a great depiction of sides that are most definitely blurred when it comes to morality–and neither one can be pinned as the “hero” or the “villain.” A lot of novels get this wrong, but this managed to portray it deftly.

All in all, a simultaneously thought-provoking and gut-busting fantasy novel, with a romance to die for and no shortage of witty banter. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Animated gif about loki gif avengers in Avengers bitch:)! by Miss ...

Serpent & Dove is the first in a trilogy, which continues with the forthcoming Blood & Honey, and an untitled third book.

Today’s song:

Okay but the point at 5:26 where Jeff Tweedy starts hitting those higher notes PERFECTLY

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 (7/21/20)–The Burning Page (The Invisible Library, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

[sigh] I wish this review was different…after how much I enjoyed The Invisible Library, I’m saddened to see the direction that the series is going in. I could deal with The Masked City–maybe it was just a momentary lull–but for me, the series has gone from an inventive, inter-dimensional tale to something so much weaker. And while Cogman’s third installment in the Invisible Library was entertaining, it marks a disappointing turn in the series.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Burning Page (The Invisible Library Novel Book 3 ...

The Burning Page (The Invisible Library, #3)–Genevieve Cogman

Even though her apprentice Kai is out of harm’s way, Irene the Librarian has a far greater task on her hands–the salvation of the Library itself. Alberich, the dimension-swallowing entity that terrorized her not long ago, is on the hunt once more, and he’s out for blood. Meanwhile, the gateways that the Library uses to traverse across dimensions are malfunctioning rapidly, sometimes at the cost of the Librarian’s lives. Bent on saving their home, Irene, Kai, and Detective Vale travel to an alternate Russia, where all is not as it seems. Will they be able to save their beloved library?

dormammu i've come to bargain | Tumblr

[Thom Yorke voice] (I’ve been) LEEEEEEEEEEEET DOOOOOOOWN—

Where to begin…

Compared to the genre-bending, adventurous thrill-ride of the first book, The Burning Page feels incredibly watered down. If The Masked City was the (possible) result of Cogman having used up her ideas, then this was the unfortunate after-product.

The plot felt tragically weak. It fell into the tragic trap of having a villain so powerful that…the readers don’t seem to care. Yes, he’s toyed with Irene and company before with some disastrous results, but there don’t seem to be any stakes. As much as I love Marvel, Alberich feels like some of the MCU’s worst villains (ex. Dormammu above)–they’re all powerful, but there’s hardly any stakes behind them, other than the possibility of tearing the fabric of the world(s) apart. Though Alberich did make some extended appearances in The Burning Page, he only served to make the stakes feel much lower.

Additionally, this book relied heavily on the reader’s enjoyment of the previous elements of the books. There weren’t any sort of new threats–we have the usual werewolves, fae, and dragons, but hardly anything novel (no pun intended) to grab the reader’s attention. Even The Masked City introduced the societal structure and politics of the dragons, but The Burning Page didn’t have much to offer. You’d think that with the possibility of alternate dimensions, there are INFINITE worlds and creatures that dwell in them that Cogman could have used, but sadly, it seems that she’s playing it very safe. Very safe.

But, this isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the book somewhat. I appreciated the extended look into the structure of the Library and some of the other librarians, so that was a good bit of world-building on Cogman’s part. And although the fact that every dimension seems to be fantasy/steampunk versions of historical places (England, Italy, France, etc.), I enjoyed the new setting of St. Petersburg, and all of the details that went into it. The flying sleighs were especially entertaining, and the new setting was a nice reprieve from the dullness of the first half of the book.

Overall, a disappointing addition to the Invisible Library series, but one that at least merited a few entertaining elements. I don’t think I have the will to finish the series now, but it was fun while it lasted. 3.5 sad little stars.

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The Burning Page is the third book in Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series, preceded by The Invisible Library and The Masked City, and followed by The Lost Plot, The Mortal Word, The Secret Chapter, and the forthcoming The Dark Archive.

Today’s song:

I forgot about this song for AGES, and I rediscovered it a few days ago…needless to say, I’ve had it on repeat for…[ahem] a while…

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 (7/14/20)–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.

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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!

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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?

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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!