Blog Tour: ARC Review of Sightwitch by Susan Dennard

91QrCSFmO3LSightwitch (companion novella to Truthwitch and Windwitch)

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 13, 2018

Publisher: Tor Teen

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository

Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N |  Kobo

From New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches.
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…

Before Merik returned from the dead…

Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.

Set a year before TruthwitchSightwitch is a companion novella that also serves as a set up to Bloodwitch, as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.

I’m thrilled to be the next stop on the Sightwitch blog tour and to help promote Susan Dennard’s next book! The Witchlands series are one of my all-time favourite fantasy books. Sightwitch is the third book in the series but set before Truthwitch (book #1) and Windwitch (book #2). Check out my review below and don’t forget to pick up a copy. If you haven’t read the first two books, I talk about my recommended reading order below. This review is also spoiler-free, for those who haven’t read any of the books in the series.

review

SIGHTWITCH by Susan Dennard is a book like no other. The third book in Dennard’s fantasy series, this illustrated novella is set one year before TRUTHWITCH and is made up of journal entries, sketches, maps, letters, notes, and records as well as songs, prayers & rules pertaining to the Sightwitches. There is so much to this novella, but it is never overwhelming. Dennard’s writing skills have reached new heights. SIGHTWITCH is one of the most creative forms of the novel.

This book has two main POV’s: Ryber Fortiza, a character we met in TRUTHWITCH and WINDWITCH, and Eridysi, a Sighwitch Sister who lived a 1000 years ago. Separated by time and connected by the thread of fate. The character development Ryber experiences is incredible! At the beginning, Ryber wants so bad to be summoned and given the Sight. That desire was so strong and I wanted that for Ryber, so badly. This desire to be summoned by Sirmaya is one of the strongest I have ever felt from a character, in all the books I’ve read. Then Ryber goes on this journey and she grows so much – I loved being able to witness it all. She also meets Kullen Ikray, an Airwitch we first read about in TRUTHWITCH. I loved having him in the book because we saw a deeper, more honest side of him. He is truly a precious cinnamon roll. I don’t think I could ever read a Dennard book and be disappointed – the character development was phenomenal. The development of Eridysi, a character who lived a thousand years ago, was also great because we learn about an actual person, and not a legend or someone’s over exaggeration of Eridysi’s life. I connected so much with this character that I wouldn’t mind an entire book (or series) from her POV.

World-building is always my favourite and I especially loved the way I got to experience it here. The journal entries and sketches made up most of the book and were amazing to read. However, it was the notes and the songs and the Sighwitch rules written to the side that completed my experience. Being able to learn about the Witchlands and Dennard’s characters in this way was undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. Here’s a quote from the finished copy that I love re: the world-building:

38. THE RULE OF DISPUTED TRUTH

Oftentimes, Memory Records offer different accounts for the same event. As such, all Memory Records are true and all Memory Records are false, for what is life except perception?

Page 118.

SIGHTWITCH has changed my perception of the Witchlands – both past and future. Which brings me to my final point: we are introduced to a darker, more ominous side of the Witchlands, a side we saw hints of in the first two books. The suspense I felt in this book, the way my heart raced, other books cannot even compare. There are Death Maidens and shadow wyrms and much, much more. Fans of TRUTHWITCH and WINDWITCH will not want to miss this highly anticipated, new release from Susan Dennard. Sighwitch: The True Tale of the Twelve Paladins. The illustrations in this book were created by Rhys Davies.

My recommended reading order: Truthwitch, Windwitch and then Sightwitch. Although Sightwitch is set a year before Truthwitch, I feel your reading experience will be much more positive if you’re already familiar with the world of the Witchlands. Also, things happen in Sightwitch that would be kind of spoilery to people who haven’t read Truthwitch or Windwitch.

Here are some more of my favourite quotes:

Tanzi had recognized that the stars, the Rules – none of it was real. It was only what we chose them to be.

Page 205.

I rested my hands on either side of his face – that beautiful, lined face that I had grown to love. “This is what the Goddess wills, and so we must obey”. Then, when he had made no move to turn, I murmured the only No’Amatsi words I knew: “Mhe verujta”

Trust me as if my soul were yours.

Page 219.

And if I was being honest, I wanted to find him.

But there is always the sharp, hidden side of Lady’s Fate’s knife, where what we want is not what we ultimately get.

Page 225.

I received an eARC from the publisher. This has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

aboutauthor

stdennardSusan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to you yet, Asia!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling books Truthwitch and Windwitch, and when not writing, she’s usually slaying darkspawn (on her Xbox) or earning bruises at the dojo.

She lives in the Midwestern US with her French husband, two spoiled dogs, and two grouchy cats. Learn more about her on her blognewslettertwitter, or instagram.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (spoilers)

26032825The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)

Holly Black

3/5 stars

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Review:

One: This review has spoilers. I tried to keep them as minimal as possible, but I wasn’t able to write this without mentioning them. If you’d still like to read this review, without the spoilers, I’ve blocked them out on Goodreads. I’m also undecided on what to rate this. I loved it but there were some parts I hated. Right now I’m choosing a neutral three star rating – it’s harder for my review to be found on Goodreads if there’s no rating.

Two: I’m including the TW’s for this book here.

TW: Murder, abuse, violence, Stockholm syndrome?? not sure what you call it when the MC is living with her parents’ murderer and thinks of that person as a father/doesn’t completely hate them?, being drugged against your will, sexual misconduct, harassment. There could possibly be more TW’s that I’ve missed.

On to my actual review!

THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black is possibly one of the best Faerie books I’ve read in a long time. Before starting this, I was going through a really bad reading slump. Reading TCP did not feel like a chore. I sacrificed sleep for this book! Sometimes I’ll read a book and even if I’m enjoying it and really need to know the ending, the actual reading part will feel like a chore. I’m really thankful that the hype surrounding this book didn’t get to me and that TCP broke my reading slump. That being said, I had a lot of problems with it.

I think the world-building, the plot, and the protagonist’s character development were excellent. The book’s map confused me a bit in regards to the size of Faerie but the world itself was incredible. I loved that not every Fae you met was gorgeous – there were goblins, trolls, and all manner of creatures. Even the “beautiful” Fae had some animalistic underside to them. In this respect, the author’s vision translated to the reader. The plot’s pacing was great and even if I saw some things coming, I still felt the suspense. Finally, Jude’s character development was amazing and I felt like she really grew throughout the entire book.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Fae/Faerie books and I would read any Fae book, even the terrible ones. My favourite author was O.R. Melling. It’s that one thing I can’t get enough of. This means I’m a little familiar with the folklore surrounding the Fae, and how cruel and devious they can be. I was not surprised to read about a cruel, dark world with violence at every corner.

That being said, just because I (an adult, and not the target audience) expected a dark, cruel world doesn’t mean the target audience will, or will even understand that some of the elements in this book are not what the real world/real people should actually be like. Some of my problems with this book would be something happening, that makes me include a trigger warning at the top of my review, and that thing being acknowledged but not challenged. I’m mostly worried about a reader connecting with one of these situations and thinking their own situation is standard, when it’s really concerning! Yes this is fantasy but that doesn’t mean a reader won’t connect their real-life situation with some aspect of this book.

For example, at one point in the book the MC is forced to eat Faerie fruit (which is basically a drug to humans) and had a very real chance of being raped or sexually assaulted. I considered it a date rape drug. The MC is compelled to take off her clothes while bystanders & the person who forced her to eat the Faerie fruit either laugh, take advantage of the MC or ignore the situation. This is acknowledged as wrong later on, but it’s never fully challenged. The assailant is never even brought to justice (for this, at least). There are probably more examples I could find but I don’t want to write a 10 page review.

As I said earlier, the MC’s character development was great but any development between Jude and other characters were basically thrown out the window. I would say the bond between Jude and her older sister Vivi were good but I was expecting more. I always want more when it comings to the MC and their sibling(s). Also, the title and the synopsis makes it seem like Cardan is the second biggest character in this book and yet there was hardly any real development between him and Jude. It’s only two thirds in that there’s any real progress.

Jude did learn that maybe there was more to Cardan than meets the eye but it was usually through a third party. So, Jude might witness something, without Cardan knowing, or she might learn something about him but from someone else. It was so dissatisfying. How is he “the cruel prince” if he’s always in the background?! The title was possibly referring to someone else (who I won’t name for spoilers) but yeah. Very disappointing.

The romance was also terrible! I expected some romance between Jude and Cardan which didn’t happen until the end. What I did not expect was Jude/Locke romance. I’m like okay, maybe it’s a love triangle. Locke turns out to be really sweet, probably the nicest of Cardan’s friends. UNTIL. We find out that Locke is secretly engaged to Jude’s twin sister, Taryn AND that he forbade Taryn from telling anyone, especially Jude. So Taryn is acting weird, always asking Jude what she’s doing with Locke AND IT ALL MAKES SENSE. I’m sorry if this seems unprofessional but this is a really creepy love triangle/square. And at the end, Taryn still wants him, while he wants both of them. Being a Fae is not an excuse for this not to be challenged. The romance was all ruined by this. Also, if my sister chose some creepy guy over me, believe me when I say we’d be having words. I can’t believe I got less Cardan for this!!

Obviously the author is really good with plot twists but I did see the ending coming. Did anyone not see it coming?

There was a slut-shaming moment/quote I’m including below because it went unchallenged and it could have been done without the slut-shaming. Totally unnecessary.

“I turn toward Oriana, expecting another speech about not getting into trouble or even a speech about keeping my legs closed around royalty, but she is too busy pleading with Oak to get out of the road” page 227.

For context, Oriana (basically Jude’s stepmother) believes Jude is becoming involved with a Fae prince and she’s warning her that wives and consorts of Fae royalty always end up as pawns. The warning was fine but not the “keeping my legs closed” part. The author could’ve just said something like “don’t be involved with a prince, it always ends bad”. This definitely lost a star.

Thank you for reading! Just to rehash, I loved THE CRUEL PRINCE but it has a lot of unchallenged problems and it is important that readers are aware of them. I’d love to know your thoughts on this book, if you’ve read it!

Book Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

34076952The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Leigh Bardugo & Sara Kipin (illustrator) 

4.42/5 stars

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Publisher:  Macmillan/Imprint

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

Review:

THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS by Leigh Bardugo is a gorgeous anthology of six fairytale-like illustrated stories set in the Grishaverse. Whether you’ve read every Bardugo book or the Grishaverse is entirely new to you, there will be a story to enchant and frighten you. The illustrations were stunning and truly made the stories.

The format of the book: the writing would be in the usual place, taking up most of the page with illustrations surrounding it.

I loved that as you turned the page, the illustration would be added to, as if you’ve been given another clue as to how the story will end. The more you read, the more hints you’re given. The pages that followed the end of the story would be a completely illustrated two-page spread. It just added so much to the anthology.

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars was because sometimes I get annoyed with that common fairytale narrative “a couple had a daughter but she was boring/ugly/useless so they treated her more like a servant but the daughter became used to it so oh well” or “she was so beautiful everyone wanted to marry her but also very kind”. I know they’re central aspects of a fairytale but they still annoy me.

Here are my individual ratings and thoughts on each short story:

Ayama and the Thorn Wood – 4/5 stars – I liked this one and it was definitely the right story to start the anthology. Bardugo explains in the author’s note where her inspiration for this story came from, but I saw different fairytales and myths in this one.

The Too-Clever Fox – 5/5 stars – This is probably my third-favourite story in the collection. I loved Koja, the “too-clever fox” and I didn’t guess the plot twist until it was too late.

The Witch of Duva – 3.5/5 stars – I’ve read this one before so it didn’t entertain me as much as the first time but I still didn’t guess the ending until halfway through.

Little Knife – 5/5 stars – I absolutely loved this one! This is probably my favourite out of all of them, simply because the ending truly wowed me. I didn’t see it coming and now I’m imagining so many possibilities, of what happened after the ending. Just superb!

The Soldier Prince – 4/5 stars – I liked the last half more than the first. I really loved the way it ended. This one was set in Kerch and when I read Six of Crows (hopefully soon) I’ll be looking for hints of this story in the SoC duology.

When Water Sang Fire – 5/5 stars – This one would’ve been my favourite because mermaids! if the ending of Little Knife hadn’t wowed me so much. This story deserves a gold star or something for drawing the most emotion out of me. I felt joy, sadness, anger and a need for revenge!! The ending had closure and I can pretty much guess what a sequel would entail but I still need one.

SPOILERS BELOW

That being said, the more I think about the ending, the more angry I am. I would’ve taken a happy ending over a character who’s fate is basically to become an anti-hero or villain. I actually thought Ulla and Signy would end up throwing the prince away and rule together as queens. I don’t know, that’s what I got from the way they interacted with each other.

SPOILERS END

I would still 100% recommend this book.

Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

ghostbrideThe Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo

4/5 stars

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s DaughterThe Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Review:

I absolutely loved THE GHOST BRIDE by Yangsze Choo. I ended up listening to the audiobook, read by the author. The writing is really lovely, I couldn’t stop reading/listening to the story and the author did a fantastic performance re: reading the book. Audiobooks are usually a hit or miss for me, but this was probably my best experience yet. Another great thing about the author reading the book, I got to hear how the characters sound to Yangsze, which was pretty cool.

Li Lan was a very interesting protagonist. Sometimes things would happen to her and she’d act totally calm or she’d go do things she probably shouldn’t. Half of it was probably bravery and if she didn’t do them the plot wouldn’t move along but the other half was like curiosity or something. So I’d be like “no don’t do that” but also “why are you doing this *very confused*”. So I liked the protagonist but I also had mixed feelings re: her actions. Li Lan doing certain things that were obviously a bad idea didn’t create suspense but confusion.

I’m torn between giving this a 4 or 4.5/5 stars. I would also categorize this book as historical fiction with fantastical elements. The story was very captivating and I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. My favourite part was probably part 2 or 3, when the MC was exploring the afterlife. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending – it kind of ended on a cliffhanger. This may be an effect of listening to the audiobook so I plan to check out a physical copy; I might get a sense of closure that way.

The book does use the slur c*olie a few times and while technically accurate (the book is set in 19th century colonial Malaysia) I think the author should have acknowledged it’s a slur. I’m not 100% sure if it was necessary, considering the MC doesn’t think of those in a different class as below or less than her.

This book is also told from the POV of an upper class Chinese woman (I think she’s around 18?) living in colonial Malaysia. The family have fallen on hard times, so they aren’t exactly rich but have been able to (mostly) hide their debt and still have a good name. It should’ve probably been acknowledged the sort of privilege the MC has over other classes of people living in 19th century colonial Malaysia.

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

defyDefy (Defy #1)

Sara B. Larson

2/5 stars

Release Date: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Review:

I listened to the audiobook of DEFY, read by Rebecca Mozo. This review is way longer than I meant it – how is it I have more to say about books I hate?! DEFY is actually one of the worst books I’ve read this year and that says a lot considering most of my 2017 reads have been 4 and 5 stars. Slight spoilers in my review below:

TW: rape, abuse

DEFY by Sara B. Larson is a derivative fantasy with boring, forgettable characters and flat world-building. The pacing of the plot was all off and there was no excitement or action to it. There were also hugely problematic aspects. I usually have a better experience reading a book versus listening to the audiobook because I’m a very visual person, but it was the opposite here. The narrator convinced me to listen to the entire audiobook (8-9 ish hours), whereas if I’d been reading the book I probably would have DNFed it. I’m a slow reader and I doubt I could handle more than 9 hours with this book. The writing itself wasn’t bad and I see the potential but DEFY is one of those books that should’ve never seen the light of day.

There is nothing in this book we haven’t already seen in YA fantasy; the author is unable to make it stand out. DEFY is trying to be GRACELING but falling short. We see one kingdom warring against the other, a love triangle, a king hated by his heir and a special snowflake protagonist – and it is all badly executed. RED QUEEN is a good example of a book that takes things we’ve seen in fantasy and makes something different of it. DEFY not so much.

I can’t tell what was worse – the plot, the world building, the characters or the problematic aspects. If I’m on chapter 10 and still waiting for something to happen, there are issues with the pacing. Sometimes when there’s a lack of action, there’s at least a focus on characterization but not with DEFY. There was very little character growth and honestly, the only characters I remember are the protagonist Alex/Alexa, her twin brother Marcel, the Prince Damian and Rylan, another member of the prince’s guard and the other love interest. I also remember the king and an assassin, but not their names.

The world building was very confusing and I couldn’t catch enough of the details, although that may be because I listened to the audiobook. If I miss the name of a character or place, I can stop and rewind it, but I can’t see how it’s spelled etc. I cannot for the life of me remember the names of the two kingdoms, I don’t really know what sets them apart and I am only 50% sure of when and how the war between these two kingdoms started. I do know the kingdom the MC lives in has a jungle-like environment and thanks to a review (read after starting this) I know the other kingdom is supposed to be desert-like. I assumed the rest of the fantasy world fit a European medieval period.

I usually don’t have a problem with the “special snowflake” protagonist but it’s not believable that the MC is the only girl ever who thought to cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy. You have the strong heroine surrounded by male characters. The one other female character is Alexa’s side enemy *didn’t see that coming* and the queen was murdered before the beginning of the book to start a war and move the plot along.

Onto the problematic aspects!

This book needs a trigger or content warning. The world building and plot are based on rape and abuse. The kingdom the MC lives in has these “breeding houses” where orphan girls are imprisoned, abused, and raped so that they can “breed” new soldiers for the King’s army. This is usually not triggering for me but the summary I’d read for this book had nothing about breeding houses?! I’d seen so much praise and hype for this book, but nothing that mentioned this (I didn’t read any Goodreads reviews prior to starting it).

The king would either take orphan girls from his own kingdom and send them to the breeding houses or they were orphans from the enemy kingdom that his army captured (or both?). I’m not too sure, it’s one of those details I missed. The orphan boys were however forced to join the army… This is why the MC disguises herself as a boy. Orphan boys join the army and orphan girls are sent to the breeding houses. Not only are rape and abuse just thrown in, but there’s no *logical* reason and it isn’t examined in the text. The king apparently does this to increase the size of his army but the war only started 5-15 years ago (I think). I don’t know if the author forgot, but children take a long time to grow. The king doesn’t want child soldiers either. The MC was orphaned at 14 and had to lie and say she was 17, in order to join the army. Not only that, but having an army of people you’ve enslaved is probably not a good idea – I’m surprised there were no rebellions or rumours of soldiers wanting to assassinate the king. This was just so sickening to read. I don’t want a fantasy book that is based on rape and abuse and isn’t even examined in the text.

POC are described as food. One of the main characters was continually described as chocolate. As far as I can remember, only one character’s skin colour is described so I had to assume the rest were white.

Lots of toxic masculinity. Since the MC is disguised as a boy, she would constantly talk about the things she can’t do because people need to believe she’s a boy. Things like “boys don’t blush, boys don’t have long hair or high-pitch voices, only girls do this, etc”. I understand what the author was trying to do but I don’t think it was done well.

I feel like I should be reimbursed for the time I wasted reading this.

Mini Review: Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

25318441Two Naomis

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

5/5 stars

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

A realistic contemporary story of two girls, both named Naomi, whose divorced parents begin to date—perfect for fans of Lisa Graff, Sara Pennypacker, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith are sure they have nothing in common, and they wouldn’t mind keeping it that way.

Naomi Marie starts clubs at the library and adores being a big sister. Naomi Edith loves quiet Saturdays and hanging with her best friend in her backyard. And while Naomi Marie’s father lives a few blocks away, Naomi Edith wonders how she’s supposed to get through each day a whole country apart from her mother.

When Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad get serious about dating, each girl tries to cling to the life she knows and loves. Then their parents push them into attending a class together, where they might just have to find a way to work with each other—and maybe even join forces to find new ways to define family.

Review:

Today I’m posting a mini review of Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick. This isn’t as detailed as my usual reviews, but I really wanted to share the book here.

TWO NAOMIS is absolutely incredible, I was thrilled from start to finish! Reading the synopsis, I knew it’d be super cute but it was also so emotional. From happy to sad to angry to I-don’t-know-what-I’m-feeling-but-I’m-super-emotional. The character development of Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith were off the charts. The authors’ were very good at making sure the reader understood not only both Naomis but their parents, family, and friends. It was like being in their heads’.

I loved both Naomis but I would say I connected with Naomi Marie a little bit more. She loved going to the library and making lists, just like me. She is also a bossy big sister, like me (haha). This is not to say I didn’t love Naomi Edith, because I did, but I definitely saw more of myself in Naomi Marie. Both characters were incredibly unique and brought something different to the story.

This is such an important novel for MG readers with divorced parents, to understand that change is okay. I definitely wish I had this book growing up. Two Naomis is also valuable for MG readers with non-divorced parents, to see from someone else’s perspective. If there was an emoji that was the combination of the heart-eyes emoji and the crying emoji, that would be my reading experience. I love, love, loved this!!

😍 + 😭 = this book ❤

Mini Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109American Street

Ibi Zoboi

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Review:

Today I’m posting a mini review of American Street by Ibi Zoboi. This isn’t as detailed as my usual reviews, but I still wanted to share the book here.

This was so good and I’m having trouble putting that into words. Zoboi is a gifted storyteller. The characters of AMERICAN STREET captivate you from the very first page. I would say the character development is the strongest aspect of this book and the story is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. I also loved how Fabiola would compare her experiences as a Haitian immigrant in America with Vodou culture. I’m paraphrasing here but Fabiola described her situation as, “American by birth, Haiti by blood”. I didn’t expect the magical realism and it was a really beautiful surprise. A superb debut YA novel! I’m avidly awaiting Zoboi’s next work.

My review has a second paragraph but I didn’t include it here because it’s a huge spoiler. You can find it on Goodreads, where the spoiler part is hidden. Thanks for reading!

Mini Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

I read Empress of a Thousand Skies back in May and while I wrote a short review on Goodreads, I never reviewed it here. I’ve decided to do a short mini review of it because it’s such a fantastic book that I really wanted to share. I’ll be posting mini reviews of other books too, every once in a while. They won’t be as detailed as my usual ones, more of a “this book is awesome you should read it!”. So please check out my mini review below! The second paragraph has minor spoilers if you’d like to avoid them, but it’s not a huge one – it won’t ruin the book.


30269126Empress of a Thousand Skies

Rhoda Belleza

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Review:

EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES by Rhoda Belleza is one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. Strong writing, compelling characters and action-packed scenes are combined to create an all-around fantastic debut. Not only does the author introduce themes of racism and prejudice but unpacks them through her characters, their actions and the world-building. Whether or not you’re a fan of space opera, this is one book not to be missed. Belleza is sure to bring you to the dark side.

SPOILERS START

I think I misinterpreted the synopsis. I pretty much expected Rhee and Aly to meet at some point and was a little disappointed when this didn’t happen. I would be waiting for something to happen because of the way the synopsis was written. I still enjoyed the novel and liked how the author showed the ways two people’s lives can intersect without actually meeting. This is a dual POV and because the two characters don’t actually meet it’s almost like getting two books in one (a good thing for me). The reader gets to see Rhee and Aly unravel the plot in different ways. I actually think this fits more with some adult SFF books – you could have several main characters but they don’t always meet or they don’t meet right away.

SPOILERS END

The POV changed every other chapter and the transitions were pretty smooth. The end of each chapter had that perfect sort of cliffhanger – you want to continue with Rhee’s POV but are still excited to start Aly’s. All in all, I would 100% recommend this amazing sci-fi debut!

Book Review: Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

25802922.jpgMirror in the Sky

Aditi Khorana

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: June 21, 2016

Publisher: Razorbill

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–and for Tara–will ever be the same again.

Review:

This won’t be a very detailed review, more a recommendation and why this book is so important.

So I’m really sad this has such a low average rating on Goodreads but at the same time I’m not surprised. I think I may have misinterpreted the synopsis or something because when this book became more contemporary than sci-fi (what I was really interested in), I had to set it down/read it in-between other books. The sci-fi aspect is still a very big part of this book but it’s not the focus. If you want to read this because of the sci-fi element and not the contemporary you won’t like it. I’m still going to recommend MIRROR IN THE SKY to everyone because this book is so, so important! Don’t just write it off as “high school angst” – MIRROR IN THE SKY is so invaluable to teen and young adult readers. This is OwnVoices for an Indian MC; the main character is biracial but I’m not sure if that is also OwnVoices.

So many important topics/themes are covered: the pressure placed on teens to get good grades, join a fair amount of clubs/do extracurricular activities, work or support your family, make a decision/career choice that will impact your entire future at a very young age (16/17); peer pressure, bullying, racism, micro-aggressions, tokenism, misogyny. Finding yourself and just fitting in. Khorana creates a very authentic voice in her main character, Tara as well as her friends and family – it never felt like the author was introducing too much to the reader. There were so many things I could relate to, having experienced them when I was a teen and even as a young adult.

Khorana’s writing is incredibly beautiful! As the novel progresses and Tara experiences new things, some good and some bad, the narrator [Tara] talks about these events with such wisdom. They’re the kind of lines you find yourself quoting over and over again because they’re so beautiful and memorable. For fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Important things to consider before reading/recommending (spoilers below):

One of the secondary characters is outed as gay by a friend to her other friends. The scene wasn’t exactly positive (happened during a big fight) so it could be harmful to LGBTQIA readers.

Another secondary character may have had an eating disorder – I use the word “may” because this character denied it but most of her friends agreed?said? she had one.

I haven’t been able to find any reviews that discuss these two things or the rep of either characters.

Book Review: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

29282402Beyond the Red

Ava Jae

5/5 stars

Release Date: March 1, 2016

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

Review:

BEYOND THE RED by Ava Jae is a thrilling ride from start to finish. With highly advanced aliens, a deadly planet and compelling characters, I was left wanting more. Whether or not you’re a fan of sci-fi, Jae’s writing has the power to engage every type of reader. The world, the characters and the non-stop action are incredible!

This book doesn’t feel like a debut. There are some really great debuts out there but there’s always something about them, something that lets you know it’s a debut. It feels like Jae has spent 10 years polishing her craft and knows her writing inside and out. I’m a huge sci-fi reader so I knew I’d like this, but BEYOND THE RED will also interest readers who don’t usually read or even like sci/fi. The writing reminds me of THE HUNGER GAMES – it just has that ability to captivate the reader. Every reader will find themselves relating to this book in one way or another.

I absolutely loved Eros and Kora. This book is a dual POV and I usually find myself favouring one POV over the other, but that wasn’t the case here. I loved both characters equally as well as their perspectives. I loved these characters, they sometimes annoyed me with their actions, and I was rooting for them to win every step of the way. I’d also like to add, I usually read books with female protagonists over male, their POV just interests me more. However, with Eros I was completely engaged and I was never dying to read Kora’s POV over his.

Oh my goodness, the world-building is incredible. I’m still trying to figure out how Jae does it. We get to see all the different aspects of the Sepharon – from social to political to economic. Their advanced technology was really out of this world. It was also great seeing how an advanced [alien] civilization puts their advanced technology to – mostly – good use (ex. growing crops, eradicating disease, advanced medicine). Jae also delves into things like discrimination and prejudice. This alien world is really fantastic in the way it informs the reader but doesn’t overwhelm.

The action and suspense may have been the best part. I’d get to the last 100 pages and go, “oh no, oh no, oooohhhh nnnnooo!!!!”. I usually read really slow but I was speeding through those pages, trying to get to the end and just hoping my favourite characters would be alright. Jae does not hesitate to destroy the reader’s heart! I have to say, during those last 100 pages I wasn’t sure if there was enough space to wrap things up – it was so suspenseful!

BEYOND THE RED is one of my favourite books of 2017 and I’m seriously dying to read the sequel! Please add this book to your TBR immediately. You could absolutely hate sci-fi and this book would change your mind. If you love sci-fi, BTR will become one of your favourite series. I’m not sure how I’ll survive until Fall 2017 (when the sequel comes out). Also, I’d buy this book for the hardback alone. That cover is gorgeous, but there’s also a map and a glossary/pronunciation guide?!

I read an advance reading copy of this book. This has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.