Book Review: Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

35545695A Girl Called Echo Volume 1: Pemmican Wars

Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: HighWater Press

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl adjusting to a new home and school, is struggling with loneliness while separated from her mother. Then an ordinary day in Mr. Bee’s history class turns extraordinary, and Echo’s life will never be the same. During Mr. Bee’s lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie—and back again to the present. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

Pemmican Wars is the first graphic novel in a new series, A Girl Called Echo, by Governor General Award–winning writer, and author of Highwater Press’ The Seven Teaching Stories, Katherena Vermette.

Review:

PEMMICAN WARS is the first graphic novel in the A GIRL CALLED ECHO series by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk. Echo, a young Métis girl, finds herself slipping back in time as she learns about the Pemmican Wars in school (1812-1821, Saskatchewan). The incredible artwork tells Echo’s story; a young teen struggling with her own identity and culture, and adjusting to a new school with a foster family. Traveling to the past allows Echo to learn about her family and culture in her own unique way. There are not a lot of words, even for a graphic novel, which has the reader focusing on the artwork instead. PEMMICAN WARS is such an important book and should be picked up by everyone.

As I said, there are not a lot of words (even for a graphic novel), which originally took me by surprise. I don’t read graphic novels very often, so I was going in with a certain expectation of word count. However, I did like that this made you focus on the illustrations. If you wanted to understand the story, you needed to see what Echo was doing. This did lead to confusion a few times. I was unsure how often Echo traveled back in time and whether she was more of an observer or a main player. I think having a few more words would’ve prevented this. Reading the graphic novel’s synopsis before the book itself prevented some confusion, but I don’t consider that a good thing. A reader shouldn’t be relying on the synopsis to understand the book.

I immediately connected with Echo and her struggle with loneliness. I was a really lonely person in high school, even while surrounded by “friends” and I think Echo will help a lot of young readers. I loved that she was always on her iPod, music seemed to be one of the few things Echo was interested in, at least before her trips to the past. I really want to listen to Echo’s playlist.

PEMMICAN WARS was really short and I think this also caused some of the confusion I had. Echo’s story needed to be told in 50 or so pages. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or shortened due to cost (this sometimes happens in the publishing industry). Future instalments in this series could be longer, if PEMMICAN WARS does really well.

I also liked that a minor character, a teacher, was referred to as Mx rather than Miss/Ms/Mr. I think it’s really important for readers to see this, even if it doesn’t directly relate back to the plot.

PEMMICAN WARS is an important, OwnVoices book that needs to be in our schools, libraries, and homes. The artwork was so incredibly gorgeous and I wish I had read the physical copy instead of the ebook, to view PEMMICAN WARS in all its glory. Please consider picking up this fabulous series by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk. I am avidly awaiting the next instalment, RED RIVER RESISTANCE.

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Book Review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

32182684The Blazing Star

Imani Josey

5/5 stars

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Publisher: Wise Ink

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

Review:

*Quotes have location instead of page number because I have the ebook.

THE BLAZING STAR by Imani Josey is an entertaining, well-written fantasy about strong female characters facing a dark force in ancient Egypt. This was a fresh take on time travel and goddess-given magic, and once I started reading I couldn’t stop. With strong messages of sisterhood, Josey has created a breathtaking debut.

The protagonist, Portia travels the Rivers of Time to ancient Egypt with her twin sister, Alex and freshman Selene, and must protect Egypt from a power-hungry priest and humanoid monsters. Not to mention, learning to control her own new-found magical abilities called Heka. I absolutely loved Portia’s character! In the beginning, she’s shy and introverted, struggling to break out of her sister’s shadow. As the book progresses, we see her breaking free and becoming a stronger, bolder person. Alex is this super smart genius, who doesn’t understand why her sister would want to do things differently from her. I haven’t read many books where the MC is a twin, so it was interesting to read about these conflicting personalities. Portia doesn’t want to live in her sister’s shadow anymore and doesn’t completely hate the idea of staying in ancient Egypt. Alex just wants to go home and for everything to go back to normal. Selene is new to Portia’s school, so she and Alex are getting to know Selene at the same time as the reader.

The first couple chapters were a bit rocky, it started off with Alex being given an academic award and I was a little confused. I definitely understood why the author chose to start the novel there – Portia had just cut her hair, it was the start of her breaking out of her sister’s shadow. After that, I was totally into the book. TBS starts off in the modern era, to set the scene a bit, but the parts set in ancient Egypt were completely captivating! The descriptions were incredible and I felt like I was actually there. It was almost like reading a diary or another primary source, just because of how real it felt. The reader almost forgets the MC is from the modern era, but every now and then Portia compares something from the ancient world to the modern. I loved these references, mainly because of the humour; Portia is such a funny character. Some of my favourites:

“Most women I knew changed their names after marriage, but no one changed their full name unless they joined the Witness Protection Program.” – Location 1688

“The procession left the temple in an excursion like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” – Location 1734

“Every eye was on the mysterious Hyksos monarch, a Hollywood Star glittering on the red carpet.” – Location 1873

There’s some romance but the focus is definitely on Portia’s character as well as the bonds of sisterhood. The romance hits a bit harder halfway through and boy I was not disappointed. I loved Prince Seti and I also loved the mysterious Merenptah, who we met earlier in the novel. There were some plot twists I saw coming and others I didn’t, but I loved them all! Especially the one surrounding Selene, which I won’t share because of spoilers.

At first I was a bit disappointed about the romance being on the back burner but I started thinking about this book as a whole. It’s so original and fresh, and it breaks tropes. I started reading THE BLAZING STAR with the expectation that the protagonist would have this incredible romance with a prince (as is usual with some other time travel books I’ve read) and I loved that that didn’t happen, at least not right away. There are not a lot of well-written time travel books set in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, so it’s hard not to expect something that’s been done in every other book you’ve read.

One last thing I loved about this book: Portia doesn’t let anyone undermine another woman, even if letting it happen would help her out. At one point Prince Seti makes fun of his betrothed, Princess Tuya for needing Portia’s help even though she has a lot of other servants, and Portia doesn’t let him get away with that. NO WOMEN BASHING IN THIS BOOK.

THE BLAZING STAR is a fresh, original take on the time-traveling-to-the-ancient-world books we’ve seen before. I loved the emphasis on sisterhood and Portia is a protagonist I’m unlikely to forget in the near future. Definitely check out this star studded masterpiece.

Favourite quotes:

“People don’t expect me to fail. People don’t expect me to do anything at all.” -Location 2633

“You aren’t here to rid us of trouble. There is no world of only light, Portia, or darkness.” -Location 2857

“This is the first time I mean something,” I said, my voice cracking before I could get all of my words out. “You’ve always meant something to me,” she said. “But I didn’t mean anything to me, Alex,” I replied. “I didn’t mean anything to me.” -Location 3059

“Though stripped of my lightening, I was a deadly warrior. But the goddess gave talent, not control. I would have to discover that for myself.” -Location 3169

“To him, I was still a strange girl in the Temple of Isis’s keep, the daughter of a foreign princess who was entangled with powerful enemies of his kingdom.” -Location 3563

“For you, I will wait for one day,” he said through now shock-less kisses. “For you, I would wait everyday.” -Location 3623

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: 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!

April Wrap-Up Post

I didn’t get to read too many books in April. I was in a reading slump and only finished three books in the last two weeks or so. I did participate in A Very ARC-ish Readathon hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. I only read one arc but I’m happy to have least completed the challenge.

Books Read:

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

ICYMI:

Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

A Very ARC-ish Readathon + Update Post

Book Review: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Top 5 April Releases

25 Books I Must Read Before 2018

Book Review: Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

March Wrap-Up Post

IMG_3807March was another great reading month! I liked all the books I read and was able to finish a book I started back in 2016 (Beyond the Red). I’d wanted to read at least 8 books, but I’m still happy with 5 – reading the same amount as the previous month is better than less. My favourite March read was a tie between Beyond the Red and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The latter is so good! It didn’t just inspire me to tidy up but I actually made progress. Click on the titles below to read my reviews.

 

Books Read:

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Adulthood Is a Myth (Sarah’s Scribbles #1) by Sarah Andersen

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (Magic Cleaning #1) by Marie Kondo

Sasuke’s Story: Sunrise by Shin Towada

ICYMI:

Top 5 March Releases

Book Review: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung

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.

Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

27827203Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

Elly Blake

4/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Review:

Maybe a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

FROSTBLOOD by Elly Blake is such an original take on elemental magic – in this case fire and ice. Although I can’t specifically remember books that only had the elemental powers of fire and ice (compared to books with water, earth, fire and air), I’ve read books with this theme of fire vs. ice, summer vs. winter and I think it’s really easy for it to feel overdone. Blake turns it into something fresh and exciting.

I recommend this for readers wanting a small-scale fantasy world with tons of action. The world-building gets a pass from me but I would have liked more. I personally love fantasy books with a huge world, filled with all kinds of different stories. This is great for readers who get overwhelmed by those big fantasy worlds and just want a little magic, some action and fast paced writing.

The protagonist Ruby is very likeable and I loved being in her head. Although she isn’t quite on my list of favourite YA heroines, I can see her getting there after book two. I liked the romance between Ruby and Arcus, another main character. I was pretty much neutral about them in part one and ended up really shipping them at the end of part two.

This book is divided into two parts and I loved part two so much more than part one! There was so much more action, big fight scenes, and I loved the exchange between Ruby and King Rasmus, the Frost King – it was really intriguing! I just love when authors delve into these darker moments with their characters. Part one was good and it drew me in, but some of the chapters felt like “first book syndrome”. In the beginning the protagonist would travel around in all sorts of different directions and it ended up feeling like an excuse to add world-building or to share important information with the reader. I also felt like the cast of main characters was very small – there was a greater focus on Ruby and Arcus. Secondary characters felt more like minor ones because we didn’t really get to know them, other than maybe a talent of theirs or a hobby.

I definitely recommend FROSTBLOOD and plan to read the sequel! I hope the author expands on the main cast and the world-building in book two. An original take on elemental magic with fast paced writing and a strong, likeable protagonist.

Book Review: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

tinaconnollySeriously Wicked

Tina Connolly

4/5 stars

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Publisher: Tor Teen

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one.

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose—and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Now Cam’s suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch…will that mean she’s wicked too?

Review:

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly is such a fun and original take on magic and witches in the modern world – I loved this from start to finish! I can’t wait to read the next book, it’s a very entertaining and well-written series.

I loved Cam and immediately connected with her. Her sense of humour was perfect for this story and this book was so well-written! On the surface, there’s lots of humour and fun but at the same time, there’s some serious character development. I loved that the author was able to weave those two things together. The serious side of this book I wasn’t expecting (a pleasant surprise) and it’s one of the main reasons I’m continuing onto the next book.

I was also happy with the fact that no romance occurred between Cam and the demon living inside Devon’s body, which was something I half expected and was worried about. Considering the demon is trying to destroy Devon’s soul (so as to remain on earth permanently) it’d be a bit problematic. There was romance between Cam and Devon which I found super cute and awkward (first loves/crushes) – and I loved every moment of it.

I think teens who were adopted or are really conflicted/unsure about their place in their family will find solace in this book. Cam was adopted and ends up confronting her adopted mother, the “Wicked Witch”. Their relationship has so many cracks, especially when it concerns Cam’s adoption. Seriously Wicked is told in Cam’s POV and it ends up being a case of an unreliable narrator because even though Cam wholeheartedly believes she was adopted, the Wicked Witch says the opposite. This was one of the more serious aspects of the book and a very important thing for Cam and her mother to overcome.

This is great for contemporary readers who want a bit of magic in their lives and fantasy readers who are in the mood for something light and funny. I recommend this series for those wanting humour, heart and a diverse cast of characters.