Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This novel came on my radar a few months ago, and I just had to put it on my TBR–what could go wrong with giant robots, aliens, and patriarchy-smashing? What more could a reader want, really? I preordered it, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint–and it got me out of a week-and-a-half-long reading slump too!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) – Xiran Jay Zhao

my copy ft. a nice filter and some more red and orange books

Hordes of aliens are invading Huaxia. Their last hope lies in the Chrysalises, supersized robots piloted by the best young boys that the country has to offer–and powered by girls, who inevitably die from the exertion.

It’s not a dream that most of the girls of Huaxia would entertain. But for 18-year-old Zetian, there’s more to the job than certain death. There’s a chance of revenge, specifically for her older sister, who was sacrificed by a Chrysalis pilot. Her murder successful murder plot garners her the rare title of Iron Widow, a role reversal where she pilots the Chrysalis and can only sacrifice boys. With her newfound title, Zetian has one more mission–tear the misogynist foundations of Huaxia’s army to shreds.

What Do You Want Jean Grey GIF - What Do You Want Jean Grey - Discover &  Share GIFs

TW/CW: misogyny, rape, graphic violence, death, past loss of loved one, alcoholism/substance abuse, withdrawal, torture

I’m ashamed that we didn’t think of this solution earlier…DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS

After a long slump, Iron Widow was just what I needed. Even if I’d been on a string of amazing books beforehand, though, this book would have been just as much of a wild ride as it was when I read it. Unapologetically feminist and action-packed, Iron Widow is sure to please sci-fi fans and those new to the genre.

The feminist aspect of Iron Widow is what stood out the most for me. Throughout, there’s unapologetic commentary on the harshest treatment of women in society, from the constraints of the gender binary to rape and institutionalized misogyny. Sure, we have hordes of aliens attacking the country in droves, but the rampant sexism and misogynist violence is the real antagonist here. Xiran Jay Zhao did an excellent job of showing all the facets of misogyny–and then having a character like Zetian tear them down little by little.

Zetian was the perfect protagonist for Iron Widow, and she’s a near textbook-perfect example of a flawed but sympathizable character. She’s ruthless, she’s fierce, she’s fiery, but what’s more important than her traits is why she became the way she did. It’s a perfect example of how oppression can shape a person’s character–Zetian might not have been so blindsided by revenge and filled with self-doubt were it not for the ingrained misogyny of Huaxia’s culture. Her character was such a well-crafted exploration of this theme.

On top of that, Zetian’s character made for the perfect catalyst to drive the plot forward! There was no shortage of drama or action that she either caused or that came in her wake, rocketing an already action-packed novel at a fast but consistently entertaining pace. The combination of Zetian and military drama, robots, and aliens made for a novel that never slowed down–in the best way possible.

Another aspect that Zhao handled well was the balance of plot elements. There’s more than a few heavy topics discussed in this book (see the TW/CW at the top), but they depicted their realness while also reveling in the more fantastical plot elements. I hesitate to call the latter “levity,” but there wasn’t an imbalance of either of those sections of the novel.

Now, I’m a little torn on the worldbuilding. For the most part, I loved it, especially the Chrysalises. Each one was based off of a creature from Chinese-inspired mythology, and I was so excited to see all of them come to life. Zhao also did a great job explaining the whole qi system without info dumping–there were just the right amount of evenly-spaced tidbits of information that I wasn’t deluged with anything, but by the time that these elements came in, I was able to go “oh, right, I understand how that works.” I just wish the same care was put into the Hundun aliens! Although I can’t wait to see how the twist with them is resolved in the next book, all of the details about them were so vague that I could hardly picture them.

Also, a big selling point about Iron Widow was that there was a love triangle solved by polyamory. I was so excited to see it come into play, but…it never seemed to happen? Maybe I missed something (is it just going to be slow-burn?), but I swear there was only some romantic undertones with both Li Shimin and Yizhi and the three of them haven’t been together for a very long time. Again, maybe I missed something, but I was a little disappointed by that. Maybe it’ll appear in book 2…

All in all, a raw and unapologetically feminist piece of YA sci-fi. 4 stars!

Iron Widow is Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut novel and the first in the Iron Widow series. The series will be continued by an as-of-yet untitled sequel set for release 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

Book Review Tuesday (8/3/21) – The Fell of Dark

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’m in between library hauls and books I bought for a short trip, so I found this one on my Kindle library. It had been on my TBR for a while, and I immediately checked it out when I saw that it was available! And overall? The Fell of Dark wasn’t perfect, but man, it was so much fun.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Fell of Dark (9781250155849): Roehrig, Caleb: Books

The Fell of Dark – Caleb Roehrig

August is fed up with his small town of Fulton Heights for more reasons than one. There’s the usual trapped feeling of it all, the urge to head somewhere else as soon as he graduates high school…but it’s also a hotspot for vampires.

All August wants to do is pass algebra and get into art school in a few years. But when a charming vampire arrives at his school with a cryptic omen, he’s thrown into a centuries-long conflict between vampires, vampire-hunters, and other supernatural forces that may cost him his life. August may now mean the difference between a peaceful world and one ruled by vampires – but will he learn how to stop this cataclysm in time?

spidergirls: what we do in the shadows (2014) dir.... : now i just want  llamas
it’s an endless cycle: I find a vampire book, and I pepper the review with What We Do in the Shadows GIFs, and so on

TW/CW: graphic violence, gore, blood, near-death situations, murder

I kind of wish I’d read this closer to Halloween, but I feel like I always say that with any kind of paranormal book that I read in any month other than October. But here we are in August, and I still had so much fun with The Fell of Dark! Not without its flaws, but such a wild ride filled with vampires and the undead.

The Fell of Dark falls on more of the humorous/campy side of paranormal books, and that’s not a complaint from me in the slightest. There’s all sorts of things for fans of the genre to love – you’ve got vampires, witches, angels, dark magic, and so much more. Add in some classic teenage angst and awkward first love, and you’ve got this book. (And plus – anything where a resurrected/vampire Rasputin shows up already has my attention. There’s never a dull moment as soon as he shows up. I blame Hellboy for this principle.) And to make things even better, it’s unapologetically queer! August, our protagonist, is gay, and we have a pansexual love interest and several lesbian side characters! There’s some casual POC rep as well (the two aforementioned lesbian side characters are Latina and Asian, respectively), which I loved as well.

As far as the characters go, they tended to be on the over-exaggerated side, but I still loved a fair amount of them. August himself wasn’t terribly likable – he tended to be a little self-centered and constantly yelling “bUT wHAt aBouT mE?” at everybody else, but part of it’s…understandable, strangely. I should probably cut him some slack, given everything that happens to him throughout the book, but he still wasn’t the most understanding or reflective person. And Jude…Jude was the classic “brooding and seductive bad boy vampire who wears all black and smokes cigarettes constantly” character, BUT IT TOTALLY WORKED. He was probably my favorite – he was just such a fun character, and plus, for once said classic brooding vampire ISN’T STRAIGHT! DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT? A lot of the characters in The Fell of Dark seemed to poke some light fun at some vampire book cliches and characters, which I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Most of the time, I despise love triangles with every cell of my being, and…I have mixed feelings about the one in this book. I’m glad that August didn’t end up with Jude or Gunnar, but…it’s still weird both ways? It’s awesome that we have a mlm love triangle, but…both love interests are WAY older than him (what with them both being vampires), and August just…goes with it? I get it, they both seem like they would be reasonably cute, but that’s still veeeeeeeeery weird. Weirder still, Jude and Gunnar are each other’s ex-boyfriends, which makes it…all the more complicated, so there’s that. But August doesn’t end up with either of them, which…I can live with that. So that was one of the weirder love triangles I’ve read in a book.

As for the worldbuilding/paranormal aspects, I also have mixed feelings, but I also liked most of it. Everything about Fulton Heights’ culture and procedures surrounding vampires was very well developed, as well as the politics of all the different secret societies (both of vampires and vampire hunters). However, when it came to the final battle, it felt like Roehrig bit off a little more than he could chew. All of the paranormal elements that I mentioned before came to an explosive finale, but at that point, there were a few too many elements to keep up with, and all of them seemed to resolve themselves a little too quickly. I found myself skimming that final battle a bit, but it felt like there were way too many elements all shoved into the last few chapters. It’s like when you get a Build-a-Bear and the person working there fills it with a little too much stuffing, and it looks like it’s going to break a few seams when you get it back, but it’s still nice and soft. (Okay, that was a really drawn-out metaphor, but it made a little bit of sense, right? )

All in all, a vampire novel that delivered loads of supernatural fun, but may have gone a little too far about just how much to riff off and add in. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Pin by Erin Fischer on Vampires | Bat, Gif, Transformations

The Fell of Dark is a standalone, but Caleb Roehrig is also the author of several other novels, including Death Prefers Blondes, White Rabbit, and Last Seen Leaving.

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 Books

Popular YA Books I Couldn’t Get on Board With

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a little while, so here goes nothing…

We all know the feeling. We’ve picked up a book because of the seemingly endless 4 and 5 star reviews and the high praise from friends and fellow readers and book bloggers, and then it turns out to be a steaming disappointment. For me, popular YA books live up to the hype about 50% of the time for me, and the other 50% is either just…not feeling anything from it, or not liking it at all. And there’s plenty of hyped books that I’ve loved! But sometimes, a lot of these books just haven’t worked for me.

And before I start, I just wanted to say this – if you liked any of these books, this post isn’t meant to shame anybody’s reading preferences at all. If you liked them, good for you! These are just my opinions here, and as per the Latin proverb, to each, their own is beautiful. I just wasn’t a fan of these books.

Let’s begin, shall we?

My Disappointment Is Immeasurable And My Day Is Ruined | Know Your Meme

😕POPULAR YA BOOKS I COULDN’T GET ON BOARD WITH😕

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) – Victoria Aveyard

Amazon.com: Red Queen (Red Queen, 1) (9780062310644): Aveyard, Victoria:  Books

MY RATING: ⭐️ (DNF)

It’s been about three years since I’ve read this one, but it was a pretty quick DNF for me. Red Queen felt like every bad YA trope melted into a single book – an unoriginal dystopian world with the “plain heroine that doesn’t realize how beautiful she is and is THE CHOSEN ONE” and gets into an insta-love romance…gah, I forget how long it took before I put it down, but this was just painful.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) – Holly Black

Amazon.com: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, 1) (9780316310314):  Black, Holly: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️

Holly Black is a hit-or-miss author for me, but The Cruel Prince definitely fell among the misses for me. The worldbuilding was great here (and I loved the little ink drawings at the beginnings of the chapters!), but all of the characters were astronomically unlikable. Everybody just seemed intent on bullying and backstabbing everybody else, and there wasn’t any balance with a character with a slightly better moral compass. And don’t get me started on Jude and Cardan being a thing…WHY? If I remember correctly, Cardan spends about 3/4 of the book relentlessly degrading Jude, and then gets down on his knees and tells her that he loves her…HUH?

IOS 14.5 – And ATT Enforcement – Is Finally Coming Next Week | AdExchanger

HOW MUCH MORE TOXIC CAN YOU GET? And somehow, Cardan’s up there with Kaz Brekker and that dude from ACOTAR (I don’t remember his name, I haven’t read the books and don’t intend to) with the brooding YA dudes that everybody fawns over? Makes me lose a little faith in humanity sometimes…

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) – Sarah J. Maas

Amazon.com: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, 1) (9781599906959): Maas,  Sarah J.: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️

Here’s one that everybody recommended to me…should of listened to that guy in my class in middle school who did a book report on this one and didn’t like it

Okay. Maybe this one’s a little skewed. I read most of Throne of Glass when I was home sick with a stomachache, but even then, I think I wouldn’t have been a fan. The ✨fantasy names✨ were a pain to pronounce, Calaena came off as a very static character with very little development, if any, and everything seemed to worked out a little *too* well for her in the end. The worldbuilding was interesting, though. I guess. Probably not gonna pick this one up, but I don’t think I’ll go for ACOTAR or Crescent City either. Meh.

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

Amazon.com: Spinning Silver: A Novel (9780399180989): Novik, Naomi: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️

My main problem was the same one I had with The Cruel Prince – the toxicity of the main relationship. Mirnatius spends about 3/4 of the book being borderline abusive towards Miryem, and then, ✨poof!✨ Happy relationship!

Schitts Creek Excuse Me GIF - SchittsCreek ExcuseMe WeekendVibe - Discover  & Share GIFs | Funny relatable memes, Schitts creek, Relatable

Yeah, no, that’s just weird. Also, wasn’t there a significant age gap between the two of them? Final nail in the coffin, really…

All the Stars and Teeth – Adalyn Grace

Buy All the Stars and Teeth: 1 (All the Stars and Teeth Duology, 1) Book  Online at Low Prices in India | All the Stars and Teeth: 1 (All the Stars  and

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️

This one lured me in with a gorgeous cover and the promise of mermaids, and…well, we got a mermaid, but the rest of the book didn’t make up for it.

All the Stars and Teeth felt very formulaic for me, right down to the conveniently-placed puppet show to explain the worldbuilding. We’ve got a protagonist with dangerous magic, the mysterious love interest…it just felt like every other YA fantasy in the last few years. Not much to distinguish it from the others, if anything at all.

Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Barron

Amazon.com: Cinderella Is Dead (9781547603879): Bayron, Kalynn: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️.5

Out of all of the books here, Cinderella is Dead is probably the one that I had the highest expectations for. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a book with a sapphic, POC lead taking down the patriarchy in a world sculpted from the myth of Cinderella?

…several things, as it turned out.

I found the worldbuilding to be full of holes, none of the characters were very distinct, the villain was an irredeemable caricature, and all of the attempts commentary on abuse and misogyny and such relied way too much on telling, as opposed to showing. For me Cinderella is Dead was just a case of a great idea, but poor execution. Shame…

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A Curse so Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1) – Brigid Kemmerer

Amazon.com: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (The Cursebreaker Series)  (9781681195087): Kemmerer, Brigid: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️ (DNF)

This one was another DNF for me about two years ago. I still really appreciate that Kemmerer chose to have a disabled character at the forefront of a YA fantasy (Harper has cerebral palsy – not sure how accurate the rep is, though), but otherwise…meh. On top of the obvious attempt to make this Beauty and the Beast retelling as Dark And Gritty™️ as possible, the love triangle (and both love interests, if memory serves) put me off in the end.

Storm and Fury (The Harbinger, #1) – Jennifer L. Armentrout

Storm and Fury (The Harbinger Series Book 1)- Buy Online in Antigua and  Barbuda at antigua.desertcart.com. ProductId : 134271270.

MY RATING: ⭐️ (DNF)

Ugh, this one was a mess…

This was my first exposure to Jennifer L. Armentrout, and I don’t think I’ll be reading anything of hers after this. Again, this falls into almost every YA trope that I hate – the Chosen One who is so very clearly Not Like Other Girls, the Sarcastic Bad Boy Love Interest (Zayne still makes me squirm)…I forget where I DNF’d this one, but I just could not take another page. Yikes.

Instant Karma – Marissa Meyer

Amazon.com: Instant Karma (9781250618818): Meyer, Marissa: Books

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️

Instant Karma was a sore disappointment…I’ve loved almost everything else of Marissa Meyer’s, but I just didn’t click with this one. I loved the premise of a magical-realism rom-com and all of the Beatles references were great, but Pru really got on my nerves, and the romance never made me feel anything.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What were your thoughts on these books? What’s a popular YA book that you didn’t like?

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (10/19/20)–Ghost Wood Song

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Before I begin, thank you so much for 300 followers! Thank you so much for sticking around, tagging me in things, and spreading the word and the bookish love 💗

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I’m back with another paranormal read for this fine spooky season. This one just came out this July, and all it took for me to put it on my TBR was the comparison to Sawkill Girls in the description. (Again–I’m a woman of simple tastes 🤣)

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (10/19/20)–GHOST WOOD SONG by Erica Waters

Amazon.com: Ghost Wood Song (9780062894229): Waters, Erica: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead.

If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.

So why do I want to read this?

number seven, ellen page, the white violin and gif - image #6945843 on  Favim.com

Ooo, hornets and pythons on the cover? Could’ve put this one on last week’s Top 5 Saturday…

There’s only one thing that I love more than a good paranormal story…and that’s an LGBTQ+ paranormal story! I just checked, and Erica Waters has confirmed that the protagonist is bisexual, and there are two lesbian characters as well!

In the description, there’s several common YA tropes that I spotted (a YA heroine with an [ahem] interesting name and a love triangle), but at least Ghost Wood Song sounds like it at least puts a fresh twist on some of them. I may despise love triangles, but hey, this one isn’t where the two love interests are two white boys that are identical in everything but hair/eye color and personality. So I think it’ll do me some good to stick around.

Also, I love the connection to music! The premise of calling the departed from their graves with the power of music is such an inventive idea, and I have my fingers tightly crossed that Waters will execute it well.

All in all–bi protagonist and spooky vibes? Say no more.

White Light – a poem – Fallen Angel On the Run

Today’s song:

I’ve been thinking about this song quite a lot in the past few weeks…

I always make playlists for my WIPs, but this one’s snaked its way into the outline for the story I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. Desperately hoping to channel some weird, Legion-esque vibes for a certain scene to channel this kind of energy…

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

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 (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!

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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 ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I meant to review this one last week, but since Night Owls and Summer Skies came out right when I got the eARC and I need to get the salt out of my system, I temporarily put it on hold. But worry not, here’s the review now, and it’s leagues better than the former novel! 😉 Though it wasn’t without its flaws, The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss was an adorable, friends-to-lovers rom-com.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Amazon.com: The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss ...

The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss–Amy Noelle Parks

Caleb and Evie have been friends since childhood, but while Caleb seeks a romantic relationship with her, Evie thinks she has better things to do than dating. Their paths lead them to a prestigious, math and physics oriented school, where Evie flourishes–both in her academic endeavors, and in her budding relationship with Leo, a boy from her class. But as her talents begin to be noticed, her anxiety shows its face more than ever.

Caleb, meanwhile, is desperate to win Evie over. Now that she’s dating Leo, there seems to be no chance of them getting together–even though he almost kissed her 17 separate times. Can they still remain friends, or will Caleb’s true feelings tear them apart?

Just Kiss Already GIF | Gfycat

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Amulet Books/ABRAMS for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

🚨 THE ADORABLE SIRENS ARE GOING OFF LIKE CRAZY, FOLKS, WE HAVE AN ADORABLE RED ALERT, I REPEAT, AN ADORABLE RED ALERT 🚨

What I’m trying to say is that The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss is an incredibly sweet rom-com that’s simultaneously cute and handles some tough topics in a very genuine way.

I couldn’t help but root for all of the characters! Evie was my personal favorite–we’re very different people, to be sure (I mean, she’s going to a math-oriented school, so that’s already a major divide), but I found her to be an incredibly relatable and poignant character. And although I don’t have any experience with an anxiety disorder as she does, the representation of it seemed realistic without info-dumping or being overtly preachy. Caleb was sweet too, and he and Evie had wonderful chemistry. I’m not usually drawn to the friends-to-lovers dynamic in romance, but their relationship was incredibly well-executed.

As much as I loved the characters, there was one thing that bogged down a tiny bit of the novel…

Ladies, gentlemen and others, we’ve fallen into another love triangle trap.

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I mean…Leo was okay…but the addition of the love triangle to the story made it frustrating at times, and it was clear from the start that he and Evie weren’t meant to be. Even though it was kind of a vehicle for Caleb’s personal journey to win Evie back, I still wasn’t quite a fan of that aspect. Maybe it’s more of an “It’s not me, it’s you” problem here, since I just despise love triangles in general, but this one was at least more tolerable than most.

Other than that, my only problem about The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss was the very end. I can’t quite place what made me temporarily lose interest, but the ending felt a little bit rushed for reasons I can’t place. Again, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like too much was crammed into the last 80% of the novel or so.

But all in all, The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss was a sweet and heartfelt romance with genuine and lovable characters. 3.5 stars!

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Release date: January 5, 2021

Today’s song:

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Tags, Books, Movies

Star Wars Book Tag (+ an update or two)

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I’m back, everyone! Happy Thursday!

I’m finally out of school for the year! Officially halfway through high school…whew…

But anyway, the AP exam and finals weren’t all that bad. For a few classes, they canceled finals altogether, and others just had a paper or a lab report in place of a written test (REJOICE!). I did pretty well on almost all of them, but we’ll see about AP…

Other than that, I’ve had a good week and a half since I’ve taken a break. I got into an unfortunate loop of finding one good book to read, then having a slump of three- or two-star books in between. Luckily, I did get a fair amount of good books in. I also listened to a lot of Spiritualized, thanks to my dad (and by a lot, I mean a LOT), got to a scene that I’ve been picturing in my head for YEARS on my WIP, and the weather’s starting to warm up, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Now, back to our scheduled program.

I found this tag over at SMELLFOY CAN READ?, and the tag was created by Elisabeth Paige and Joana Sousa. As a (pretty much) lifelong fan of all things Star Wars, I was absolutely ELATED to find this tag.

So let’s begin, shall we?

this is where the fun begins

R2-D2: A book that made you laugh out loud

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Without a doubt, Good Omens had me CACKLING.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter ...

PADME AMIDALA: A kick-butt female character

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My first thought was Alosa from Daughter of the Pirate KingIt takes a certain kind of person to be able to be a captain of a formidable pirate ship at the ripe old age of 17.

Amazon.com: Daughter of the Pirate King (9781250095961 ...

LEIA ORGANA: Best or worst love triangle

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On another note, this is my favorite movie line of all time. Hands down.

Leia does not deserve the subject matter of this part of the tag…

I…hate love triangles in general, but for now, I’d just say the love triangle in the Hunger Gamestrilogy. 50% because Gale is repulsive, and 50% because that’s sadly what a lot of people tend to remember/take away from the series, as opposed to…y’know, the dystopian commentary and whatnot…

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LUKE SKYWALKER: A rising star author, or a new author you’ve discovered and absolutely love

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I’ve just started to discover Sy Montgomery’s nonfiction novels, and even though I’ve only read The Soul of an OctopusI absolutely ADORED it. I have How to Be a Good Creature on my list as well.

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: A book or series that started out well and then became bad

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Without a doubt, the Shatter Me series. I was already salty about how the trilogy ended (Warner is awful, change my mind), but then after book 4, it just took a sharp left turn into the flat-out ridiculous. Such a shame.

Amazon.com: Shatter Me (8601300047799): Mafi, Tahereh: Books

QUI-GONN JINN: Worst character death (SPOILERS)

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Hmm…lots to choose from…

My first thought was Zin’s death in The Battle for WondLa(Yes, we’re going back to that…) He was one of my favorite characters, but he did NOT have to go out in such a completely twisted way…I won’t go into the gory details, but it’s rough to read.

Zin | WondLa Wiki | Fandom

HAN SOLO: A book with a lot of sass

Our Favorite GIFs of STAR WARS BFFs Han and Chewbacca — Nerdist

Aurora Rising has no short supply at sassy, sarcastic writing, and the same can be said for the characters. (*coughcough FINIAN coughcough*)

Amazon.com: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle) (9781524720964 ...

EMPEROR PALPATINE: Best world-building

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I think The Black Witch takes the cake for this one. There was clearly so much care put into everything from the history to the magical races, and everything in between.

Amazon.com: The Black Witch: An Epic Fantasy Novel (The Black ...

BEN/OBI-WAN KENOBI: A book you went in with low expectations and that blew you away

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“General Kenobi…”

I didn’t have high expectations for The Looking Glassbut I was pleasantly surprised by the lush writing–not to mention, the great music references.

The Looking Glass - Janet McNally - Hardcover

YODA: A book that taught you something or that made you grow

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft taught me volumes about the essentials of writing. I still try to take Stephen King’s advice to heart.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft—Stephen King | Talking About Books

DARTH VADER: Favorite Villain

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Hmmm…it’s a hard decision, but I’ve have to go with Magneto.

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All hail Sir Ian McKellen

I TAG ANY FELLOW STAR WARS FANS WHO WANT TO PARTICIPATE! 

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Today’s song:

Soccer Mommy + Jay Som =

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That’s it for this book tag! Have a wonderful rest of your day, take care of yourselves, and may the Force be with you!

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Posted in Book Tags, Books

The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

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Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I found this tag at A Little Haze.  You all know how fiery I can get when ranting about a book/series/trope that I hate, so I’ll channel all of my bookish salt into this one.

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Let’s begin…

 

A POPULAR BOOK OR SERIES YOU DIDN’T LIKE 

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Red Queen has gotten BOATLOADS of hype over the years, and I just don’t. Understand. At. All. IT’S EVERY BAD YA TROPE ROLLED INTO A SINGLE MONSTROSITY. UGH.

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A POPULAR BOOK OR SERIES THAT EVERYONE SEEMS TO HATE BUT YOU LOVE 

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I mean…?

From what I can tell, Daughter of the Pirate King has been fairly well-received (and has a solid 3.98 on Goodreads), but both my mom and I have noticed that when the bad reviews come in, they are positively scathing. I know this doesn’t really count, but I couldn’t think of any other books/series.

 

A LOVE TRIANGLE WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER ENDED UP WITH THE PERSON THAT YOU DID NOT WANT THEM TO END UP WITH OR AN OTP YOU DON’T LIKE 

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UUUUUUGGGGGGHHHH. I am still FURIOUS over the fact that Juliette ended up with Warner. He’s just…I don’t know, they’re trying to make it seem like he’s “changed” or whatever, but I can’t see past the manipulative, controlling creep he was in the first two books or so. I’ve jumped off the Shatter Me ship anyway, after the disappointment of Defy Mebut this was my first dealbreaker.

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A POPULAR BOOK GENRE YOU HARDLY EVER REACH FOR

Mystery. I mean, it’ll do in a pinch, but it’s never been my go-to.

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A POPULAR OR BELOVED CHARACTER THAT YOU DO NOT LIKE

As much as I adore the Harry Potter series…the chosen one himself really doesn’t do it for me. I suppose he’s got some admirable qualities, but I think it was his actions in Order of the Phoenix that really ruined it all for me. He was just so whiny…so entitled…so repulsive…

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A POPULAR AUTHOR YOU CAN’T SEEM TO GET INTO 

Weeeeell…

I’ve only read one of his novels (Foundation), but I really haven’t taken much of a liking to Isaac Asimov. Eh…it had such a fascinating premise, but most of the book seemed to be a bunch of old white guys sitting around… “Oh, so we might all be annihilated in a matter of days? Let’s discuss…”

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A POPULAR BOOK TROPE YOU’RE TIRED OF SEEING 

Love triangles. Never start well, never end well, and they create a disgustingly unnecessary (in most cases) romantic subplot. And even if you’re rooting for one party, the main character ALMOST ALWAYS, WITHOUT FAIL, PICKS WHOEVER YOU’RE ROOTING AGAINST. Disappointing.

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A POPULAR SERIES YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN READING

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After the train wreck that was Atlantiayou can consider me all but turned off to anything else by her. Matched is no exception, and even though it may have been one of the first series of the YA Dystopia revolution, I have zero interest in it.

 

THE SAYING GOES “THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE FILM,” BUT WHAT FILM OR TV ADAPTATION DO YOU PREFER MORE THAN THE BOOK?

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As much as I adore Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the few movies that I feel surpasses its source material. Anderson expanded so much on the world that Dahl built, and brought an immeasurable amount of life to it via the gorgeous stop-motion animation.

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Today’s song:

 

I tag anyone who would like to participate! 

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Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

thank you for reading.jpg

Posted in Book Tags, Books

What Cats Do Book Tag

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Hey there, bibliophiles!

As you can all probably guess from my icon, I love cats, and this tag instantly caught my eye! I found this on Time for Tales and Tea, and the tag was originally created by Kate@ meltingpotsandothercalamities.

First off, I’ve seen most other people who’ve participated put in some pictures of their cats, so I thought it would be fitting to put mine in here as well.

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This is Padmé; she’s incredibly chatty, and has an affinity for clinging to people’s left shoulders. Doesn’t matter who’s shoulder it is, so long as it’s the left shoulder. Don’t question her.

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Here’s Anakin, Padmé’s younger cousin. He and Padmé are inseparable. He’s also an itty bitty little cat, even at about 11 years old.

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Finally, here’s Hobbes, the newest of the bunch. Most of the time, she acts too dignified to be petted, but when she’s affectionate, she’s the sweetest little cat around. (In fact, she’s sleeping right above me as I write this out.)

Now, onto the tag…

RULES: 

 

PURR – As cats do this when they’re happy or relaxed, what is the book that makes you happiest or relaxed?

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Pumpkinheads never fails to give me all the warm and fuzzy feels, no matter how I’m feeling.

SLEEP – What is a book that put you to sleep or was just boring?

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Though the cover was deceptively gorgeous, The Light Between Worlds very nearly put me to sleep.

TWITCH WHILE DREAMING – Have you ever dreamt of a book you read?

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An after-product of having read this innumerable times (“I lost count at 50,” as I used to say), I’ve definitely dreamt about The Search for WondLa series more than one time.

SEEMS TO PLAY NICE UNTIL THE CLAWS ARE OUT – Which book had the biggest plot twist(s)?

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As far as Dare Mighty Things goes…two words: Brace yourself.

CUDDLES – Which book character would you give a hug to?

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Without question, March from the Smoke Thieves duology. After all that he’s been through, he’s fully deserving of it. 💖

CAT BREEDS – What are your favorite books?

Frankensteinthe Arc of a Scythe trilogy, the Heart of Iron duology, anything by Ray Bradbury, and Like a Love Storyto name a few.

GETTING THE CAT – How did you find your favorite book(s)?

Most of my favorite books have been recommendations from Goodreads, but just as often, I’ll find them hidden between the shelves in libraries or advertised in the back of other books.

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THE VET’S OFFICE – Your least favorite book:

I know I’ve talked ranted about Smokeless Fire, Red Queenand The Witch of Blackbird Pond innumerable times, and I don’t wish to be redundant, so I’ll try out one of my much-loathed DNFs…

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OH. OH. I forgot this book existed for a minute there…

YIKES. The corny names. The cringy, fake slang. The timeline. God, Earth Girl really was something of a train wreck…

BEING IN PLACES THEY SHOULDN’T – Least favorite cliché:

If I had to pick…most definitely love triangles. Much of the time, they only serve to muddy the existing plot with unnecessary angst and bickering. I won’t be sad to see them phase out of YA literature. I sure hope they do.

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THE GOOD OLD CARDBOARD BOX – Most underrated book series?

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AAH! Without question, the Faloiv series! (consisting of A Conspiracy of Stars and An Anatomy of Beasts) I doubt I’ll ever find another series with this amount of attention to detail in the worldbuilding.

 

I tag anyone who wants to participate! 

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Today’s song:

 

That just about wraps up this tag! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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